*Note: This article was written last year after Halloween (2009), but I never published it because I waited too long after the fact and it didn’t seem relevant. I recently remembered it and decided to publish it this year before Halloween.
During Halloween, as with most areas of my life, I try to think outside the box. Originality is much more impressive to me than following the crowd or doing things a certain way just because that’s how it’s always been done. That’s not to say that I completely forsake tradition; in many ways, tradition is important. I like to decorate with pumpkins and Indian corn, carve a Jack-o-lantern, and pass out candy to kids going Trick-or-Treating, just like every other year. It just seems that most Halloween costumes are so over-used: witches, ghosts, princesses, the sexy nurse, etc. And really, if you buy a costume in a store, you will most likely be buying something that at least a hundred other people have too. So I decided to be something unique this year…with unforeseen negative consequences that I will share for your amusement.
Let me also say that I am a procrastinator sometimes and I don’t like to spend much money on costumes. If there is a way to put it together with things I already have or can pick up at a thrift store, I would prefer that to a mass-produced outfit. I was allowed to dress up for work this year, so I looked on-line for an easy, but original idea. I found one for a “black-eyed pea.” It said to give yourself a black eye using makeup and put the letter “P” on your shirt. I thought it was a cute, simple idea and went for it. I altered it by also wearing all green, a feat not accomplished without pulling out my Kelly Green track pants from high school , turning a printed shirt inside-out, layering a cable-knit zip-up hooded sweater on top of it, and generally looking like a huge fashion don’t.
After applying my black eye with green, purple, brown and black eye shadow, I made a letter “P” on my shirt using masking tape, put on the outfit, and looked in the mirror. Not too bad. I had no doubt in my mind that people would easily understand the concept once they saw the black eye and the “P.” I figured it would take a few seconds and then they would burst, “Oh…black-eyed pea! How clever!” This was, of course, before the day’s events made me lose most of my faith in people’s ability to problem-solve.
I went to work confident, but once I stepped out of the car and passed a group of students (I work at a university), I quickly realized that not everyone was going to understand what I was in passing, or even at all. Then a bit of panic set in. If they didn’t get it, I was just going to look like I dressed like a moron and was abused by my husband. Yikes. I passed what felt like a hundred eyes full of sympathy on my way in, with not one exclamation about my cleverness.
I then reached a group of employees and faculty members, who also stared at me with puzzled looks. I pointed to my eye and then the “P.” I waited. Finally, one of the professors said, “black-eyed pea?” I confirmed it and the group let out a collective sigh of relief. None of them were dressed up. I only heard of two other employees who dressed up, but did not see them personally. Apparently, it was a day when many students were going to tour the campus, and people didn’t think it was a good day to dress up. I was not aware of this until I showed up in all my black and green glory.
I sit in a room with a door you can see through, so all morning groups of students on tour looked in the window of the door and saw my black eye. Almost every person I saw during the day looked at me funny. Only a couple of people said they knew what I was, but most apparently didn’t even know I was trying to dress up. Once I explained that I was a black-eyed pea, nearly everyone said, “Oh…that’s good. I thought that was a real black eye, but didn’t want to say anything.”
Now, I don’t know what’s worse: people thinking I had a black eye or people thinking that I would actually wear an all-green outfit, old track pants included, with a masking tape “P” on my shirt. Seriously?! I was only able to explain myself to about a third of the people that saw me. The rest were left to go about their day, telling others that they saw this woman with a huge black eye and horrible green outfit!
After one of the professors stopped by to let me know that another professor told him about my huge shiner, I decided to at least let the university staff members know that I was okay. I sent an e-mail letting them all know what I was supposed to be and told them not to worry about my fake black eye. After the e-mail, I had several people stop by to tell me they thought it was real or just to see me in person. Once everyone understood it, they said it was a cute idea, but was it worth all of the confusion it caused? I’m not so sure.
The next night, my husband and I had to go to a neighbor’s Halloween party and then went to a couple of bars with some friends. We dressed up together as black-eyed peas. I figured with two people, it would be much more obvious that it was a costume and people would take the time to figure it out. More people did get it, but only after pointing to the eye and the letter “P” again. I had a little more faith in people until I went to the restroom at a bar and a woman asked me if I was supposed to be domestic violence. Wow.
It’s about enough to make me go out and buy one of those witch hats with the hair attached to it. At least I would hope no one would think it was my real gray hair or that I just loved black pointy hats. I’m starting to wonder if people would think I got plastic surgery if I wore a green, mole-covered witch nose.
“Just so you know,” I’d say, “This is not my real nose. I’m trying to be a witch.”
“Oh…I’m so glad you told me! I wanted to ask who your plastic surgeon was so I could avoid going there.”
So, back to my point: Is it better to just wear one of those tried-and-true costumes instead of risking total embarrassment by trying to be original? I still don’t think so. You just have to make sure that whatever you do is very obvious, even to a toddler, just to be safe. But if you like attention, getting strange looks, being misunderstood and explaining yourself over and over, then hey, go right ahead.
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