It’s been a long time since I’ve celebrated Halloween. I think the last time I dressed up for the occasion was during my senior year in college. I went to school as the Crow, which was my last and favorite costume ever since my junior year in high school. My first costume was something much simpler.
I think I was six or seven when I went out on my first real Halloween trick or treat. Sure, I experienced Halloween even younger than that, but it was in the controlled space of kindergarten classrooms and we only got candy from a handful of staff. It wasn’t the same as the real deal. On the other hand, it didn’t matter since I had nothing to compare it to. Anyway, there I was – six or seven – and it was Halloween night, but I was too young to go out by myself and my parents weren’t the type to escort me door to door. Luckily for me, however, I had an older brother.
Somewhere along the line, I believe he needed to dress up as a magician for some school event. That meant we had an old cape lying around that I would wear and imagine myself as a superhero or a vampire or really anything that required a cape. I just so happened to be wearing the cape when someone suggested that my brother take me along when he went trick or treating. Not only was this going to be my first real Halloween, but I think it also marked the beginning of the hell my brother would go through having to drag me along wherever he went – just for the record, those times weren’t that fun for me either. Regardless, my first Halloween was everything I thought it’d be and watching my little pumpkin-shaped bucket with its cheap black handle fill with sweets that I did nothing to earn was an amazing experience to behold.
On a side note, trick or treating at the mall sucks. Sure, you get the full-size name candy, but you also get far less candy overall.
In the third grade, I went to school as a mummy. I have no idea why I thought that would make a good costume. I just remember shopping with my mother a couple of nights before Halloween and seeing a mummy costume hanging from the rafters and I decided that was it for me. Maybe I just liked the idea of having my face covered like a ninja. Anyway, instead of getting the store-bought costume, my mother convinced me that she could make me a better version. So she bought some material and cut it into strips. The morning before school on the big day, I patiently stood there while she wrapped me from head to toe in long white strips of fabric. When a strip ended, she simply knotted the end together with a fresh strip and on the material went, round and round. The costume was good for a couple of hours before it started sagging at the joints, revealing my black sweats underneath. Soon everything started unraveling and I just untied it all and shoved it into my backpack.
In the fourth grade, I was a California Raisin. I don’t know if anyone really recalls these commercial icons, but they were big in the late 80’s and early 90’s. You’d see them dancing around on tables in all their claymation glory, singing Motown hits, like I Heard It Through the Grapevine. This is one of those costumes that I can’t quite understand why I picked it. It was probably one of those ideas my father had and I went along with because a) I didn’t want to piss him off and b) it seemed like a unique costume. Just to keep your imagination straight, it only barely looked like a California Raisin. The suit was 2-D, made up of two foam pieces with a California Raisin face painted on the front. You’d slide it over your body and your face would attach to the suit via a plastic mask on the inside with its ever trusty rubber band wrapping around your head. It also came with some fabric that you could cut up to make the white gloves. What it didn’t come with, but recommended I get, were tights. I wanted to complete the outfit so I had my mother pick me up a pair.
At school the following day, everyone loved my costume and I was indeed the only raisin to show up. What I didn’t realize, however, is that I have a pretty sexy pair of legs. When I would stand outside during recess and lunch, boys I had never seen before would crowd around me and sometimes talk to me. Then they would scatter like homophobic roaches as soon as I revealed that I was a dude. That experience is probably the reason why I’ve gotten a kick out of cross-dressing the handful of times that I’ve done it.
For several grades after that, I had no costume. I’m not sure why. It’s a shame how spotty my memory is becoming. I do remember that in the fifth grade my school wanted to parade some classes through the lower grades to show off costumes. Rather than simply gather the children that were wearing costumes my school decided to just walk everyone through the classes. I found the whole exercise completely moronic so I would amuse myself by suddenly screaming at unsuspecting children as my line shuffled by.
