Tag Archives: Halloween costumes

Dressing for Work

Of course, since I now work at home, I wear pajamas. Or maybe scrubs, as my latest pair of pjs looks like I could walk into any doctor’s office and riffle through their files. I wouldn’t be caught unless someone noticed that the cute sheep in hats and scarves were saying Baaa Humbug.

But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. Once (or twice) I worked in a regular office where I wore regular clothes – skirts, blouses, sweaters, slacks. If I was lucky or awake that day, they even matched. I was also fond of drop-waist dresses. I had at least four, in solid colors and florals.

But that’s not what I’m here to write about today either. Once I was assigned to interview a woman for a temporary job. She answered my questions shyly and monosyllabically. Desperate, I asked her a version of one of my go-to questions, “If you could dress up as anything at all for Halloween, what would you be, and why?”

(This was a version of a question I always swore I’d ask an official giving a press conference. Once I was able to ask my remedial English students to write a paragraph on the topic, and they all wanted to be birds of prey or cats of prey. Once I asked Jenny Lawson this question and she said “a tapeworm,” because she wouldn’t have to walk around and people would feed her, which I guess shows you how her mind works. But I digress. Again.)

Back to the drab woman I was interviewing. When I asked her my Halloween costume question, she instantly lit up. “Oh, Cinderella,” she said with sparkling eyes. “The ball gown and the shoes and the carriage and the whole thing.” She waxed rhapsodic for several minutes. She didn’t get the job, but I learned that it’s sometimes the goofy question that can unlock a person’s personality.

Our office did dress up for Halloween, though. One memorable year, the accounting department wore white sweatsuits with black spots. Then they each put a newspaper outside their doors, colored part of it yellow with highlighter, and deposited a tootsie roll on each one. The 101 Dalmations cosplay was cute, if disgusting.

My costumes were a bit esoteric and usually no one “got them.” One year my mother had made me a floor-length nightgown in a camo pattern (my mother could be whimsical). I asked her to make a matching nightcap, powdered my hair, and went as Rambo’s Granny. No one guessed what I was. I had other notable non-successes. Once I dressed as a pirate and the office guessed I was a motorcycle mama.

One year they understood what I was, but all stepped away from me and didn’t make eye contact. I was “Indiana Jan,” complete with bullwhip. If anyone was brave enough to ask me about the bullwhip, I replied, “Oh, this old thing? We just had it around the house,” which did not detract a bit from my reputation for oddity.

Then, every Halloween, rain or shine, we had a march around the outside of the building, led by an employee who called herself the “Grand Poo-Pah.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it should have been “Grand Poo-Bah.” Those were the days!

Now, of course, I shun Halloween and all its trappings (https://wp.me/p4e9wS-Yu). This year, if I answer the door at all, I’ll probably wear the Baaa Humbug scrubs.


Halloween? Bah, Humbug!

I hate Halloween.

Mind you, I have no problem with the pagan event (Samhain) overtaking the religious one (the eve of All Saints Day).

I have no problem with skeleton cookies and other trappings of Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos).

I have no problem with children dressing up as witches, vampires, devils, or anything else they want to be, whether it smacks of evil or not. (I do hate the “sexy” trend in adult costumes. Sexy crayon. Sexy Mr. Rogers. (No, really.) Whoever thinks these up has too much time on their hands and too much weird on their brains.)

What I hate is the trick-or-treating. (It should really be called treat-or-vandalism.)

When I was doing the trick-or-treating, it was different, of course. There were still difficulties. I wear glasses, and back in the days of plastic dime-store masks, my choices were to wear the glasses but have the mask slip around and make me functionally blind or to wear the mask without glasses and be functionally blind.

Later on, I put together my own costumes out of old clothing and other things around the house. That was fun, though occasionally baffling. I think most people guessed “gypsy” from the bandana and necklace of gold coins, but what they made of the pink flowered dress and tan plush toy snake I just don’t know. Even I don’t remember what that was supposed to be. (The g*psy outfit came long before we all learned about cultural appropriation and ethnic slurs. But I digress.)

Around that time, the first round of tainted candy scares went through, when children took their goodie bags to the ER to be x-rayed for razor blades and had to throw out apples, Rice Krispie treats, and homemade fudge. That took a certain something out of the playfulness. Halloween parties became a trend, where treats could be supervised and stupid party games involving cold spaghetti and peeled grapes could be played. I think those parties have now taken over from door-to-door begging.

My mother loved the trick-or-treating. She would ooh and aah over the cute little kids and their costumes. What she didn’t like were the teenage boys who went around with pillowcases and didn’t even bother to dress as anything. They didn’t even smear on charcoal beards and pretend to be hobos. (Mom always kept a special bowl of last year’s left-over bubblegum just for them. It was unpleasant, but not actually poisonous.)

I think I started hating trick-or-treating when my Mom got older and couldn’t pop up and down to answer the door, so I had to do the popping and dispensing of candy and old bubblegum and describing of the costumes. But I did it for her.

Later, when I was on my own, I lived in upstairs apartments and other locales that didn’t see a lot of costumed traffic, so I had time to think it over and discover how much I disliked the custom.

Over the years, I’ve grown more and more antisocial, nearly to the point of waving my cane at youngsters and calling them “whippersnappers.” We live in a cul-de-sac at the very back of the neighborhood, so we don’t get many visitors anyway. My husband always buys too much candy and we eat our favorites both before and after the fact. (I have to remind him not to get Butterfingers. I hate Butterfingers.)

