When I was younger, I looked forward to Halloween with all of the eagerness of a shy, awkward kid whose insecurities vanished for one night a year behind a cat-mask. For several years my costume was a hot pink, leopard-print body suit with a pendulous black tail pinned to the rear. In my mind’s eye, I looked fantastic, sleek and mysterious, though the effect was somewhat lessened by my Velcro sneakers. Pictures of me in that costume, however, have not well withstood the passage of time—in fact, I wish there weren’t any. I would much rather remember that costume the way I saw it through the round feline eyes of its pink cardboard mask which made my face sweat and my breath echo in my ears. The feeling of anonymity that costume gave me was a drug more potent than Hershey’s. When I was decked out in full pink leopard regalia no one knew that I was the only person in my class who still couldn’t tie her shoes without making two bows (thus the Velcro). The fact that my sister was three years younger than me yet always got to be the Barbie who didn’t have a homemade haircut, became immaterial. Nothing could touch pink-leopard me.Unfortunately, my Halloween spirit has waned through the years. Perhaps this is because dressing up when you are young is more than dressing up; you assume another identity, and, rather than telling you that you just can’t wear your sequined tutu to school, for one evening every adult around you only encourages your fantasy. I believe the low point of my Halloween enthusiasm occurred during my freshman year at Bard, when I wore an orange shirt to a party and claimed to be a carrot. The shirt had writing on it, but I hadn’t bothered to turn it inside out. Several friends eyed me skeptically when I told them what I was, and asked why I hadn’t at least said I was dressed as a pumpkin. I lowered my head. That hadn’t even occurred to me.I can accept the fact that my indifference toward Halloween as of late is mainly because it is a holiday geared toward younger children and petty felons. However, it can also be argued that my decreased interest in dressing up coincided with my enrollment in a college where many choose to do so every day of the year.
In high school, my friend Karen, who now goes to Yale (which may or may not be relevant), once told me as we approached the subway station that they had raised the price of a token from $2 to $2.50 “I’ll buy your token,” she said, as I spluttered with the indignant outrage appropriate to an occasion when the price of standard transportation has been raised by fifty cents in a single day with no warning. I gave her the money, she bought my token, and as we stood waiting for the train, she gave me my fifty cents back in disgust. She said she couldn’t keep the money because it reminded her that she was friends with someone like me.
My prank-prone friends quickly learn that they have no need to concoct elaborate schemes in order to fool me into believing ridiculous lies. Why go to the trouble of enlisting others to help persuade me that you have an identical twin when you can fool me just as easily by pointing to a photo of yourself and saying, “And that’s Lisa”?
It seems my extreme gullibility dates back to not-so-early childhood, when I believed in the Tooth Fairy, possibly the least interesting and most blatantly phoned-in of all childhood myths. Even my parents’ obvious lack of enthusiasm in discussing the Tooth Fairy’s sordid and slightly creepy pursuits failed to dampen my spirits. Possibly, on a certain level, they were disappointed in me for believing their story, and I can’t blame them. I, however, gleefully counted the rest of my baby teeth, pondering the profits they would bring in one day and considering my mouth to be a sort of trust fund. I decided that a fairy who gave money for teeth would be a valuable ally to have on my side, and went about befriending her in the only way I could think of. My next lost tooth went under my pillow with a note that said: “Tooth Fairy, do you want to be my friend? Check one box for yes or no.” At the bottom were the two corresponding boxes. The chance that this note still exists curtails the possibility of my ever going into public office. To add insult to idiocy, the tooth fairy did not check either box. Perhaps this is a large part of why, even now, I suffer from a crippling fear of rejection.
I would like to think that being gullible is not something to be ashamed of. It suggests a kind of innocence that not everyone is proud to admit to. A willingness to take others at their word, to trust them when they tell you that ‘lite’ beer is called so because it has less alcohol, or that there’s a salad bar in the basement of the public library. I’m hoping it has raw spinach.