Growing up in San Francisco, the big Halloween costume contest was, of course, in the Castro District, where legions of gay men dressed in gorgeous drag and competed on an actual catwalk for major cash and prizes.
One year, Liz Taylor showed up, the one from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Okay, it wasn’t really Liz; it was little me, taking that contest by storm in a giant, puffy shoe polish black wig, white slip dress and huge falsies.
I had no idea about Tennessee Williams or Maggie the Cat, but I had that crowd in the palm of my hands.
Sadly, the next day at elementary school, no one got it and I’m pretty sure the giant falsies screamed, “that girl has a wildly inappropriate mom.” In honor of that year, when my mom flew too close to the costume sun, a year I was white hot before I burned, I bring you these costumes that you should avoid for your kids:
1. Hobo: I think in this economic climate, the classic hobo outfit should be taboo. There is a good chance that half the houses that the kids go to for trick-or-treating will be in foreclosure, and the doors will be answered by people wearing similar outfits.
2. Treasure Hunt Pirate Girl: Ok, let’s not pick on Pirate Girl, whose look is clearly rated Arrrrrrrrr (sorry, you should egg my house for that one). Let me extend this ban to any commercially produced costume for children or “tweens” involving thigh high stockings, a bustier or vinyl boots. Nouveau Nurse Tween Costume, I’m not loving you, either. C’mon. I’m no prude, but get a much longer skirt. Stat.
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3. Lady Gaga: I’m pretty worried about this look for kids, not because of the risqué nature of the outfits, but because of the heels. You try walking in 45-inch stilettos in the dark carrying a sack of candy. Someone will have stitches on their p-p-p-poker face.
4. Bed Bug: Lots of insects make adorable costumes. Bumble bees and butterflies for example, but I’m thinking it’s too soon to pull off the bed bug look without making a lot of people itchy to send your kid packing with a box of raisins. Or worse, a toothbrush.
5. Boba Fett: There are probably some young boys who actually do love “Star Wars,” but more likely, dad is using his child as a prop in his decades old Halloween fantasy. Face it: your kid would rather be Spiderman, Rex, Woody, a Transformer or even a timeless but awesome zombie than something from only a movie you care about more than he does. Trust me, Maggie the Cat, on this one.
6. Handmade, Elaborate, Very Beloved Child Costume: Doesn’t matter what the actual costume is, if you made it yourself with your bare hands, I’m going to resent you when I’m scouring the toddler costume shelves at Target on October 30th because I’m a working mom who can’t juggle her life properly. A working mom without sewing skills. I’m so jealous of you crafty moms, let’s not ruin Halloween by rubbing our noses in your superior home-making skills. That puts a razor blade in the apple of our hearts.
7. Harry Potter: I just can’t take that wizard anymore. I get it. He’s adorable and promotes reading. Just please, spare me the striped scarf and glasses. Oh wait, that actually sounds like an easy costume I can put together at home and avoid Target. Harry Potter and the Unoriginal Mom, coming to a pumpkin patch near you.
I avoided Casey Anthony or anyone from “Jersey Shore” because I know people will do it anyway, but I’m hoping I saved at least one block from a recession toddler hobo. Anything I missed? Please share your favorite bad Halloween looks so we can all judge.
Teresa Strasser is an Emmy Award-winning writer and radio host in Los Angeles on KABC. Her memoir, "Exploiting My Baby: A Memoir of Pregnancy and Childbirth," was optioned by Sony Pictures and is available now. Dr. Phil says it "will make you laugh until you're sick, I swear." Check out her blog at ExploitingMyBaby.com for more information.