There comes a turning point in every teenage girl’s life when it comes to picking a Halloween costume. That is, stick with the original Little Red Riding hood costume or go into the adult section, lose the long dress and cape, and opt for the modified version which interestingly is twice the price and only covers half of your body. As a young woman, social constructs of sexuality and femininity informed my gender identity and had a major impact on my self-esteem. This is a story of how Halloween helped me realize that I create my own identity, and that it isn’t so bad to walk around dressed up as a gigantic milkshake.
I was first confronted with the cute versus sexy Halloween dilemma when I was about 16 years old. Before then, I was quite happy being Lisa Simpson or a large baby in one of those zip-up footie numbers holding a stuffed animal. Those costumes were cute and innocent. Coincidentally, they were also weather- appropriate. I distinctly remember enjoying trick-or-treating back then, not just because I had neighbors that gave out those huge candy bars instead of the snack sizes, but because I was warm in my costume. At 16, everything changed. I was working as a cashier at a local party supply store. October was the best month to work there. The store was filled with scary props that every kid wished their parents would buy and let you keep up until Christmas. The store also sold costumes for all ages. In a savvy marketing effort, the staff was required to wear costumes for the entire month of October. With a staff of mostly high school girls, there was definitely a huge controversy over who would get to wear what costume. The day we actually got the costumes was complete chaos, girls running to the racks, pushing each other aside to get the hottest, sexiest most revealing outfits. This was the first time I really felt pressure and desire to pick a sexy costume. In that moment of absolute pandemonium, I believed that my identity, my popularity and my ability to attract boys was predicated on me looking as sexy as possible in my Halloween costume. That was the moment when Halloween became a little less fun and a bit stressful for me.
Finally it was my turn to rummage through the remaining choices for costumes as selected and “approved” by the store manager. The costumes he chose wereall size small and either showed midriff or were dresses that could have passed as t-shirts. I can’t remember ever being a size small. Moreover, I certainly was not going to be showing off my stomach after comparing myself to the model pictured on the packaging. Before I even started to go through the rack, the manager came out of his office with a large advertisement sign for the store and what looked like a pink sleeping bag. He happily handed the items off to me and directed me to “get changed and go stand outside and wave to people.” My heart sank a bit when I realized that I wouldn’t be wearing a sexy costume at all. Instead, I was going to spend the month walking around town dressed as a big strawberry milkshake. Worse yet, the costume had a circular opening for my face, so there was absolutely nowhere to hide.
There is nothing sexy about being an oversized milkshake. At the time I really thought that I had caused permanent and irreversible damage to my social life. It didn’t take long for the word to spread at school that I was the big milkshake waving to cars off of the highway. While my fellow female employees spent that month inside the party store flirting around in their hyper-sexualized versions of childhood storybook characters, I was getting honked at by what seemed to be every guy I ever had a crush on. However, to my surprise, people were talking because they really liked my costume. I may not have won a beauty contest wearing it, but my friends thought it was absolutely hilarious. Even now we all still laugh about it. So this Halloween, if you are stuck wearing the milkshake costume, own it. Be brave, act boldly, face your fears.
EMPOWER OTHERS BY DARING TO BE DIFFERENT!