The scariest part of Halloween

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Doctor Who

Today I took Zoë to the local party store to get costumes for she and I. She wanted to be Sheriff Callie from the Disney Junior show and I wanted to be whatever they had in stock that would fit me. We wended our way through aisles of everything one would need to be a zombie, a school girl, a vampire, or make it look like you have an axe lodged in your head. Much of the conversation I had with Zoë while in the store consisted of her asking what something was and me replying, “An axe; chainsaw; sledgehammer; bloody sword; pitchfork; etc.”
Once we finished gathering things for Zoë, my attention turned to the back wall-o-costumes. I had already looked at things online to see what was available in plus sizes. I had planned to pick up a Wonder Woman costume to surprise Rachael, as she’s been begging me to dress up as WW since last year. Unfortunately that wasn’t available in the store, so I had to spend the next several minutes searching for what was in my size and whether or not I wanted to be seen in public dressed that way. As I looked, I not only noticed how few plus-sized costumes were available in the store, but how few of them weren’t a sexy version of whatever. You know: sexy nurse; sexy cop; sexy candy corn…the usual.

Halloween and dressing up weren’t big things for me growing up, as I wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating. So I’ve never really bought a costume to dress up for Halloween. Of course I was aware of how sexualized costumes were at Halloween. It’s the one time of year people can wear their inner tramp and it’s not a big deal. In fact, it’s encouraged. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing in a way in which you feel comfortable and sexy. If you want to be a buxom bar wench, a flirty cheerleader, or a sorceress who uses more than her spells to enchant others, go for it! But as I looked at the website, and later stood in front of the wall, the culture of hyper-sexualization and sexual objectification became apparent.

Start ’em off young
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Zulily

My first eye-opening moment came several weeks ago as I browsed through the children’s costumes on Zulily. (I’m setting aside my aggravation with the discrepancy between “girls costumes” and “boys costumes”.) While there were a few objectionable costumes I came across for young girls, the above costume just made me ragey. Not only was the costume absolutely nothing like an actual military uniform, it goes as far as to sexualize a young girl with the short skirt and long gloves. And Major Flirt? What a “brilliant” joke that demonstrates a total lack of respect for girls.
The more I looked, the more I discovered that this wasn’t just a one off sort of deal. Groundwork is being laid for these girls so that either, A) girls/women will want to wear sexy or demeaning costumes when they get older, or B) girls/women will see those type of costumes as normalized because that’s pretty much all that’s available once they’re older. Examples? you ask. Okay. Let’s start off with Alice in Wonderland. Pretty straightforward, right? Simple blue dress, white apron, blonde hair with a black bow headband.
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Party City

They’re all pretty much the same costume, with the small change of Alice suddenly becoming a Bavarian milkmaid in adulthood. The changes are subtle as the girl who is supposed to be wearing the costume ages. We start with a toddler who, for some reason, is pouting. The next girl has fingerless glove sleeve things because reasons and is pouting even more. Then we have teenage “Clever Alice”. The skirt shortens and the tights change to the pattern we see in adult Alice.

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Party City

It’s not just Alice, though. Why must the witch’s skirt be that short? The last time I checked, The Flash didn’t wear a skirt. And how is the fallen angel costume appropriate for a young girl? I really don’t think that “fallen” is meant to imply that she missed stepping on the next cloud because she was too busy with her harp playing. I don’t have any problem with the costume itself, but a young girl has no business wearing something with sexual overtones.

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Party City

Can someone please explain this to me? I’m really curious to know how we’re supposed to know that these girls are dressed as TMNT Michelangelo. The only things that really give it away are the turtle shell purse and nunchucks. Everything else, from the skirt to the way the nunchucks are being held, are just subtle ways to suggest and indoctrinate girls with the thinking that this is really what girls ought to be wearing for Halloween. After all, we wouldn’t want girls to be dressing up as anything empowered that can kick some ass. (Yes, I know they’re fictional characters. Just stay with me here.) Rather, we want the sweet, tractable girl who stands there with a look on her face that says, “Oh, nothing.”

