and I quote

october 2015

click for permalink October 23, 2015

The first year I remember dressing up for Halloween was when I was nine. I had just discovered comic books—not like Betty & Veronica, but the grown-up kind where super-strong, beautiful genetic mutants dress like wild animals, insects or Solid Gold dancers and fly around fighting each other—and in the case of Marvel, spend the rest of their time talking about how much it sucks to have amazing super-powers.

My favorite for a while was Dazzler, a struggling nightclub singer who could turn sound into light, like an atomic-powered disco ball. The plot lines generally were cribbed in equal measure from similar female heroines (like Supergirl and Spider-Woman but not Wonder Woman) and romance comics like Katy Keene. So, e.g., she'd be on a date at the beginning of an issue and some random super-villain like Doctor Octopus or Galactus would attack nearby and she would realize there are no other mutants in all of New York right now, so it's up to her to save everyone in the roller rink, or the gym or whatever. There was usually a guest star like Spider-Man or Dr. Strange and anyway, I'm not saying it was good. Nothing that nine-year old girls like is actually good, but we generally grow out of it... and sometimes we revisit it 18 years later with a way better costume.

Halloween 1983 and 2001: Dazzler

I started making these ridiculous little avatar things for my Halloween costumes on this site. The clothing options are seriously limited but after awhile, it was like a challenge to get through all of them. (Don't judge, it's more creative than Sudoku...)

1985: Marilyn Monroe

1986: Cleopatra

This was before the Internet, so I'm not sure where my inspiration came from. It might've been a network TV broadcast of the Liz Taylor epic, at best, or maybe it was the Scarlet O'Patra version with Vivian Leigh, but I suspect it had a somewhat dodgier origin than that. Maybe a shampoo ad in Cosmo or the enticing box cover of some B-movie glimpsed at the video store but never actually rented because my mother would have (quite rightly) identified it as "trash." Either way, my approach to the queen of the Nile was no worse than any other white girl's—to me, the costume was not about the complicated gold headdress or yards of satin drapery—it was about lots of eyeliner and, because I've got the coolest mother in the universe—dying my ash-blonde hair jet black. Oh, and one of those cool snakey-armband things. For some reason my adolescent brain equated them with uber-female awesomeness and I would dearly love to have a footnote for the exact moment that indelible association was created. (It was probably Love Boat.)

1987: Nancy Wilson from Heart

This costume wasn't technically, or at least not exclusively—for Halloween but rather a series of lip sync contests at the Seattle Center which used to be the site of a very cheesy amusement park and a cavernous indoor food fair where my friend and I used to enter these contests on the weekends, doing Heart songs from their "glam rock Barbie" period—and rather brilliantly, I daresay. We were a crowd favorite. I had a totally realistic-looking guitar made of cardboard and she had an inflatable keyboard. We both wore great big 80s wigs and tons of makeup, and we really meant it. We kicked ass.

It was fun until the third or fourth time when the MC, an attractive girl in her mid-20s, took us aside after the show and gave us this intense lecture about how we were "too sexy." She kept trying to make it seem like she was being friendly, like we were all girlfriends or something. She told us it would be totally appropriate if we were in a bar, but this is a family place, you know? At which point I had to laugh out loud and tell her we were 13. No, that would not, in fact, be at all appropriate. Or maybe it was my mother who said that to her. I might have been beyond putting intelligible words together at that point. Nowadays there are probably laws in place to prevent grown women from shaming 13-year olds by telling them they're "too sexy," but this was the 1980s, so technically I guess she could have given us crack or indoctrinated us into the Church of Scientology, and no one would have batted an eye. (For the record, you fucking cow, don't tell 13-year old girls they're too sexy. I hope your kids are in jail.)

