My father’s answer to a lot of things was, “I could take it or leave it.” Even though he had not been asked to do either. I am trying to make that my mantra in my minefieldness practice.
So about Halloween: I could take it or leave it. OK, once in 6th grade, when I caused an apple-dunking contest to get a little rough and tumble, I did enjoy Halloween. All my tumescent girl-crushes became unwitting runners-up in an impromptu wet T-shirt contest. That I could take.
But as someone whose full-time job was concealing my dangerous, hormonally Vesuvian lesbianism, I was not into costumes as a fun hobby. My daily Catholic school uniform was welcome protective camouflage. It prevented inevitable gaffes like appearing for 5th grade Career Day dressed in full work overalls, snap cap, steel-toed Keds and a tool belt.
Thus when I finally came out, my Halloween costuming suffered from a distinct lack of imagination. I wore the same thing every year. It was with great sadness that I retired my Marie Curie costume with its ingenious use of aluminum foil and crackling red cellophane. It was time. No one greeted me at parties with, “Hey, Marie.” No one was fooled.
Last year I was so involved in the presidential campaign, I did not have time to take my go-to Margaret Mead uniform to the cleaners after Halloween. My drycleaner says she is unable to get out the year-old, set-in blackberry wine stains.
I can’t take it. I am as crushed as one of those little blackberries. When I would duck into my Margaret Mead muumuu, pop on the wire-rim glasses, slip into sensible shoes, cut in some bangs, and pick up my walking stick, I would become that wise, world-traveling anthropologist. Off to study other cultures.
This year, deprived of the protective uniform of my famous women costumes, I decided to go less Tussaud, more contempo. I too have been observing the culture.
Unfortunately the young clerk at the pop-up Halloween store did not understand my request. “Do you carry the Wonder Woman costume? The Wonder Woman from the first 20 minutes of the movie? The one who was a happy Amazon, trained by the Claire from House of Cards before she mistook Botox for acting? The Wonder Woman before her power was zapped by a crisis of co-dependency that forced her to rescue that damn flyboy in distress, causing the whole Amazon Utopia to crumble? That one?”
After the election, I was a Prude for Democracy. Always delicately asking, “Can he do that?” Sniffing, “Can he talk about federal judges that way?” Wincing, “Should he be tweeting?” But as the months have passed, each one a century long, I have become rude, crude, and lewd for Democracy. No more Mrs. Nice Gay. My stress spinner is now brass knuckles.
This Halloween I plan to abandon my genteel tributes to historical women. The current totalitarian zeitgeist does not represent a singularity but a total shit storm of fractured institutions and identities. And those white sheets are so over-used. Instead of full unhidden figures, I am going with a more ironic, abstract, Picassoan, fractured, fright-night Halloween costume. There is a new freedom dressing as an inanimate object. And the nice thing is you can still keep a Mitch McConnell costume as your fall-back. He’s been dead for years.
Here are some of the ideas I’ve been working on with my designers. A giant orange tweeting yam. The boom-stock on Harvey Weinstein’s dick. Russian nesting Bobblehead Pocket Rocket Boy Dolls. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ eyebrows. (But we are having trouble coordinating the hydraulics of the lift and arch with the lip service). A hologram of the Cheshire smirk of Jefferson Noregard Sessions superimposed on a shredder. A purple GAG,A (Gays Against Guns, Asshole) hat topped with a Christmas crèche, balanced on a rainbow wedding cake, blaring, “Don, we are not now gay apparel.” The thing weighs more than that belt buckle on Melatonin’s sheathe dress.
Oh just leave it. I’m sticking with the dames. I still have enough time to get a kick-ass, spark-spitting Ruth Bader Ginsburg together. I plan to wear it for a lot of years.
Kate Clinton is a longtime humorist and writes regularly for the Blade.