Still think I’m reading way too much into this?
BOOM.
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Party City

What was once perhaps sweet and innocent for little girls is now creeping its way into the teenage costumes. The only thing that would suggest that the “scarecrow” costume is as such is the hat. Otherwise, to me, it looks more like a suggestion to roll in the hay. And on what planet is that an Ariel, Little Mermaid costume? They have to give her a fucking wand with Ariel’s picture on it so you can tell. And then there’s the sexy police officer who you are more than willing to let lock you up and frisk you. Sound creepy talking about a teenager that way? It’s because it is! I saw a similar “sexy cop” costume for little girls as well. It’s practically grooming behavior, getting these girls to believe that dressing in a sexy way is normal and expected.

When I grow up, I want to be a sexy gypsy
When I chose my major in college, I don’t recall the sexualization of a discriminated ethnicity being an option. Yet, there it was: Sexy Gypsy, categorized under the “Careers” tab on the website. It was among the other careers that girls all over the world have to look forward to once they’re older, like nurse, firefighter, and airline pilot. Unless you live under a rock, I don’t think I have to show you what those costumes looked like. I expect the fantasy costumes of the hot nurse or the female firefighter who starts more fires than she puts out. But I ask you, what does it say to women, and how they are viewed in the world, when the following were…and I shit you not…the only options listed under the career tab along with sexy gypsy.
Mile High Captain
Ms. Blazin’ Hot/Babe/Hottie Firefighter
Bustin’ Out Prisoner
Sexy Astronaut
Nun (regular and “blessed babe”)
Sexy Fortune Teller
First Aid Flirt
Frisk Me Police
Sassy Ringmaster
Big Top Tease
Man Stealing Maid
Rosie the Riveter

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These options really reflect a high opinion of women and what the costume-makers believe they’re good for, no? Any sort of dignity related to careers like nursing and astronaut is completely stripped away.
Wait! you say. Rosie the Riveter is a symbol of the strength of women during the war, a foreshadowing of what is to come in women’s lib and the change in America’s workforce! That’s a great costume!
Normally I would agree with you. But it’s difficult to maintain that belief when the actual costume looks pretty similar to a pinup girl with a Rosie name tag on the shirt. So many costumes that would otherwise be great costumes are perpetually ruined by making them sexual. Below are my favorites.
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Party City

I file these under the “Why? Just….why?” section in my head. They even had a sexy gnome costume. A sexy. fucking. gnome. I think I could probably delete everything I’ve typed thus far and just present that costume as my argument.

Aren’t you just slut shaming?
No. I don’t blame the women for wearing these costumes. As I said before, if a grown ass woman wants to wear a sexy costume, that’s their decision and I’m happy to support that. If you feel “30, flirty, and thriving”* in a french maid costume, that’s awesome. If you feel 50, foxy, and fine as a sexy sailor, good for you! If you feel 80….great-y…. Nothing rhymes with 80. If you put on the slave Leia costume because you’re going to a party full of geeks and you’re out to get some, you go out and get it! Please just keep in the back of your mind how so many of these costumes are perpetuating a culture of not taking women seriously and treating them as sexual objects. Most of these costumes are designed for the male gaze. And it’s fucking creepy that it starts in costumes for little girls, so that by the time these little girls become adults, it’s simply “normal” and accepted for women’s Halloween costumes to be sexual in nature. Take that to the next step: our culture has been pretty successful in duping people into believing that, if the woman is raped while wearing the sexy costume, it’s her fault because she was asking for it. And that is fucking terrifying.

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Creepy creepy crawly crawly

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I finished Boris 2.0 yesterday. I had painted him and then set him aside since I was consumed with other things: Girl Scouts; the costume dance; laziness. But I had to finish him yesterday, not just because it was Halloween, but because Jill and Kevin were coming with their girls to trick or treat with us. We spent time carving pumpkins, eating food, donning glow stick bracelets as we tromped around the neighborhood on a mild, rainy night, and stayed up way too late talking and making up for lost time.