1988: Cyndi Lauper

When "True Colors" came out in 1987, the video for it's most anthemic track, "Change of Heart" was on MTV around the clock. (For the pre-Millennials... that's how we watched music videos back then. We kept MTV on all the time—or until our parents started raving at us to "go outside" and blah blah blah. (They eventually gave in and hooked up the cable in our rooms.) It was the only way you could be sure you wouldn't miss it when they played your favorite song. If a song got really popular—or if the powers-that-be decided to put them on "heavy rotation" (or "power rotation"), the VJs were required to play it 16 times per week during peak hours, which meant after school and weekends. "World Premiere" videos (while semantically suggestive of a single event, a song typically "premiered" over a long weekend) might be played every hour on the hour, like when Prince's "Raspberry Beret" premiered and by Monday only the most passionate Prince fans could stand it anymore. Often you would wait for hours and hours for your favorite song to play (it wasn't like you could call Nina Blackwood and request it like it was a radio station). Other times you wished that Guns 'n' Roses would just buy their own Bizarro World MTV station so you could enjoy yours without "Welcome to the Jungle" playing every 10 goddamn minutes.)

Anyway, the 80s were a great time to be an adolescent girl because you could wear just about anything (or everything at the same time) and nobody cared, except of course for the designated MC of the lip-sync contest at the Seattle Center because who else will speak for the children?

1989: Vasquez

My parents decided to move us from Seattle to Charlottesville, VA in August of 1988. We celebrated my birthday at a diner in Ogden, Utah and arrived in time for my first day of school at a small, hippie enclave in the hills, practically next-door neighbors to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Compared to my old school, it was a fashion-free zone, utterly devoid of goths, glam rockers, new wavers or wanna-bes of anything recognizable. The two identifiable tribes were second-generation granola (with names even weirder than mine) and hicks (who were probably two generations removed from slave-owners). Unspoken peer pressure and unbearable humidity conspired against all my rituals, and I soon gave up wrapping my hair in perm rods every night and scrunching a golf ball of mousse into into it every morning to achieve Michael Hutchence-style tendrils that audibly crunched when you touched them.

My crimping iron was rendered useless by similar factors; specifically one day a girl who probably just thought she was making polite conversation surveyed my below-shoulder-length crimped hair and exclaimed in her southern drawl, "Doesn't it take you forever to do that every day??" No, of course not. Not really, I muttered, and then probably had to excuse myself because it had started to rain and my hair would be straight within minutes if I stayed outside.

I have no memory of Halloween 1988, but it didn't involve a costume, so I'm pretty sure I spent it torturing my parents, sulking around in a malaise of teenage angst, bemoaning the loss of my cool west coast friends and whining about how backwards and pathetic the entire eastern seaboard was, etcetera.

By my second year in Virginia, I had almost stopped wearing makeup altogether and I had the second-shortest haircut of my life (the shortest ever was a few years earlier as the direct result of my Summer of Sun-In). I had set aside, at least temporarily, my lifelong fear of not looking "like a girl," just long enough to go full Colonial Marines for Halloween 1989.

"Hey Vasquez... have you ever been mistaken for a man?"

"No... Have you?"

1990: Sinead O'Connor

The outfit consisted of black pants, a black turtleneck and black trench coat, all plucked from my regular clothing rotation. The only thing that made it "costume" was the "Daddy Warbucks" bald wig I'd found at either the toy store or the dollar store, which sat on top of my poufy hair like a reservoir-tipped condom, but I figured at least I was putting in more effort than my boyfriend at the time, who still hadn't decided what he was going to wear by the end of the day. When we arrived at my house after school to get ready for the Halloween party I was prepared to launch into a rant, in that particular pitch that's unique to 16-year old girls, when he ducked into my room and shut the door behind him, leaving my grandmother and I to wonder what he was doing in there for the next 10 minutes.

When he emerged, he was wearing my black Joan Jet wig (yes. What is your question?), which he had turned 180 degrees so the short spiky bangs were in the back and the long-in-the-back part was flopping around madly in front of his face, where he had applied a bold streak of fire engine-red lipstick, making him the spitting image of Robert Smith. It was perfect. Nobody had to ask—and nobody, for the rest of the evening, paid the slightest attention to what I was wearing, which was just as well. Reservoir-tipped condoms are among the ugliest things you can wear, even at the best of times (i.e., in the heat of passion) and they go sharply downhill from there.

