Having a birthday so close to Halloween meant Octobers were always filled with dressing up as a child.
Costumes for such occasions were never bought pre-packaged, but created by the very hands that would eventually poke through the sleeves. If it were necessary to purchase an accessory to complete the look, such as a witch’s hat, I made sure to add my own touch. A creepy spider ring safety-pinned to one side, blood spots speckled on the other, as I let red paint slowly drip off the end of my brush. It was like the 80s-90s form of “bedazzling.”
In high school, I noticed creativity started to disappear as quickly as the material worn by cowgirls, black cats and nurses. The first year, I stuck to what I knew and was a covered-up scarecrow while all of my friends wore less modest outfits. As it sometimes goes when trying to fit in during the teenage years, I too, started revealing more midriff as a Laker Girl one year and Mermaid another. I remember always feeling weird showing skin unless I was wearing a bathing suit and even then it took me a few moments longer than others to lose my cover-up, especially if a crowd of people were around.
At the time I didn’t know where the self-conscious mindset came from. I didn’t grow up in a religious family, my parents didn’t enforce a dress code or tell me to hide my body. I wasn’t ashamed of my body, in fact, I was an athlete and really appreciated what it allowed me to do each day.
In hindsight, I think it had more to do with values I observed at home. My dad always worked hard, owning a small “high pressure washing” business in which he was the only employee. I also saw him fix anything. In my mind, there was nothing that man couldn’t do. Even now, at 66, that is still the case. My mom stayed home with my brother and I until I was in middle school when she returned to college to obtain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. And today, she is pursuing a certificate to become a pre-school or kindergarten teacher.
Since I grew up admiring their work ethic, perseverance, brains, creativity and resourcefulness, the small-town Maine girl in me naively assumed that’s what all human beings looked for in one another.
When I realized boys were commenting on my “big blue eyes” and the toned body parts I’d obtained from years of playing basketball and wandering country roads, it was a shocking change from being recognized for writing decent essays and shooting three pointers. I liked it.
Unfortunately, I related their adoration to the way I looked instead of the qualities that really make me who I am. Every Halloween party for the next 5-7 years involved dressing as a “sexy” cop, Indian, military chic, princess, devil, angel.
Then, six years ago, I became a parent. To a girl. If something is going to bring you back to the root of who you are, it’s a little person you created.
I look at young women today, knowing their bodies are their own as they have been and will always be. My hope? When they wake up each day, they wear something that is truly a reflection of their inner selves. No matter how much or how little material covers their bodies, I hope it’s inspired by creativity and the desire to express themselves in a way that makes them feel beautiful. No one else. Well, until the day comes when a child looks up at them and says: “Mommy, will you be Tinkerbell this Halloween?” Sure enough, you search locals stores- or even the Internet- to find green leggings, a green tunic & fairy wings that might actually fit an adult frame.
Then, and only then, do you dress for the sake of someone else’s smile.