Growing Pains: Feeling put off by putting on costumes

I hate Halloween.

There are plenty of holidays I’m a big fan of. Thanksgiving, Canada Day — hell, being Jewish just opens up the floodgates of extra holidays. These are opportunities to bring people together, to party and hang out and take the focus off of our busy lives, to appreciate why we do all the things we do. We need that, as humans. It’s good for us.

And I’m a fan of fall, too. I’d eat pumpkin pie with a glass of eggnog on my deathbed. I love falling leaves and pea coats, and my birthday is even in October. I do have some good Halloween memories; you can’t be a North American kid without recollections of sorting a big pile of your loot on the kitchen floor. But every year, when the 31st rolls around, I find myself filled with dread — and not in the excited-to-be-scared way.

In high school, I was in a metal band with my best friends, a couple of home-schooled dudes. Halloween for us was more of the same; we watched Tales from the Crypt, got drunk off illicit South American booze and hung out in cemeteries (I used to be way cooler, as you can see). But we definitely didn’t go to any parties, or dress up at all besides our typical band t-shirts, leather jackets and denim. When I came to UVic, I found myself becoming more extroverted, and now I spend a lot more time going to bars, making new friends and trying to be less surly in public. It’s still a challenge for me at times to be confident socially and put myself out there, but I enjoy the process a lot more now. I’m starting to consider it part of my persona and take pride in being able to adapt to new people and new situations. But the prospect of dressing up for All Hallow’s Eve and going out on the town still has me making plans to stay home and catch up on my neglected video games.

In the spirit of this column, I tried to find out just what the hell my problem was with Oct. 31. And you know what makes me so uncomfortable about Halloween? It’s the costumes. Wearing the costumes, specifically.

A quick cross-section of my past several get-ups is telling: Silent Bob, a black metal fan, the dogcatcher from 101 Dalmations (it was a Disney theme party, okay?). I’m hardly an avid shopper; I own exactly one piece of vintage clothing, and Value Village is like some kind of debilitating confusion zone to me. I get flustered trying to pick something every year and have never had the kind of elegant, well-put-together costume that many of my friends seem to pick out of the air with no budget. And even when their costume ends up consisting of shoe polish and the dregs of their closet, they have the confidence to pull it off regardless.

Costumes are designed to give us temporary freedom from our own identities. But it turns out that my confidence and ability to be outgoing depend heavily on my perception of myself. My aspirations aside, I don’t have the strong natural identity one needs to be comfortable half-wearing someone else’s skin. I slouched around last year’s Visual Arts Students Association (VASA) party feeling embarrassed by how ridiculous I looked, trying to manufacture the bravado I’d need to feel cool without the face I’m used to seeing in the mirror. Without my persona and the social guidelines I’m used to following, I feel lost and shy — especially when wearing a silly disguise instead of the wardrobe I’ve had plenty of time to build and get fitted.

I’m willing to concede that it might just be a case of not having the right costume, so this year, I’m making a resolution. By the time you read this, Halloween will be over, and I will have assembled the greatest costume in the history of Sol Kauffman. Something that’ll let me be myself with a little extra twist, or alternatively, one that’ll let me spout irreverent movie quotations all night and yell really loud. Right now, I’m vacillating between generic medical doctor (feat. stethoscope) and Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski.

I’ll keep you posted.

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