Friday, October 31, 2003

I used to think Halloween belonged to scary people -- not scary in the fun sense, but bullyish kids and drunken adults. I avoided costume parties; anytime I ended up at one, I was the guy with the "Hello My Name Is ---" sticker as his disguise. For the last several years as I've grown more and more comfortable with my shadow self, however, I've come to realize that there is a value in this day of overturned norms, of fears brought to light, of gifts dispensed to children from the neighborhood in exchange for their donning masks and embodying their own dream selves.

Plus -- lest I get all warm and psychobabbly on you -- the days before October 31 are great for buying stuff you might be embarrassed about purchasing any other time of the year, and starting November 1 (if not earlier) you can get most of it half price. In short, it's the fetishist's Christmas.

About six years ago, I got the idea to greet trick-or-treaters dressed as Batman. By this point I'd shared my fascination with the character with my partner and before him with my therapist. It seemed like the next logical step was to go public -- albeit in a completely safe way, on the one day when you can walk down the street wearing pretty much anything short of a dildo without anyone questioning your sanity. So I put on my homemade suit and steeled myself for the first ring of the doorbell.

Now, I know you're expecting me to say that this was a cathartic experience and it cleansed me once and for all of any lingering self-doubt and gave me a chance to offer something of myself to current-day children and let the circle be unbroken and all that shit. And the truth is ... it was okay. Just okay. Some kids thought the outfit was cool, some parents laughed in a knowing way when their offspring responded to me like the real thing-- as if I were a department-store Santa -- and the bullies were just as obnoxious as ever. After the initial fear of looking foolish subsided, it just became sort of routine. I felt mildly embarrassed from time to time, but there's nothing like a cowl to mask your actual expression.

I'm pretty sure I didn't suit up the next Halloween for one reason or another, and from then on it's been a year-to-year, on-again/off-again situation. When I'm tired or have work to do, I don't bother. But this year I felt the inspiration to do something really special, so I gathered together a ton of lights and props and sheets of translucent plastic lying around the house -- lots of the stuff I use during fantasy play, or at least the PG version thereof -- and created a "Supervillains' Hideout" on the front porch, and a batcave entrance in the foyer. The littlest kids with the coolest costumes (including the inevitable junior Batmen and other superheroes) will get special goodie bags with batarangs, glow-in-the-dark bats, and other primo swag, which is also a great way for me to get rid of some of the duplicate toys friends have given me over the years. (The best and worst reason to come out about your sexual tastes to your friends is you end up festooned with thematically related presents for the rest of your life. It's funny and fun and all, but after a while you can only handle so many plastic handcuffs and kitschy cop figurines and bat-bandaids.) Most visitors will get the usual candy, but I really want to steer away from that and toward things like toys if I can get away with it. (My own definistion of a "treat" is pretty broad, but younguns tend to get dogmatic about such matters.)

And the bullies who show up at the door -- the ones who arrive close to 9PM with no costume, looking like they're about to enter college and/or toilet paper your house? I found a big supply of cheap domino masks, and I"m half-seriously thinking of handing those out to the slackers and making them wear them before they get anything at all. You want a treat, you gotta do the trick. I finally did, and what a treat I've ended up with!

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