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The Importance of Being Earnestly Costumed

bay to breakers

Muppets at Bay to Breakers, photo courtesy of jasoninhollywood.

Originally published on Fest300

There’s a photo of me floating around out there that virtually guarantees that I can never run for public office (outside of San Francisco of course). In it I’m clearly intoxicated, wearing Mickey Mouse ears and a pink leotard. One of my eyes is going the wrong way while the other has that red Terminator thing going on, and I’m holding a large bottle of Puerto Rican scotch called Black Cock.* Yes, Black Cock. 

Included in my cohort that night was a 1940s mobster, a flight attendant, Holly Golightly, and Jesus. It was Halloween 2008, and like people all over the country, we’d been waiting all year for the chance to put on costumes, drink unfortunate amounts of alcohol, behave irresponsibly, and laugh giddily at the wonderful getups we saw people vamping in on the streets. For a night, we got to be someone other than ourselves, even if that person had absolutely no affiliation with the costumes we were wearing.

And in a way, that’s what makes the act of wearing a costume so magical. The costume is transformative. It can be spiritual or playful, sexy or sedate. In San Francisco we revel in the chance to dress up. Seeing as each year there’s some new event added to the calendar for which we’re expected to don a disguise and dance in the streets, most San Franciscans have a costume box in his or her domicile. It’s part of our culture. We use costumes as a way to express the parts of ourselves that don’t normally get to sing. 

Think about the last time you dressed up, whether it was for a costume party, Halloween, Burning Man, Dia de los Muertos, or even your prom. Now remember the feeling you had while getting ready: the excitement, the nervousness, the anticipation of what the evening may hold for you, and the joy of recounting previous nights where you put your grown-up self to bed early and let your kid self stay out all night long. This is all part of the transformation, part of the letting go...

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