Costume Drama and Animal Beauty
Me? Not so much. For the first time this year, I’ve finally been able to admit honestly to myself that Halloween is not my favorite holiday — not even close.
It lacks the cozy warmth of Thanksgiving and Christmas, or the hope and holiness of Easter. At Halloween, the sunshine and fireworks of Independence Day give way to a forecast of “cloudy with a chance of toilet paper.” The older I get, the more conflicted I become about the pointless consumption of pounds upon pounds of candy, and the less interested I am in pretending to like horror movies.
The worst thing about Halloween, however, has nothing to do with candy, toilet paper, or Wes Craven.
The worst thing about Halloween — in my house, at least — is the costume drama.
It’s hard enough finding a costume for my son. He wants something that will impress his buddies. I want something that won’t mortify his teachers:
Son: I want to be a werewolf.
Me: The school said nothing occult. So, no. How about just a regular wolf?
Son: Not scary enough.
Me: Have you seen a regular wolf? Right, then, how about a wolfman? That’s kind of like a werewolf. You get fangs and fur.
Son: How is that any better than a werewolf?
Me: You don’t eat people.
Son: Hmm. I don’t know . . .
This is nothing, however, compared to the storm that I feel rumbling closer with each year passing year, as my daughters begin to care less about looking impressive and more about looking cute.
Because these days, when it comes to Halloween costumes, cute nearly always means suggestive. The common thread running through most girls’ Halloween apparel on offer isn’t blood and gore. It’s legs and midriffs. Anyone with eyes and an Amazon account knows that sexy Halloween costumes have become the cultural norm for any young female who’s outgrown her trunk of Disney princess dresses.
Is it any wonder that Halloween brings so many body image issues to the surface for young women — and leaves mothers like me with a bad taste in our mouths?
This is why I’ll be adding Animal Beauty back into our bedtime story lineup this week.
Not only do my children all love this silly book about the chaos that ensues when a group of zoo animals discover a fashion magazine — I can always expect fierce kiddie giggles at the sight of the shaved monkey, the made-up mouse, the coiffed lion, and all the rest — but it gives us a natural opening to talk about what real beauty is.
Real beauty, this book gently reminds us, never forces nature’s creatures to bleach their fur, squeeze themselves into leopard print leggings, or apply paint an inch thick.
Real beauty also doesn’t require a pre-teen to wear an ultra-miniskirt.
Real beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin — or perhaps, in this case, your own hide — whether you’re a wrinkled gray elephant, a shaggy maned lion, or a bright pink flamingo. At Halloween, it means having fun, being creative, and finding a costume that expresses your own tastes, interests, and personality in a unique (and, hopefully, seasonally appropriate) way.
This kind of dressing up, of course, can require a little more thought and effort. It’s harder by far than pushing a few buttons to order in this season’s ready-made Halloween fashions. And, to be sure, it can bring its own kind of costume drama — but it’s a drama I think I can live with (especially if I’ve got a small handful of Almond Joys close by to soothe me).
Bring it on, Halloween. I may not like you, but you don’t scare me.
About Rachel in Review:
Life for this kid lit enthusiast and working mother of four can be messy. Confusing. Painful. Funny. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Enter the Eerdmans books. So, so many of our books, whether they’re bedtime books for babies or coming-of-age novels for young adults, seem to have a single uncannily common quality about them: they just fit. These wise, wonderful books somehow manage to tie into — and by so doing, help me sort out — the knotty complexities of life as I actually experience them.