1991: Ariel/The Little Mermaid

My first year in college at a school known all over Baltimore for having some of the best, most creative Halloween costumes you'll ever see. People started preparing during student Orientation, in the first week of September. My hair was shoulder-length again and over the last summer I spent in Virginia, a fantastic hairstylist had introduced me to the miracle of spiral perm rods (and thus began a decade-long love affair). The hair salon nearest to the art school campus offered students an insane discount on all services every Monday which ensured they had a steady business through the winter and an ever-changing roster of aesthetically adventurous clients. The week before Halloween, I dyed my hair Jessica Rabbit red, but I couldn't figure out the dress—and I didn't have a Roger—so I went for the second-best red-haired cartoon character, the little mermaid.

1992: Madonna

Art school does funny things to people. Some take up smoking clove cigarettes, others try drugs. Most of them dye their hair—or shave their heads, or pierce unmentionables. In my class, a statistically improbable number of girls suddenly wanted to be called "Zoe." Many come out of the closet (and a few go back in after graduation). Many of them come away with a lifelong inability to justify spending money on things like framing pictures and, yes, Halloween costumes. And for some, for a while anyway, it compels them to lower their inhibitions and abandon false modesty, to seek out the attention of others and reciprocate it with genuine interest and curiosity of their own...

The same year that Madonna put out a $100 coffee table book called "Sex," I celebrated my second Halloween at art school wearing a short platinum blonde wig, hot pants and a black leather halter top purchased at a sex shop for a quarter of the price of the book, and made an entrance at the party arm-in-arm with a famous local drag queen. She was also dressed as Madonna, with homemade breast-cones and a long blonde ponytail. We blew kisses to the crowd from the landing of the marble staircase and tossed condoms from the basket on the counter of the school's free health clinic.

1995: Sexy Vampire ('Nuff said?)

1996: Barb Wire

The best thing about this costume is that no blonde wig is too cheap to adequately capture the essential quality you're trying to convey. In some ways, this is everything you want in a Halloween costume: over-the-top glamour, instantly recognizable (especially with the "barbed wire" armbands) and weapons.

1998: Sexy Vampire

1999: Sexy Vampire (sigh)

2000: Pass

2002: Harem Girls with Mr. Pink (yes, I took a chance at being upstaged again by a boy in lipstick).

2003: Gwen Stefani

Technically it was a "rock star party" some time in the summer but it still counts.

2005: The Bride from Kill Bill

The last time we went to an actual Halloween party or put a genuine effort into costumes was 10 years ago... but rather than letting that linger in the air and getting all morbid about it, I prefer to remember how much fun it was. It all started with my sudden realization that Quentin Tarantino's epic came out the very same year that I coincidentally had, for the first and only time in my adult life, long, straight, blonde hair and, for reasons that still aren't entirely clear to me, bangs. Next, the mad search of the apartment and, failing that, the nearby thrift store, for an appropriate pair of yellow track pants and shirt... or, okay, white track suit and some Rit dye?? Well, luckily for me, it turns out that Rit dye is way easier to use that you would expect—especially when you're dying something white that cost next to nothing and you don't care if you never wear it again after tonight.

The pain in the ass part was sewing the black stripes down the sides of both arms and legs. I can't remember why, but the sewing machine was out of commission. So for what seemed like hours while everyone else was getting ready, I was tediously sewing, like, 12 feet of goddamn black stripes on by hand. Anyway, I hadn't even thought about it until we were all about to leave and our friend called to say she was going to Toys 'R'Us to pick up something for her neighbor, and did we need anything? and I blurted out, oh my god, I'm so sorry, but is there any way you can find me a sword?? And so she did!

