“Who are you supposed to be?” the woman at the next table asked.
I was at a Halloween party in a local bar, wearing my standard gear: A wool top hat I bought 20 years ago in Chicago, a massive, floor-length black coat from back when Hot Topic was gothy, a many-buttoned ecru vest from International Male, along with various accessories of a Victorian bent. When I’m wearing it, I’m a character I call Dr. Daedalus Dark, toting around my quarter-scale skeleton pal, Mortimer Spine.
But when I introduced my character, the woman registered only blank disinterest. Because what she was really wondering was, “Are you a pop cultural icon I should know?”
Almost everyone else in the bar was a recognizable reference: The Doctor and his companion, Arwen and an Uruk-hai (together at last), a professional wrestler. Although my costume is rich and convincing, and I sometimes am complimented on it, I never enter costume contests anymore because it is not instantly appreciated as anything but vaguely sinister – which doesn’t win votes.
That’s OK. I’ve avoided competition for most of my life, and I have grown to think of my Halloween appearances as a kind of background mood setter, reminding people that “Oh yeah, it’s a holiday.” And, wearing the same classic get-up, I’ve been able to do that since the late 1990s.
Let’s see the guy wearing a hat like Walter White from “Breaking Bad” try explaining who he’s supposed to be 15 years from now.