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Michael Jackson, Chewbacca and the Spirit of Halloween

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By Zack Armstrong

Wednesday October 31, 2001

I've always been a believer that what you choose to be for Halloween says a lot about who you really are. So as an attempt to stir up a series of probing discussions all over campus about all of the different costumes you've ever worn in this world, I'll start things off by telling you about some of mine.

On my very first Halloween, at just more than a month old, my mother dressed me as a clown. I must not have been a very good clown - that is, of course, if you adhere to the belief that clowns are in any way entertaining. No one got a balloon animal from me. I just sat there and gurgled, 12 pounds of baby fat in a tiny rainbow suit.

Just one year later - after my mother had gotten to know me a little better - she dressed me as the devil. No lie. I guess it was a rough year. Sorry Mom. But this was only the beginning.

One year, she went to the fabric store and bought several yards of fake brown fur, and after a few measurements and stitches, turned me into Chewbacca. And while I stood tall and felt like Chewie, I was only 6 and probably looked more like an Ewok.

In kindergarten - and this is one of my personal favorites - my mother put me in black face and sent me out as Michael Jackson. Keep in mind this was 1983 when a nice, brown shoe polish still did the trick. Oh, how I loved the Michael Jackson. We're talking leather jacket, shin-gloved, jheri-curled, moon-walking Michael Jackson - without the burdens of controversy weighing him down. "Off the Wall" taught me about life, but "Thriller" taught me how to live.

Of all of my many costumes though, none stands out more than the one I donned in preschool.

The school I attended, for one reason or another, had a special theme for Halloween. We were all supposed to dress up as our favorite superheroes. I have no idea why they set a limit on such a thing as picking a costume, but I can only assume that it had something to do with molding young minds into tiny moral temples or some other such nonsense.

At this time, I loved nothing more than "Masters of the Universe" and absolutely had to be He-Man. I was pretty confident that by the power of Gray Skull - along with a little help from my mother - my dreams would come true.

For one reason or another though (possibly because my mother was very busy but more likely because I just neglected to mention my desire), we found ourselves, on the night before Halloween, minus one He-Man costume. There was still hope, though. We rushed to the nearest grocery store certain that with the popularity of the show at the time, they would definitely have at least a cheesy plastic one.

We were not so lucky.

Sold out. All they had was Skeletor. That's right, Skeletor, He-Man's arch-nemesis and all-around doer of evil deeds. Somehow my mother and a sales clerk were able to talk me into getting it. At a preschool of superheroes, I would be the only villain.

I went through dozens of scenarios for explaining myself to my fellow students. The one I thought most believable was that I wasn't Skeletor at all, but a superhero posing as Skeletor to infiltrate his operations. However, the second I entered the classroom and saw everyone milling about and checking out each other's costumes, I became overwhelmingly skeptical that I would ever be able to fool anyone. Everyone's eyes were on me with looks of confusion and disbelief, even the teachers. I took a quick survey of the room and couldn't help but notice not one, not two, but three different He-Mans, and they were all smirking at me.

In a matter of seconds, all three of them were on me like a pack of hungry piranhas on a clumsy, drunken fisherman. They had me surrounded, and they taunted, and they teased.

Then I had an epiphany. I explained to them that He-Man wouldn't be He-Man without Skeletor.

This declaration quickly sparked a lively discussion, and we all learned a valuable lesson about good and evil that day. The moral of the story: Sometimes you don't get to choose the costume; sometimes the costume chooses you. Happy Halloween!


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