Monday, September 29, 2014

A Few pre-motherhood Halloweens

The Four Tops, singing "Duke of Earl"

The Los Angeles version of Autumn is here – a crispness in the air for a few hours on Saturday morning, before the temperature hit the eighties again.  Even when I was a little kid, that kind of autumn quality of air made me feel wistful for my youth.  The annual Halloween nights of trick-or-treating made me feel like a kid in a movie about trick-or-treating, because how could real life be so almost melodramatically, so theatrically childlike.  These annual Halloween nights usually turned out a little disastrous, with a mom in her cups who loved Halloween too much not to feel compelled to ruin it, to make it less fun and therefore more bearable.  I also got sick at least a few Halloweens of my life. 

One Halloween, a close friend of mom’s, who used to be her room mate, sleeping on that old fashioned contrivance the Murphy Bed, made me a princess costume by hand, tracing a t-shirt and skirt of mine as a pattern for a silk and lace outfit.  Instead of feeling flattered that he’d gone to so much trouble, I was irritated that it looked too much like a regular outfit.  This was in second or third grade, two of the more miserable years of unpopularity in a childhood vacillating wildly between years of popularity and unpopularity.  I’d wanted to wow the school with some beautiful Elizabethan gown I’d imagined he’d make, and instead of telling everyone I was a princess, I ended up saying I was Madonna.

Probably my worst Halloween was in sixth grade, when I decided to go to an after school Halloween dance, dressed up as a cat in an elaborate, ugly cat headdress supposed to look like the costumes in the musical Cats.  My white pancake make up was all smeary and gross.  Sixth grade was even worse than Third grade, and made some of what people refer to as “bullying” now sound like a day at the beach.  I always engaged in extracurricular activities like cheerleading, school dances and talent shows because I thought I could win people over.  Seriously no one danced with me at the dance.  The last song was “Duke of Earl,” and even though it was a song from decades ago it sounded to me like a love song of some immediacy and it hurt to have no one to dance with.

My first year at college, I didn’t feel like doing anything on Halloween because I didn’t want to end up disappointed, but there was a big party at one of the punk houses, and one of my closest friends convinced me to go with her and our other best friend, telling me she’d make sure we had a great night.  At the time, I wasn’t entirely tuned in yet to the aesthetic do’s and don’ts of the mods, rockers and mockers I wanted to impress, and I still had a love of whimsy, which included knowing all the different types of fairies; I'd deciding that I would be a bewitching girl if I dressed up like a dryad (a wood nymph).  My friend helped me bobby pin leaves in my hair, and I wore a brown dress that I thought looked like the slinky trunk of a sexy, skinny and slightly drunk tree.  I was always on the make at parties at this time in my life.  I always wanted it to be the night I'd fall in love with someone new, but especially on unattached holidays (and especially on New Year's Eve, Halloween or Fourth of July).  My first ex-boyfriend’s band was playing at the party and I imagined him giving me meaningful looks but the only time he looked at me it was with this unfounded aggression he’d developed.  I flirted systematically with everyone in the bathroom line.  Once finally in the bathroom, I got one of my temporary fits of panic over the fact that the toilet was in such horrible shape and there was no toilet paper.  I hadn’t led a sheltered life of all bathrooms being functional, and in fact was used to my mom’s bathroom where the pretty knick knacks piled on top of the tank made it hard to remove the lid of the tank and tinker around with the moving part when the flusher stopped working.  Also, mom and I used the same two Star Wars toothbrushes for at least nine years, liking how cute they were and not knowing any better.  Despite, or because of, having made my peace with bad bathrooms, I always loved the sanctuary of a nice and functional bathroom.  Now that I was a young woman, and I went to a lot of parties and shows at ramshackle venues, I was forever finding myself in a bad bathroom with a toilet that didn’t really work.  I could never shit on nights out, with all the bad toilets everywhere, even if I got a horrible stomach ache – I’d just be stranded somewhere, surreptitiously sneaking an Immodium AD from my pocket.  This untended plumbing emergency was the last straw of another disappointing Halloween.

Pete & Pete, "Halloweenie" episode
6th grade yearbook coverage of the Halloween dance.  Me as the white cat (middle right).