For part II of my Halloweek series, Danica and I blatantly ripped off my favorite living artist, Courtney Brooke of lightwitch. I almost don’t want to link her here because my work is so shoddy in comparison, but there you go. I was tempted to go full plagiarist and get naked in the river, but Vermont is cold, dammit.
Photos of me by Danica. Photos of Danica, as well as all editing, by me.
I have been performing for fifteen years. Cabarets and madrigal choirs and bucktoothed middle-school plays. I love it all. I’ve got comedy/tragedy masks tattooed on my shoulder blades, for crying out loud. And haunted houses are still my favorite medium of all.
Every show looks the same behind the scenes. No matter how niche or cutting edge or avant-fucking-garde the performance, the crew is having the exact same squabbles over making the lights work and where to put the giant spider. (Maybe that last one’s just me.) After ten-hour workdays, after shoveling sawdust and spattering blood on everything in sight, it’s easy to stop caring. The magic goes out and the mundane rises to take its place.
Opening night announces itself. You pull all the levers and deliver all the costumes and hope for the best. And then you hear your first screams of the night. You toss a little blood in just the right places and hear breath drawing sharply in. Someone faints. Twice. True story. When the last stragglers run away screaming, you find your graying, zombified lover. And you scream together, because the screaming – the screaming is what makes all this worth it.
One night down, five to go. This is what I am actually wearing today. I pitted ghoulish against cozy, and cozy won.
I love ugly appliqued sweaters and other such monstrosities usually found on six- or sixty-year-olds, nothing in between. I love garish prints and clashing accessories. I love head-to-toe matching, I love it when my hair and my lipstick almost go together, and I love wearing ten shades of the same color. I love looking simultaneously like an eccentric matron and her prissy kindergarten granddaughter, and I especially love the private knowledge of my tattoos and slutty underwear beneath the Peter Pan collars. The assumption of reticence and sexual repression dogs twee femmes wherever we go, but I can hoot and holler with the best of ’em.
I love red lipstick and Disney villain eyebrows with every. single. outfit.
I love bright tights that make my thick legs thicker and shoes that broaden my broad feet. Where others see lumps and stumpiness, I see bursts of triumphant color. I love bombshell vintage kitted out with gaudy Halloween-store jewelry. I love ratty flats peeking from under my petticoats, and I love it when they don’t even pretend to match. I am learning to love that I am more cute than sexy, that my round face is cheerful and droll. That my hair makes it only rounder, that my church-lady hats do not tamp it down. I love never having enough church-lady hats.
I am everything I am not supposed to be. I am Fashion’s worst and loudest nightmare, because I refuse to flatter my body at the expense of my soul.
Despite having always claimed not to like puns, I have a mother and a partner who both spout them ad nauseam, and I fear they’ve rubbed off irrevocably. So that’s how I’m ending up with titles like “steam for a day”. BLAME THEM.
On that note, my partner Josh has always been what we in the industry fondly dub “balls-deep in steampunk”. Seriously, it’s to the point where he’ll arrive at a party in his top hat and goggles and be told “dude, you were supposed to wear a costume.” It’s for that reason that I’m often a little skittish about wearing steampunk, despite its fanciful trappings. I’m not sure whether it’s our six-year age difference or just my own neuroses, but I have this hang-up about being seen as his sidekick or protégée. I’m nobody’s puppet. But that’s a pathetic reason to avoid something. It’s still being guided by others’ opinions, just in an inverse way.
I actually felt way more comfortable in this style than I thought I would. Steampunk is just so damn brown. I like color, color, and more eye-searing color. But I kind of love this rendition. I mean, I’m wearing a fit-and-flare dress with a petticoat, plus an enormous hat. Tell me again why I didn’t get into this sooner?
Outfit partially inspired by Abney Park’s “Throw Them Overboard“. At last month’s cabaret, one of the dancers performed a number to it, featuring a stuffed octopus glued to her ass. Because of course.
So I’m basically eating, sleeping, and breathing Nightmare Vermont. And I mean literally breathing: our venue this year is an old horse barn, and after a few hours’ mucking I was coughing up black gunk. Last night I finished building a fifteen-pound suit out of mangy old stuffed animals. Yes, I realize how very “tiny violin” it is to complain about a volunteer job that I actually love with all my shriveled heart. That’s not going to stop me.
Fortunately, I’ve backlogged several outfits to tide y’all over during hell week(s). That might be cheating, but you seriously don’t want to see what I’m actually wearing today. Men’s bike leggings with way too much crotch space and an itchy sweater I found while digging through the costumes in our storage unit. Yep. Scaling the heights of fashion right here.
In the name of having something – anything – interesting to say today, I present the story of an autopiloted day far worse than mine.
So this weekend Holly and I attended Ghostacular: Paranormal Convention. The event specified “costumes encouraged” – not that we need explicit encouragement to wear costumes. Not that we actually called these outfits “costumes”, either – they’re more or less our typical weekend ensembles.
ParaCon was fun. I bought some cute pumpkin soaps. Sometimes it scares me to be in the presence of so many people who all believe the same thing, though. I attended three talks at the con, and while they were all interesting, only one bothered to address the skeptical side of things. Regardless of my love for the supernatural, I am, at heart, a skeptic. I don’t think paranormal experiences exist outside of one’s brain. That doesn’t mean they aren’t valid experiences – romantic love is just chemicals, after all, and look how much of our society is devoted to its pursuit.
Maybe I wasn’t the demographic ParaCon was courting. I don’t want to impose my preferences on a group I don’t necessarily consider myself part of. But it does unnerve me on a visceral level to see people accept anything without questioning it.
All that said, though, I do love suspending my disbelief, and I do love soaking up lore. The con certainly wasn’t short on that. Methinks I need another Queen City Ghostwalk one of these nights.
Photos of me taken by Holly. Photos of Holly taken by me.
My new soaps!