The world missed its opportunity to see me as a big monster last week.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, I agreed to wear a costume for Halloween. Every year, my children beg us to dress up as a family. We’ve heard ideas ranging from the Addams Family to Scooby Doo to Shrek. Generally speaking, time and an unwillingness to embarrass myself publicly kept us from following through.
This year was different. Our 4-year-old foster daughter bears a stunning resemblance to the little girl nicknamed Boo in “Monsters, Inc.” My wife found a monster outfit in my size to transform me into James P. Sullivan, the gruff but friendly and lovable monster from the 2001 Disney/Pixar movie. To everyone’s surprise, including mine, I agreed to participate in a family costume.
Some people love to dress up for Halloween, even as adults. I am not that person. Whenever I tried to fit in with the crowds in college, I’d inevitably dress up as “injured football player,” complete with jeans, a jersey and a hat. To show how uninspired it was, that was generally my clothing choice about once a week anyway.
For introverts, Halloween pushes you one way or another. It’s either your one chance to break out of your constant self-reflection and be wild, or it’s a reminder that you just don’t like people paying attention to you. I always fell to the latter.
Something’s happened as I grew older, though. A long tenure in my job and in my community, along with the urge to amuse my children before they stop being amused by me, has led me to not really care what anyone else thinks. If I can bring a smile to the people in my inner circle, then why not make a fool of myself? The world needs more fools willing to admit they’re acting foolishly these days.
It’s been a while since I willingly acted the fool in public by wearing a costume. The last would’ve been near the turn of the century. A coworker named Ben had a Halloween theme party, where we were supposed to dress up as different versions of him. In an unfortunately bad pun and unfortunately bad costume, I arrived in heels and a relatively short red dress, calling myself “Ben Her.” (I should note I had a fairly bushy beard at the time, too.) Since I wasn’t known for public spectacles of ridiculousness, my coworkers loved it.
Anyway, once we’d decided to dress up as characters from “Monsters, Inc.,” it was set. My 11-year-old daughter got a costume of the green, one-eyed Mike Wazowksi, her favorite character in the movie. The 10-year-old girl wanted to dress up like Celia Mae, Mike’s Medusa-like girlfriend. My wife wanted to dress up like Roz, the slug-like woman who is “always watching” through her horned-rim glasses. We found a yellow suit for my oldest daughter to dress up as a Child Detection Agency operative.
Then my girls decided they wanted to act ages 10 and 11. Their friends invited them trick-or-treating with them. We allowed them to roam the streets with their pals instead of their parents. Our motivation to go out in a group costume, as just Boo, Sully and Roz, fell apart, as it really didn’t make sense anymore.
It’s a natural transition for children to prefer the company of their friends over the company of their parents. I know that and accept it. I just wish I’d seen it coming more clearly, so they could see the fun parents we finally were ready to be.
We’ll get our chance to wear those costumes at my wife’s work for a Halloween party this week. Still, I realize we missed our opportunity to walk the streets of their hometown in full costumes. I only hope it motivates us to avoid such fear-filled shortcomings in the future.