Crafte's Inferno: Scary Crafty Excesses or How to Terrify the Opposite Sexcomments (13) October 10th, 2008
When I received the invite to my very first boy-girl party, a costume party, I was absolutely thrilled. The prospect of me and my eighth-grade all-girl schoolmates mingling with students from the all-boys' school while dressed up as someone else struck every one of us as the perfect opportunity to stand out and make those boys take notice. With the artful application of some make-up and a well-thought-out costume, this was our chance to be seen the way we wanted to be seen. Looking back, I can see so clearly that this was exactly where the pubescent road forked and everyone else went gleefully in one direction and I unwittingly took the road less (if at all) traveled.
In the weeks leading up to the party, my friends and I would gather in the cafeteria and brainstorm a million transformational ideas. Betsy was going to be a sleek black cat. Kelly gushed about how she filled out her mother's prom dress and that would make her the perfect princess. Two of my best friends, Lori and Tracey, begged me to team up: We could "feather" our hair and go as Charlie’s Angels! I politely declined and instead offered counsel, tossing out excellent suggestions for a Wonder Woman bustier or a switching cat's tail. Whenever anyone asked me what I planning to go as, I’d just shrug—not because I didn’t have a plan but because I was afraid that someone might steal my idea.
While all of my friends were busy combing the malls for cute kitten ears and black Danskin leotards, I was busy at home sketching forms and experimenting with fabrics and recipes. See, I had a plan all right. Oh, I was going to get noticed. Never again would I be the just another anonymous girl in a navy-blue plaid skirt, knee socks, and loafers. My aim was to blow those boys away. I couldn’t sleep thinking about the boy conversations I would have by the bowl of dip at the costume party. I was going to hold him, no, them, rapt with attention as they pressed me for every exacting detail of just how I did it. I imagined myself meting out the wonders of my creativity slowly as not to intimidate, but to inspire, bewitching them with my can-do-spirit and amazing ingenuity.
You see I was going to be The Phantom of the Opera. I had determined (without any research) that the base materials for my costume did not exist—so I would make them myself. My mother had an old cashmere coat, which was actually pretty fabulous, but in its exquisite yet dated tailoring I saw a metaphor for faded glory. I made a voluptuous ruffled ascot to billow fetchingly around my neck. I made gloves and stuffed them to deform my hands. I shoved pairs of socks into my father's boots to disguise my feet. Over my dark hair I wore one of my mother’s short blond curly wigs. My goal was to be completely unrecognizable—I wanted my very gender to be indistinguishable. The costume itself was fantastic but it was really just a backdrop to the "main" event that I was creating. For the real masterpiece of total-Michaela-annihilation was in the mask that I had concocted—and it took me weeks to get it just right.
I took double-sided tape and affixed it to my face. To this I stuck puffs and mounds of toilet tissue and then slathered a poultice of peanut butter, oatmeal, food coloring, and Karo syrup all over the tissue. Then I used a Gillette Super-max blow dryer and blew hot air all over this mealy-mess until it crusted and cracked all over. When I was finally dressed, I looked into the mirror and gasped! I did not recognize myself at all, not even a little bit—I was overjoyed!
As I made my way out the door and to my father waiting in the car, my mother was momentarily distracted from her movie-of-the-week. She looked at me in horror (I think she actually stood up) and said, ”You are NOT going out like that!” I found her reaction very affirming: If I had grabbed her attention, just think of how my friends would react!
So that no one would recognize our car and blow my disguise I had my father drop me off a block away from the party. I walked up and rang the bell. I will never forget the look on Mr. Passerelli's face as he opened the door to let me in. To this day, I think of that look as the definition of the word "dumbfounded." Mr. Passerelli literally had to shake himself back to reality and then he led me to the basement stairs. I opened the door, took a deep breath, and began my descent.
I was about three-quarters of the way down the stairs, when, like a raging forest fire, my arrival swept over the crowd and brought the party to a screeching halt. Instantly I was not only the natural center of attention—I was the undisputed core of my eighth-grade universe. Every jaw was dropped and I saw that yes, my costume had indeed blown everyone away, but more powerful was the impact of my peers realizing (with horror) that they all actually knew someone who was capable of something like this.
For me it was like puberty had unmasked itself. All around me my girlfriends were debuting their budding sexuality, cute cat ears and all. While I had (working for weeks) turned myself into a monster. After the initial shock wore off, I began to receive the kind of attention that a stark-raving maniac might garner from a frightened but rubbernecking crowd.
Everyone, even friends of mine, tried to guess who it was—and here was at last a bit of mercy—they could not figure it out. Fortunately, I had been rendered speechless and I knew that if I spoke they would know my voice immediately. So I took an instant vow of silence, grabbed a bowl of chips and sat in dark corner all alone.
What had I been thinking? I felt so betrayed by my own creativity. I was so grateful to have been so secretive but I cringed when I remembered that I had done so in fear of Halloween espionage: as if someone else would have actually been insane enough to do this. I hated my friends who somehow knew that a Halloween costume party meant princesses, superheroes, and TV stars. I hated my life. The worst part was that I had gotten exactly what I wanted. I was now holding at least a dozen boys rapt with attention: They were trying to guess my identity. Oh, and it got worse, because eventually my name came up and I had to suffer a very cute boy staring right into my face the way you would bravely stare at a rock in a tank that someone told you a tarantula lived behind, and say, "No way that's Michaela, she could never look that ugly."
That's when my best friend Lori, the only one who knew my true identity and who pitied me for it, sidled up and whispered that everyone was talking about playing spin-the-bottle but that they couldn't because I was there. The transformation was now complete—I was the Phantom of the Opera: disfigured, misunderstood, looking for a love that would never truly understand me and now I had peanut butter in my eyes and it was making me cry. I quietly got up and slipped out into the night.
I was going to walk the mile or so home—I was too humiliated to call my parents. This part of Providence didn’t have sidewalks, so I had to walk up the middle of the street and when the first car passed by, braked sharply, and started to back up, I panicked—it was still two weeks before Halloween and I could've given someone a heart attack. So I ran behind someone's house and made my way home weaving through the backyards: turning on light sensors, driving dogs insane, and watching curtains part from the neighborhood watch. As I sobbed along, I tore the crusty mask off of my face and left a drenched trail of toilet paper behind me.
The next morning, I sat in front of my bowl of steaming oatmeal, as my mother prepared her grocery list. She held up the empty jar of peanut butter in my direction, "So, you gonna pull another one of your Halloween stunts and use up all the Jiff or what?"
Instead I asked her if we could go to the mall and find a black Danskin.
Next up on Crafte's Inferno, The Sixth Circle of Craft Hell: Crafting for the Holidays; A Lie in the Making
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