Each year there is one socially permissible day when we cast aside our everyday identities and choose to become whomever or whatever we so desire.
Instead of bank tellers, crossing guards and plumbers we become Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, international dictators—maybe even Lady Gaga, Snooki or the Situation. For one night a year, millions of alter-egos run amok over the land.
I’m going to be the Hindu Goddess Kali for Halloween. Despite Kali’s frightening appearance and reputation as a slayer of demons, she is often regarded as the most nurturing and protective of all goddesses. I’m going to make my own battlefield out of those Halloween disco dance parties. Is this sacrilege? Or is imitation really the most sincere form of flattery? (My neighbor dressed as Moses and he’s still alive and kicking).
Does my Kali costume belie some sort of repressed desire to become more fierce, more fully alive to whatever challenges and opportunities the moment may present? I think it does. I will not lie, I would like to more fully draw on Kali’s more positive kick-ass qualities in my day-to-day congress. As I get older, I find myself drawn towards aspirational costumes. (Not to impugn the year I was a bag of cabbage).
How will this be the best Kali-ween ever? I don’t mean going Biblical when somebody cuts me off before the tunnel in rush hour traffic. Nothing like that. I don’t plan to dance on hoods while spilling invective and liberating heads from bodies.
Well, maybe. Just a little.
I went to the Halloween Warehouse, a ten-thousand square foot retail space largely dominated by bagged German milkmaid and leggy nurse costumes, to make this dream a reality. Kali does not often give her followers what is expected, forcing them to look beyond the material world for strength and confidence. I learned this lesson well at the Warehouse. I tried to explain in detail what I had been searching for. Some fake limbs. Body paint. A black wig. A string of skulls on a necklace. Fangs. A protruding tongue. Fake blood capsules. Extra credit for some fake serpents. Or a jackal. I can’t find anybody who wants to be Shiva, so that cuts down on the planning, at least somewhat.
A really helpful employee eventually directed me towards a KISS-era Gene Simmons costume. He suggested I buy a KISS costume and a Harry Potter costume and do a little mix-and-match to achieve the desired effect. My hybrid Kali, as it would have turned out, would run me almost a month’s rent. I decided against it.
What kind of warehouse store doesn’t sell fake limbs? This is ironic because most of their stuff costs an arm and a leg. This is silliness. The real irony? The day after Halloween, the contents of the Warehouse will be heavily discounted. I will just pick a day later in the year and save some serious moolah. Swedish children dress up in costumes around Easter time. I could give this a try. (As a child, I remember going trick-or-treating the neighborhood with Swedish friends. The recipients of our April visits were confused, but still gave us a few Twix bars, likely from their Easter baskets). Good things come to those who wait, right? Like Russian Orthodox Christmas two weeks after regular Christmas, where everybody has the propensity to save a bundle.
When I was a little kid, Halloween seemed a lot easier; there were fewer existential conundrums. One’s costume said less about one’s essence than what one could cull together from the contents of the spare closet or the toybox the night before the Halloween party.
The excitement was palpable as the population of the elementary school gathered on the patio to await the start of the afternoon costume parade. Serenaded by a guy from the high school pounding on a bass drum, we wended our way through town, pausing for quick pictures with family members along the parade route. When we returned to the classroom there was pepperoni pizza and candy galore on our desks.
There’s an idea for the office. Happy Kali-Ween, everybody!
Marthe Weyandt is a Pittsburgh-based yoga instructor and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and spending time in the great outdoors. She is currently learning to play guitar, albeit badly and at frequencies only dogs can hear. She believes in the power of the word, creatively and lovingly rendered, to create positive change in the world. She has a Bachelor’s in English and Religion from Dickinson College and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University. She spent two years as an English instructor with the United States Peace Corps in Madagascar. Check out some of her other work at shazaamazoid.blogspot.com.