Dear Couples’ Costumes

Last year I went as Baby from Dirty Dancing for Halloween. I already have Jennifer Grey’s former nose and hair, so it was an easy sell.

(Side note: Growing up, Jennifer Grey was my model for having what was kindly termed a “strong” nose in my family and being considered pretty (anyway) as a girl. “Look at Jennifer Grey! She has a great nose, and so do you,” my mom would say. “At least you didn’t get my dad’s or your uncle’s nose—whoa! Now THAT’S a nose,” my dad would say. Then Jennifer Grey got a nose job. Then as an adult I had to have sinus surgery and my mom asked the doctors if they could just sort of fix the crook in my nose “while they were in there.” Answer: “Um, no.”)

These are my requirements for Halloween costumes: That they require no effort. That they cost no money. That there shall no be crafts involved. That they be easily identifiable. That they be comfortable and easy to move around in. That they look awesome and make me seem clever.

This is an absurd and impossible list of requirements.

I don’t like Halloween very much.

I also don’t quite understand the point of it as an adult. The best thing about Halloween is little kids in costumes. Adults in costumes are weird, alternative universe versions of themselves playing our far-fetched and often disconcerting fantasies.

James Bond: I’m wearing a tux and a misogynistic attitude.

Sexy kitty: I live in a society that is not only sexually attracted to cats, but is playing out a bestial-pedophilic attraction to the infantile development of said animal.

Batman: Glamorization of a rage-filled citizen vigilante obsessed with latex.

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: This costume is always half-assed. Take acid to do it right.

Maverick from Top Gun: Short man with a Napoleon complex who believes he will live forever due to the harmful and psychotic beliefs perpetuated by a egomaniacal 21st-century false prophet cult.

Mario & Luigi: Sexualization of round, short, bald Italian men who are good at fixing houses.

Banana: Jaundiced penis.

As writer Erin Sroka puts it in this great essay in The James Franco Review, getting ready for Halloween “in the traditional way” includes “turning non-clothing items into clothing, sexualizing occupations and characters from children’s media.”


Anyway. I put on a white button-down shirt, jean shorts, converse, fluffed my hair up (just kidding, I had to tame it down), and called myself Baby, like a totally normal grown woman.

I almost didn’t do this costume, because I realized it would be so much better if I had a Patrick Swayze to play Johnny Castle. Then I got really pissed off about this false idol worship of couples that emerges on all holidays, from Christmas to Labor Day to National Cat Day.

So instead of sourcing a boyfriend for the day, I made myself a paper doll of a picture printed from the Internet of that muscular and soulful-looking man with a distinctive jawline and hair swoop, and put him in my pocket, and called him Pocket Swayze.

And it was totally normal that I felt like I had a friend looking out for me all night from the corner of my denim shorts and felt genuinely sad when Pocket Swayze was lost on the dance floor at Rhino, a terrible and giant cavern of a bar on Capitol Hill that was filled with tourists from Bellevue and one very handsome and tall Urkel that bent his long lanky legs to fold around me on the dance floor and gave me one of the sweetest moments of my life.

Him: “Damn, girl, you got them abs.”

Me: “It’s so hot in here, I’m sorry I’m so sweaty, please stop touching my stomach sweat.”

Him: “Huh? Abs! Girl! ABS.”

Me: “Oh my god marry me. Someone has to be dressed as a preacher in here.”

Sorry, I’ll stop gushing. I know you guys hate romance.

So I was thinking about couples’ costumes again this year, and the sneaky pervasive belief that they’re better. This is one of the nasty social pressures: get married by the time you’re 30, have babies before your eggs rot, anyone who doesn’t want to work at Amazon just can’t hack it, your costume sucks unless it’s part of a matching pair.

In all other aesthetic considerations, we’ve gotten rid of matching. You’re not supposed to match your shoes to your shirt anymore. You’re not supposed to wear matching outfits with your mother once you’re grown. You’re not supposed to wear coordinated cardigans with your partner, unless you’re queer, in which case it’s so counter-culture it goes all the way around the circle to be cool again. You’re not supposed to wear matching bows in your hair with your pack of corgis. Etc.

But Halloween comes around, and our society goes full suburbia: all the matching! Match or die alone and have your face eaten off by the sexy kitten costumes of yore!

I think matching costumes are great if they meet certain conditions.

  • One of your costumes is hard to identify on its own, but together, you’re unmistakeable. The Princess Bride is a good example of this. Without a bald, nasally man by your side, you could be just any giant. But with Vizzini, you’re clearly Fezzik.
  • You in some way need each other—literally—to complete each other. Like an iPhone that’s dangerously close to dying and its charger.
  • Your costumes help each other level up. My sister and her boyfriend once were figure skaters ice dancers (correction issued by my sister, who tells me there is a huge difference). Now, a woman dressing as an figure skater ice dancer? Eh. Just an excuse to wear illusion netting and sparkles and a bum skirt. A man dressing as an figure skater ice dancer? Easily mistaken for a mariachi player (true story). A couple being an ice dancing pair? 9.6.
  • Nontraditional romances. Don Quixote and his horse. Alison Bechdel and her pencil. Vincent van Gogh and his severed ear. Adjunct professor and health insurance.

My sister, who is better at crafts, themed parties, friends, and being in relationships than I am, has frequently been in highly imaginative paired costumes while I was a vintage stewardess for three years in a row because I had a navy dress with gold buttons on it (FTW!).

Beyond the ice dancing costume (half of which she tragically lost in the break-up), she has also been half of a lion tamer and strong man (skilled use of contouring can really help on this one depending on how much CrossFit you’ve been doing) and half of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell from Overboard.

What I don’t understand is the insistence on couples’ costumes without even an idea for one.

“Hey, babe, I have this great idea to be Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. And I’m going to carry 100 tampons with me.”

“But what will I be? We don’t even know who her sugar-cheese was or if she had one because all we know is that she was awesome and it’s like she stood on her own apart from her love life. Can I be a tampon?”

“No, honey. This is something I need to do on my own. I don’t know. Maybe you could dress up like an independent human being?”

“So confusing.”

Now group costumes. All of the Arrested Development siblings. The characters from The Lego Movie. A set of legos that forms a spaceship when connected. (Come on, humanity, up your game. What are all those engineers at Apple doing, anyway?)

But the trouble with group costumes is I don’t like people.

Now friend couples’ costumes. Sam and Frodo. Abby and Ilana. Romy and Michelle. Many of the costumes from this pretty amazing ’90s two-fer costume list.

But maybe I’m just revealing the neuroses of what my friend recently called “your former aversion to couplehood.”

Hahahaha! Former!