I’m one of those idiots who never misses an opportunity to incessantly speak about my childhood growing up in the epitome of white picket fence small town mid-west. I also have a definite colorful case of White Girl Syndrome that really tends to rear it’s ugly head in autumn and probably isn’t going away any time soon, so of course I have extremely vivid memories of Halloween.
The first Halloween I remember was in 1997. I was in the first grade and I remember sitting next to my nemesis and fellow brownie scout Jessica Lambursky, who happened to be really fucking jazzed on the fact that she was going to dress up as Posh Spice for our class Halloween Party after recess. She was going to wear her older sister’s belly shirt crop top and a metallic skirt and she kept taking it out of her book bag and showing everyone on the bus.
Looking back on Jessica, her mom was never watching her or paying attention to her at the skating rink because she was trying to pick up dudes to cheat on Jessica’s dad with and stuff so that’s probably why she had such a cool mature costume and it seems wildly inappropriate and crazy now, but back then I was insanely jealous of her. Spice Girls! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that first. I looked down at my plastic grocery store bag that had my costume in it and started to have doubts.
“What are you going to be? A witch?” she asked with one eyebrow raised.
I glanced down at my makeshift Halloween bindle through my thick, smudged wire rimmed glasses and squeezed my eyes closed for a moment hoping I could die because I realized I had made a terrible decision and everyone was going to laugh at me and throw rocks and now here I was, riding The Cheese with nowhere to run and no way to avoid Mouthy McGee’s offensive question about it.
“That’s what I thought. Ew” she said as she shook her head and turned around.
And in the moment I played it off because I knew I was going to have to ride the bus for another 5 or 10 minutes with this person, but when I thought about it this morning I was like “what the fuck?” because what does “are you supposed to be a witch? Ew” even mean?
Was my green skin and warted up face too much for her? Was my big pointed hat on crooked? Did she trip over my magical broomstick on the way to her seat? Was she allergic to my black cat?
And today I’m totally ashamed of myself for not being like “Excuse me, cunt, “Jessica” or whatever your dirtball name is, but I actually know a Wiccan and she made me and my sister necklaces out of tambourine cymbals and she sings in a band with my uncle and you know who else they called a witch? Stevie-motherfucking-Nicks. Like, we’re just jealous of each other for stupid reasons so you indirectly said you thought I looked “ugly” on the bus, which FYIsies, that’d be a way less offensive, more PC way to put it. So maybe I am being a witch for Halloween, what’re you gonna do about it?”
But I didn’t say that because I wasn’t even going as a witch and honestly I was caught a little off-guard at the first grade cuntiness that was happening from this bitch and a little self-conscious that I was being judged about the way that I looked. I’m also a coward who will write about the feelings she harbored over billions of tiny situations like this on the Internet instead of actually ever speaking up. I just always avoid conflict and regret it later, which is the exact opposite of the virtue that I admire in all of my heroes. But anyway, just because you don’t like the way someone looks you don’t have to take it out on the Pagan community. Give me a break; I’m in the first grade. That’s very “The Crucible” of you, Jessica.
“Actually, I’m going to be a genie” I sort of mumbled. That was the year my mom met Barbara Eden in her home town randomly and I thought that was the coolest thing ever and I was absolutely obsessed with I Dream of Jeannie after that and watched every single rerun on TV Land with my grandpa when he would babysit us. But now I could feel all of the heat in my body pouring out of my face. I knew I had made a mistake. I knew I should’ve been Spice Girls or Clueless or anything older kids liked because no one gives a shit about genies.
“Like Kazaam?” she said with a giggle without even looking at me like the insufferable little disrespectful shit that she undoubtedly was. I went from being an evil green hag with warts to a forty-something 80 foot tall professional basketball player who can’t act to save his life and she’s being RACIST now!? This was shaping up to be the worst day of my little first grader life and I couldn’t believe I was being attacked by this wild animal on the bus.
I wondered if I looked shorter because I felt shorter. That was the first time I remember feeling ashamed of myself and my choices and all I wanted to do was stare ahead at the back of that brown vinyl seat and not talk to anyone else until we got to school. I wished so, so hard that something good would happen to me and that Jessica would just get eaten by snakes.
“Hey, guys!” she called over to the boys sitting a few seats back. “Katelyn is going to be Kazaam for Halloween!” she cackled as the bus pulled into school. The boys stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I probably adjusted my glasses and clutched my trapper keeper tighter as I turned away and curled myself deeper into my seat. I absolutely remember preparing to be annihilated.
But then it happened. “Really?” ask one of the boys, kind of impressed. “That’s pretty cool, Katelyn.” I was silent. Jessica was silent. This wasn’t the verbal laceration either of us had expected. We both realized at that moment that her little joke had backfired and as long as I kept my mouth shut and let the boys think I was Kazaam then my costume would be cooler than Jessica’s, which was awesome.
The doors opened and they all got off the bus and I sat in my seat alone a moment longer smiling. Someone actually stuck up for me and that mercy was something that drove me to pick out the best Halloween costumes I could think of in the years to come. Not that my homemade Jeannie turned Kazaam costume complete with Velcro sneakers that my mother had hot glued hot pink plastic jewels to wasn’t totally baller in retrospect. It was. I wore it under a windbreaker that night and I got lots of candy. But why hadn’t I decided to be Kazaam myself in the first place? Next time I would.
Middle school brought a pretty heated goth costume phase, early high school was all gore, but I always got tons of compliments at my creativity and efforts. The drive to have the best costume was always there though, particularly as the themes became more applicable.
Ever since that day on the bus when I wished for something good to happen on Halloween and it did, I just adopted the holiday as my own. It was also the first day I remember other people thinking I was cool and creative and even though I’ve gotten a lot better at faking it since then, it still really was such a spesh little moment for me. In early September when I start seeing the first orange and black skeletons and ghoul decor coming out, it feels like my day is about to come. Like people are celebrating me when they decorate in spooky things and when they display the purple, green and orange, they’re saying to me “Hey! You know who is totally not a trick, girl? You. Because you’re a total freakin treat. And you know what tastes good? Chocolate. And caramel apples. And pumpkin flavored stuff. And you know what smells good? Bonfires. And apple cider. And do you know what’s cool? Ghosts. And getting scared is really really really fun.” In my dream of dreams, they’ll make a movie of my life and the opening scene would be me getting ready to enter the night on October 31st and there’d be a jump cut close up to a skeleton hand smacking my ass and I start doing the cabbage patch in an Anna Nicole Smith costume. “Go get um. Fuck shit up” a CGI skull in shades and a top hat says as I run off. Fade scene.
Besides, you know what? Jessica’s probably a crack head now and crack heads always eat all of the good candy when your back is turned and who wants that person around on Halloween? Count it.