Thoughts on life after the PhD
Around this time of year I usually get annoyed with all the online and TV ads for Halloween costumes. Not because I dislike Halloween, but because it has officially become impossible to find women’s Halloween costumes that aren’t “sexy”. Even the KIDS’ costumes, for chrissakes. If you’re a dude you can be Frankenstein, a ghost in a goofy white sheet, or, I don’t know, a Wall Street exec with a great big bag of money. But if you’re a gal you’re pretty much limited to variations on the slut theme.
(There’s a YouTube joke ad for “Girls’ Costume Warehouse” that does a great send-up of this fact–you see the same model posing in a dozen different costumes while an old man narrates, “Sexy nurse! Sexy firefighter! Sexy vampire! Sexy 1930’s oil tycoon! Sexy Jesus! Sexy Abe Lincoln!”).
Luckily I managed to escape the sexy costume blitzkrieg and just had great Halloween experiences growing up, mostly because my mother actually made most of my costumes by hand. And they didn’t *look* cheap or hand-made, they looked awesome. I would tell her what I wanted to be–usually a favorite book or cartoon character–and she would find a way to make the costume. One year I said I wanted to be She-Ra. She proceeded to transform an old ballet costume into a shiny white top and skirt, complete with the little gold-and-jewel emblem on the chest. Shiny gold fabric became boot-covers and arm-covers, and some amazing combination of wire and felt was my little gold tiara. There was even a bright red cape! The year that I said I wanted to be Kira from The Dark Crystal I was sure she wouldn’t be able to pull it off, but of course she did. I had rubber elf-ears and a homespun tan dress and brown cloak. I loved that costume so much I wore it for months afterward.
One year she managed to turn my sister into a bright green inchworm, probably the cutest costume ever (I really wish I could upload pictures of all of these, but of course they’re buried in a box somewhere at home). One year I was an angel with sparkly wings and a halo that stood up on little wires. I think one year I was Spider-Man, or maybe that’s just because I have an old picture of myself wearing spider-man underoos and holding a plastic pumpkin. At some point my sister and I decided we wanted to rent costumes from Electric Ladyland, that crazy costume shop on South Congress, and we got identical circus performer outfits.
I know not everybody has the time to make handmade costumes for their kids or themselves these days, but at the very least I wish retail stores wouldn’t force women and pre-pubescent girls to dress like hookers. This year I’m thinking of dressing up as an unfinished dissertation (stick a few dozen pieces of paper to myself and voila!). Or maybe that mylar balloon from the Balloon Boy craziness, though I imagine plenty of people have me beat on that one. A friend mentioned that at a Cal Arts Halloween party a few years back there were about a dozen Andy Warhols. Which could have been even more fun if they’d all coordinated.
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