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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween ...Bust?

This may be a sign of getting old, but I'd like to know when dressing up for Halloween became synonymous with stepping out as a man's kinky fantasy. Please, someone explain this to me. Last time I checked, dressing up for Halloween meant dressing up as an alter ego, or a favorite character, or the traditional witch or vampire or ghost or something along those lines. Since when does dressing up as Dorothy mean wearing a push-up bra and five inch heeled red pumps with white fishnet stalkings in a blue pinafore dress that barely covers your ass? Seriously... where have I been?

I can't remember the last time I went to a Halloween party. For the past ten years I've been following my daughter around trick-or-treating and making sure the candy isn't filled with arsenic and razor blades. But this year she went to a friend's place for the night and I found myself free on Halloween. I figured I would just spend a quiet evening at home when a last minute party invitation came about. Now, more times than not I would simply say no to something like this, but given the people who invited me and the fact that I hadn't dressed up and celebrated Halloween in years well... why not, right? It might be fun, right? uh...yeah...

Being in a last minute crunch for a costume, I made my way over to one of those "Halloween" stores that open specifically for this occasion. I really didn't have anything particular in mind, but I was certain I could find something in a sea of choices. Unfortunately, my choices boiled down to something between tease and whore. Don't get me wrong, I am far from prude, but sexy is a state of mind and is best conveyed through subtle sophistication, not blatant boob betrayal in an outfit that quite possibly came from the local strip club.

No joke. I walked into the store and went directly to the women's section. As I worked my eyes from one end of the section to the next I found the She Devil, cleavage abounding; the Fallen Angel, cleavage abounding; the Good Angel, cleavage and thighs abounding (I guess the only real difference between good and fallen is that the Fallen Angel shows enough concern to cover the scrapes and bruises her legs acquired after taking a pretty tough fall). Along with Sexy Dorothy there was Sexy Scare Crow, Sexy Tin Woman, Sexy Cowardly Lion, and Sexy Glinda of the North complete with cleavage and derriere (should you happen to bend over to pick up the ping-pong ball from your missed shot in beer pong). There was also Sexy Nascar Girl, Sexy Jane & Judy Jetson, Sexy Wilma Flinstone, Sexy Betty Rubble, as well as your traditional Sexy French Maid, Sexy Nurse, and Sexy School Girl. I could continue on, but I won't. What I will tell you is how completely disgusted I became and how my desire to attend this party grew less and less. As I stared at these costumes and the representation of women presented by these costumes, I couldn't help but think of Freud and Lacan and how badly I hated their theories of women as The Other: women are little more than a figment of a man's imagination and the object of his sexual desire.

I hate to even think of Freud and Lacan. That was a time in my graduate studies of theory that I abhorred and worked tirelessly to dismantle and disprove. Theirs are theories that objectify and oppress women and I always felt that the feminist theorists did little more that perpetuate these theories by continually whining and complaining about it while doing nothing to actually overturn it. And suddenly I found myself face-to-face with the practical reality of two academic schools of thought, and the two that I hated most. As I stood there staring at the Sexy Snow White costume, right next to the Sexy Olive Oil costume, I could only think about the fact that, were I to walk into a party dressed in one of these, I would quite possibly be dressed as some idiot's fantasy and, well, that was not my intent. Halloween means I dress up as my own fantastic idea of some neglected aspect of myself, not some Nimrod's strumpet! And all I could hear in the back of my mind was the voice of that egotistical french man, Jacques Lacan, saying, "the problem of [the woman's] condition is fundamentally that of accepting herself as an object of desire for the man." (pg. 68, Feminine Sexuality, Jacques Lacan)

Here's the deal: I do accept myself as an object of man's desire. Hell, I accept myself as an object of a lesbian's desire. Want to know why I accept that? Because that's life -- plain and simple. I endure the gaping maws of men on a regular basis and it doesn't matter if I'm in an evening gown, a conservative business suit, or a potato sack. It's like Misanthrope says, as long as I can fog up a spoon some dude out there is going to think it's an invitation to a party in my pants. But because I know this, because I accept this, because I understand myself as an "object" it then becomes the burden (if you will) of my existence to create an image of myself above and beyond the "object." And, from where I'm standing, I hardly think this can be accomplished by stepping into a man's reality dressed as one of his favorite sexual fantasies for a Halloween costume party. (if I'm going to dress up as a nurse and play doctor, it isn't going to be in the presence of 20+ people at a party! Seriously... I had to ask myself if I had mistakenly walked into Frederick's Of Hollywood, because it sure didn't feel like Halloween.)

