We all have a friend who likes to dress up, closets filled with props and various accessories, ready for any impromptu event. I am that person, and I am not ashamed of my extreme fondness of the subtle artistry such a hobby requires. People often refer to costume parties as children’s play, games reserved for the young and infantile part of society, whileas the real grown-ups have naturally outgrown the urge to participate in such displays of naiveté.
However, such a statement is far from true. When a child thinks of dressing up, the first emotion stirred is one of amusement and joy, but this simple game is a more psychologically driven activity than one would think. Children are like little boxes of dreams, filled with visions of possibilities and brightly-lit futures; a pirate costume is real to a five year old boy who wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between velvet and polyester, a princess’s crown is always as light as plastic for a girl repeatedly described as the heiress of her father’s heart. At 10, one still has hopes of becoming a werewolf or saving the world in a caped red and blue spandex uniform, and nobody would dare tamper with the extreme softness of a child’s core, bustling with ideas of what could be. At 16, a girl understands a tramp isn’t part of the social elite, but she wants to know what it’s like to be a desired woman, escape the walls of her underage cage and be seen as a fully-developped young lady, even if she doesn’t fit into the Chelsea Clinton image her parents envisioned her in. A costume is the youth’s way of starting life, accelerating time accordingly to what they imagine their futures to look like, however distorted an adult would claim them to be.
As for adults, things don’t differ so radically as we’re lead to believe. I for one love to dress up, and I know plenty a grown-up who’d courageously say the same, for courage is effectively needed in a society like ours where any deviant is classified as mentally disturbed. We dress up for fun, one can’t deny, but I like to think our psyches aren’t as shallow as the eyeball-filled Halloween party punch bowl. We slip into princess gowns, wear feathery wings and put on vampire fangs in an attempt to experience what we were so unfortunately refused, be it recognition, fortune, peace or control. Costumes are the ever-lasting means humans have conceived to exorcise the unfulfilled desires and fantasies still swimming in our minds, parched and dizzyingly demanding to be replenished.
Life has a way of unapologetically denying us many a thing, and if sometimes we can naively put on a wig and be someone else for a night, then why the hell not? Although I would probably keep my kids away from a grown man disguised as Elmo.