Costumes for Life

What did I wear for Halloween when I was little?  My mother was creative with her suggestions.  She was a homemaker, and it was part of the job description to help with–if not make entirely– Halloween costumes (there were not yet stores that sold pre-made costumes).  My earliest memories were that I was a witch, of course. One year, at about age six, I was an Asian girl (it was the sixites, and such things were not considered wrong).  Then I was an organ grinder, complete with a large belly, a beard, cardboard organ and a stuffed monkey. The year the movie Mary Poppins came out, I was Mary Poppins.  This was the first year I distinctly remember that maybe my costume was too good. You know the feeling as a teen:  okay, maybe I shouldn’t let my mom be so involved.  It was a great costume, complete with a carpet bag, a little hat with flower, dyed hair and an umbrella. But after that I took matters in my own hands. The next year, I was a beatnik, then I was a hippie.  That was it.

I loved Halloween. Because the holiday allowed me to become someone else for a day, I did not have to worry about who I was. I always had a love/hate relationship with myself, most particularly my body.

In junior high school, we all try to figure out how we fit into the mix.  Are we a cool kid, a nerd (the term used back then. Geek was not coined yet), an intellectual, a hippie, a jock? For girls, it was narrowed even further: good girl, bad girl, “easy?”  I managed to figure out how to escape all of it by staying outside of any group and becoming… AN ARTIST.

And so, for the rest of my life, I was able to escape. And define myself as I wanted. Because most people think they “don’t understand” artists, consequently we can wear what we want, say what we want, do what we want (as long as it pays the bills). I make it sound easy, but it wasn’t really.  But it was easier than having to decide which other category to fit into.

The opening cartoon above is a version of the original, which is published in my book.  Life is a series of choices.  Here is the original cartoon:



About Liza Donnelly

Cartoonist and writer and live drawer for The New Yorker, CBS News. Speaker for TED and others. Books: Women On Men,
This entry was posted in About the book, From the Book and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Costumes for Life

  1. USelaine says:

    I remember a “cross-dressing” costume too. It was a hand-me-down viking ensemble from my brother, which was purchased as a kit, including a plastic, horned hat, sword (blunt tipped, but real metal), round shield with bosses, fake beard, and fake leather tunic. As I walked in the first-grader Halloween procession at school, I distinctly recall little boys saying to each other “Whoa! A viking!” and being so proud, but embarrassed by the attention. A clue I was not meant for the stage. I never dressed up in a “male” role again.

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