Emerging from My Man Cave

So, my man cave has a sewing machine in it. You want to make something of it?

Right now, my living room has been turned into a temporary man cave as I desperately try to get something entirely fabulous and over-the-top done for Halloween. Obviously, blogging has fallen by the wayside. Housekeeping? Coding? My never ending novel? Dead armadillos one and all.

I’ve been reading a bit in various places and had some off-web discussions about the whole “cultural appropriation” brouhaha and with Halloween coming it seems like the perfect time to write a couple of posts about it. Unfortunately, Halloween is the closest I come to having a religious holiday, so I’m up to my neck in fabric and led lights. I’m hoping to have animatronic flappy wings this year, but the skeletal framework bent when force was applied. Last night, I glued some reinforcement to the frame, but I’m not feeling hopeful that it will work. The concept is sound. The problem is always in how to fabricate it. I know one day I’m going to wake up and find the hidden door that leads to the real man cave, the suburban garage fully outfitted as a workshop that is attached to my itty bitty Manhattan apartment. Ooh, the fabulous things I will make!

Please pardon me it this post is a little disjointed. I’m writing it during costume making breaks. Personally, the only costumes I find offensive are store bought ones. There’s a side of me that I don’t want to entirely deprive the overworked and undercreative of any fun whatsoever, but, to me, Halloween costumes are a little bit like Christmas cookies. A large part of the point lies in the making, not the wearing or eating.

I’m not a big fan of the sexy whatever costumes. Halloween is supposed to be about dressing up as something you’re not, so, obviously me dressing up as sexy totally undermines that point. 😉

My most humiliating costume is when my sister forced me to dress up as one of the members of Kiss. She and her friends liked Kiss (And you wonder why I insist on writing anonymously. It’s not so I can insult people. It’s so I don’t get beat up by my big sister.) but they were only three. They needed a fourth. Somewhere, my mother as a photo of me with my face painted like Ace Freely. Now you all know my deepest, darkest secret. I have nothing left to hide.

Do you remember a few years ago when the big Halloween panic wasn’t over cultural appropriation but over costumes that were too sexy? Suddenly they look like such innocent times.

Well, I hate to say it, but I think the wings aren’t going to flap. I’m having a little too much difficulty simply physically making the object. I think it would work if I could physically make it. Since I don’t have a man cave, I try to make things that can be fabricated with exacto knives and small hand tools. I seem to have mislaid my Dremel during my last move, so I don’t even have that at the moment.

Since Halloween is only a few days away, and according to my schedule the flappy wings had to work today or not at all, I’m going to have to regroup and just try to make it look good. It will have wings, but they won’t flap. I throw a few leds on it and call it a day.

For now, I need to sit with my coffee and relax. You know how when you’re working on something small and you’re whole body gets hunched over and all your muscles tighten up… well, that’s how I am at the moment.

I think it was Erika Christakis, ironically, who wrote something a number of years ago about how our societies anxieties get projected onto Halloween. When I was a kid, it was neighbors who might try to poison you with tainted candy. For a long time there were stories about people putting razor blades in apples, although I don’t know that that had ever happened. (I looked it up, and there were no cases of poisoning, but there have been a few cases of people putting pins or needles in candy.)

Since Halloween, with its ghouls and ghosts, is obviously about confronting anxieties, it’s not really surprising that it becomes a vehicle of society’s other anxieties as well. A few years ago, it was overly sexy Halloween costumes. An obsession of 2011, by 2012 we were getting think pieces about how criticizing women for sexy costumes was also bad. Last year, seemed to be a high point of hysteria over culturally appropriative costumes.

From an article from Psychology Today by Kit Yarrow:

Costumes are a way to explore who you aren’t. For example, it’s unlikely a waitress will dress up as a sexy waitress – or any other type of waitress for that matter. Okay, yes, there has to be at least a tiny bud of interest in the persona and character behind the costume chosen, but that doesn’t mean there is a secret wish to become that character.

“Young adults are in the stage of psychological development where trying on different roles has strong allure – it’s their job to figure out who they are. Halloween is the ultimate role play day, so it’s no wonder nearly three-quarters of 18-24 year olds plan to wear a costume. The percentage of adults dressing up dwindles a bit with every age cohort. It slides to half of 35-44 year-olds and down to one-quarter of 55-64 year-olds. By that age people know who they are and role play feels less exciting.

The writer goes on to say:

Choosing and crafting a costume takes imagination and creativity. It’s strutting around your mental assets and interests rather than your abs or cleavage – though it’s possible to do both.

I confess, that’s a big part of my motivation. It’s why I wanted wings that flap in the first place.

According to another article about the psychology behind Halloween costumes,

They reveal hidden personality traits, reflecting our inner urges on the one day it’s okay to abandon societal rules and regulations.

“It’s an opportunity to express things we’re normally not allowed to express,” says G. Dennis Rains, a psychology professor at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pa. “It’s permission to let your underside or dark side come out. We can release what we normally keep under wraps.”

The writer, Angela Haupt, continues:

Sally Foster, a recently retired psychology professor and dean, organizes a Halloween party each year at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, Calif. More fun than the requisite trick-or-treating? Analyzing student and faculty costumes. “The adults who wear really sexy costumes are usually the ones who are mild-mannered in their daily life—modest people who aren’t overtly sexual,” Foster says. She recalls one such woman who dressed as a black cat, purring her way through the night in a body-hugging costume. “Everyone wanted to touch her. Her costume was just so luscious,” Foster says. “She got to live out an aspect of herself that she ordinarily wouldn’t show.”

Which might explain why I’ve never gone as a sexy sloth – a tad too close to home, I suspect.

She also quotes J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner, “We can finally unleash them—incognito. It makes us feel like we can do whatever we want, without any consequences or repercussions.” However, she adds, “Cautionary note: Halloween isn’t always repercussion-free. Photos of controversial costumes have made their way onto Facebook, costing the wearers their jobs.”

It’s not surprising that Puritans of all eras dislike Halloween. Another holiday the Puritans didn’t like was Christmas. Maybe I can figure out how to make flappy wings on an angel by the end of the year.

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