Oddchester: Did the invitation say costumes 'encouraged' or 'discouraged'?

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Halloween is six days away and, for those adults in need of costume ideas, here, from my own history, are some suggestions.

Or warnings.

In 1996, then-girlfriend Lindy's coworkers invited us to a Halloween party that promised to be "all that and a bag of chips" (again, 1996). This was in Lansing, Michigan. We were new to town. To impress her coworkers, Lindy insisted we go all-out. She bought a French maid outfit — or something, that's how I always imagine her costumes. She decided I should dress as Michael Flatley, the Riverdance and Lord of the Dance guy. I protested, at first, but seeing how much it meant, decided to go along. My costume consisted of a billowy white shirt unbuttoned to my navel, a thin black headband, and tight black pants. By "tight" I mean pants like those you see on professional bicyclists, except full length.

We had to walk through a farm field to get to the party, which was in a giant pole barn.

What fun, we thought! It's always such fun to see everyone else's costumes!


The barn was filled with hundreds of people. When we walked into the party, no one was dressed up. Lindy kept her long coat on. I had no such coat. There I stood, for hours, meeting Lindy's workmates. After a while, I stopped trying to explain my outfit. For years, Lindy's coworkers assumed I was really into Riverdance.

In 2009, we were invited to a Halloween party by one of my coworkers. Lindy already had her costume — I think it was a French maid — and I rented, last-minute, a one-piece Evel Knievel costume. When I got home, something was clearly wrong. The costume appeared sized for a 10-year-old boy. It was too late to do anything except lie on the floor and wiggle into it. The tightness was borderline perverse.

The coworker who hosted the party couldn't look me in the eye for weeks.

Last year, Lindy and I went to my nephew Kameron's Halloween-night wedding in Michigan. This is my older brother Dave's son, and it held special significance.

On Mother's Day of that year, Dave's wife, Tammi — Kameron's mom — had died after putting up one of the bravest fights any brain tumor has ever faced.

The invitation said "Costumes encouraged," and Lindy and my little sister, Lori, encouraged us to wear costumes. Lori's husband, Matt, and I protested, at first, but seeing how much it meant, decided to go along. Lindy and Lori bought four of those giant round foam costumes, in this case Sesame Street characters. I was Ernie.

We walked to the reception hall.

What fun, we thought! It's always such fun to see everyone else's costumes!


Almost none of the few hundred guests — and this probably goes unsaid — was dressed up.

We ducked into the coat room. Three of us wanted to go back and change. Lindy, though — maybe it was the emotions of losing her sister-in-law — snapped. "No! We're going back out there!" she yelled. "And we are going to OWN these costumes!"

We did go back out there. We did not own those costumes.

A few others were dressed up, though most of those were children.

The wedding was a relatively formal affair, a beautiful and touching ceremony uniting two wonderful people. The pre-reception toasts included solemn and moving moments. There we sat, four adult Sesame Street characters. My son was dressed as a giant banana.

During the touching and tearful tributes to Tammi, when I bowed my head in respect, I was looking directly at an upside-down Ernie.

At one point, just when I was about to head back to change — so we didn't have to be on the dance floor wearing these asinine outfits — Tammi's twin sister, Terri, came over.

"The costumes are hilarious," she said. "Tammi would have been right there dressed up with you guys."


And she was right.

Tammi — who played inappropriate April Fools Day jokes, who seemingly always had a bottle of wine hidden in her purse, who showed up late at night, for no reason, with popsicles and bags of Taco Bell — would probably have been Big Bird.

We left the costumes on.

When the music started, the wedding party — and dozens of others — changed into their Halloween costumes and all of us — Bert, Ernie, Elmo, Cookie Monster, a banana, others — danced until they kicked us out of the place.

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