I put on a Halloween costume for a party this weekend. What’s significant about that statement is that I dreaded the aforementioned party for two weeks, right up until the moment I applied a final swipe of glitter to my cheeks and sauntered my sequined ass out the front door.
When it was all said and done, I looked fabulous, danced my ass off and had a wonderful time, but getting there was daunting.
For one thing, I have not, historically, been particularly creative in my sporadic bouts of costumery over the years. The last costume I donned about four years ago was Sookie from True Blood, and I chose her because she was easy.
I ordered a Merlotte’s T-shirt and apron from the online HBO store, added black shorts and tennis shoes, put my hair in a ponytail, slapped a plastic fang bite and some fake blood on my neck and called it a day.
My most creative costume before that was a tacky bridesmaid. ... I was in a wedding on Halloween and left early to take my toddler trick-or-treating, still wearing the god-awful purple dress I had walked down the aisle in.
I am always envious of women who dress to the nines and look authentic as pirate wenches or movie icons, but I have never been one of them. It just seems like so much trouble, and I have a hard time visualizing a viable end product. I get a headache every time I walk into a Halloween store. Too. Many. Choices.
In keeping with my efforts to be more social, though, I was willing to give dress-up another shot this year to attend a well-known Halloween party. The two girls who invited me to the annual Pendennis Club Halloween bash are awesome chicas, and I was truly excited when they asked me to join them.
My only requirement was that they were to choose our costume theme and leave me the hell out of it. In other words, I needed them to tell me what to wear and where to find it.
They agreed, and I was grateful. And then that decision came back to bite me in the keister. Hard.
My feelings of dread and doom began immediately, when the girls started throwing around really elaborate ideas, like Greek Goddesses, Wizard of Oz characters or Henry VIII’s headless wives. Thinking about what it would entail to put together any of those outfits sucked the life out of me. I may or may not have hyperventilated at one point.
Not one to sit idly by while others hurl me toward an uncertain fate, I vocalized my apprehension. Nicely. And only with a tiny bit of snark. (Really.)
Thank God they were sympathetic to my concerns and put the brakes on before things got out of hand. Since there were three of us, my two dates settled on 1970s Charlie’s Angels. Initially, I could not wrap my brain around how I would pull off my role, but I did not have a better idea, so I shut my pie hole.
Then it took several days for them to decide who was who in our trio, further adding to my angst. I JUST NEEDED SOMEONE TO TELL ME WHO TO BE, FOR PETE’S SAKE. Arrgh.
After a bit of back and forth, they decided that I would dress as Farrah Fawcett, which meant no wig, thank God. But then I was all, “Where the hell am I going to find hot pants and a lamé top? Or a bellbottomed leisure suit? Eek!”
I headed straight for the only vintage shop I knew, The Nitty Gritty. The owner, Terri Donley, helped me choose the perfect combo, comprising a silver sequined tube top and blue polyester bellbottoms. Not exactly like the photos of Farrah I had seen online, but damn close.
Having a costume in hand got me a teeny bit jazzed about the party, but I was still operating under a cloud of unease. Twice during the week before the party, I nearly bailed on my girlfriends.
When Saturday rolled around, I was still stressed about my costume and whether I could pull off feathered Farrah hair.
Even at 5 p.m., right before I hopped in the shower, I found myself wishing I didn’t have to go anywhere that night. It was by shear force of will that I got my shit together, and that was only because I did not want to abandon my friends at the last minute.
Sufficiently suited up, I showed up at one of the girls’ houses where we had agreed to meet at 8:30 p.m. Once I saw their costumes, I finally relaxed and got into a party mood … we looked perfect! It was on like Donkey Kong, and away we went.
(Just like with any other bouts of social anxiety I've had over the past year or so, once I get where I am going, I'm fine. It's the getting there that's the problem. I'm working on it.)
Turns out the Pendennis party was not as much fun as it had been in past years (so we were told by the regulars), so we opted to go to a club none of us had ever been to before — Nowhere Bar on Bardstown Road.
Oh em gee. I friggin’ LOVED that place. It reminded me of Sparks, a dance club on Main Street in the 1990s — excellent DJ music in a nightclub atmosphere, amid an eclectic mix of gay and straight patrons. I will definitely go back there on a regular weekend… the bar was having its Halloween party, so it was pretty far off the chain. Still, I felt at home the minute I walked in the door.
Anyhoo, we danced along with the flailing, costumed crowd for a few hours before calling it a night. Whew! I had such a phenomenal time … I’m so glad I went, I cannot even express how much.
But ever since I peeled off my tube top, I’ve been thinking about why I was so anxious about getting dressed up and going out for Halloween. I mean, it’s not like I was performing heart surgery or giving birth. For realz.
I’ve come up with two main reasons for my reticence, mild social anxiety aside.
For one thing, holidays are different for me now that my son has outgrown the childlike traditions of Santa, the Easter Bunny and trick-or-treating. I spent the better part of two decades feting G-rated, family friendly holidays. My enjoyment depended solely on my son’s delight in them.
Adjusting my attitude to accommodate a shift to adult celebratory mode has been a struggle. I miss those years with my young son, and I will treasure them ‘til the day I die. (I wrote about my struggle without him last Christmas here.)
Also, going out and engaging in adult festivities as a nondrinker still feels a little foreign to me, too. It took me almost three years to get comfortable with shaking my groove thang in public without tying on a buzz first. (Now, though ... fuggedaboudit ... you can’t touch this.)
The more I am out with friends who drink, the more at ease I become with it. It’s been a good while since I looked at a cocktail and longingly wished I could take a sip from it. And as long as they don’t get falling down drunk, I am 100 percent fine with my friends imbibing. In fact, I hold their drinks when they go pee.
I have found that my abstinence from alcohol worries some of my friends a hell of a lot more than it ever bothers me. I have spent many a night reassuring folks that I am, indeed, having a dandy time, despite the fact that I don’t have a beer in front of me. It can be done, people. Seriously.
But there have been a few nights out with a drinking crowd when my sober self suddenly and abruptly reached the point of D.O.N.E., and I was compelled to get the fuck out of Dodge. There seems to be that one, last drink that puts both my companions and me over the edge, for different reasons. They stop making sense, and I stop enjoying their company.
Fortunately, my girls and I got out on Saturday before they got shitty and I got irriated, aka the point of no return. I look forward to going out with them again soon.
Anyhoo, I’ve been told many times that pain represents progress, so I choose to look at the minor discomfort I felt surrounding Halloween as simply another opportunity for personal growth, as much as it burns my ass to admit it.
The new approach toward holiday celebrations that I’ve had to adopt still feels a little wonky, but that’s OK. I know from experience that change is hard, but it will get easier with every positive action I take.
Yep, it’s time to get started on my costume for next year. Happy Halloween!
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.