As a side note, I often tell people that I hate children. The most common rejoinder is, “You were a child once, you know. Did you hate yourself then?” The answer, of course, is no, but as an adult I can certainly say that I hate how I behaved when I was a child. One Halloween I remember standing at the door of one home, ringing the bell, waiting for my candy. No one answered in the expected amount of time, so I rang again…and again. The TV was on. I could clearly see it through the window. Someone was home. WHERE WAS MY CANDY? I knocked to add a human touch to the whole event. I wanted the homeowners to know that there really was a live person here waiting for them. I knocked a little more incessantly. Finally, a woman approached from the hallway and answered the door. I announced trick or treat in the friendly, upbeat manner I usually did and the woman dropped a handful of candy into my pillow sack. She wasn’t upset with me. She wasn’t annoyed. She looked preoccupied. For a few minutes after I left I felt like a jerk. For all I knew she had just gotten off the phone with someone informing her that someone she knew just died. Or maybe I pulled her off the toilet. I don’t know and that’s the point. I felt so selfish and the guilt weighed on me until the next house.
I used to live in Moreno Valley, CA before moving to Corona, CA. During the last Halloween I can remember having at the Moreno Valley house someone knocked on our door at a very late hour for trick or treating – like around 9 p.m. or so. I think my father answered the door and I stood just behind him and to the right to see who was there. It was a teenage girl – probably 14 – dressed in a standard red and white cheerleader outfit. Her father stood just behind her and to her right. I can’t remember exactly what her face looked like anymore, but I can clearly recall the sense memory of seeing her. She was gorgeous. Beautiful. Stunning. It was like seeing a unicorn or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I saw beautiful people on TV, but nothing in my real life experience ever compared to those images until I saw this girl – living, breathing and only a few steps away from me. When she left, her blond ponytail swayed with each step.
In the seventh grade or maybe it was the eighth, I was a pirate. Not much else to say there except that I was wearing glasses now and my costume required an eye-patch, so I walked around without my glasses. I didn’t realize how much I needed glasses until I got turned around in my own neighborhood and people looked at me quizzically when I knocked on their door twice in five minutes.
In the ninth grade, I was in high school now and beginning to put together a school wardrobe that matched the persona I was affecting, which was a dark and brooding character. As such, I took to wearing black and I decided I would go as a vampire for Halloween. I went to a local costume store and picked up a pair of prosthetic fangs. They weren’t the really cheap ones that cover all of your teeth, but don’t actually stick to them. Instead, I got the semi-cheap ones that only cap your canines and are supposed to stick via some included sticky fabric that activates when it gets wet…or something? I don’t know, because the fangs never stayed stuck for too long. They also looked terrible when I smiled because the fangs were pearly white and my real teeth were dingy white.
No costume my sophomore year mainly because my best friend at the time called dibs on the costume I wanted, which was the Crow. We’d both seen the movie together and when we walked out the first thing he said was, “That’s what I’m going to be for Halloween.” There are few perfect moments in life, but that moment was one of them. What an awesome idea for a costume – and simple too! Plus, my friend had the long hair to complete the outfit. Granted, he was blond, but he said he’d dye his hair.
On Halloween night we agreed to go trick or treating together. When I got to his house he was still assembling his costume. It was the most ramshackle outfit I’d ever seen. The Crow wears electrical tape around his waist and forearms, but my friend didn’t go out and buy any so I watched him scrounge around for used tape to unravel. The black dye he said he would use for his hair turned out to be – I’m not sure – black shoe polish? It simply made him look like a dirty mechanic or maybe a coalminer. Lastly, he had his older sister do his makeup and she obviously had never seen the movie, because what was supposed to be black lines on his face were instead smudgy finger smears. When his costume was complete he looked at himself long and hard in the mirror and his expression was heartbreaking. Though we never said it, we both felt that he had wasted a costume. He wasted perfection.
Our trick or treating took twice as long, because he had to explain who he was at every door.
So I took over the Crow mantle the following year. I now had pretty long hair and felt I could do the costume justice. I also had a badass coat that fit the part. It wasn’t perfect, but it got the point across. By the next Halloween, however, I knocked it out of the park. Sure, it doesn’t compare with more “professional” costumes, but it’s not bad at all for a kid with no money and relying on clothes, material and makeup from friends and family.
After school, I went over to my best friend’s house to cheer him up since he was already graduated and just sitting around, listless. He was very impressed by the getup and we took a few gag shots.
These days I don’t even bother. I think it’s because I don’t have anywhere to go. With that said, I hope everyone had a safe Halloween. Mine was fairly quiet since I stayed in to write this blog. 😉