Me: Is Captain America your favorite superhero? Or your favorite Marvel superhero?
Wife: My favorite Marvel superhero.
Me: Interesting. So who’s your favorite superhero?
Wife: Probably … Captain America.
A good friend of ours is throwing a pre-Halloween Halloween party tonight, so—yeah—we’re pretty excited.
My wife and I each brought a costume box into our marriage, and we’ve made good use of the combined fantastical wardrobe over the years. There’s no portal at the back of our closet; Narnia exists within the confined space itself, all corsets and vests, scarves, gauntlets, and boots. We’re equipped for any Renaissance faire, theme party, or theatrical production (not that we find our way into many of the latter, but still), and the collection only continues to expand through thrift shop and garage sale finds.
We have wigs of the powdered, anime, and Rapunzel variety. We each have a cloak. We have items that lace, buckle, snap, and tie, and we like to make use of them.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the Shallows that thoughts of trick-or-treating yet to come prompted us to avoid Halloween itself as a wedding date, but we still wanted an excuse to dress up. So we had a masquerade ball a couple of weeks earlier, justifying the theme—not that we needed justification—as a celebration and exploration of identity, considering our debut as a new Us. We chose an overarching appropriate Bible verse to reflect the idea: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” We encouraged our guests to dress however they felt. There were Victorians and Edwardians, pirates and wizards, some medieval folks, and others.
The idea of a new identity, one not worn every day, is so appealing to me. I love acting. I recently began playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends, which involves roleplaying a character. When I write fiction, of course I try out fresh voices coming from my own throat. And I love dressing up for Halloween. Why is all that?
In years past, I’ve been Hagrid from Harry Potter, Strider (not Aragorn) from The Lord of the Rings, and Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. My wife and I have aimed for literary-related costumes since our first child was born (that year I went out as Edgar Allan Poe, my wife was a pallid Lenore, and our baby was a raven with a “Nevermore” speech bubble Velcroed to her), though the more kids we’ve had and the older they’ve gotten, the more will they’ve exerted when it comes to costume decisions.
Last year, my firstborn chose to be Superwoman, my younger daughter chose Clark Kent, and my baby son was Kal-El (i.e. Baby Superman, being raised by the bucolic Mrs. and Mr. Kent, played by my wife and myself, respectively). As a geek at heart (and every other part), I wasn’t arguing. And we were even still characters from a printed medium, if not literature.
My favorite costumes include the set from three years ago, when we co-hosted a Steampunk Mother Goose party and dressed our eldest as Little Miss Muffet. My wife was a Victorian lace spiderweb wearing our then-baby daughter as a clockwork spider. I was the tuffet.
And two years back, we aimed for Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is as wonderful a book as you could hope for. Ray Bradbury—my favorite, favorite author, from whom I once managed to get a signature on my vintage typewriter—was a master of language in a way that leaves me adoring and jealous, and his story of a dark carnival descending on a small town and the two boys who learn about boyhood, manhood, fatherhood, friendship, life, and death is an amazing seasonal read. It’s an amazing anytime read, but Bradbury particularly breathed October into his tales, and you can smell the woodsmoke and falling leaves on these pages.
The carnival at the heart of the story is dubbed Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, and Mr. Dark is a man with images of his circus performers and sideshow acts inked up and down his arms. He uses the tattoos to manipulate his subordinates.
For the party we threw two years ago year, I obtained photos of many of the expected guests and printed them out on a special tattoo paper my wife had found. Then I transferred their faces onto my arms and hands. My wife was Mr. Dark’s carousel, which bent the age of any rider depending of the direction it spun. My girls were its passengers. We were pretty proud of this one.
Since the party for tonight is Disney (and therefore also Marvel and Star Wars) themed, this year, we’re going the comic route again, per my daughters’ request. Since the oldest wanted to be Firestar and the middle wanted to be Spider-Man, we figured we’d round out the cast of the 1980s cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends by making the baby Iceman. My wife and I are doing our own thing: She’s the evil queen from Snow White, and I’m her mirror. As I’ll be standing next to her, and I’m sure she doesn’t want to lose me now, I’m expecting to get some Justin Timberlake jokes.
Perhaps the best thing about costumes is being able to take them off at the end of an agreed-upon appointed time. It’s like a low-risk identity trial period—not that a costume wearer is necessarily seeking a new permanent identity (especially an evil one). There’s some comfort in wiping off the make-up, unlacing and and unbuckling and unsnapping and untying everything to find yourself still you underneath it all. Kids know that. We should too.
So what are you dressing up as this year?