Anyway, after becoming thoroughly annoyed with the costumes and the people, I finally decided my best bet was to go Goth -- you know, rebel against mainstream society the way I did "back in the day." I figured, at least it was Halloween and I was allowed to look as scary and as socially unacceptable as I wanted. If nothing else, I would dress as a creature that could fog up a spoon but wield enough serious juju to do some harm, should someone step out of line. So I donned a black hooded robe, painted my nails black, darkened my hair, painted my pale face with some stylishly dark make-up, wore some beautiful Gothic jewelry and made my way to a party full of people that, aside from two or three, I didn't know.

What I found, when I got there, was a bunch of men that had, for the most part, well thought out costumes -- costumes that showed creativity and character. But the women? Well... there was a Sexy Robin Hood, a Sexy Nascar Girl, a Sexy Pumpkin, a French Maid, a Sexy Wizard Wanda (who apparently teaches at Hogwarts though I've never heard of her), a Sexy Snow Queen (who would die of frost bite the minute she stepped outside), a Sexy Bar Maid, a Sexy Pirate, and some Sexy something with a purple tutu and a top hat that looked like some Broadway reject from 42nd Street. Then, of course, there was me -- the only woman whose costume showed a hint of a figure beneath the black hooded robe that left much to the male imagination.

Needless to say, I did not have a rip-roaring good time. While everyone else ate, drank, and made merry, I sat and wrestled with my overly analytical mind. I sat and wondered why it doesn't occur to these women that they're playing into something that does little for those qualities of the self that will make them continue to feel beautiful and confident and satisfied with their lives once gravity and age set in. I wondered if they have any concept of themselves beyond a man's gaze. I wondered if they ever have moments in their lives where they wish to be recognized for something other than the curves God gave them, or if they simply live, day in and day out, moment by moment, for the drool encrusted masculine gaping maw.

This is not to cast judgment on them, I have memories of myself (particularly in adolescence) where I took notice and pleasure in being the recipient of a man's eyeballing. But I have since learned that an eyeballing isn't exactly a compliment and that lust, more often than not, equates to heartbreak and emptiness. But all of that aside, why is it that a man's costume can exhibit thought and character but the woman's gets lost in translation? If I dress up as Dorothy on Halloween, I dress up as the innocent who realizes, despite all the adventure in the world, there is no place like home. If I dress up as the Nascar Girl, I dress up as a race car fanatic who can rattle off the names of the best drivers and their best times and sure... I'm down with Miller Time too. If I dress up as Marilyn Monroe, I dress up as the woman that loves to feel glamorous and sexy, but the only way you get a glimpse of what's under my dress is if I happen to stand over an air vent. And if I dress up as Robin Hood, I dress up as the character who robs the rich to feed the poor. But somehow, none of those sentiments get through. Somehow, through mainstream media and the perpetuation of theories a very small percentage of us find important enough to study, the character concepts behind all of these costumes have become overshadowed by the seductive glow of tits and ass. hmmm... This is not the Halloween I want for my daughter, the girl who still finds meaning behind the costumes she chooses. (and I'm suddenly very glad she is a tomboy)


  1. Bravo Pandora, Bravo. Your writing style always evokes just the right emotions in me. It is a very fluent combination of both brilliant social commentary, and a silent humorous irony. Keep it coming, they are all equally enjoyable.

  2. What Michael said. And then some. BRAVA! I'm going to find a way to teach this to my first-years next semester.