The perfect Halloween costume is one that is either instantly recognizable or so clever that it requires a lightbulb moment followed by a subsequent, “Wow, hell of a costume!” There’s a sense of pride and excitement that people wear on their chest when they put on the fruits of their labor and head out to parties and bars every year. Sure, Halloween changes from when you’re a child to when you’re at a bar watching your fictitious childhood idols blackout together. None of us ever thought we’d see a Mighty Duck making out with an “Oops… I Did It Again” Britney Spears. But, as we grow up and endure Halloween after Halloween, one thing remains consistent: people love dressing up.
Well, I’m not celebrating Halloween this year. It’s not because I can’t come up with a good costume or that I’ve gone uninvited to parties. And it’s not because I’m the Scrooge of Halloween’s Past or because I hate Hocus Pocus and mini-sized Snickers. It’s because one costume from Kindergarten ruined Halloween forever for me.
(Side note: my mom sent me these photos by way of her iPhone 4. To shed some light on her photography prowess, she also accidentally sent a selfie while sending them followed by a text that read, “Get rid of the picture of me now!!!!!”)
Before I rain on Halloween’s parade, allow me to say that I did have some costumes that I liked as a child. Takes this one, for instance.
I was a swaggy, tongues-out kid rocking a turtleneck (sup, Drake?) underneath his Sergei Fedorov jersey. I had my whole “Adam Banks” thing going on with my hat, bowl cut, and Hawks-colored stick. Not to sprinkle my own donut too much, but you’d have to assume that some girls formed crushes on me when I walked into class wearing that costume.
And then there was the year of the grim reaper.
My bowl cut and missing-tooth smile got to hide behind that mask and scope all the honeys. Was this a super bootleg version of a costume because you could blatantly see my face through the black mesh, thus rendering the “grim reaper” idea useless? Yes, it was. I specifically remember thinking, “Really, mom? This isn’t convincing at all.” But I went with it.
There was also the year of the hobo.
Sure, I looked happy. But I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that all my parents did was hop over to Joann Fabrics, grab some samples, hastily stitch them onto one of my dad’s old denims and then give me a stick out of our backyard with a bandana attached to it. They even had the genius idea that I could collect my candy in the bandana, because of course, there was simply no way it would continually fall off the piece of shit stick. Again, the saving grace of this costume was the fire-emoji Red Wings turtleneck underneath.
And much like every other kid in America, I had a pumpkin year.
Cute as all hell? Of course. I went with the turtleneck (obviously) / oversized cable green sweatshirt as if I was John Friggin’ Kennedy. And my cowlick game that year? Couldn’t have been any stronger. But alas, it was a recycled costume from my sister’s repertoire that I had no real intrinsic ownership over. I knew it was a hand-me-down. I knew it was unoriginal. I knew I was just going through the motions to make everyone happy.
But, in the midst of all of these, there was one costume that still chills me to this day. The year was 1991 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze had just come out. It was peak Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and everyone was acting accordingly. In class when we were asked to pose for a photo, we were hitting ninja poses. When someone asked what we wanted on our pizza, we were hating on anchovies like Michelangelo. I consistently did “high foots” — the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle version of high-fives — with my cousin. To say that I was “all in” in the Ninja Turtles would be an understatement.
Naturally, when October came along, I had to be a Ninja Turtle. I didn’t even care which one. All I knew was that I wanted to roll with a crew of my boys from house to house beating up imaginary villains while collecting all the candy. But what I got was this.
You’re seeing that correctly. I looked like such a spare. While most kids were walking around in branded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes complete with well-defined muscles, leather accents, and legitimate weaponry, I was wearing that. It was a simple children’s “Turtle” costume with a bonnet garnished with two ping-pong balls for eyes. Even today, I’m not sure what was worse — the felt of the costume itself or the red smile that adorned my bowl cut. My mom, who seemingly had good intentions, completed the look by giving me a purple slinky that she instructed me to call “my nunchucks.”
How she sent me to school that day was beyond me. I wasn’t a Ninja Turtle who surfed, ate pizza, and fucked up villains. I was a cartoon figure from a damn Richard Scary book. While all my friends jumped around me karate chopping everything in site, I was shuffling from door to door because the three-foot shell on my back made me completely immobile. I mean, just look at my eyes in that photo — they’re empty.
Whenever I look back on Halloween as a child, I don’t see my Grim Reaper costume or my Red Wings jersey. I don’t see a hobo or a secondhand pumpkin. I see an inadequate tortoise playing with a slinky. I see a kid that half-heartedly said, “Cowabunga” when he was asked to pose for a photo with all the other “Ninja Turtles” even though the teacher had to have known how awful they all made me look. That photo still haunts me to this day.
But hey, at least I didn’t have to dress up like Drake from the “Hotline Bling” video. .
Watch the TFM Crew talks about their favorite Halloween costumes, the best (drunken) Halloween traditions, and more.