As the trick or treaters finish up knocking on my door, I am reminded of the Halloween that my sister took it upon herself to create my costume. I was eleven years old, which means my sister was 27. Yes, my sister was 16 years older than me, with no siblings in between. My mother always asked me what I wanted to be each year, and she would go out to the local Woolworth’s or Barker’s and get me the costume-in-a-box. Every October, the seasonal boxes would be stacked in the department stores like birthday cakes in a market bakery, with clear cellophane tops so you could see the contents. The masks were complete with almond sliver cut outs for eyes, a cheap elastic to hold it on your head, and sharp plastic edges that would slice the sides of your face like a Ginsu knife. And even if the box was marked “Children’s Size Small”, it was more like an adult size medium in order to accommodate three pairs of sweat pants and a wool coat under it to keep us kids warm. That year, my sister asked me if she could dress me as a gypsy, complete with a Woodstock-inspired dress that she owned and all the makeup and jewels that went with it. I was thrilled. It was such a step up from the highly flammable outfit I was used to. My mom, on the other hand, wasn’t so happy.
My mother was very strict when I was a child. In fact she wanted me to stay a child as long as she could. I don’t think it was because she wanted me to enjoy all the youthful joys and delights for as long as possible. I believe it was because wanted me to think the world was evil and nothing could be more fun and interesting than living at home with her. I wasn’t allowed to date till I was sixteen. Designer jeans were for hussies. Bright lipstick was for sluts. And if you hung out at the mall for longer than two hours it usually meant you were “fast”. I don’t know if these delusional thoughts were because my sister was a child of the 60’s and everyone was California Dreamin’. Or if, in fact, my mother was… well, just delusional. I had never done anything to give her the idea I was “that” kind of girl. Hell, when I saw “Grease” for the first time, I thought Rizzo was singing Sandra Dee to me!
When my sister told my mother she was creating my Halloween look, she initially had no problems. My mother wouldn’t have to battle her way to the strip mall for my costume and could save the cash instead. My sister wasn’t very specific, however, on what she planned on putting me into. She just told my mom she had a cute dress to make me look like a gypsy and my mom thought it was fine. I guess that’s because my mother thought no matter what my outfit was, she was going to put a snowsuit on over it anyways. A few days later, my sister picked me up after school so I could go pick out the accessories to go with my costume. Shopping for the garnishes was a blast! I picked out large pieces of gaudy jewelry, complete with big hoop earrings and chunky bracelets. I had never even seen the makeup section of a department store before and I was in awe. The endless tubes of lipsticks, rainbow colors of eye shadows, sparkly glosses, deep black eyeliners and thick mascaras were there for the trying and buying. It was amazing. That was it—it was official. The cosmetic seed had been planted and I was hooked. I honestly think this was the beginning of my glamour addiction.
Because my sister was married and out of the house, she had agreed to come over, dress me up, and drive me around for my “night on the town”. I had my long flowing multicolored dress. Under it, my sister put on a dark thermal top and leggings so my mom didn’t have to cram me in Antartica-wear when we were done. Way to go sis! She tied a bandana onto my head and covered me with the endless bangles and long beads. Then she did my makeup. She glued on uber-long fake lashes and lined my eyes with charcoal eyeliner. I looked like Goldie Hawn on Laugh In. Then she jazzed up my lids with bright blue eye shadow and glossed up my lips with a frosted fuschia lipstick. I looked in the mirror and was amazed! I mean, granted, it was way over the top for a girl my age but I realized even then how defining some makeup could really be. Plus, my sister didn’t just do my makeup, but showed me what to do and how to do it. Some of those lessons I remember even now. (My sister was the queen of the liquid liner!)
Since sis was taking me out, that enabled mom to stay home. And fret. With my look complete, my sister took a deep breath, as if she knew what she was about to face. She handed me my fringed handbag to use for my treats and walked me out to the kitchen. She announced, “We’re all done, we are going to go now…I’ll make sure she’s home for bedtime mom”, and tried to scoot me out the door as quick as humanly possible. My mother, who only saw me from the back, said to my sister, “Oh, wait, you better make sure she puts a coat on!” As my mother ran over with a hat, gloves and a twenty pound wool jacket, she almost tripped over her jaw as it hit the floor like a concrete block. “WHAT THE HELL IS SHE WEARING?” Oh no… protective mother alert! Game on.
I really did not know what the problem was. I thought I looked like a colorful goddess. She thought I looked like a pre-teen street walker. “Don’t I look pretty?”, I asked my mother in a perky way. “No!”, she said in a flat evil tone directed at my sister. My sister wasn’t going to back down as she shuffled me out. “Oh good God mom, it’s only a costume. We’ll be home later.” And off we went. After two hours of sheer bliss with me spinning around in my flowing frock and batting my spider lashes at every door, we headed back to home. I think I got more candy that night than I ever had before. I gave all of my dark chocolates to my sister since they were her favorites. Not only did I give her them as my way of saying “thank you” for a fabulous night of fun, but also because at the age of eleven I thought dark chocolates tasted putrid. With my bag of goodies in hand, my sister walked me into the house so she could take her jazzy dress back home with her. As we walked through the door, my mother was sitting in the living room. Waiting. She had a jar of cold cream in one hand and a bottle of baby oil in the other. She got up, handed me the portable grease products, and sent me off to the bathroom to start scrubbing. Outside of the bathroom door, I heard my sister getting grilled. My mother was going on about her “encouraging me” and “coaching me” on the evil ways of primping and pampering. Why did I have the feeling this wasn’t the first time my sister had been through this, and why did I have the feeling this wouldn’t be my last. The only difference was my sister had moved out, and I was still stuck here. Oh well. After several minutes, my sister—now too old and too married to have to deal with this interrogation—basically left my mother bitching as she just… well, left.
My mother rapped on the bathroom and told me once I had gotten all of that **insert bad word here** off my face, to get to bed. Soon after, I took my freshly cleaned (but still incredibly greasy) face as well as my sack of sweets and headed to my bedroom to tally up the loot. When I walked in my room and dumped out my array of rolls, bars and pops, I noticed a small brown goodie bag amongst the treats. I opened it up and found the best treat of all. It was the eye shadow, eye liner, mascara and lip gloss that I had worn with my gypsy outfit that night! I looked around for my mother like I had a bag of stolen money in my room. Inside was a small piece of paper with a note from my sister: “You can keep the makeup. Just make sure if you wear some on at school, you wash it off before you get on the bus to come home!” So THAT’S how she got away with it. My sister had just shared the first trick of the teenage makeup trade. I was now an official glamour insider.
I put all of my treats back in my fancy retro bag, less two Tootsie Rolls, a Pixie Stix and a box of Dots which I enjoyed right before bed. I put everything else on top of my dresser. Everything, that is, except my makeup. I hid that in my closet inside my roller skates, next to my Shaun Cassidy album. Thanks for a fabulous Halloween, sis, and thanks for my first trip into the world of glamour!