Actually, buying too much candy is a defense mechanism for him. One year we didn’t have enough, and he didn’t even have enough loose change for everyone. As the kids were departing in sorrow, he yelled out the door in desperation, “Does anyone want some Coke?” He meant the soft drink, but the shocked look on their faces was priceless.

Now I simply refuse to participate, curmudgeon that I am. I stay in the back of the house and turn off the porchlight, the universal signal for “Don’t stop here. Keep moving.” (Though I don’t know why we bother with porchlights, as trick-or-treating is now always done during daylight hours to cut down on car accidents and candy-muggings.)

These days I’m the one with knees that don’t like popping up and down or creaking up and down, really. I get depressed when I see how many little girls have bought into the pink princess-y thing. Opening the door makes me tense, as we have a cat who is a door-darter. Every other year my husband says, “I did it last year; now it’s your turn.” Sorry, not falling for that one. If you like it, fine. If you don’t do it, I’ll just read a nice zombie novel like Feed to mark the occasion.

This year there is a slightly encouraging lately – having a teal-colored pumpkin outside your door if you will be giving out non-food treats, such as small toys, colored pencils, glow sticks, and the like. It will cut down on food-allergy-related deaths, but it will also result in a lot of stomped-on teal pumpkins. The older kids already have made a sport of stomping pumpkins and running. Imagine their annoyance at receiving a pinwheel or a Koosh ball.

The start of the pumpkin-stomping craze was when I stopped decorating too. You can save Christmas ornaments from year to year, but last year’s pumpkins are just sad. I suppose I could find some nice cobwebs in the basement, but getting them intact to the windows upstairs would be difficult.

Honestly, I could just skip Halloween and be perfectly happy. In fact, I do and I am. Call me a spoil-sport or a party-pooper if you will, but spoiling sports and pooping parties are how I celebrate.



Whitewashing: Where’s the Line?

Native American Iron Eyes Cody touched the conscience of America when he appeared in the iconic “crying Indian” anti-litter campaign.

One problem: He wasn’t a Native American named Iron Eyes Cody. He was Tony Corti, a white American born of Sicilian parents.

Nowadays we call that “whitewashing” – hiring white actors to portray Asians, Native Americans, or other races or ethnicities. It is a practice that has outlived its day and is decried as an insult as grievous as blackface and minstrel shows.

Take Mr. Yunioshi, the character in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, played by Mickey Rooney – he’s not funny and is offensive to everyone of Japanese ancestry.

But where do we draw the line?

When Jennifer Lawrence was hired to play Katniss Everdeen in the film The Hunger Games, there was grumbling that she required makeup to darken her skin to the olive shade specified in the book.

Was that whitewashing? Couldn’t they have hired an actor with naturally olive skin to play the role? Almost certainly.

But where’s the offense? Actors wear makeup all the time to perform their roles on stage and screen. Also wigs, hair color, padding, breast implants, cotton balls in their cheeks, prosthetics, and digital edited everything. David Carradine (6’1″) played Woody Guthrie (5’7″) in Bound for Glory, before the days when camera angles and special effects could make Legolas taller than Gimli.

Couldn’t the casting agents have found actors that had the “right” hair color, breast size, facial contours, height, plus the requisite acting talent?

Sure they could.

I mean, I get it. Height, hair color, and so forth are superficial physical traits, not cultural or racial identities. Halloween costume that misappropriate cultures (“Seductive Squaw,” “Harem Girl”), ethnicities (“Tequila Shooter Dude”), and even religion (“Rasta Imposta”) are just another appalling example of insensitivity and racism as inaccurate as stereotypical or whitewashed portrayals on film.

Opinions may be changing, though race in movies is still controversial. Black American actor Louis Gossett, Jr., played Anwar Sadat (half-black, half-Arab) on film and the only notable complaints were from Egyptians. But there was pushback against lighter-skinned Afro-Latina actor Zoe Saldana playing the very dark-skinned black singer Nina Simone in a biopic.

(Surprisingly, I found during my research that Sir Ben Kingsley was not a totally inappropriate choice for the title role in Gandhi. He’s part-Indian and his birth name is Krishna Pandit Bhanji.)

While, we’re on the subject, what about voice-washing? Does it exist under somewhat the same umbrella as whitewashing? Isn’t there a real Polish-speaking actress who could have played in Sophie’s Choice? A Danish woman for Out of Africa? Meryl Streep is the go-to actress for “foreign” accents. Maybe you get a pass if you’re a mega-star.

And how about a little accuracy in accents, while we’re at it? Not all Southern accents are alike. The speech of a Texan, a Georgian, and a Louisianan are not interchangeable, yet we see movies all the time set in the southern U.S. with actors speaking in a hodgepodge of different “Southern” accents.

Listen, I’m just saying that the conversation over whitewashing may not be as simple as it at first seems. Terrible things have been done to Native American persons and culture on film, from farcical stereotypes to accepting Italian or Hispanic substitutes for Native actors under the theory, I suppose, that brown skin is brown skin, and even olive isn’t too far off with a little help from Maybelline.

Admitting that Katniss Everdeen and Mr. Yunioshi represent opposite ends of a spectrum would be a place to start, though.