All I ever wanted to be was a "punk rocker," hair spray painted a glittery purple color. My parents considered being a "punk rocker" to be a crime on the same level as hanging out at the mall or behind gas stations, buying "Like a Virgin," eating sugar cereals, or watching "Dukes of Hazard."
I went as a hobo.
I wore a red hockey jacket with the name Jeff stitched on the left breast. Breezers and thigh-high hockey socks, stripped with black and red. A fashionable red hockey hat, styled the the Copenhagen hats that were all the rage, on top of my short, shaggy hair. Eyes blackened like I was a talentless goon. Stitches drawn across my cheek.
"Am I a boy or a girl?" I asked at every single door in a new development near our neighborhood.
A man studied me. I was standing in the lobby of his house with about five friends, waiting for his wife to dump candy in my pillow case.
"Boy?" he said.
My friends and I cheered. In those days, I loved being on the receiving end of gender confusion. Of course, this abated when I got older and any gender confusion was directly related to my concave boob spots.
The first major event of a newly minted junior high student at St. Pius X was the Halloween dance. The first time in 12 agonizing years that we would encounter sanctioned touching and swaying.
And in 1988, a big effing deal was made of this rite of passage.
The dance would start with a "snowball." A few couples doing an awkward knock-kneed bumbling under a disco ball, herky jerky movements in a strobe light, until the DJ called "snowball," at which point the couples would split, each grabbing a new partner from the partner patch lined up against the wall.
Rumors of people pairing up for the first dance started circling sometime around the Fourth of July.
One of the school's most notorious teachers, Mrs. Pista (no relation) was a task master when it came to junior high dances. Starting in September, she herded seventh-graders into the music room for a half hour of dance lessons every few weeks: Fox Trot, Waltz, and The Hustle.
She also gave us a very serious list of rules, including: You had to dance with everyone who asked you to dance. You didn't have to dance with that person twice. But definitely once. Including Shawn, in his baggy gray sweatpants that tapered at his ankles. (I remember knowing that sweatpants were the wrong thing to wear to a dance, but not knowing why. I now suspect that Shawn probably thought sweatpants were exactly the right thing to wear to a dance, but didn't know why).
And then there was Chris, who led with his pelvis, his chin on your shoulder.
That year I wore a cardboard box, decorated like a pair of dice. I placed in the costume contest.
Fannie and I went as Pebbles and BamBam. I lucked into Pebbles since Fannie had terrible hair. The kind of mess that would be seen below the belt in a shower scene from a 1979 horror film.
I'm pretty sure we just wore pillow cases. Let me say that again: At some point my body fit into a pillow case.
Around this same time, we used to go to an annual Halloween party at my friend Dong's house. Inevitably, the night would end with about 10 of us sitting on his basement steps while two couples played horizontal kissy face on various surfaces of the rec room while listening to the Steve Miller Band.
When they finished, we'd go back inside and eat more Doritos.
Ma Pista (related) had a vintage purple suede skirt that she passed on to me from her era as a fashionista working at an upscale boutique while she was in junior college. This skirt was awesome. I wore it all through high school, until the seam ripped and then the staples I used to fix that bent and then rusted.
The last time I wore this skirt was when I went as Daphne from Scooby Doo. This was probably my best costume, paired with my worst boyfriend as Fred. We spent the holiday in Shawano, Wisconsin. Why would someone go to Shawano, Wisconsin, you ask. Good question. But I remember leading a conga line of strangers through a bowling alley to the song "Barbie Girl."
My first experimentation with wearing rollerblades in a bar. First the Pioneer, then Norms Beer and Brats in Superior. I liked it enough to try it again a few years later.
A men's white T'shirt, no pants, high heels, smeared lipstick and messy hair. I was a "walk of shame." I felt very liberated, all night, getting away not wearing pants in public.
I dyed my hair purple, using a temporary dye from target, for my vampire costume. My hair remained a plumish hue well past Thanksgiving. Temporary my ass.
Roller girl. A shirt red jersey dress, and my inline skates. We went to Pizza Luce. Chuck got us beers, and on his way back caught a glimpse of my exposed butt cheeks. I later almost came to fistacuffs with a girl who was dressed like Oscar the Grouch. She was incessantly playing the lid of a garbage can like a tambourine against the side of the garbage can. When I complained about her on my blog, she saw what I had written and told me she wished she had pushed me over on my stupid skates. Oh, internet.
Chuck went as David Foster Wallace. It. Was. Awesome. Not as much "too soon" as "no one knew who he was, even though he lugged around a copy of Infinite Jest." I went as a jazzercizer, which was far less inspired. We started at Carmody Irish Pub, and worked toward a darkened Pizza Luce.
A transformer had blown downtown, rendering Pizza Luce worthless. We went to RT Quinlan's and nothing happened of note.
I already miss Halloween, and I haven't even decided yet on which no-pants, mega-lipstick, dirty-pillow puckering, fedora-pimping costume I'm going to wear tonight. This is truly my favorite of all the holidays, in recent years even surpassing my birthday -- which is probably the most selfless thing I've ever said.
I love the collages of wet leaves on the sidewalk and how our TiVo lit up with a half-dozen horror movies. The scattered kiosks of candy corn, and pumpkin recipes. Haunted houses, vampire fangs, fake blood, and grapes peeled to feel like eyeballs.
Unfortunately, I don't have a costume idea. This means that, like most favorite holidays, this one will probably be anticlimactic.