October 25, 2007

The Annual Twisted Tea Party

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Normally, a girl who dresses in a miniskirt that barely covers her panty-less crotch, covers her chest with a shredded wife-beater that is bound to reveal a half of a nipple after a few hours of dancing, cakes her face with a couple thick coats of makeup, wears an eye-patch and calls herself a pirate is widely recognized as a prostitute. We see that girl on HBO’s AC Hookers. She struts up to seedy cars with promises to give the drivers a “piece of this.” She fulfills the fetishes of Jersey perverts striving for sex on the high seas.

Normally, a group of college girls who plays an elaborate game of dress up—spending small fortunes constructing costumes, putting hours of energy into the planning, giddily anticipating dress up day weeks in advance—is widely recognized as a group of “very slow” girls. We think this group of girls shouldn’t worry about college as much as coloring inside the lines. They should be winning medals in the Special Olympics. Gideon Yago should be educating young America about mental instability while a montage of these girls plays on an episode of True Life: I Think I’m Still in Kindergarten.

But one time a year, girls can combine the two and have it be perfectly normal. One time a year, girls can simultaneously play dress up and be complete whores, and no one raises an eyebrow. That day, Halloween—the single most celebrated holiday on campus—is nearly upon us, and the Cornell population couldn’t be any happier.

At some point (probably around the time you start drinking), Halloween changed from a process of lugging around plastic pumpkins in a desperate search of candy into a drunken tea party where tea is replaced with vodka, guest stuffed-animals are replaced by guest costumed-college-guys and you, the innocent host, are replaced with a stumbling, slutty cowgirl-clad version of your former self. Somewhere along the line, Halloween stopped being about ghosts and goblins and started being about T and A.

This transition into seemingly morally bankrupt waters reflects the moral awareness of the modern female college student. In some ways, Halloween is a protest of contrived moral principle. For one night a year, hundreds of girls reject the idea that sluttiness is inherently wrong. For one night a year, a vast portion of young adult girls denounces the conservative view of appearance that they have been brainwashed to believe for their entire lives. For one night a year, the college girl can be herself outside the constraints of contrived morality. That is why girls take such a fervent view of Halloween on college campuses. It goes beyond the colloquial use of “let loose” and finds a new loosening of the moral burden that weighs on girls for the other 364 days of the year. It’s letting loose on steroids.

There is also the game aspect of the holiday. Halloween is a socially acceptable tea party. It’s a once-a-year revitalization of the tea party that little girls across America are undoubtedly playing at this very moment. Maturity rendered the tea party obsolete—a childish game fit for inventive infants, not proud young women—but on Halloween, a twisted of the tea party returns. The pretending that is so essential to Halloween harkens back to a forgotten game of make believe. This principle also applies to guys. Though it is much denied and frowned upon, little boys like to pretend just as much as little girls. I have concrete memories of putting on a UCLA basketball jersey, high white socks, UCLA basketball shorts and a headband, going out to my driveway alone and playing the entire NCAA Tournament against imaginary players. I even used to pass the ball to imaginary teammates. While only the drunkest of delusional partiers is going to attempt to break into Helen Newman at 3am and try to win the national championship against imaginary opponents, the same idea of pretending, of being someone else, exists as a primary characteristic of Halloween. It’s a once a year fusion of our beloved forgotten game of make believe with the collegiate pastimes of sex, drugs and alcohol.

These ideas don’t apply to everyone. Obviously there is a large portion of the female population that does dress up at all, and an even larger portion of the population whose costumes could hardly be considered slutty. But for a lot of people, Halloween is the ultimate let loose. Those most loosened norms of Halloween night—the moral principle of slut equaling wrong and the maturely proud suppression of our love for the game of make believe—will sadly be restored again on Thursday. But they will not reappear in vein. Anxious anticipation and bottled enthusiasm will explode in a blast of craziness this Halloween. And on the day after, do not be saddened by the expectation of conservatism; do not be depressed by the suppression of make believe. Get ready once again; Halloween is just a year away.