The Texas Halloween Costume Massacre

This post is from my "Back Talk" column in the October issue of Houston Family Magazine.Costume choices today, especially for little girls, have me rolling my eyes.

The Texas Halloween Costume Massacre

Halloween scares me. I realize that’s sort of the point—ghouls, ghosts, goblins, and all that—but what I’m referring to is that it scares me as a parent with young girls. Since becoming a stepfather, I’ve watched my stepdaughters get dressed up and take candy from strangers going on four years now. Of course it’s always been a fun time for our family, but as the girls have gotten older, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend taking shape when it comes to their costumes.

To date the girl’s choices haven’t been bad. At ages four and five, they hit the neighborhood cul-de-sacs ransacking candy bowls dressed as a princess and a cheerleader. Subsequently, in the years that followed the girls went with superhero-themed get ups, together donning the cape and cowl of Batgirl, then switching to Wonder Woman and Supergirl respectively a year later. And for the record, I attribute these choices to their great admiration of me and my comic book hobby.

This October that trend continues as the girls want to be Princes Lea and Padme from the Star Wars movies. Thank goodness. Why the expression of relief? It’s because I’ve just lived through another twelve-month span of my stepdaughters debating costume possibilities for the next Halloween. Understand, this can be more than a little annoying to have rammed into my forehead five or six times a week, but until recently is was at least tolerable.

In the past, the girls’ suggestions were fairly innocuous ranging from Care Bears and Dora the Explorer to female Disney characters (the good ones) and cutsie animals. Typically, their choices will also mirror their current interests which can be a good thing, like when the girls became enamored with Coraline a clear sign I needed to lock up all the needles and thread to prevent any attempts on their part to construct any costume that included the attachment of buttons to their eyeballs. Aside from such occasional safety hazards (I recommend all parents hide superglue starting in September), this hasn’t caused a lot of concern. No so anymore.

I’m not entirely sure what happened since last October, but based on their Halloween costume requests the girls’ have changed, shunning sugar and spice and everything nice, choosing instead figures representing all that’s wrong with society. Within days of hanging up their Wonder Woman and Supergirl outfits, the girls were already brainstorming, and their first idea floored me.

“Hey, Ron, for Halloween I wanna be Snooki,” my oldest stepdaughter said.

“Yeah, me too!” her sister added.

Snooki?! How did they know who Snooki is? It occurred to me that maybe the girls had seen a picture of the notorious, four-foot tall party-girl in all of her horrible spray-tan glory and mistook her for an Oompa-Loompa. Sadly, this was not the case.

“Snooki’s not who you think she is, girls,” I replied. “You should probably pick something else.”

“Ohhhh, but you could be The Situation!”

Fears confirmed. Over the time since then the girls have named off one disreputable personality after another—Lindsay Lohan, Ke$ha, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, one of the Kardashian sisters, Kate Gosselin, Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, a BP safety regulator, and Stripper-Pole Miley Cyrus.

Given the girls’ suggested lineup, I think it’s clear why galactic heroines from a galaxy far, far away are more than fine by me, and more so considering the last-minute heart attack the two of them gave me after announcing their intentions to parade around the local church’s Fall Festival dolled up as Paris Hilton. Their plan fell apart, though, after they got into an argument over who the purse they were using didn’t belong to.

“It’s not my purse.”

“Well, it’s not mine either …but the Silly Bands inside are.”

However, if steering the my stepdaughters towards wholesome Halloween costumes sounded difficult, actually locating them turned out even more so, something their mother realized after searching through several stores one afternoon. I’m not kidding when I say she was mortified at the sight of a sexy witch outfit complete with thigh-high stockings being sold to ten and eleven year olds. That it changes the conation of “trick or treat” makes the discovery just that much more disgusting.

This then made me wonder, if it’s okay for a little girl to be a sexy witch, then what do they dress up as when they become teenagers and young women? I mean sexy witch is for kids; when they’re adults they’ll need something more age appropriate. So what’s that going to be? The logical choice based on the ratio of age to exposed skin established by the fishnet stockings would indicate that by age 25 a pointy hat, and nothing else would suffice as an appropriate costume. Makes sense.

On the other hand, I suppose my stepdaughters could just save all of their costumes from ages five through ten and then reuse them again ten years later. From what I can tell there seems to be a one-size-fits-all policy within the Halloween costume production industry. If this is their attempt at going green, someone should inform the design team that girls tend to grow a whole bunch from eight to eighteen. And “stuff” starts sticking out too!

Ultimately though, what the girls pick out for Halloween isn’t as horrific as the thought that sometime in the not-so-distant future I won’t be able to influence their costume choices. When they are partying in college, my suggestions to dress up as empowered women like, for instance, Ida Tarbell (leading investigative journalist from the late 1800’s who wrote the History of Standard Oil, currently included among the Top 100 Journalist Works of the 20th Century by The New York Times) will probably fall on deaf ears. The girls will grow up and I’ll have to let them. And that’s why my heart feels like it’s being attacked by a chainsaw-wielding psycho as I watch them grab their Jack-o-lantern, candy buckets and head out the door.

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