I had a really interesting conversation with P today--interesting in the way you can know somebody for years and then they say something surprising. We were talking about Halloween, and Guy Fawkes Night came up. She said she would probably prefer GFN to Halloween.
Needless to say, I was shocked. Not because I've got anything against GFN, but because I can't imagine picking anything over Halloween. I know that P shares my love of horror movies and scary things in general, we just wrote a Halloween picture book together and have also written other spooky stuff together. It turns out, though, that she loves all that about Halloween. As a kid she liked getting candy, of course. What she doesn't like is...costumes.
She hates dressing up in costumes. She doesn't mind other people doing it, doesn't hate the idea of it, she just really really hates being asked to be anything other than herself. She wasn't saying it to be weird or anything (I don't know if she's really capable of that anyway--she's the most straightforward person I know). It was obviously something that struck a chord with her. She said, "I guess I feel like being myself is something I fought hard for for so long I won't give it up for anyone."
Coming from her, I got what she was saying. But it made me think...I don't think I ever looked at it that way. To some extent I loved "being someone else" when I put together my costumes (and yes, I was one of those kids--and am now one of those people--who gets really into making a costume) but it never felt like a disguise to me. In fact, it was almost revealing because whatever I was dressed as was something I really really wanted to be on some level. I think I do feel like I'm dressing up as something that's already inside me somehow. One tradition of Halloween, for instance, has girls dressing up as boys and vice versa. I don't consider that a disguise so much as each sex being able indulge the parts of themselves that "are" the opposite sex. For some people this is even more literal. I think this is a big reason Halloween's become so associated with the gay community in a lot of places. I remember reading about a club that had a big party every year; this was the only day of the year that drag queens could go out on the street as themselves without being arrested.
This is one of the things I like about knowing P, really. On so many "primal" (or whatever) things we're completely in tune, but then we're coming from totally different directions in others. Things like hands. P loves images of hands reaching up, like coming out of a pool or the earth or just space. I see that image and think of the old Chiller Theater show with the six-fingered hand coming out of the pool of blood. I adored that image and looked forward to it at every commercial break, but for me it's a scary image. For her it's inspiring. She sees the hand as reaching up, breaking out, breaking free. I see the hand as reaching up to pull me down.
I love Halloween.