If I was an evil villain, I would be the Grinch of Halloween. I resist it every year. I close my eyes to the costumes that go on display in July. I try to avoid the giant mixed candy bags that somehow always end up chilling in my freezer or produce drawers. I make no Halloween plans. And I certainly don’t discuss costume ideas because I AM NOT dressing up. Maybe it’s scars from shimmying around for a decade in ill-fitting and inappropriate tap, jazz and ballet recital costumes. Have you ever had a sequin rash under your arm pits? I have. It’s the fucking worst. As an adult, I hate costumes. And I hate people who wear costumes. Unless that is your job and I just paid money to watch you do it. If you are NOT on stage, this is just a desperate ploy for attention. Ladies, Slut-o-ween, is really just a grab-bag full of herpes. So, stop it.
See, I am awful. A cynic. I’m the oldest 34-year-old ever. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a cute baby to dress up but I do have pets and the thought of dressing up these “babies” makes me wants to stab someone. At least that is in the spirit of Halloween so I am kind of traditional.
In early August, having consumed half a bag of fun-sized snickers from the early Halloween display, I started considering how I am going to lose the weight I was about gain. I needed to get out and do something. Here comes a happy-fun-time friend with a grand idea! Let’s run a 5k! Perfect. It’s on November 1. Fantastic. It’s at night. Even better. No sun. In August, in Texas, it’s 150 degrees outside so a 5k in November at night is a dream come true. It’s also a groupon-type discount when you join her team! Saving money, losing weight. This is what I have been looking for.
What’s NOT a dream-come-true is this is a themed 5k: Bad Prom Night. That means costumes. Ooops. Crap. Damn it. Trey, a real runner, wants nothing to do with costumes either (one of the many reasons I love him) makes plans to NOT do this 5k.
The breathability of a prom dresses makes me sweat just thinking about it and visions of me at Goodwill digging through decades of someone else’s prom sweat kicks in my gag reflex. I am now questioning my registration and can I get my $22 back? The ring leader of the run declares “boys wear dresses, girls wear tuxes”! Hmmmm. Ok, that’s not so bad. Regardless, for the next two months, I try to forget I registered for this 5k.
By October, I am in full-blown denial. Another invitation rolls in from another happy-fun-time friend! They won free tickets to Rock Horror Picture Show! “Of course, I would love to join you for this elaborate costumed sing-a-long event. Wait, what?” Did I mention I am terrible at saying no? Did I mention that if I don’t wear a costume to Rocky Horror, I was told I will be relentlessly and ruthlessly heckled by both cast and audience members? Did I mention that this event is also the evening of November 1? Ooops. Crap. Damn it.
I have now booked myself for two events in the same night, in two different costumes, the day after Halloween. I did this. Trey cannot stop pointing and laughing. I am smiling through gritted-teeth. It’s all good! I will figure this out! AH FUCK IT. I got nothing.
Leighbird says Party City has cheap bowties. $2! Maybe I can parlay this into an outfit both events (fingers crossed). I will google up a Party City…later.
The week of the race, I join part of the happy-fun-time team for a mini-happy hour and costume shopping at the local hipster resale shop. Riding a nice tequila buzz, we giggle and pick out prom dresses for a very big, buff dude. The juxtaposition of the feminine flow-y flowers and his bigness is hilarious and he is completely freaked that anyone can see the outline of his junk. I hold up one lazy teal and purple bowtie that someone got rid of for a reason. I have come up empty and I am not all that sad. Maybe get out of this thing? If I trip down the stairs, my injury could get me out of both events! But I am scared of heights and a trip ‘n fall opens the door to unpredictable injuries and questions about domestic violence. Sorry, not doing that to Trey.
Costume-less, I roll into work. The 5k is tomorrow. Rocky Horror is tomorrow. I have foolishly confirmed my attendance to both events. People are planning to leave work early to take their kids trick or treating. I am considering leaving early to hunt down that Party City Leighbird mentioned. This is my last chance to participate with the happy-fun-time gang and not feel like a complete non-participant asshole.
FACT: There are two Party City’s in the Metroplex.
