It didn't do any good to just put on a plastic mask. All the kids at school would know who I was because of my hair. And wasn't that the point of wearing a costume to school? To fool your classmates?
So the year I was in third grade, my mother got the brilliant idea of encasing my entire head in orange crepe paper. She gathered it at the neck, and at the top, and voila! A walking pumpkin! A simple sheet concealed everything from the neck on down. I was thrilled. Nobody will know it's me! I figured, and I trudged off quite happily to school.
I looked mysterious and spooky in my drapey white robes and orange head. But there was one serious drawback to the costume: I couldn't eat. My mother had cut little eyeholes (from which I could barely see), and a slit for the mouth, but not a large enough slit to accommodate food. This made it impossible to partake of the party refreshments, because I couldn't open my crepe paper mouth, and I couldn't remove my crepe paper head.
All I could do was line up the sugary treats on my desk and guard them jealously.
Ian, sitting next to me in a rabbit costume which sensibly left his eyes and mouth free to use, watched me. Ian sat next to me in class, and I did not like him, mainly because he so clearly liked me.
Ian was from Canada. He was blond and always wore a tie and gray flannel pants. This was weird. Nobody wore a tie to Endion Elementary. Nobody wore gray flannel. Nobody called the teacher "ma'am" or the principal "sir." I expended a lot of energy snubbing him and making sure that he clearly understood just how much I didn't like him. This could be exhausting, because Ian had a cheerful nature and refused to be snubbed.
On Halloween, with my pumpkin head rendering me incognito, I relaxed. I let my guard down. There was no point in snubbing him, because I was Pumpkin Girl--or was I Pumpkin Boy? With the orange crepe paper encircling my head there was no way to know.
And so I laughed and chatted with Ian during the class party. We played tic-tac-toe. For that hour, he was not odious, and for that hour I did not hate him.
I remembered my hatred that evening, though, when he showed up unexpectedly at my front door. "Can Laurie go trick-or-treating with me?" he asked my mother in his polite Canadian way. I'm surprised he wasn't wearing a tie with that damned rabbit costume.
I had no idea how he had figured out that it was me behind that pumpkin head, or how he had figured out where I lived. Maybe by my shoes. Maybe by my voice. Maybe by the fact that I was sitting in my own desk.
At any rate, here he was at the front door of my house, and I grabbed my mother by the hem of her apron and dragged her into the closet. NO NO NO NO NO NO, I hissed. I HATE HIM.
My mother emerged from the closet and smoothed her apron. "Of course she can go with you," she said nicely to Ian. Then she turned and shot me a look. He seems like a nice boy, she hissed back. He went to a lot of trouble to find you and come over and politely ask, and yes you have to go with him.
To make things proper and safe, she dispatched my brother David to accompany us, as chaperone.
I could not believe this. I could not believe that I had to go trick or treating with the odious tie-wearing polite blond Ian, of all the terrible people. I slunk down the stairs, bumping a tennis shoe on each tread. I twisted my face into a ferocious scowl, which, sadly, went to waste, concealed as it was behind the crepe paper. As we made our way house to house, I lagged behind, to make clear how uninterested I was. I refused to answer in more than a mutter when he turned and asked his cheerful Canadian questions.
So David and Ian did what boys--or any sensible people--will do, when mistreated: They ignored me back. They walked on ahead side-by-side and left me behind, and I was left to trail after them for the rest of the evening. Nobody noticed my sullenness. Nobody noticed that hey, I'm not having a good time here! It's entirely possible that they didn't even notice I was there at all. By the time the evening was over I was wishing desperately that Ian would notice me again, but by then it was way too little, and way, way too late.
My first date was with a cheerful Canadian rabbit, and it ended the way so many future dates would end: with me unhappy, frustrated, and deeply confused.
2 hours ago