With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to share a column that I wrote about the allure of slipping into costumes, not only for the Samhain holiday, but for the everyday roles that we play in our lives. Writing this piece made me think about what attributes, attitudes, and accessories go into my “writer’s costume,” and – more to the point – what role do those external trappings play in my perception of myself as a writer. That’s, perhaps, a conversation for another day; but for now, I hope you enjoy this little musing about the role of costumes in our daily rounds.
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With Halloween just a few days away, it’s time to put the finishing touches on the kids’ trick-or-treat costumes. There are tiaras that need glitter, swords that need another coat of metallic paint, and ghostly sheets that need pressing. There are makeup designs to be tested and hairstyles to be perfected. The just-right pair of shoes must be found. The battery-operated light saber (with full sound effects) must be tracked down. All around town, parents’ design, construction, and artistic skills (not to mention patience) are being put to the test in the creation of angel wings, robot arms, and – most importantly – cold-weather costume adaptations that will satisfy mom’s warmth requirements without driving the kids to tears.
A few nights from now, the kids will don the trappings of their alter egos as they venture out into the dark to collect their annual tithe of mass-produced sugar products. From mermaids to goblins, black cats to zombies, princesses to pirates, our streets will be overrun by the strange and wonderful, the scary and sweet. For a few hours, our children will transform themselves into the creatures and characters of their dreams, inhabiting other skins and running amok with the wild things.
For their part, most of the grown-ups will skip the costumes. They will say they are too old for such playacting. They will protest that dressing up is just for the kids. When it comes to Halloween accessories like crazy clown wigs, vampire fangs, and superhero capes, I will admit that costumes are (mostly) for the kids. However, dressing up is something we grown ups do every day.
Each morning we wake up, consider the day ahead, and choose our “costume” accordingly. I might be a stay-at-home mom one day, a business consultant the next, and an equestrian the day after that. Sometimes, we perform multiple costume changes in a single day.
Everywhere we go and everything we do requires a different getup. It’s not that the clothes we wear make us better mothers, consultants, riders, or what have you; but the right attire does help us get into character. I would have a hard time, for instance, confidently presenting a marketing strategy to a client dressed in my usual mom-garb of yoga pants and a T-shirt. Likewise, I would feel uncomfortable folding laundry and making brownies wearing heels and a dress.
Sometimes, a certain piece of clothing or an accessory can become a personal talisman. You might have a lucky shirt or baseball cap, for instance. I have a lucky pair of boots. We have our “go to” outfits that help us feel more confident, or even invincible, not unlike a child wearing a Halloween costume in order to banish a fear of the dark.
In her story “Menace,” writer and cartoonist Allie Brosh tells about the time a dinosaur costume transformed her four-year-old self into a rampaging force of nature. For a period of a few weeks (until her parents figured out the connection between the costume and her wild behavior), Allie found new freedom and confidence as a prehistoric lizard. “All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that I had never even dreamed of doing before. Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn’t know that. I’d just assumed that I was unable. As a dinosaur, I didn’t have any of those assumptions.”
Assumptions are dangerous things. If you’re not careful, assumptions about who you are and what you’re capable of can steal your life right from under your nose. In the spirit of Halloween, why not find yourself a new costume – maybe a really fabulous pair of jeans or a great jacket – and see what kind of metamorphosis you can engineer. Sometimes, all you need is a metaphorical superhero cape to take on the world … and win.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.