1) There’s one in East Dallas and 20 min past home. Fuck that.
2) The next one closest I pass on the way home. It’s in Irving somewhere.
Irving: a city with both brightly-colored big-box shopping centers and a certain cheerlessness that hangs over everything. Maybe it’s because every store is either having a sale or going out of business. It’s actually kind of a bummer to drive through so I try not to look too closely at the details.
I cuss my way through the 5 pm traffic thinking how great it would be to be eating one of Trey’s handmade chicken sandwiches and watching our stories. Instead, Yelp tells me Party City is off Beltline Road by the Discount Tire and Chinese Buffet in one of Irving’s many discount shopping centers. My eyes tell me it’s a MIZ Accessories and Fallas Discount Clothing Store. “Fuck, they moved.” Mostly defeated but not wanting to drive to East Dallas, I actually start looking closer. Huh. MIZ Accessories has wigs, sparkles, makeup in all colors under the rainbow, fake tattoos, and other ridiculous shit I would definitely buy to decorate myself on Halloween. I swallowed my bubbling irritation and headed inside to see what other costume supplies they had.
Me: “Do you sell bow ties?”
Annoyed Hispanic Girl: “Uh. No.”
Damn it. Details. This is not a costume shop and they don’t sell Men’s anything. This is a real “ladies” clothing store where the locals actually buy shit to look fancy. For example, if you need a pair of hot pants with “LOVE” bedazzled on the butt to wear to the club this is where you can pick up a pair. I am pretty sure that was a baby ear-piercing station in the back. Why not multi-task? The walls are covered up to the ceiling in hats and boas and glitter-shit in every color. This place was built for people who like to Party. I hated this City and I wanted to GO THE FUCK HOME. My chest started to tighten. I wanted to do a little exasperated scream through my teeth. I fucking hate you, Yelp.
I bolted and hid in my car. Trying not to cry, another Google search says, “Just Kidding! It’s on the other side of the freeway now, silly”. There was still hope. Irving is not going to win. I can do this. This bow tie thing was going to happen.
Putting all my trust into my phone, I watched the blue dot on the map creep closer to the words Party City. Scanning desperately back and forth, I arrive in front of a small banner and written in the brightest orange - I can’t believe I didn’t see until now - Halloween City! I zipped into a parking space below the banner and jumped out. I followed the arrow on the sign to the words in extremely small print: Located above the Food Court.
Inside the Mall. WHAT.
IRVING MALL. A place I have never wanted to or needed to go. Ever.
All this for a $2 bowtie? Damn you, Leighbird and your whole happy-fun-time gang. I actually consider popping a left over Xanax from when we moved the kitties from the apartment to the condo. It’s almost over. I’ll just walk in, get it and go home.
Charging through the front door I am met with equal force the smells of fried wads of baked goods, meat and sweat. It’s the smell of a carnival and I remember that yes, sometimes, there is a carnival in the parking lot of this mall on the way home. It also smells of old airport carpet and the cold nothing of air conditioning. Music is pumping loud enough to make sure adults are scream-talking at one another while kids are just flat out screaming.
Visually, it’s a tsunami of swirly-eyed, costumed kids, vibrating though their sugar high, carrying buckets filled with candy from store to store, Trick-or-treating?!?! What the actual fuck is THIS?
Who trick or treats at the mall? If I wasn’t already moving so quickly in a forward direction, I would have run the other way. My eyes glaze over as pieces of my mind are blown in sensory overload. I am in a real-life fun house. This ride is free. Everyone is smiling and running around screaming. Kids are speed bumps at this point. Parents don’t really care. They are dressed up, too, making out and it’s literally a candy fucking free-for-all. The girl dressed as a cat at the no-name smoothie shop is getting hit on by some gangster while she drops candies one-by-one into the buckets of little ones waiting in line for their turn, without breaking the boy’s eye contact. She doesn’t have to make smoothies today. This is her skill in the world. I am clear this is her favorite day to work.
