Costume Psychology 101

Many studies have been done on the psychology of Halloween costume selection. What does it say about a person who picks a sexy, scary, political, whimsical, heroic or funny costume?

Some say that people who dress up like hot French maids, saucy pirates and sexy cats, want to express their sexuality without the consequences of violating social norms. That might be true, but it bugs me when someone sexualizes people or things that were never sexy to begin with.

The few maids I’ve encountered in life were sturdy women with thick backs and calloused hands. None of them wore flouncy miniskirts, and I’m pretty sure one or two had facial hair. Although I’ve never met a pirate, I would imagine the real life female version would be missing teeth, eyes and limbs, and probably have horrible breath. And whoever thinks cats are sexy has never scooped out a litter box or watched a cat up chuck a hairball.

I think people who put on sexy costumes are simply using Halloween as some kind of carte blanche pretext to strap on a push up bra, fish net stockings, and pumps.

And that goes for you women, too.

Psychologists also say that those who choose gory or scary get ups find it empowering to dress as something that frightened them when they were a kid. I’m more inclined to believe that all the blood sucking zombies and mass murderers you see marauding on Halloween night are trying to repel other people because they’re afraid of intimacy.

Or, quite possibly, they’re just weird.

Experts also claim that other costumes indicate psychological issues. People who dress like politicians enjoy provoking conflict. Those who portray nuns, priests, school teachers and librarians are shy and unapproachable. Cops, firefighters, doctors, cowboys and heroes desire to be taken more seriously. People who choose storybook or cartoon characters like Snow White and Sponge Bob want to recapture the innocence of childhood.

I’m not sure what it says about me, but I’ve always gone for a costume that was funny. While I’d like to believe that it means that I am mentally secure and don’t mind being the butt of a joke, I’m sure a clinical psychologist would diagnose me with some kind of personality disorder and recommend long-term therapy.

It all started in the fall of 1978 when I was in the seventh grade. My junior high school was having the first dance of the year, a costume dance, and I was determined to make my mark on the social scene.

Like other girls my age, I laid in my bed at night dreaming of cute boys who might ask me to dance, and how that dance would turn into a whirlwind middle school romance replete with love notes, locker visits, and hand holding. [Heavy sigh.]

But unlike other girls, I had not quite figured out what I needed to do to attract a young suitor. The only thing I knew was, when I did something funny, it got people’s attention.

It took me hours to prepare my costume for the dance. I spray painted my Pumas green to match my leotards, and inserted my legs into a large white sheet through which I had cut two holes. I gathered the sheet around my neck, tied it tight with string, and stuffed my torso to create a bulging tear-drop shape. I painted my face and hair green and wore a crown of long green pipe cleaners.

Voila! My Human Onion costume was complete!

Upon entering the decorated gym on the night of the dance, I could see that no one else’s sense of humor was as sophisticated as mine. I noticed lots of tiaras and bunny ears, but no other vegetables or even fruits for that matter. I knew the boys would be amazed at my comedic genius; it was only a matter of time before I was asked to dance.

As my tiaraed and bunny-eared friends were called out on the dance floor one by one, I waited. And waited. And waited.

Strangely, not one boy asked me to dance that night. Just as I began to question my strategy, the costume contest results were announced.

Although I would have preferred a cute boyfriend to the Boomtown Rats album I received as my prize, winning first place in the costume competition served to confirm my belief that my sense of humor was my best asset, and I’ve been wearing funny costumes ever since.

Scary, funny, sexy, political, heroic or whimsical — any costume we pick seems to reveal some deep-seeded narcissistic, paranoid, psychotic, attention-seeking, rage disorders and gender issues. So, unless you plan to sit at home compulsively gorging on your kids’ rejected Almond Joys — not that I’ve ever done that – you really don’t have a choice other than to put on your costume and let your freak flag fly.

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1 comment

  1. energywriter October 31, 2011 at 8:42 am Reply

    Love it, Lisa, esp.”That goes for women too.” Your 7th grade costume was original as well as funny. No wonder you won.

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