The contemporary signifiers of monogamy are many and strange. While our ancestors were content to commemorate each new level of commitment with some kind of pin or ring, we now have Facebook relationship updates and elaborate proposal videos and the all-important deactivation of the OkCupid profile. As if all that weren’t enough, the flaunting of romance also takes a variety of seasonal forms. Some see taking a significant other home to meet the family on Thanksgiving or Christmas as an important step, and it can be. But far more public — and infinitely more irritating — is a tradition we’re about to see a whole lot of tomorrow night: the couples Halloween costume.
Before we go further, I should make my point of view clear, as any objection to public displays of coupledom tends to be dismissed as the lonely ranting of a spinster (an unnecessarily pejorative term that is slowly, rightfully being reclaimed by proud single women). In fact, I am not the kind of girl who goes around hissing at happy couples on Valentine’s Day (although I count many such girls among my friends, and have no objection to the good work they do every February 14th). But the truth is that — while happily unmarried — I’ve been coupled up for over a decade now. My opposition to couples Halloween costumes, I assure you, has nothing to do with personal feelings of jealousy or exclusion.
With that caveat, here’s what bugs me: Halloween is, and has always been, about inverting our daily lives. It’s a night when we celebrate and enjoy and laugh at the darkest and sickest and most fucked up bits of our human mythology — when we make ourselves live with them for a minute, as a way of convincing ourselves that they have no power over us. As the demure woman who dons the so-called “slutty” costume and the bro who always finds an excuse to put on a dress suggest, Halloween is a time of blurred personal boundaries. It allows even the most milquetoast among us to dip a toe into a less conservative, more adventurous identity. Many of those who fancy themselves especially unconstrained turn up their noses at this kind of one-night-only, “amateur-hour” liberation, and of course it is evidence of how suffocating and unnecessary many of the norms we abide by throughout the other 364 days of the year are.
But whether you’re a 40-year-old Republican virgin or a ninth-level bondage practitioner (please do not write in to inform me that no such designation exists; I am well aware that my knowledge of current BDSM terminology leaves something to be desired), Halloween is an opportunity to try on the costume of someone entirely different from who you are in your daily life. So why in the world would you refuse the chance to momentarily distinguish your own wild imagination and inchoate desires from those of the person to whom you are indefinitely — if happily! — yoked?
Couples costumes are typically adorable, even at their most grotesque, and they provide a certain security; it’s easier to endure humiliation with someone you love than all alone. But (and here I acknowledge that I’m taking this holiday a smidge more seriously for the sake of rhetoric than I actually do in real life) that’s not what Halloween is about. It’s about risk and danger and seriously demented, fiercely individual creative visions. It’s about embodying your weirdest, boldest, darkest self — not as one half of a monogamous pair, but, just once a year, as a creation all your own.