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Trick or treating was a set of wonderful memories that will last forever. Rachael and Ella, our goddaughter, held hands as they walked from house to house as different versions of Rapunzel. Ella made sure to inform homeowners, in her adorable, proper British accent, that she was a fairy princess Rapunzel. Zoë knew exactly what to do and trotted up to each house without prompting. We only had to retrieve her once after she decided to invite herself into Rachael’s friend’s house. Lucie, almost 13 and only mildly angsty, ambled along with the little ones in her zombie attire. I was proud of my girls as they bravely approached the “murder house”. Zoë didn’t seem to notice the dismembered body on the bloody slab in their driveway. Rachael was really nervous, but I gently coaxed her along, reminding her that none of this was real. My small, sometimes shy girl clearly and audibly said trick or treat to the ghostly princess and masked murderer who held her sugary prize for braving the darker side of Halloween. Later, Mike told her that she didn’t have to walk up to any house she didn’t want to. She replied, But I really wanted the candy. Overcoming fear for candy. She has priorities! Next door to the murder house, spooky organ music played from a stereo system through their second floor speakers. Lit tiki torches illuminated, (auto correct tried to make that “ill unitards”. I should have left it alone) skeletons hanging from trees. Rachael was frightened again by the homeowner answering the door as a Crypt Keeper. But can I just say, that was my favorite house of the night. The CD for the music kept skipping, stealing all of its spooky thunder. It was the musical equivalent of The Albino coughing in the middle of scaring the crap out of Westley.

How to make Boris 2.0

Boris wasn’t difficult to make, but he was pretty time consuming. This isn’t really a project you can knock out at the last minute. You’ll need:

Two balloons
White all purpose glue
Brush of choice (I used a foam wedge brush)
Newspaper cut into approximately 1, 2, and 3 inch rectangle strips
Black paint
Googly eyes
Large chenille pipe cleaners

Determine what sort of spider you want to make. That will determine the size to which you will blow up your balloons. I used this little guy, who was hanging out on our neighbor’s deck, as inspiration.
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Tie your balloons together.
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Pour glue into a disposable cup and add some water to dilute it. The ratio is about 4 parts glue, 1 part water. You’ll want something around the consistency of whole milk or heavy whipping cream. Paint the glue onto newspaper and where you will place the paper on the balloon. Putting it on the balloon as well will help the paper adhere to the balloon a bit better. Use the larger strips for the larger areas and the smaller strips for the smaller areas. If your strips are too large, they will pucker when placed on the balloon. As you place the next piece of paper on the balloon, make sure you paint some glue on the piece of paper already on the balloon and slightly overlap the pieces of paper. Continue until everything is covered.
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You’ll want to repeat this process for at least two more layers, letting each layer dry before applying a new layer. Try to place the paper on the next layer in a different direction than the previous layer to ensure maximum coverage and avoid seams. I found it’s pretty easy to get lost as to where you’ve been when placing new layers. To avoid this, use a dark marker to divide the balloons into quadrents, clearly marking the intersection. Once you’ve finished all the layers, paint your spider however you choose. I just used washable black tempera paint. Allow paint to dry. Depending on the paint you use, you may need to paint a few coats to hide the newsprint.
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Now you’re ready to make your spider as silly, scary, or anatomically incorrect as you’d like. Use scissors to punch a small hole in the spider’s abdomen. The balloon will pop and your head will pop off.
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Do not freak out. Trim some of the popped balloon off. Pull out your hot glue gun and smother the tied off portion of the head in glue and insert it back inside the hole where the abdomen and head separated. Hold the head in place until the glue cools and the head is secure, just a couple of minutes. Place chenille pipe cleaner inside the hole you’ve created and repeat 7 times.
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Boris wants to give you a hug!

I also placed shorter pipe cleaners in the head for his chelicerae. Glue on googly eyes in whichever pattern makes you happy. Check out close up pictures of spiders before gluing on the eyes. It will scare the shit out of you and make you check behind your toilet before sitting, but you’ll have a great idea for placing the eyes.

