I (think I might) hate Halloween.

2 Nov

Yup. Source

If you live in a part of the world that happened to piss off some West Indian chick named Sandy, you may not have even had a chance to hate Halloween this year. I’ve always been quite indifferent to the holiday myself, seeing as how it was off-limits during my formative years and I was too poor and timid as a thin, hot, late-teen-early-twenty-something to indulge in the debauchery, i.e. wear a really slutty costume, that apparently goes along with the day when one is too old to Trick-or-Treat. So when I was invited to a costumes-mandatory Halloween party in mid-October, I was pretty damn excited.

I acquired my first ever store bought costume, – I was a member of ancient Egyptian high society, but I just told people I was Cleopatra because that’s easier – researched the make-up and nail polish (actually, during that time period a nail stain made of henna and red hued berries was used), and even splurged on a wig.  I was really looking forward to a real Halloween experience for a change, filled with booze and laughter and apple-bobbing and making out with a mysterious man dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or something. What can I say, I watch a lot of television.

Those things didn’t happen, of course. I mean, I laughed and drank booze, but I didn’t make out with anyone – SHOCKER – and I spent an awful lot of the night feeling SUPER uncomfortable. Oh, and hurt, confused, embarrassed, angry, disappointed. Lots of feels.

I was one of the last folks to arrive because putting on enough makeup to make it look like I have cheek bones takes a really long time. I started to panic a little because I initially didn’t see a lot of adults in costume and I felt sort of like an idiot because I had gone all out and with four-inch platform sandals on in addition to four inches of makeup, I felt very much like a beautiful reject from RuPaul’s Drag Race who hadn’t quite mastered the tuck.

A close friend had mentioned to me earlier that his particular top-secret costume choice would make me “pee [my] pants”, so I was on the look-out for him. He’s creative and irreverent and smart so I knew I was going to be in for a surprise. In talking to a mutual friend of ours a few hours before the party, we tossed around guesses on what he was going to be. I guessed Jesus or Lord Gaga, Lady Gaga’s long lost and imaginary male counterpart. “You know”, I said, “Part of me wonders if he’s going to come as Bill Cosby ’cause I’ve started calling him Uncle Bill. He just does so many things that scream Heathcliff Huxtable, it wouldn’t surprise me. But no, a convincing Dr. Huxtable/Bill Cosby would require blackface,” I joked. “He’d do a lot of things, but he’d never do that. God, I hope he wouldn’t do that.”

Le sigh.

I teetered along carefully, my robes gathered in my hands as regally as I could muster and scanned the room for anyone over the age of six in a costume, but for my friend in particular. I spotted the hostess decked out in her Disney princess best; a flapper; a gun moll; and a woman in all zebra print holding an umbrella covered in stuffed animals (She was raining cats and dogs. Cute, right?). I breathed a sigh of relief and relished in the compliments my costume and I received. And then I turned my head.

The first thing I saw was his strange, patchy, mud-colored skin. Whatever he’d used was either melting or smearing or just hadn’t been applied very well and made him look filthy rather than of African decent. But then, most people who attempt blackface don’t actually look black. They just look dirty or as if they’re suffering from some unfortunate skin disease and that is just one of the MANY reasons why blackface, REGARDLESS of the intent, is offensive to me, an actual black person whose skin doesn’t look that way. I don’t know any actual black person with skin that looks that way. Ahem. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, his face, neck, and hands were covered in whatever he’d used to darken his skin and he was wearing a dark blue suit and red, white, and blue tie and flag lapel pin. My nerves and shock had delayed my brain function so even though I was taking in all of this data with my kohl-rimmed eyeballs, I simply couldn’t process who or what he was supposed to be. My eyes fell to the sign in his hand that had letters on it that made up a word I would have normally and very quickly recognized under any other circumstances: a capital ‘O’ followed by a capital ‘B’ followed by a capital ‘A’-

Oh no. Oh NO.

I whipped my head around, my shiny synthetic wig hair sticking to my lipstick.  The people not in costume were wearing stickers that read ‘Re-elect Obama’. It was all starting to come together: I had walked into a time warp and had been sucked onto the set of a taping of “In Living Color” written by precogs. I mean, what else would explain what I was seeing? One of my closest, dearest, most racially sensitive friends couldn’t possibly be in motherfucking blackface as the motherfucking president unless he was also circa-1992 Jim Carrey rehearsing an episode that included an ill-conceived, never-to-air skit called “Oh my god, everybody, what if we had a black president with an African name someday? That’d be HELLA crazy, right?”, right? Right?!?

Wrong.

I wasn’t having some sort of flash-back-forward. I didn’t fall down a Time Slide. The Wayans Brothers were in no way responsible for this. My friend thought he picked an awesome Halloween costume. I thought he had lost his ever-loving mind.

