Ever since an incident at a Halloween party a few years ago, I’ve come to appreciate costumes that invite a spot of role playing. My friend’s partner came as a mime. Normally, he’s a very quiet, retiring guy. As a mime though, he interacted silently, forcefully, in a mischievous, flamboyant way, with everyone. The imposed silence of the role somehow freed him to act convincingly in ways he didn’t normally act. Mime is an art largely lost on blind people, but I had infinite entertainment in watching my friend’s reaction; I laugh even now. She was blown away seeing her known and loved partner express his alter ego.
It’s been a while since I’ve dressed up, and I don’t actually ever remember having a ready-made costume. I went shopping this year though, cause I’m dressing as a nun: Sister Mary Inebriate. Because the image of a nun is so iconic, I wanted to make sure I got it right, so I went to a party supply place where I shared some un-looked-for moments of intimacy and candor with a store employee in the dressing room.
It’s not what you think; he was bringing me robes and cassocks to try on over my clothes. Things did kind of take a romantic turn though when he helped me by placing the vail over my hair. I tied it myself. Walking out of the dressing room behind him, I got to hear him ask me “So you’re going to take the vail?” Now that’s a phrase that you just don’t hear every day! At the checkout, I thought to ask for a cross to place on my bosom. The slightly harried checkout lady sent helpful dressing room guy back for it, saying, “It’s down that aisle, with the vampire stuff,” where else?
For my partner’s monk costume I had to go to a theatrical costumer’s. Had to? Got to! They were great! One of the staff found me what I wanted right away, and while I was waiting to check out, one of the friendly young ladies working there came up to me spontaneously to show me stuff, since I couldn’t just look around on my own. Now that’s customer service!
She showed me a beaky, feathery bird hat (which I might have considered if I hadn’t made up my mind already) and a red Japanese dragon mask. As she was so forthcoming, I asked her about something I thought she’d be able to help me with.
“I want to be able to bless people convincingly,” I told her, “But I’ve never seen the gestures monks, nuns and priests make when they do it.” She enlightened me that usually it’s merely the sign of the cross. I figured that, having been raised Catholic I had this one down, but she corrected my gesture subtly, then someone else Googled images of the Pope, and showed me the three-fingered hand gesture he uses. Now those staff are professionals!
I’m looking forward to the role aspects of the costume. First: it’s one of those costumes that might, for a second or two anyway, make someone wonder Whether it really is a disguise or not. Second: Something about the socially acknowledged moral superiority of the role appeals to me. I always appreciate watching someone act the part of a religious official; I enjoy the air of aloof, mildly condescending assurance, bordering on smugness. I don’t typically walk around feeling smug or anything, but I like the idea of acting and maybe feeling just a little bit above it all.