Mounting
I chose to use cheesecloth. I know it was realistic for spider web because in the few seconds I spent going inside for tape, a small spider had taken up residence in the cheesecloth I had already hung from the plant hanger. I used hot glue to attach the cheese cloth to his abdomen, and then tied the cheesecloth to the plant hanger.
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Easy Halloween and fall crafts

Crafting is not something that comes naturally to me. I only have a vague idea of what Modge Podge is, I’ve never yearned for a Cricut, and while I like the end result of a scrapbook, the process seems expensive and tedious. But plenty of times, there are things I would like to decorate with that are either too expensive in the store or don’t exist. That’s when I pull out my trusty glue gun and start trolling the Pinterest boards. The craft projects always make Mike take a deep breath and ready himself because no matter how easy or inexpensive I believe an undertaking to be, it always ends up being way more involved than I imagined.
So you can imagine that Mike was particularly excited when I told him that I had volunteered to help decorate for the costume dance, (can’t call it a Halloween dance) at school. (We also didn’t know that I’d be leading a Girl Scout group only a couple of weeks later.) I didn’t realize that I would basically be the only one decorating. Even so, I still wanted to keep costs down and maximize effect in the large cafeteria. These are some of the things I came up with. They’re simple and created some ambiance…you know….before the lights were turned off and pretty much everything I did no longer mattered because you couldn’t really see it.

Feather mask

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This ended up being really messy because of all of the feather bits floating everywhere. Don’t try to do this project “real quick” right before dinner, unless you like your meals extra fluffy. I chose red, purple, brown, and yellow feathers for a fall theme. I began with long feathers underneath and then filled out the mask and covered the quills with short, fat, fluffy feathers.
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I kept thinking about this scene from Despicable Me while making the mask.
The nice thing about this is that it’s hard to mess up. If there are some bare spots, just add more feathers.

Spiders

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This is pretty straightforward. Styrofoam balls, paint, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes. I used the cups to keep the balls from rolling around while they dried. The googly eyes didn’t stick to the styrofoam well enough on their own, so I hot glued them on. They looked pretty great stuck in some fake cobwebs. Also, something to always keep in mind: if it looks too big up close, it will look just right from a distance.

Ghosts

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Has Pinterest ever lied to you? Of course it has. You try to do something that seems fairly straightforward, it seems to be going well, and then it fails in such a way that makes you sure that the only way it must have worked for that stupid whore is that she offered glittery, Modge Podged sacrifices to Craft Satan. (And when you’re done being aggravated you take back the “stupid whore” comment, but the Craft Satan sacrifice still stands!) Well, this was one of those times. I made my model, doused it with starch, and dried it with my hairdryer. And it all fell apart.
Fortunately, one can still make ghosts with balloons and cheese cloth. I used some craft adhesive spray, and the cheese cloth stayed without a problem. They look a little bit like dementors, but they work in the dark. Add googly eyes to make them silly. And the nice thing is that you get to have ghosts without scaring the crap out of your small children.
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Fall trees

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For Rachael’s fourth birthday, she wanted a Snow White party. Since we decided to have the party at our pool clubhouse, it meant that any decorations we had needed to be free standing because we couldn’t attach anything to the walls. So I made plywood trees. And when I say I made them, I mean I drew the shape and then sent Mike to cut them out. But I totally spray painted them all by myself. Anyway, I thought they would be perfect for the dance to add a little color and deter kids from running behind the DJ table. The kids loved them….especially the balloons that I placed on the floor in front of them. *shrug*
There may be a better way to rig these up, but so far we’ve done it with skewers, twine, and tape. (Best to use some heavier duty tape to hold the skewers in place.) I created a base of three groups of three balloons. I tied some twine around the bottoms of each set of balloons and then tied one set to a skewer. Attach the skewer to the back of the tree so that the balloons rest on top of the branch. From there, you can build with sets of three balloons on top of the base you’ve created, in a pyramid formation, securing the balloons with tape.

Ribbon’s magical power

Wired ribbon is always your best friend. It can take something ordinary and instantly make it a holiday item that has a little something special.
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Inexpensive witch’s broom is all dressed up, but nowhere to go.

For table center pieces, I filled mason jars with candy corn. It’s a quick way to add some color, a delicious treat after your finished with it, (Mike doesn’t understand my love for candy corn….because he’s apparently crazy) and is a legitimate use of mason jars. You can gussy up the jars with ribbon around the lid and paper with stickers on top of the lid.

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