“Oh my GOD!” I shrieked. People looked at me and started to nervously chuckle. Of course – OF COURSE –  I was the only black person in attendance. I felt as though all eyes were on me in a “Let’s see how the black person reacts!” moment of awkward silence. I felt my mouth twitch and spasm into what I suppose was a smile. “Hehehehehe. Look at you!” I said, or something like that. Something non-confrontational but that also didn’t give the appearance of my approval. My eyes briefly locked with the hostesses. Mine were screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?!?!? IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!?”  but I don’t know if she caught all of that. Eye speech can be very difficult to decipher, especially when one has on tons of mascara.

I tried to avoid my friend without it looking like I was avoiding him all night. I know I spoke to him, but I don’t remember what either of us said. My brain turns to useless fluff during moments of high stress. I can’t remember details and that totally bums me out because I am a person who THRIVES on details.

He was excited and really proud of his costume. He had “researched” President Obama for days, maybe weeks. He did his best to not “break character” all night. I tried not to listen to any of the interactions he had with my friends or other guests while he was “being the president”. I didn’t want to learn that any of the people that I liked were racist, bigoted, birther asshats. Or Republicans. But I also tried to listen without listening so that I could squirrel away any nuggets of ignorance that dropped out of the mouths of people there and shoot them Looks of Doom made even more doomy by my kick-ass Pharaoh eyes. All of that covert non-listening made me sweat which would have made my beautiful make-up run, so I gave that up and just ate a lot, keeping my mouth perpetually full so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.

It took me three days to get up the nerve to say anything about my utter discomfort, to say the least, with his costume choice. And I couldn’t even say anything. I sent him a link via text to posts on blackface at Racialicious, a blog about “the intersection of race and pop culture.” I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he just didn’t know about things like white privilege or cultural appropriation or the harmful, hurtful, painful history of blackface in general.

Wrong. Again.

I was negative and afraid and discouraging his artistic expression. Didn’t I know that he’s an aspiring method actor? He said some other bullshit that floored me, so I gave him a piece of my mind and told him with my fanciest two-dollar words that I thought he was a dick, without ever calling him a dick. But I did tell him that he was ignorant, arrogant, and racially insensitive.

He wore blackface to at least one other Halloween party, and was even more unnaturally darkened and scary looking than before, like he’d rolled around in a coal bin. People, apparently, thought it was awesome and hilarious. They posed with him in pictures and posted them on that social networking site. The pictures of him got ‘likes’ in the double-digits. I deleted my account after I saw that (and for other reasons too, but I’m telling this story right now). I cried. Kind of a lot.

I haven’t talked about this with very many people because. . . like, how the hell do I even have that conversation? “Oh hey, it’s 2012 and one of my BFFs wore blackface and I’m super hurt and he thinks I’m the asshole. So anyway, did you catch last week’s episode of “New Girl”?” This is one of the many reasons why I’m going to be in therapy FOREVER because I have wacky, gut-punching shit happen on the regular and I need to pay a dude in a cardigan sweater to help me make sense of it all.

Other stuff happened related to this. Nothing as big, but certainly hurtful. I was invited out Trick-or-Treating by mutual friends of his but was told with a shrug “He’s gonna do his thing so. . .” So what?  “Suck it up, bitch”? “Get over yourself and 300+ years of fucked-up history”? “You’re our friend, but a ‘hilarious costume’ will always trump your feelings so what time should we pick you up”? Then there were the people who did the whole “OMG, they’re just costumes, why can’t minorities SHUT UP already and let us desecrate their stuff?” in response to respectful Halloween costume PSAs I posted on that social networking site. Oh, and an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in forever referred to her city as “N!ggertown” in conversation with me and when the look of horror I gave her registered said “Oh, no offense; you’re not like that.” Not like what? I’m not like what?

So, I think I might really hate Halloween. There are special experiences one has being black during all the seasons, but it seems that All Hallows’ Eve really brings out the fuckery and foolishness hidden in the hearts of so many well-meaning individuals. I also hate that my friend is, apparently, not as creative or respectful or possibly smart as Miley Cyrus. Case in point:

Hmm. I know she’s supposed to be someone famous but I just. Can’t. Put my fin- She’s Nicki Minaj. And that’s plainly clear without the use of a layer of shoe polish. Source.

I think one of the many things that bothered me about the whole thing that I’m struggling to articulate even though I’ve spent 2,000+ words on it is that President Obama, whom I adore, isn’t mud-coffee-coal colored and to my knowledge, my friend isn’t blind. The beautiful nuance of the complexion of black folk seems to be totally lost on him. Apparently, we all just look dirty or are literally black in his eyes. His natural olive complexion is closer to how the president actually looks than the shit-stain-brown makeup he used. Miley got-dang Cyrus had the brain power to figure that out for her costume and I’m not sure she can even read!

