I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere in my twisted past, I decided that I hated Halloween.
Every year since the 8th grade, when I roamed my friends’ subdivision dressed as Ringo Starr, I’ve felt too old to celebrate. Something about collecting candy from strangers when I had enough money to just buy my own felt wrong to me. And once I entered adolescence, dressing up in costumes made me feel like a cheesy try-hard.
Anytime during my adult life when I’ve been forced to dress up, I’ve done it out of obligation. The year my wife and I first started dating, she dressed up as Daisy Buchanan and, wanting to impress her, I went as Jay Gatsby. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to avoid any sort of social situation that requires a costume.
This year, unfortunately, I could not. My boss at the brewery scheduled me to work during our annual Halloween party, and the other bartenders decided they wanted to coordinate their costumes.
The theme? Reno 911.
First off, I just kind of missed that show. I’d probably enjoy it now, but the satire and writing never really resonated with me while it was on the air.
Secondly, it was also clear there was no way I’d be able to cobble together a costume with shit I had around the house. I’d have to actually BUY a cop costume, which felt wasteful. I’m going to shell out 50 bucks for this polyester shirt and plastic badge, wear it for four hours, and then stuff it into the corner of my closet?
I kicked the can down the road as long as I could—to the point where even my Amazon Prime window for ordering something had closed. Suddenly, it was the morning of the party, and I had no costume.
I was torn. I wanted to dress up like a cop as much as I wanted a colonoscopy, but I also knew that the other bartenders were going all-out, and if I showed up wearing my normal clothes, I’d be the party pooper.
So I reluctantly drove my ass over to the Spirit Halloween pop-up store by the mall. It was a shit-show, of course, the parking lot looking like an Eagles tailgate. Every other suburban piece of shit was there too, scrambling to outfit themselves so they could ladle Everclear and Hawaiian Punch out of trashcans wearing low tops and cat ears later that night.
The shelves were mostly bare, like a grocery store before a snow storm. My logic was that if they didn’t have what I was looking for, nobody could fault me for trying. A true win-win.
But goddammit if I didn’t walk through an aisle and see the exact costume I needed. Sergeant Short Pants. Polyester shirt and Daisy Dukes, plastic badge, shitty aviator sunglasses.
I brought the nonsense home and tried it on, and it was just as ridiculous as I thought it would be.
“I look like a fucking tool,” I said to my wife, Melinda.
“Well, I think you look cute,” she said.
“You have to say that.”
She stopped what she was doing and gave me one of those looks that she’d perfected while teaching a classroom full of angsty teens. “Why do you hate fun?” she asked.
“I don’t hate fun. I just don’t like costumes.”
“You are wearing a costume in every picture I’ve ever seen of you as a kid,” she said. “You literally LIVED in costumes.”
She was right. From the time I could walk, I was always wearing some stupid shit. A magician’s top hat, a soldier’s uniform. I used to wear full football pads to the dinner table and protest when my parents made me take my helmet off.
“That’s different,” I said. “I was a child.”
“Please,” Melinda said. “You don’t think all those different outfits you have aren’t costumes? Your camouflage hunting sweatshirts, your preppy green pants, your drawer full of baseball jerseys?”
“Those are just clothes.”
“But you PICK the clothes based on who you want to be that day.”
It’s tough to be 38 years old and have your wife expose that you basically treat EVERY DAY like Halloween. It’s something I thought wasn’t that noticeable. But clearly, I was wrong.
Melinda looked up at me, no doubt seeing her reflection in my dumb mirrored aviators. “Can you just have fun and enjoy yourself?”
“I’ll try,” I grumbled.
When I walked into work that afternoon wearing my dumb fucking Sergeant Short Pants outfit, the whole staff cheered.
“Thank you,” my friend Alycia said.
“Thank me for what?” I asked.
She confessed they’d all taken bets on whether I’d actually dress up. Most bet against me.
“I know this is a lot for you, and I appreciate it,” she said.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I figured it would be fun.”
And fine, I did have fun working the Halloween party. And when I was done, I went home and balled up Sergeant Short Pants and stuffed it into my closet, where it will stay.
At least until next year.