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be all that you can be
one man’s dilemma on halloween
by matt morin

I’m in trouble. I’ve got a deadline rapidly approaching and I haven’t even really begun working. It’s one of those projects where I know the effort I put into it directly correlates with how well it all turns out. The scariest part is, I’m expected to top myself again. And we all know how hard expectations are to live up to. So the question remains: What the Hell am I going to be for Halloween?

I love Halloween. Possibly as much as all the other holidays combined. Christmas is good, I’ll give you that. New Year’s Eve is always a big let down. Easter stopped being fun when I was about 9. The Fourth of July is good too, but only if you get creative (and illegal) with the fireworks. There’s just nothing like the fun of dressing up in costume, drinking heavily, and seeing if you can hook up with the woman dressed like a Femmebot from Austin Powers.

My affection for Halloween definitely started as a kid. My parents always made a big deal of it. Dad used to make wooden gravestones to decorate the front yard and the entire porch was done up to resemble a great haunted house. Every year it’d get a little more elaborate. One year Dad thought it was too bright by the front door, so he actually built walls on either side of the walkway for the desired scary effect. The next year a hidden boom box played creepy music. I think the year after that was a motor that made the plastic spiders move up and down. The only perennial trick was Dad dressing up as Frankenstein and scaring the crap out of the neighborhood kids.

So with that as a backdrop, there was no chance I could get away with just being a pirate or a ghost. That just wouldn’t cut it. One of my earliest costume memories was when my father went as Mr. Rourke and I went as Tattoo. (Yes, I’m aware that in some states that’s considered child abuse.) When I was 11 years old I dressed as Ace Frehley, the lead singer from KISS. It was somewhat disappointing to have to explain my costume to all the not-in-the-know parents who were handing out candy. ("Trick or treat! Well Mrs. Jacobsen, I’m dressed as part of a heavy metal band that spits blood.") I once dressed as a giant milk carton – my head stuck through the side and became the missing kid’s picture.

I would spend months coming up with an idea for my outfit. Mom would spend another month or so gathering up all the materials necessary to make that year’s piece de resistance. I have to admit, the costumes didn’t turn out so well all the time. There was the year I was a mummy and had to undergo marathon mummifying sessions, only to have the wraps loosen and start to fall off every few blocks. And my attempt at going as Bob Barker and yelling "...a new car!" every time someone opened the door received more puzzlement that recognition.

Unfortunately, at some point in everyone’s Halloween lifecycle, the perfect costume goes from something fun and creative to whatever’s the most comfortable. My turning point came as a freshman in college. I went as a Q-tip. All dressed in tight blue spandex. White face with a 3-foot high cotton swab head. Let me tell you, I was a sight to behold. However, the costume’s limitations began to make themselves readily apparent. I was too tall to fit through doors. My swab kept banging into overhead lights. And as the night wore on, and I became more intoxicated, it became very difficult to muster up the motor skills necessary to keep my top-heavy head stationary. I quickly devolved into an infant who’s falling asleep in a car seat - ...head nodding off...then waking up!...then nodding off again...whoa! Wake up!...

My later college and early post-college years were marred by uninspired, last-minute costumes. I once went as a gang member, which, in hindsight, was not only incredibly lame, but also potentially dangerous as well. Surgeon, tourist, and other forgettable costumes followed.

But six years ago, I was reborn. I moved to San Francisco. New York was made for New Year’s. New Orleans was made for Mardi Gras. San Francisco was made for Halloween. There are outdoor street parties that take up city block after city block with literally hundreds of thousands of people turning out. And needless to say, anything goes. I once saw a group costume with 8 guys dressed as secret service men who spent the entire night flanking a huge cardboard car carrying (or I should say carried by) John F. Kennedy (with brain matter spilling out), a hysterical Jackie Kennedy (covered in blood and brain matter), Governor Connally (who was actually squirting blood from his wound), and the driver.

