As far as holidays go, Halloween is often mentioned as a favorite for many reasons. There are the house decorations, ranging from cute inflatables and twinkling orange lights to mutilated corpses and full-on haunted graveyards. There’s also the association with childhood, back when being allowed to roam your neighborhood with droves of other children and going to school dressed as Optimus Prime were special and rare occasions.
Dressing up in particular is an event for many people. Even after the irreplaceable joy of being a kid on Halloween slowly evanesces, never to return, you can still put on a costume. Some are wildly involved, some are casual; you can always go the Wednesday Addams route of being a homicidal maniac, who “looks just like everyone else.”
But the simplicity or complexity of the costume is beside the point. What really matters is that on Halloween, no matter who you are, you’ll be accepted.
Too often, we as humans judge others solely based on how they present themselves. We take ourselves so seriously that we can’t imagine why someone would want to wear an outfit we can’t envision putting on. Even though it only reflects our own insecurities, we assign shame to people simply for their chosen appearance.
Yet on Oct. 31, hundreds of thousands of people undergo a complete metamorphosis, and no one bats an eye. People who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing makeup put it on without question. They slip into colorful tights, color their hair or wear wigs, show as much or as little skin as they want and run to join their fellow spirits for a night of spooky celebration.
This sheer, uninhibited joy, this freedom of self-expression, should not be limited to one day per calendar year. Nor should the suspension of casting aspersions based on appearance only be valid on Halloween. Why not be accepting of people, in all of their wonderful high strangeness, all the time?
Recall being a child again, and how excited you were to wear your costume. Maybe you wanted to wear it year-round, you just loved it so much. It hadn’t yet occurred to you that might not be acceptable in society’s eyes; you didn’t care, you just wanted to have fun and look cool.
One of the most important things Halloween costumes provide is an opportunity to transcend boundaries, such as the gender binary that still pervades our society. Anyone can wear a dress or eyeliner regardless of gender identity, of course, but on Halloween, the chances of being accosted or mocked for it seem to drop dramatically. Your choices are not only automatically validated, they are celebrated and enjoyed by others.
Those of us who attend conventions such as the Renaissance Faire or Comic-Con know the joys of being surrounded by people of our own ilk. The feeling of having found somewhere you truly belong is a comfort and a pleasure like no other. When you leave, it’s hard to feel good about returning home and having to walk down the street as people stare at you in disbelief, when just hours ago everyone was complimenting your elf ears and custom armor.
In a sense, all clothing is a costume, all ornaments decoration, all changes to our base appearances customization. Wearing a suit to work is one, as is dressing for the gym, and these are both common Halloween costumes. But when someone decides to wear all black, dye their hair an unnatural color or wear statement jewelry, a dreaded rhetorical question often follows them around: “You know it’s not Halloween, right?” This proves we already acknowledge Halloween’s significance as a day where “weird” becomes the norm.
Expressing yourself outwardly may be a superficial practice in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Your appearance tells people who you are to a certain extent, and though there are things you can’t control about the way you look, there are still many ways to present yourself in a way you feel comfortable and happy with. We spend our whole lives in our bodies; they are essentially our truest homes, and we should decorate them the way we want.
In just a few days, the streets will be filled with costumed revelers enjoying what feels like the first real Halloween in two years. While you’re admiring everyone’s awesome outfits, embrace that feeling of acceptance without hesitation, without questioning why. Remember and practice this mindset wherever you go, with everyone you meet, on Halloween and every day besides.
Have a safe, spooky and happy Halloween!