Though I liked Halloween, I rarely spent much time planning for it. About a week prior, my mom would ask what I wanted to go as this year. I would think about it, but no ideas would come, and usually I’d say, Why don’t I go as Superman again? Superman was easy, because the costume was readily available—tee shirt with the Superman logo, blue cape tied around my neck, no need for mask or makeup. I suppose I must have worn tights, though I have no memory of that. But I liked Superman. Superman was cool. With superpowers and all. And nobody ever asked who I was supposed to be.
Superman was cool. With superpowers and all. And nobody ever asked who I was supposed to be.
I had another go-to costume as well: king. That was easy too—a purple robe trimmed with white fluff, a foil crown, and some kind of scepter. My mom actually made that one for our Purim costume party at Sunday School, but I repurposed it and wore it for Halloween too.
Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of either of those, but I did find one of another king costume. I don’t remember this one at all, but from an inscription on the shield, it’s supposed to be King Arthur. Presumably, that’s Excalibur in my right hand, which I had only recently extracted from a rock. I knew nothing of these legends. I was five.
The other costume photo I found was in full cowboy drag. It looks like I’m three or four. That’s our old DeSoto in the driveway. I don’t remember this one either. Later, I was more likely to dress up as an Indian, with a fringed vest, headdress, and tomahawk.
My most creative costume was when I was about ten. My best friend Bud and I decided to personify a popular commercial at the time. We got some cartons, painted them white, and cut them out to fit around our torsos. We then decorated mine to look like a box of New Blue Cheer, and Bud’s to be a box of Brand X detergent. We even took along dirty tee shirts for a demo—I’d drop one into my box and pull out another, pristine, while Bud’s would still come out soiled. We got a lot of candy that year.
A few years later, Bud and our friend Jonathan decided to dress up as girls, with wigs, dresses, stockings, and full makeup. They invited me to join them, but I declined. I guess I wasn’t secure enough in my boy identity at that point to risk endangering it, even for a night. No doubt I went as Superman again that year.
It would take me twenty more years to take the plunge and dress in drag for Halloween. But that’s a topic for another story.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.