There's not really a good time of year for divorce. But splitting up right before Halloween is particularly horrifying. Why? Because Halloween marks the beginning of a holiday triathlon that stretches from October to the end of the year. Even if you're still standing after the last trick-or-treater has come and gone, you still have to slog your way through Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If you have kids you can't just sit the season out -- you have to make like you're merry even when you're teary. To get to the finish line of this merry-thon it's critical to start off on the right foot. That means a lot is riding on your Halloween costume. The right costume can give you a boost of empowerment that will help you get through the next two months. But the wrong costume can leave you so humiliated you'll want to curl up in an invisibility cloak until January.
I'm not going to leave it to you to figure out the good from the bad. After all, if your faux hawk haircut taught us anything it's that your judgment isn't the best right now.
Here is the lowdown on dressing up: The name of the game is to avoid costumes that play into how society portrays divorcing women generally, or how your ex is trying to depict you specifically. That means no get-ups that make you come across as scary, bitchy, unhinged, money-grubbing, or on the prowl.
Examples of what not to wear:
Witch Bitches. The first Halloween after my ex and I split up my seven-year-old daughter really wanted to be a witch. And once she saw that her dream witch costume came in adult size, too, she wanted more than anything for us to be matching witches. At a time when my ex was trying to beguile everyone into believing that he was this "aw, shucks" nice guy that I was trying to take to the cleaners, the witch costume provided plenty of material to work with. Wearing the witch costume turned out to be no treat.
Divorcees Gone Wild. One of the most unflattering stereotypes divorced women are plagued by is that they just can't wait to get their freak on. Sister to sister, I'm begging you not to reinforce this myth. Stay away from any costume that could be described as "sexy [insert noun here]." Whether it's a sexy nurse, librarian, nun, Catholic schoolgirl, cheerleader, or straight-up stripper, you're not helping yourself or your fellow divorced moms by dressing the part. If you're really dying to wear one of these costumes, at least wait until your divorce is over and you're no longer involved in a lawsuit where your maturity, judgment, and character are at issue. Remember, there will always be another Halloween next year.
Violent Femmes. Nothing is scarier than a violent + crazy combo package. Don't believe me? Check out Penelope Cruz's unhinged character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Divorce is the leading cause of temporary insanity, so people already suspect you're crazy. Don't finish the job by making them think you're violent, too. In other words, no dressing-up like a mental patient, an ax murderer, Thelma, or Louise.
Damsels in Distress. Divorce is not for weaklings so don't pretend you're one. Stay away from any costume that puts you in the role of depending on someone else to save you. Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, or really any princess at all is a bad idea. You are not a powerless girl who is waiting around to be rescued by some man. You are a fully-grown woman who can make things happen on her own. Present an image that is consistent with that reality. And if that's not yet your reality, this is one of those times when you need to fake it 'til you make it.
Examples of costumes you can wear:
Real Life Heroes. During your divorce your top objective is to rescue yourself and your kids from the burning wreckage that was your marriage and transport all of you to safety. Pick a costume that highlights the demanding and important work you're doing right now. There are plenty to choose from: firefighter, Navy SEAL, and SWAT team negotiator are just a few possibilities.
Super Heroes. During your divorce it's common to feel like you need super-human strength just to get through the day. And some days you'll be so amazed at what you're withstanding you might wonder if you actually have some super powers you never knew about. (Patience and restraint in really high concentrations can reach super power levels, can't they?) From Superman to Wonder Woman, dressing like your favorite superhero is a marvelous idea.
Be an Angel. You're not perfect, but Lord knows you're trying hard to appeal to your better angels during this living hell of a divorce you're going through. Pay homage to your heavenly helpers by dressing up as one of them for Halloween. Maybe they'll repay the favor by lending a little wing power to speed the whole process along. (Every time a bell rings a divorcing woman gets her final decree!) And it wouldn't hurt if they'd put in a good word for you with their pal cupid so you don't ever end up with another devil again.
In addition to the suggestions above, you can also wear costumes that symbolize strength or convey humor -- or both. Think boxer (strength) or WWE professional wrestler (strength and humor), or pretty much any member of Congress (straight up comedy).
You don't have to be a magician to turn Halloween into an opportunity to fortify both your spirits and your reputation. By choosing a costume that reflects the real you rather than one that perpetuates a stereotype, you can be the master of your own universe, not some girl who gets turned into a pumpkin at midnight. And that's the best treat of all.