Every year shortly before Halloween—like in August—my best friend would always say to me and our friend Mary, ‘Hey guys, I have a great Halloween costume idea.’ I’m convinced she mentioned this so early so that we were never prepared with our own ideas. And hers WERE brilliant ideas—for her. She’d get to be the star: a beautiful Alice in Wonderland with us as her loyal-servant playing cards (we were jokers of course) or the Beasts to her Beauty (although she was much more subtle than that.) Even though we were always the underlings, Mary and I were ok with it.
One year she wanted us to be bags stuffed full of jelly beans to go along with her furry Easter bunny. Of course we swallowed our pride and agreed, as we did every year, suckers that we were. (I mean…jelly beans. How much lower on the Halloween candy ranking scale could you go, not to mention it was a pretty lame costume?)
For our supporting role outfits, Michelle and I cut leg holes into clear garbage bags, stepped into them and then stuffed a bunch of colored balloons around our torsos. Then we tied the garbage bag around our necks with something resembling a ribbon that if tied too tight would be a potential near death experience-type situation. But we actually looked kinda sweet, as candy probably should. And the costume was clever too, or so we thought—but try peeing in it. After much preparation—blowing up the balloons, having a few drinks, putting on our white tights (cringe)—we were ready.
Going to frat parties often felt like heading straight into the lion’s den, but that night my costume was my armor. Getting a buzz on was another form of protection so I was often drunk in those days. But hey, it was college. Wasn’t everyone perpetually drunk? I was so ‘protected’ that Halloween that I stumbled and fell down the entire staircase that led to the party below, where all the cool people were standing, beer in hand. With each step, I lost a piece of my armor. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. And let me tell you: it was the world’s longest staircase. It was a mile if it was a foot. After what felt like a year but was more like 5 seconds I reached the bottom. Record scratch. Music stopped. Everyone laughing at me. Ok there was no record—I’m old but not THAT old. But people did stare. No one could pretend they hadn’t witnessed that spectacle even if they wanted to.
For the record (ha ha), I probably would have fallen into the party even if I were sober, for I have a long history of making grand entrances. Once at the same friend’s older sister’s wedding, all the guests were waiting for the drinks I was about to serve on the lawn below. I tripped on the outdoor stairwell and my silver platter full of cocktails went flying, almost knocking out a guest. It missed him but his suit wasn’t so lucky, for the Cosmopolitan splattered all down the front of it. Really graceful, Read. I even fell down the same set of stairs another time a few years later. No other victims but me in that instance, thankfully. I was on crutches for the following two weeks.
But I digress. Back down the rabbit hole/ frat basement. Every time I needed the loo (because of all the cheap beer) I would have to undo the ribbon around my neck, pull down the garbage bag and try to keep all my balloons intact. Inevitably they’d all float slowly down to the filthy ground as I frantically tried to hold them in. I’d wash one balloon, slip it back in and another would slide out. Eventually I got in all the ones that didn’t pop during my free-fall and could re-tie my neck ribbon/ torture device. The whole bathroom process took me an eternity. And don’t drunk people at frat parties just LOVE those who take too long in the bathroom? My attempt to quietly sneak out of the bathroom after so much time was foiled when the 12 people in line noticed who was slinking out. ‘Oh, it’s balloon girl.’
Somehow I survived that party but the end of the night wasn’t the end of the story. A day or two later, a woman wrote an article in the school paper about her experience of being sober on that drunkest of college high holidays, All Hallows’ Eve. She wrote, and I quote, ‘It was disgusting to what extent people degraded themselves—a woman even fell down the stairs. Vulgar.’ Perhaps she meant a *different* basement frat party with a *different* bag of jelly beans spilling down onto partygoers? There’s really no way to know.
After that incident I told my friend ‘That’s it…you’re as high as Alice if you think I’ll ever do a group costume again.’ The next July she excitedly announced she would go as Snow White. Guess what Mary and I were?
At least peeing as Dopey was easy. And as for the staircase at THAT party? Well, I’ll tell you about that one later.