If he did so much “research” for this costume, why didn’t he just lose the jacket, roll up his sleeves, and loosen his tie? Why not wear prosthetic big ears? Work on the voice? Ask for cheeseburgers with spicy brown mustard instead of ketchup? Tuck a cigarette behind his ear? Carry a surf board? Why did he have to blacken his skin to imitate a person who’s skin ISN’T EVEN BLACK? I’ll pretend for a moment that the whole thing wasn’t inherently and deeply offensive and simply focus on the down-right laziness of someone claiming to be an aspiring method actor. You, dear sir, suck major ASS at your chosen craft.

I don’t know what all this means for our friendship and I don’t think this post is going to help matters. Or maybe it will because it has said pretty much everything I couldn’t have without crying. But for reals, I was worried that my dressing as Cleopatra/an ancient Egyptian might be potentially offensive because it is a not altogether accurate cultural costume belonging to others (that are mostly dead) and he never stopped to think that maybe his idea was a bad one? That’s not fair!

Just. . . I’m sad and tired. Maybe my parents had a point in keeping me from Halloween. Whatevs. All I know is I’m going as fat Bruno Mars next year. We have the same face, same complexion, same haircut, and until like two days ago, I thought he was black. And I won’t have to wear heels.

I’m also pretty sure that I already own that jacket. SCORE! Source.

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14 Responses to “I (think I might) hate Halloween.”

  1. bitesizelove November 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    maybe don’t hate halloween, hate your “friends.” i’m floored that so many people defended or gave him a pass. not ok.

    • Ambrosia Jones November 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

      It’s really tough. My friends, including the blackface offender, are great people. But. . . I don’t know what the ‘but’ is. I think people assume/believe that we live in a post-racial society, which is utter nonsense, or that these things don’t matter/aren’t big deals, especially if they weren’t “meant” to offend. Or maybe I’m making excuses because I don’t want to admit the truth about my friends.

      Thanks for reading, liking, and thoughtfully commenting.

  2. Vanessa November 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Eww! I never understood how people EVER thought blackface was a ‘good idea’ or in any way ‘humorous’. Didn’t Ted Danson do it back in the ’90s at some point when he may have been dating Whoppi Goldberg and they were at some awards show or something? I don’t really remember too much about the whole thing as I was likely not paying too much attention to it, but that sticks out to me because I do remember thinking to myself something along the lines of WTF? I agree that you should not hate Halloween, and I guess you do not have to hate your ‘friend’ but you could HATE his ignorance and even if he does not understand your feelings, he should freaking RESPECT them!

    • Ambrosia Jones November 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Yes, Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg. I remember it like it was yesterday. Montel Williams was there and stormed out in disgust. I think they were both booed. Both of their careers were, arguably, irrevocably damaged. But I guess Danson was a method actor.

      That wasn’t fair. Or maybe it was. Why do I keep feeling as though I need to apologize for feeling hurt and offended? Ugh! Haven’t heard from my friend since the whole Blackface Debacle of ’12, so we’ll see how far my righteous outrage gets me.

      Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

  3. leanne December 6, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Hi! You don’t know me, but here I am on your blog. I just wanted to say that I don’t think “Method”acting is what your friend thinks it is. Unless his acting assignment was to perform as a racially insensitive and unaware assbag at a Halloween party. If that was his assignment, he killed it! All awards to him! If he still isn’t talking to you, then he has really immersed himself in his part–way to commit, dude!

    More seriously, I wanted to say this all sucks. It must have been really shocking to witness this, and then anywhere from uncomfortable to insulting to infuriating to have everyone expect *you* to handle the situation, all eyes on you, or to accept or smooth over the awkwardness he created. It reminds of the essay at Shakesville.com, The Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck, where the condition of being friends with someone is accepting or going along with their bullshit *-ism. I’m really sorry you had to put up with that and that your other friends didn’t really act like allies.

    Regardless, you are AWESOME and you should feel AWESOME. You stood up for right in the best way you could. You had other options: you could have swallowed that BS; you could have just walked out; you could have laughed along. But no, you stood up on the side of right. You named it, pointed it out, did your best.

    It might take time for your friend to recognize his assbagness, and he may never. Pride is hard to overcome, and NO ONE wants to ever admit they might be racist. It may take time for your mutual friends to see their assholishness, too. And they may never. But you gave them a chance. You had enough care and respect for them–enough belief that they could be more than they demonstrated that night–to call out the poor behavior, the wrong thinking. Good on you! Your friends are lucky!