I hate to say it but I had tears in my eyes. I was blinking as fast as I was walking. I have been less surprised by one of those Vietnam Plazas in Garland anchored by a generic Asian Grocery Store where you can get a Boba, eat crawfish, buy a mattress and play ping pong. I couldn’t believe I was in a mall with more than one dollar store and forget the ear-piercing kiosk! Why, is that is a fucking tattoo parlor on the corner by the generic candy shop and toy store. How convenient! Jesus. I found this place alarming, tasteless and overwhelming and I was starting to get dizzy. I needed to eat but not here.
I took a ride on the ricketiest escalator up to floor two. I stepped off thinking, “Welp, that was REALLY not safe for anyone.” Lost in thought about the whole staircase collapsing, I panicked and began moving along with the rest of the crowd toward the lights and stores. I wandered around hopefully, looking at the bizarre, sparkling, clothing / electronics stores and reconsidering that the partially-dressed mannequins and half-ass filled-up window displays might be Halloween City. Every detail counted now.
In the midst of the bustle, I asked a shop girl, selling both Quinceañera dresses and skin-tight hoochie outfits, if they sold bowties. She looked disappointed in my blazer and reluctantly directed me to Express for Men who offered me some cheap ass ones for $40. “I WANT MY $2 BOWTIE!”, I told the poor guy who worked there. “Where is this City of Halloween that promised me extended hours tonight!?”
I almost pounced on a waddling security guard for help but he had his own secret collection of candy and was not there for customer service. I connected eyes with a super-creeper sitting low behind the counter cellphone/perfume shop. “Head back to escalator, past the stairs, it’s on your right.”
I had turned the wrong way earlier. Of course, it was located in the “dead” part of the mall, without lights, where spots have been vacant for many months. Duh. Hilarious.
Halloween City was actually “spooky” in that is looked a little like that New Jersey pharmacy where Brad Pitt and his family go searching for an inhaler in the movie WWZ. The place was trashed and my nose stung a little from the chemical smell of the fog machine that had been blowing for the last two months. It’s all been leading up to this: Welcome to Halloween Apocalypse. The peg board displays were dripping with the remainders of costumes tumbling from the bags that had been picked apart. Wigs hung by strands of nylon hair. The floors were littered with discarded clothing and plastic parts that made you triply happy you weren’t barefoot. The lights above were dimmed but humming and some flickered as I walked through the aisles of plastic swords, ladies’ ruffle bloomers and devil faces. Truth-be-told, it wasn’t all that different than some of the sex shops I have ventured into in my neighborhood. I was starting to feel much better.
The handful of people in the store with me were in another world all-together, realizing what a terrible mistake they had made waiting to the last minute. I wiggled past a short Asian man holding a gorilla mask and a crown was also staring as fishnet hose paralyzed about what to do. Aw, good luck, buddy.
I found my $1.99 bowtie on the “Wall of Color” and suddenly, everything became really hilarious. Actually, I was almost in a fit of hysteria. I was gonna lose my mind and buy some shit. I made it this far. I decided to stop being a cunt bag and create costumes for both events with the pieces that were left.
In the end, I was able to procure a top hat, fake eyelashes, fish nets, a skanky little petticoat and bunch of other crap I will most likely lose or throw away at the end of the night. I couldn’t stop myself if I wanted to. $80 later, I crazy-laughed my way out of the store, thanking everyone profusely. I was told to have a blessed evening. On my way out of Irving Mall, I seriously considered documenting my close up with this city by getting my caricature done or by jumping in the kiddie ball pit. But the artist looked really comfortable with his feet kicked up, twirling a pencil, super-ready to go home. I was ready, too. And we all know the ball pit is a terrible idea. If I wanted to contract HIV tonight, I would have gone to a Slut-o-ween party.
Now costume-laden and grinning from ear-to-ear with the same swirly eyes as those children that were so frightening to me when I first arrived, I was trying to figure out what happened to me because something definitely happened. Maybe I just got what I wanted. But I think it’s that I decided to stop being such a big, baby brat about everything and get with the party. I was finally excited about costumes and the possibility of being part of the happy-fun-time gang. Being a cranky, resistant, whiney ol’ bitch isn’t all that much fun unless you actually dress up like one on purpose.