That's a good high note on which to end my avatar tour of Halloweens past.



click for permalink October 12, 2015

Is it autumn already? Meh, the seasons are all fucked up. The entire Midwest on out to the eastern seaboard has economized its year down to two seasons, summer and ice age, while in the Pacific Northwest it's mild and temperate practically all year round, we haven't seen an honest winter since 2009 and it barely even rains enough anymore to keep the people depressed enough to need all the marijuana dispensaries. All I know is, as of this evening, zombies are back in season.

And it's about god damned time... It feels like a lot longer ago than March since the last episode of Season 5 aired, but maybe it's just because in the interim we also saw the last-ever episode of Mad Men and quite possibly but hopefully not (fingers crossed, #savehannibal, #fannibals, #hannigram) the last-ever episode of Hannibal which, by the time the last episode was broadcast on the night before my god damn birthday, had become my favorite show by far in as long as I can remember (that being said, I have a very short memory for such things, just as I'm sure do you and so does everybody else). So, besides pining for an implausible bordering on operatic, ultraviolent, too artsy for its own good, network subvertingly homoerotic, high-lowbrow television show cut short before its time with a whole season conceived by its creator which may never come to fruition—not to mention seeing the last scene of its finale play out in my head more times than I'm comfortable with—what have I been up to?

Well, today I discovered this site called Fitbay. It's one of these sites that seeks to satisfy the fundamental need of all women since time immemorial to express their opinions about what other women are wearing, and in turn to receive the opinions of women about what they themselves are wearing. The internet is in a unique position, historically speaking, to not only serve both needs simultaneously, but also to monetize them by partnering with retailers and selling it all back to the women, who also provide free advertising by uploading tagged pictures of themselves in said clothes. (Which is what sets fitbay apart from the slumber party model on which it's based—well, that and the lack of crying... from what I can tell anyway.)

But Fitbay is smart enough to bury its retail connections (most sites don't even try), keeping the brand names a couple of clicks away from the main draw—a "community" (of people from both genders, technically) who upload not just their "selfies" but stats—body type, height, weight and a handful of other highly subjective measurements like high or low waist, etc., the helpfulness of which vary depending on how much you trust any woman's ability to judge her own figure and accurately place it on the spectrum of all women and contextualize that against the elusive "average" woman. And if you're thinking, but if women could do that, would they even need this website? Well, you might just be too smart for your own good.

And so but anyway, you submit your stats and your profile pic and the site churns out its first batch of recommendations of profiles you can follow, based on how similar they are to the stats you provided.  I'm not sure what's factored into the algorithm and what's not—e.g., age is a basis for recommendations, but whether it's considered a factor of similarity is unclear (for the record, it shouldn't be). In addition to age, the site recommends people based on where you and they live, the popularity of their profiles, connections to other profiles you're following, and some it seems to recommend just because. But you don't have to take their word for it; you can search all the profiles and follow anyone whose picture catches your eye in the stream of never-ending uploads.

The site also has a "size finder" feature which I immediately tried in the hopes that it could answer a question I haven't found any other way of answering (short of, you know, going into a store that sells them and <shudder> actually trying them on) and that is, can Rick Owens jackets be worn by women with breasts? (By which I mean fuck it you know what I mean.) Unfortunately, as of today, the site has never heard of Rick Owens, either because it's a relatively new site and people haven't gotten around to uploading every single brand that exists yet OR because the only people who actually wear Rick Owens are models and infamous anorexics like the Olsen twins and Taylor Swift.

Although she's obviously more of a pear shape, we know J-Lo has breasts and she is wearing a Rick Owens jacket in this picture, but I also think that's as far as she can lift her arms in it.

Another annoying thing about the site is you can't sort recommendations or the stream of people you follow in any meaningful way, e.g., the one thing that brought you to the site in the first place, which is similarity. This is either a baffling oversight or a by-product of whatever nefarious ulterior motives they may be hiding from their users to get them to upload all their personal pics and data, but until I figure out which it is, I'm willing overlook it. All things considered, Fitbay is less useful than advertised but strangely more addictive.

(Ugh, I just thought of something else. Is it possible that "fitbay" is pig latin for "befit" and, if so, is it too late for me to take back everything I just said?)