I’ve never been much of one for Halloween. But next year, I’m celebrating Purim.
I know they are totally unrelated holidays, one about paganism and the other the triumph of a people over oppression. But they are celebrated in very similar ways: costumes and candy. Let me leave my sugar addiction out of this and focus on the costumes.
I’ve never been much of one for dressing up in a costume. Maybe it’s the pressure of creating the complete alter persona, when my personal persona already felt like an act. Maybe it’s the act of acting, which seemed disingenuous. It could be the subtle but persistent undercurrent that “slut” was the way to go – was it the easy way out? Was it a latent desire to be slutty? Maybe it was the tension between my inner feminist and my inner fun-lover that never liked looking that one in the eye. Maybe it’s nothing more than a simple lack of creativity.
I took a break of more than a decade between Halloween costumes. Between my first year in grad school – when I hastily ironed glitter letters spelling “Princess” on a black t-shirt and donned it with a tiara to hit 6th Street in Austin:
– and my last year in Dallas when I got caught up in the infectious spirit of friends who live for Halloween and Mardi-Gras, and told me I wasn’t allowed to their annual party without a costume, which sent me on a spiral of craftivity that resulted in a “Toddlers in Tiaras” getup
(a failed one, I confess – most people thought I was just trying to be a beauty queen), I spent most Halloweens pretending not to be home.
I marvel at pictures of my friends who go all out for these occasions, and I can’t get there. Is it competition? Is it confidence? Whatever it is, Purim is sucking me in.
I live in Hancock Park, a neighborhood of Los Angeles that is predominately Jewish. Very Jewish. Forelocks and overcoats and wigs on the women Jewish. Families walking to temple on Fridays and kosher grocery closed on Saturday Jewish. Last night, the world erupted in firecrackers that sent my dog running under the couch, trembling. And this morning, the world is alive in costumes.
In the two miles I just walked, I must have passed 100 people in costume. Only one was dressed like a cheerleader. None was dressed as a slutty nurse. Many were clowns with rainbow hair. One young boy was dressed as a fat yuppie, stuffing overflowing around his belly so that his plaid shirt bulged above the belt holding up khaki pants, and a false butt bugged out beneath them. I saw an astronaut, a ninja, a baker, and an Haredi who had rainbow-striped his shtreimel (his big, round, fur hat, disrespectfully analogized to a lampshade – see below), so that it looked as if he wore a circus tent on his head. The award-winner, to me, was a group of five multi-aged siblings dressed as newsboys from the 30s, complete with knickers and caps. That is, not counting the Mustang convertible of young men in kippas that I saw pulling out of a temple parking lot – but I think that just happened to be how they were rolling this morning.
Because today is a holiday, all these young people were out in the neighborhood, many going between two bounce houses set up on the front yards of their apartment complexes. Remnants of confetti lie on the sidewalk, sparkling in the morning sun, and boys run around blowing plastic horns. It is a holiday about joy, and creativity, and perseverance. It is a holiday that celebrates one woman, her honesty and her bravery. And maybe some revenge.
I’m not sure whether it’s the creativity, the community, or the history of Purim that has me intrigued, but I’m already contemplating outfits for next year. And French maid is not among them.