My friend told me that when she was 6 years old, she asked to be Mary Tyler Moore for Halloween.
I love Mary Tyler Moore. I love her eponymous TV show. I love her ’70s miniskirts and boots. I love that lady in the opening credits of her TV show who glares at her as she throws her hat up in the air as a voice sings “you’re gonna make it after all” in the background.
But how on earth would you dress up as Mary Tyler Moore for Halloween? Who would get it in this day and age, especially if you, like my friend at her young age, bear no resemblance to the ’70s icon?
Which brings me to a question with which I often grapple: how obscure is too obscure for a Halloween costume?
Ever since I was in fourth grade I have not wanted to go the normal route for Halloween costumes. That year I was a ’50s witch; a witch from the ’50s with an outfit that looked like Sandy’s at the end of Grease. It took a lot of explaining.
Throughout my years I have gone through other costumes and ideas, sometimes forgoing them because they were too difficult to plan or just too strange. In high school I had this great idea: I would dress up in ’50s clothing (notice a trend), carry an Easy-Bake oven around and be Sylvia Plath. Get it?
Even dressing up as Annie Hall during my senior year of high school did not yield the results for which I would have hoped. People were confused as to why I had dressed up as a boy.
Halloween is a time for people to show off. Some girls choose to show off their bodies wearing skimpy outfits with no discernible “costume” element (it makes me think of Mean Girls — “I’m a mouse. Duh”). Others, like me, use Halloween to show how clever we are. We beg, “look at my deep knowledge of ’70s pop culture, literature or classic films!” When people question what we are, at least in my case, there’s a secret joy.
Maybe we’re no better than the girls who try to show of their bodies for Halloween. We use the holiday as a time to parade our intellect.
But, why not? No matter what, we’re all going to look ridiculous on the night of Oct. 31 so why not milk it for all it’s worth, even if it makes us seem pretentious.
This year I wanted to be Edith Bouvier Beale, a.k.a. Little Edie, Jackie O.’s cousin and the focus of the documentary “Grey Gardens.” Edie described her day-to-day outfits as costumes. She and her mother, Big Edie, lived as recluses in squalor until they became the subject of a national sensation. Edie was always dressing up, unsatisfied with her life. In some ways that’s what Halloween is. In the documentary Edie and I agree on what the “best costume for today” is: “This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don’t like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear panty hose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today.”
Her manner of dress was strange but stylish in its own perverse way. She used what she had to make herself glamorous even when the world around her was filled with cats, raccoons and feces (yes, feces). And maybe that’s what Halloween can do: let you be who you secretly, maybe shamefully, want to be for a night, whether that’s Mary, Sylvia or Edie. Because who cares if people say, “and who the hell are you?”