Of course, one can simply avoid fancy dress parties. This is what I did for last year's big ALT Halloween party, but this year I felt like being more sociable. I considered some kind of Braveheart effort using my kilt, but that just seemed a bit lame, like science or medicine students going with some weak lab-coat based shtick. If I'm going to do something, I don't like to do it half-assedly. Go large or go home.
So, how could I make an impact without too much expenditure or effort? As the lazy and uninspired so often do, I decided to go for shock value. Cross-dressing is an obvious shock tactic, and as my fondness for Lady Gaga is well known to everyone who has ever been to karaoke with me, it seemed appropriate to take a leaf out of her impressive book of sartorial mentalness. Unfortunately, most of her outfits are elaborate to say the least, which was exactly what I was trying to avoid. Then, I remembered the brief portion of her turgid Telephone video where she appears dressed only in police tape. Cheap, easy, and it represents a potent combo of transvestism and near-nudity. Shock and awe!
The party was on saturday, so after work on friday I went and bought some tape. Of course, I couldn't get police tape, so I settled for some that said 'under construction' in Japanese and 'NO ENTER' in Engrish. Armed with a few screengrabs from Youtube, I initially tried to faithfully reproduce her costume. It quickly became apparent that this would not be feasible, for two reasons:
- Despite considerable speculation to the contrary, Ms Gaga, being a woman, lacks bulky external genitalia to conceal.
- In a music video, one need only worry about protecting one's modesty from one angle, and for seconds at a time. In the interests of basic decency, by costume would have to be a little more comprehensive and durable.
On saturday I had a look around the shops for very dark red lipstick, but all I could find was a multitude of barely distinguishable crimsons, scarelts and vermillions. I guess the goth market isn't very lucrative in Yamagata. To be honest, I didn't look all that hard. I felt rather conspicuous being a white male in a Japanese cosmetics aisle, and the constant barrage of chirpy "Irasshaimase!"s (Welcome / How can I help you?) wasn't helping matters. Empty-handed, I went over to Alda's, who - after a fit of stunned giggles - sorted me out with heavy black eye makeup and some slightly inaccurate red lipstick. Dad, I imagine you're very proud right now.
Once Alda put the finishing touches on her gypsy costume, and I put some clothes on over the top of my tape, we set off on the long drive, stopping to pick up Wonder Woman and a swan. When the average density of your social circle is on the order of 0.1 per sq km, you think nothing of driving two hours for a party. I was sipping whisky at quite a rate on the way there (Alda was driving), but nothing could really prepare me for the embarrassment of walking in.
An entire room full of people looking at you is disconcerting at the best of times. When you are wearing nothing but yellow tape and makeup, it really takes mortification to a new level. This might sound weird, but I think having one eye covered made it considerably worse; being bereft of depth perception and a large part of your visual surround makes one feel vulnerable on quite a primal level.
I gradually realised that at least 80% of the room had no idea what I was supposed to be; evidently, not everyone is as ardent a follower of Gaga as me. I began to wonder whether I had made a massive error of judgement. Sure, Halloween is supposed to be about the frightening and grotesque, but perhaps a pale, flabby nerd in lipstick and no actual clothes is creepy in all the wrong ways. I took to showing everyone the screengrabs on my Archos in desperate bid to contextualise my outfit.
But, I'd come this far, so I had no choice but to tough it out. It really wasn't so bad, especially once I had a few more drinks. Actually, I'd been in a situation like this before, when Joy had offered Tim and I all the white Russians we could drink if we worked as drinks waiters at a party of hers wearing only Speedos and bow ties. Although on that occasion, I could at least take refuge in it being someone else's idea. Anyway, on both occasions, people generally asked me whether I was cold (answer: yes) and hilariously told me that I had balls.
There were various fairly ad-hoc prizes given out for costumes, and I won 'best overall package', in yet another genital-based witticism. There were some actually very impressive costumes on display; my favourites included:
- An uncannily accurate likeness of The Dude.
- Kancho-man, a superhero based on the Japanese schoolboy prank of sneaking up behind someone and thrusting your index fingers in the direction of their back passage. I am happy to report that unlike many of my colleagues, I have still never experienced this at school. However, covered as it was by only a length of tape, my derriere was a very soft target for Kancho-man. Which is ironic, when you consider that I was the only person explicitly prohibiting entry to my person.
- A couple who came as two halves of a torii (Shinto archway). The slightly nauseating cuteness of this was more than offset by their excellent execution; they called themselves Torii Odori ('torii dance') and did a little upright, bobbing jig together.