Halloween: not my holiday.Hasn't been for some time.
But when I was a kid, I sure did dress up for it. My mother made the most fabulous costumes. No sheet-over-the-head ghosts in our house. One year, she hand-sewed me a genie costume: deep magenta pants, billowy and tapered at the ankle, trimmed with a band of gold sequins. With a matching top that fastened with hook-and-eye closures. I wore it to play dress up until I couldn't close the back anymore. Another year, I was a Southern belle. The long dress, which took weeks to make, skimmed my shoulders and went all the way to the ground, discount-calico ruffles in layers and layers, with cotton eyelet lace and a real petticoat.
My costumes weren't all handmade. We raided the upstairs closet in my grandparents' house once — such good dress-up play clothes up there, every zippered slipcover a treasure chest — and found a kimono they'd bought on a trip to Asia. I practically swam in it, so I paired it with tights; I wore teal eyeshadow and mascara, put my hair in a bun and secured it with chopsticks. That may have been my favorite. Then one year — in fifth or sixth grade, oh, the horror — I somehow wound up in a French maid costume. The costume was store-bought, and I was wearing a white turtleneck underneath. But still. A French maid?
I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. You know. At 11 years old.
But that's an adult costume, shiny polyester and cheap netting that smell like the plastic wrap they came in, bought the night before, and a skirt that would barely graze mid-thigh on a woman of a certain age (read: not 11). That's not the sort of costume you buy for the school Halloween party. It's not the kind of thing you wear when you're out for all the Nestle Crunch and mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups you can scam from the neighbors.
That's for the grown-ups. For whom Halloween is an excuse to get wasted and dress like hookers. (That's my broad generalization of the day that will invariably make someone angry.)
Don't get me wrong: I love fall. Put me in a pumpkin patch, give me a cup of spiced cider and an ear of roasted corn, and I'm grinning like a jack-o'-lantern. I don't even mind Halloween as I knew it before. Dogs and babies in costume? I can barely handle the cute. And I'll happily gorge myself on candy corn. (That's my Halloween tradition: Buy a half-pound of Brach's at the drug store in early October, eat the whole thing — but only the bottom two stripes, because the white part's too sweet — and not want to see another tri-colored candy for another year.)
But the sexy costumes? The wild parties, the rowdy El rides, the scarier-than-usual morning-after walks of shame? No, thanks.
So this Saturday, when the rest of Chicago is getting drunk and disorderly in their zombie makeup and naughty-you-name-it costumes, I'm escaping to Evanston for a concert. One of my favorite bands, the Weepies, is touring for the first time in years. No trick: I'm treating myself this Halloween to something I actually want to do…for the first year in a long time.
I had my Sexy French Maid moment when I was 11. I miss the innocence and the candy that goes with childhood Halloweens. Bottom line: If I'm not bobbing for apples, I'm not dressing up. No Halloween for me. On second thought… I might smuggle my rabbit ears into the concert in my handbag. Just in case.