My greatest costume of recent memory came two years ago. It was timely. It was comfortable. It was creative. And best of all, it attracted women. I went as Viagra salesman Dr. Richard Harder. A simple lab coat with name tag, some blue M&Ms in a medicine bottle, and a huge cucumber duct-taped horizontally underneath my pants. All night long, people could not stop touching it. Many a conversation was started when a woman would just walk up and grab it. And many a conversation was interrupted as another random woman would cut in and start examining it at close range. (It was such a success that it made me think I should wear it year-round.)

All this brings me back to my current situation. I don’t know what I’m going to be this year. I’m considering going as Derek Zoolander, but I would have to stay in character all night, and even then a lot of people wouldn’t get it. I’ve also tossed around going as Tom Cruise in Top Gun. It’s comfortable and appropriately cheesy, but not terribly creative. (Plus it’d be much better if I had Goose as my wingman.) I’m at a loss. And I’ve got a deadline to meet. Hmm...where’s that Q-tip costume again?


Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.

more about matt morin


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topic: general
published: 2.14.03


mike julianelle
10.9.01 @ 6:38p

Love the capitalized "Hell" in the first paragraph. Mention it with reverence.

adam kraemer
10.10.01 @ 10:23a

I once wrote up a bunch of 3 x 5 cards with various algebra, chemistry, trigonometry, and calculus questions, pinned them all over my clothing and went as a "problem child."

lee anne ramsey
10.29.01 @ 11:49a

I like costumes like that. I once wore a slip with the word "Freud" in big letters on the front and went as a "Freudian slip."

I stole it from a Meg Ryan movie.

tracey kelley
10.29.01 @ 12:27p

Come on, Matt. I thought the answer was obvious. You're supposed to be Joe this year.

Adam, Lee Anne - you guys are amazing.

I have 2 favorite Halloween costumes. Medusa is always fun because it requires nothing but a sheet, bedhead with bobby-pinned snakies and a little Noxema Purifying Face Mask (how many costumes are good for you, too?) Plus, it scares the bejesus out of little kids.

I also love my flapper dress that I cut out and glued together. It has dancing fringe and comes with a boa, and all the drinking I do keeps me so in tune with the period. I never leave character.

adam kraemer
10.29.01 @ 2:44p

I actually decided to go one year in high school about 10 minutes before my friends were to show up, so my dad had me collect fallen foliage, and staple it to a garbage can with holes for my head and arms; I went as a loose leaf-binder.

If punning isn't your thing, this year my brother bought a pair of pleather pants, a curly black wig, and a top hat and went as a perfect Slash.

matt morin
10.29.01 @ 2:50p

One year a friend went as a Muni Bus - San Francisco's public transportation system. It was during a time when Muni was having serious problems and everyone was in an anti-Muni frenzy. So we get out of the cab at the Castro street party and somene yells, "Hey look! It's Muni! Let's kick his ass!"

The costume that was clever only seconds earlier had suddenly become life-threatening.

jael mchenry
10.29.01 @ 3:25p

My best was probably Cinderella. White dress, pumpkin, one shoe.

As luck would have it, I got sick of the party (Tufts folks: recall Dewick-MacPhie before the renovation) and, at the stroke of midnight, ran home.

Many drunken folks shouted their appreciation as I fled past them down the hill.

jael mchenry
10.29.01 @ 3:34p

Oh, and is scaring the crap out of the neighborhood kids a universal dad thing? Mine puts a battery-operated disembodied hand in the candy bowl.

tracey kelley
10.29.01 @ 5:33p

Oo! Oo! I do that - but I use my own hand, with long red fingernails, poked through the hole in the bottom of the bowl, hidden until the appropriate moment. I do it mainly to tick off the annoying teens that show up at my door looking like Kurt Cobain (read: jeans and a tee w/flannel and no joy whatsoever) who try to snatch all the Heath bars. Freaks 'em out every time when I grab their hand, the ding-dongs.

Halloween must really be a general man thing. My husband is a huge Halloween fan, and works one of the Jaycee's Haunted Houses every year. He comes home, theatrical makeup smeared, gleefully recalling tales of grown men screaming after he chased them with a chainsaw.

matt morin
10.29.01 @ 5:51p

I don't know about Halloween being a man thing. At least costume-wise, I usually see much more elaborate costumes from women than from men.

