When he was in JK, BB#1 chose his own Halloween costume: Super Why. We put a pair of blue shorts over top of his green pajamas, used a blanket for a cape, and I made a paper Super Why crest that I pinned on his chest. His dad’s ancient Game Boy was his Super Computer. I was so impressed he’d come up with this idea on his own, and wanted to dress up as a super hero that loves to read! I knew he’d be the only Super Why in his class, if not the school. But when he got home from school he promptly started bawling because his teacher didn’t know who he was, and all the other boys had cooler costumes (most of them were store-bought Spider-men). He claimed no one made any negative comments, but I guess he saw a difference.
I felt so bad that HE felt bad that I ran out and bought him the only superhero costume left in the store: an adult-sized Batman. But the hood bothered him, so he wore a black cape and gloves for trick-or-treating, and whenever anyone (which was everyone) asked what he was supposed to be, I held up his mask.
Much has been said about the current trend for overtly sexy costumes for women, and increasingly, girls and teens. But what about the boys’ rack? Yes, lots of gender-stereotypes going on there too, what with the plethora of superheroes and villains, plastic weapons and fake muscles. When my guys were little and I got to pick their costumes, I went for fairly gender-neutral and cute: pumpkin, plush purple dragon, green frog. Since then, the boys have chosen to be Winnie the Pooh, a cat, a zombie, a vampire, a knight. Last year BB#1 (a ginger) wanted to go as Ron Weasley while BB#2 (who wears round glasses) would be Harry Potter. I placed a rush order for the robes. And then when BB#2 got home from school he decided he wanted to go out trick-or-treating as Puss in Boots instead—so he wore the cat costume again, with a belt and boots this time.
This year, even as they poured over costume catalogues, I tried to encourage them to choose costumes from our overflowing dress-up bin. Right now BB#2 is supposedly settled on being a ninja, which is good because we have a hand-me-down costume and a balaclava he can wear.
BB#1 didn’t go for it. He had a new idea every couple of days, some do-able, some not so much. I put off buying anything in case he changed his mind, yet again (and I’m just not the mom that makes costumes. That’s my husband’s department.) One idea I shot down as inappropriate was the killer from Scream. Now don’t get all upset: he has not seen the movies. And he doesn’t understand why I said no (he also claims he doesn’t find the ghostface mask scary, which to me sort of misses the point). I explained that I didn’t think it was appropriate for a child to dress up as a serial killer, especially for school.
But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I was overreacting—or if I’ve under-reacted to other choices. I mean, zombies and vampires, not really friendly, loveable creatures! In our dress-up bin alongside the ninja (trained assassin) costume, we’ve also got pirate (pillaging, anyone?), and Darth Vader (world’s worst dad) get-ups. And I know there will be plenty of Anakin Skywalkers at school. Even if they have to leave their lightsabers at home during the day due to the no-weapons rule, the fact is, those boys will be dressed up as a character who is responsible for massacring a lot of people—including children (never mind the damage he did to the Star Wars franchise…)
These creatures and characters have something else in common: they are all made up. Just like the killer in Scream. In fact, Scream is a spoof of horror flicks. So, if I have or would let my boys dress up in these other costumes (with no fear they are going to actually BECOME vampires, pirates or Sith lords), why is my instinct to veto the ghostface? Do I need a logical reason to say no, or is instinct enough? Or are my (probably low) standards too arbitrary? Perhaps I am a hypocrite for allowing my boys to dress up as one violent, uber-masculine stereotype but not another. Perhaps I am just thinking too hard about Halloween.
So what does BB#1 plan to dress up as now? A ringwraith from Lord of the Rings. Perhaps ghostface was less terrifying after all…