The last Halloween costume

I’m so glad when Halloween ends and my wife stops talking about dressing up. “We need to think of a good costume this year!” she’ll say during our morning commute, pounding the steering wheel with an invisible gavel. I reply with a slow nod while carefully avoiding eye contact. We go through this fruitless exercise every year.

She looks at costumes the way a girl looks at diamonds; I look at costumes the way a girl from Sierra Leone looks at blood diamonds. It’s not that I begrudge her a little dressing up, it’s that I’m expected to join in.

The way I look at it, if I squeeze into my Superman garb, it’s not for public consumption. (It probably shouldn’t be for private consumption either, but that’s a cross for my wife to bear.)

Watching adults celebrate Halloween is an exercise in forced merriment. The previous year’s repressed sexuality and lost youth ferment in a cauldron of bad alcohol and faux leather. Suddenly, the dads in the room are dressing like their 80s hair band idols and determined to make the most of the fact they finally got a babysitter. Wives and girlfriends are replaced by a bevy of amateur dominatrixes or naughty nurses, their cleavage often wrapped and lifted in a precarious truce with the delicate ties that bind them. I grew up with four sisters in a nice Catholic family, but it’s hard to keep one’s eyes from looking at a sea of breasts when forced to swim among them.

Adult Halloween parties have begun to devolve into impromptu pajama exhibitions. I guess I’m getting old, but I don’t let people stare at me in my underwear unless they have a stethoscope or an EKG machine. My sense of shame doesn’t vanish simply because the calendar reads October 31.

Despite my misgivings, my wife remains a true believer in the idea that adults need to dress up for Halloween. While she does not partake in the risqué, she delights in crafting animal heads on my old jackets and sending me off to teach my classes. It’s bad enough to be an overweight man in the gym, but even worse to walk in with a lion’s mane around my sweat jacket because I don’t have anything else to wear.

Over the years she’s learned that I have to dress up for work—there’s a possibility this is written into our teacher contract. Students look at educators who don’t show up in costume as if we were cavepeople. Even if I don't wear a costume, I'm still going to school as The Grinch That Stole Halloween. As a result, I’m forced to make the best of it.

My wife loves the costumes that come in pairs. One year it was “Pigs in a Blanket” (while it only required I wear a snout, I hated sharing the blanket). Another year, we were the Black Eyed Peas (each with a painted black eye and giant “P’s” taped to our shirts). We usually resort to book-themed outfits because, well, we’re English teachers (“The Hound of The Basketballs” is a favorite when I’m teaching Sherlock Holmes).

Still, I’m only doing it for my students. If I'm wearing a costume outside of the school day, someone’s probably forced me into performing in a Chekhov play. My wife learned this the hard way while we were still dating and she was under the adorable impression that she could change my mind. She spent hours transforming herself into a kitten, wondering why I wasn’t scrambling to get ready before we left. I assured her I’d be in my costume by the time we got to the party.

She looked curiously at my jeans and T-shirt as we arrived but said nothing. I brushed the crumbs of a rushed dinner off my cleft palate, an affliction I’d been born with that some refer to as a “harelip.” I put on a pair of bunny ears and walked into the party. When people asked what I was, I replied, “a rabbit.” After a night of awkward reactions, I never had to bother with a nighttime Halloween costume again.

For those of you who hate dressing up as much as I do, feel free to adopt this aggressive strategy next year. Adults dressing up in costumes should be embarrassing; embrace it. (And, you’re welcome.)

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