October 16, 2013
It was the year that I was seventeen, and I worked at a grocery store where there were a lot of high-school kids working there. My best friend and I worked at that store for all of our high-school years, so we enjoyed all the socializing that went on.
Halloween was coming up, so one of the kids decided to have a Halloween party and tell everyone to wear costumes. Everyone was happy to take advantage of the opportunity to wear a costume, so talk about who would be wearing what - and how s/he would be making the costume - was pretty much break-room discussion for weeks before the party.
My girlfriend and I couldn't really think up what we wanted to be for the party, and we were kind of reserved girls anyway - reserved, but not without a sense-of-humor. So, as we tried and tried to think up good costumes one of us said how funny it would be to just get one of Ben Cooper children's costumes in a box. I don't even know if they still sell those, but they were very much costumes for little kids. They were made of a nylon-like material with a tie at the neck and came with a mask. Some of them - the most kiddie-costume-like of them - had a big picture on the front of them. Although many of them were a single-piece costume that a child stepped into, some had a very juvenile-looking, boxy, "over-blouse" that came either with a simple skirt or else boxy pants.
I know a lot of people are well familiar with them, so the description is for those who are not. Either way, these were very much costumes for very little kids. Kids grew out of them by the time they were about six or seven, I think. Most kids, I think, rejected what they knew were "little kids' costumes" by the time they were five.
In any case, my girlfriend and I, thinking that we had such "cool" senses-of-humor, decided it would be hilarious to take advantage of the fact that we were both small-framed enough to wear one of the boxed costumes. We talked about how funny it would be for the two of us to show up in the ridiculous-looking costumes, and we set about to go shopping for our own. We went through the stacks of boxes in the store, searching for the funniest ones. We had a great time imagining how hilarious this was going to be, as kept looking for two "just-perfect" costumes.
We wanted them to kind of go together, so my friend selected a lion costume. I selected a zebra costume. We agreed that we wouldn't say a word about our hilarious costumes to any of the other people who would be going. In fact, we wouldn't say a word to anyone about our "hilarious" ideas for costumes. So, we paid the few dollars for the children's costumes. The cheesy masks were, we thought, the funniest part of the whole costume. Nobody as "grown up" and "cool" as people our age would be caught dead in one of those costumes or masks, so this was our chance to shed our reserved image and show what clever senses-of-humor we both had.
The night of the party came, and my friend and I needed little preparation for these "brilliantly hilarious" costumes. All we had to do was take them out of the box, step into them, and put on the masks that were really intended for young children. (She and I were small, but our faces and heads were, of course, a little too big for the masks - which made it all the funnier, at least to our thinking.)
So, pleased as punch (as they say - that's not really an expression I'd ordinarily use), my friend and I packed up whatever food we were bringing along with our masks, and drove to the party in our boxy, nylon, costumes - "A lion and and a zebra, three-year-old style! " We couldn't wait to make our entrance.
Please with our cleverness, we arrived at the door, excited about the long-awaited and hilarious entrance we were about to make. The person who answered the door greeted us in the way friends greet other friends, and then he told everyone else who it was that had shown up at the party. He said something along the lines of, "Oh, you're a lion and a zebra". He was friendly but not laughing.
As we greeted the other guests one by one, we realized that nobody seemed to get the joke. Although there was the usual kid or two who just put on a ski cap and some black stuff on his face, most of the guests had worked hard to create their costumes. The ski-cap/black-stuff guests were, of course, too cool to put much effort into a costume anyway. Then there were those kids who had really gone to all kinds of lengths and efforts to come up with an amazing costume.
And there was us - the two "brilliant and clever" idiots who thought they had a cool sense-of-humor and thought everyone at the party would see the ridiculousness of two such "grown-up" people wearing costumes meant for four-year-olds! Of course, we both would have liked to have believed that these people just weren't "cool" enough to have appreciated our more "sophisticated" senses-of-humor. The reality was - and we knew this too - that "the big, hilarious, costume-caper" just wasn't the least bit funny.
So, for the rest of the evening there sat my friend and I - she in her lion suit, and I in my "hilarious" zebra suit; with our delusions of hilarity destroyed along with the belief that this "brilliant" costume move would cement our reputations as people with a "great sense-of-humor".
There would be times as our super-market years went on when we'd get to show that we weren't quite as reserved and quiet as so many people seemed to think we were, but this was not the evening for that to happen.
Somewhere, packed away in a box of stuff from my youth, there's a box that contains my Ben Cooper zebra costume. Maybe one day I'll be going through that stuff with one of my future grandchildren, and, maybe, a six-year-old grandchild will say something like, "Was that the costume you wore when you as big as me?" Maybe then I'll try going for the laugh a second time, and I'll explain to my young grandchild, "No, Sweetheart. This is a costume I wore when I was seventeen." I can just picture my sweet grandchild's straight and/or somewhat perplexed face - the same face as that worn by the teenager who opened the door to a lion and a zebra who had never in their life so wished that they were something else.