    • Ambrosia Jones December 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      “I just wanted to say that I don’t think “Method”acting is what your friend thinks it is. Unless his acting assignment was to perform as a racially insensitive and unaware assbag at a Halloween party. If that was his assignment, he killed it! All awards to him! If he still isn’t talking to you, then he has really immersed himself in his part–way to commit, dude!”

      This made me laugh out loud and then the rest of your comment was filled with smartness, so hello and welcome! You are quite awesome yourself.

      I checked out The Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck and it really hit home. I never want to come across as The Angry Black Woman, but sometimes I wonder why I care so much about that. Especially since there is a fantastic woman who blogs under that handle, so I’d be in great company.

      Anyhoo, thank you for your thoughtful and supportive and hilarious comment. I appreciate your feedback, and if you got here from where I think you did, thank you for all the other great stuff there as well.

      And it sure seems to me that your friends are pretty damn lucky too.

  4. Elikit December 7, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    I so feel you on this. I’m in a negative headspace at the moment, so take me with a grain of salt. But – one of the pitfalls, I’ve found, of having white friends, is that no matter how cool or conscious or good someone seems, inevitably, they will say or do some effed up shit eventually. They just don’t have the toolkit not to. And I’m always surprised and hurt when it happens. Every single one of my white friends has done this, without fail. So while I count them as friends and I hang out with them, and some of them, I’d even say I love, I really don’t 100% trust them.

    And these days I don’t even go to Halloween parties.

    • Ambrosia Jones December 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      “But – one of the pitfalls, I’ve found, of having white friends, is that no matter how cool or conscious or good someone seems, inevitably, they will say or do some effed up shit eventually. They just don’t have the toolkit not to. And I’m always surprised and hurt when it happens.”

      Yeah. Yeah. Yup. To all of it.

      So here’s my problem: I really only have white friends. And maybe I’ve lost a good chunk of them because of my reaction to the blackface and this post and probably this comment.

      Thank you for stopping by my blog and for the thoughtful and home-hitting comment. If you also arrived here from that other place, thank you for all of that awesomeness, too.

      And if you have any tips for how a 33-year old, dorky, “Oreo” (I HATE that term, but I use it so you get an idea of what you’re dealing with) can make friendships with other black and brown people – and salvage the ones with white folks – please share.

      Thanks again and welcome!

      • Elikit December 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

        I did indeed come over from the other awesome place. Those guys are fantastic.

        I think we have a lot in common. I’m also 33 years old, dorky, and have definitely been called an Oreo. And I, too, mostly only have white friends.

        I have a hard time making friends as it is, so getting specific about race would be even more limiting. And I have hobbies that sometimes take me to the sort of events that people who are like me would definitely be at. But sometimes I look around and I’m the only brown girl in the room.

        And how I’ve been dealing with the white friends:

        Friend: Casually racist thing they think is funny.
        Me: Look at that shiny thing!

        It doesn’t get at the real root of the problem (them not knowing any better) but it also means I get to have a night out without being a teacher, or causing awkwardness, and if I change the subject fast enough, I don’t even get time to be truly offended.

        (Which reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons where Marge tells Lisa to take her feelings and shove them down deep and paste on a smile. Healthy!)

    • Guest September 22, 2013 at 1:54 am #

      I am so late with this comment. You nailed it. No matter how cool they are, inevitably, they will say or do some effed up shit. That has always been my experience. I’ve had maybe two that never said a racist thing to me. But I don’t trust some of my white associates. There have been times where I’ve backed out of some awesome events because I knew there were going to be a lot of drunk white people who were my friends during the day, but could eventually be my enemy during the night. Then again, I live in the deep, deep, deep south. I live around the kind of white people you have to keep an eye on.

  5. Guest September 22, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    The costume was so “funny” amongst his white friends, because he was a white guy mimicking the most famous black man in the world. That and he had on ridiculous black face. Think about it, would they’ve had the same reaction if he dressed up like Obama without the black face? Would your friends have been impressed if a black person showed up as Obama? No, it was the boldness of the gesture that made it so “amusing”. Trust me, I’ve been their before. I grew up the south. It hurts when then people doing such things are supposed to be educated. Then, they find ways to perfectly justify their racism. But your friend was wrong. He was making fun of Obama’s blackness.

    • Guest September 22, 2013 at 1:43 am #

      * I’ve been there before*
      * It hurts when the people doing such things are supposed to be educated*

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. What’s so ‘no’ about no? « I Can See Why She's Single. - December 13, 2012

    […] you think that? Remember, my last surprise was some douchenozzle I called a friend decked out in blackface. Jason 2.0 showing up to my job slathered in shoe polish is more likely than him coming to say […]

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