Halloween. School classroom. 1987. I’m stood, rustling in the crinkly folds of a black binbag, being forced to sway my arms in a class dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s a tiresome song. I can’t bear all this angular jerking. Sometimes I feel like an outsider, standing on the outskirts of ordinary 1980s childhood fun. The Locomotion leaves me cold (TRAINS DON’T DANCE), Agadoo makes me feel like I’m drowning in sick, Jive Bunny is a derivative structural mess, and if you even think about making me bob to that Superman song I will ram my Care Bear down your throat. I prefer country dancing. I like to see if I can fit my steps neatly within the rectangles of the school hall parquet flooring while I do the do-si-do. I just don’t get Halloween. Why are we dancing like our arms are precariously close to dropping off while dressed as rubbish? I’m only not making a fuss about this ludicrous business because the general comments section of my school report is very important to me. I don’t much care if I’m not very good at the scholarly stuff, but if Miss Lewis thinks I’m a non-dancing tedious drip I will die.
Halloween. Massachusetts. 1997. I’m on a school exchange and appear to be dressed as a clown witch. That’s right, a clown that is also a witch. A ludicrous combination that seems to be pleasing everyone but me. I’m in a beautiful little town named Cohasset. The leaves are pleasing shades of New England orange and red. We should be doing a walking tour of historic witch-burning spots with someone with qualifications from nearby Harvard please, not banging on people’s doors and asking for sweets. Trick or Treating. I don’t get it. Asking strangers you normally ignore to give you stuff. I wonder if my family will let me stay in while they perambulate the neighborhood (no u in that word out here; tense); maybe read some Sylvia Plath, or reorder the contents of their fridge in height order. They’ve got some really bafflingly big stuff over here. That milk is going to last until at least March. It’ll be cheese by then. They’ll probably put it in a really big burger. I have mixed feelings about this. Being a teenager is so hard. Sylvia Plath would understand me. Oh god. Until we leave I am just sitting here, bemused in clown shoes, dutifully licking Reese’s Pieces and not understanding that either. Peanut Butter, with chocolate. This is madness.
Halloween. 2008. Somewhere posh in London. I am wearing a dress, which is bad enough. I have drawn a Vampyric bite mark on my neck with a sarcastic globule of blood oozing out. That is my sole attempt at a costume. Everyone else looks mental. I still don’t get Halloween. I have to be forcibly dragged away from the vodka luge by my rear. I put my gum in a photographer’s palm as he tries to help me along. I think I’m tipping him.
Halloween. 2016. Balcony. Home. I have paused frantically trying to cobble together a costume from the dregs of my hideous mess of a wardrobe to have a feminist existential tit crisis. With an emphasis on Halloween tits. There’s a lot of them about. I have mixed feelings. Do you own the fact you have tits, or try to reduce them? I have tried to flatten my boobs on occasion but it only serves to squish my décolletage upwards like I have a goitre. Being a feminist is hard. Not even the good ones want a goitre.
Later that night. Pub. Still fucking Halloween. I panicked. I eschewed all vague attempts at a proper costume and have ostensibly come as myself, but like, if I were having a really quiet breakdown. Like, really keeping my mental deterioration on the downlow. I have half-hearted bunches. I have mildly rosy cheeks. I have white ankle socks and a dress that makes me happy because the pattern is like 1950s children’s book illustrations, yachts and islands and birds, but which I never wear because the plunging boobage is a bit much. (See earlier feminist existential tit crisis.) I look outstandingly normal compared to the walking dead. I’ve decided that if anyone asks I will tell them I am a killer doll named Poochkin. I have nominally scrawled the hash-tags #killer and #AAARRGH on my chest with eyeliner (using breasts as a creative notice board rather than something to line shots up on; #goodfeminist), and have an intricate horror narrative and psychologically warped character backstory plotted out in my head, just in case anyone asks for more. No one asks. Fuckssake. Being a writer is so hard. Literally no one gives a shit that I have prepped. They either can’t see how glaringly underdressed I am because their faces are obscured by horrific prosthetics, or they don’t care because they have been drinking £1 neon shooters since 3pm.
“But Sadie, you’ve just come as yourself.”, a friend says later. I have not the words to explain (to David Brent) that that can be horrific enough. You try living with this inner monologue. Thanks to internalising my Halloween efforts instead of just painting my face green or something Poochkin is still running around with a rusty knife stolen from the top drawer of a haunted orphanage bureau holding locked away secrets of horrific juvenile crimes of bygone days of sepia evil. And someone just made me do shots. I’m not in control anymore. Poochkin is, and she’s getting tired of this bullshit.
It’s late. I accept the fact I still don’t get Halloween. I call a cab and promise myself I’ll be better next time. Poochkin demands chips. I give in. It’s just easier.