But just like anything, the more people you have that get really into it, the more fun it becomes.

Has anyone noticed how much more social Halloween parties are than your average house party? There's something very disarming and liberating about being in costume.

jael mchenry
10.29.01 @ 6:27p

Yeah, I don't really think of Halloween as a gendered activity.

As for the social quotient, absolutely. Since costumes are about being someone other than yourself, you can just go all out with it. Plus, you're your own conversation piece. "Who are you?" "I'm Mother Nature." "Well, I've been warned never to mess with Mother Nature." "You better stay on my good side then." See how easy?

Clearly I'm preaching to the choir with Matt (getting women to, um, examine the cucumber) and Tracey fesses up to the dancing fringe, but there may be someone who disagrees somewhere around here. Mike?

mike julianelle
10.29.01 @ 7:13p

ONLY MEN MAY WEAR COSTUMES ON HALLOWEEN!!! Women are scary enough already!

Oh, and Tracy, what's that about grabbing the teen's ding-dongs?

Grrr, argh.

matt morin
10.29.01 @ 7:37p

Woman are scary enough already!

That could be the beginning to an entire discussion about "emotional costumes" but I'm not sure we want to go there.

adam kraemer
10.29.01 @ 7:49p

Actually, my friend Ryan and I decided this past Saturday night that our favorite Halloween costume was "hot girl with nice legs." We saw a lot of that.

jael mchenry
10.30.01 @ 8:35a

Yes, Adam, but some of us do that every day, so it's not a "costume" per se.

Thanks for the inflammatory remarks, Mike. Can always count on you for a little Mutant Enemy.

mike julianelle
10.30.01 @ 8:37a

Glad to help.

tracey kelley
10.30.01 @ 8:51a

Allow me to clarify:

scaring the whooah out of people on Halloween seems to be a general man fun thing. Have we shared a story about Mom serving rat-shaped Rice Krispie treats yet? No. (And my scary hand or Medusa doesn't count. Those are point-specific situations. :) )

Myke, Mik, Meyeke, only in your mind can the line "when I grab their hand, the ding dongs." be transposed to "grabbing ding dongs...."

I suppose discussion could indeed explore the emotional escapism allowed on Halloween. Be all you can be, indeed. Just don't let anyone look behind the mask.

adam kraemer
10.30.01 @ 9:55a

Some are satin; some are steel; some are silk; and some are leather.

mike julianelle
10.30.01 @ 10:33a

Billy Joel has no place here!!!

matt morin
10.30.01 @ 11:58a

I know everyone's been holding their collective breath, so I'll end the suspense: I'm going as a pimp, complete with purple velvet suit, matching wide-brimmed fedora, gold chains and purple feather boa. Oh yeah, I can't forget the fuzzy purple sunglasses.

(Now that I write all this out, I sound more like Prince than a pimp.)

adam kraemer
10.30.01 @ 12:22p

That's funny; I actually went out to the bars in Wilmington, DE this past weekend dressed as a pimp. It's a good costume; get yourself a cane.

matt morin
10.30.01 @ 12:23p

Great minds think alike.

matt morin
11.1.01 @ 5:55p

I must say I was very pleased to see a larger-than-average Halloween crowd this year. People really seemed to get into it. I think it turned out to be the release everyone needed.

mike julianelle
11.1.01 @ 6:57p

Just like I said in my brilliant article! I'd link to it if I knew how. But I don't. So suffer!

alicia coleman
11.2.01 @ 2:07p

Pimps, cinderella, hot girls ... all good costume ideas and/or life choices. Here's a look not to go with on all hallows' eve, or any eve for that matter: fat, naked guy. Not sure if this bloke was dressed (or, un, as the case was) as a Friends character or just came to the party as his drunk, stupid self. In any case, it was not charming ...

adam kraemer
11.2.01 @ 2:54p

Was he actually naked? Eeew.

matt morin
11.2.01 @ 3:36p

I thought Joe was going as Elvis?

joe procopio
11.2.01 @ 4:57p

Fat, naked Elvis. Duh.

adam kraemer
11.2.01 @ 5:02p

I seem to recall that's actually how he was found...

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