Forever 69 is a bi-weekly, bi-curious column about fashion and sex.
Come October, rotating storefronts all over New York start selling the same plastic-wrapped sets of plastic wigs, plastic masks, and plastic negligees. These plastic cobweb fronted shops pop up suddenly, as if by magic. One rarely witnesses the retail transition (who knows what came before), but there’s no missing the final display—there are hands, dispensable as prop pistols, hired to flyer outside and ensure you don’t miss it. Sloppily costumed, in lay person’s shoes, these sidewalk employees are often dancing, sometimes without music.
“I finally figured out where those sexy Halloween costumes come from,” Brant mentions to Fiona, as she smiles into a sip of Tom Yum soup. “They’re repurposed sexshop clothes.”
Fiona looks up at Brant from her living room floor take-out picnic perch. He’s sitting tall in her ex-boyfriend’s old apartment’s least used armchair. I look up to Brant, she thinks, and then wonders, for a pause, at the notion that her idolatrous personality might be the product of her short genes and penchant for floor seating.
“No, no, no, really—” Brant mistakes Fiona’s high-eyed gaze for skepticism, “I always check the manufacturer. The last batch I looked at were by a company called… Foreplay.”
“You know what Dan Savage says about Halloween, right?” Fiona replies.
“Dan Savage. Savage Love. The sex columnist, you know!” Brant does, Fiona just hadn’t enunciated well before. She persists: “Dan Savage, you know, from Seattle. Oh my god, when I was in Seattle, I literally stalked the streets near The Stranger’s offices hoping to run into him. I would ask for a hug; that was the plan. He needs to know how important he is. But I never saw him. The bookstore in Seattle is really the best, though. Anyway, right, Dan Savage. Dan Savage calls the holiday Heteroween, or Straight Pride. It’s like the one day a year where breeder types are permissed to be publicly slutty. He says we should all embrace it. Spraaang Braaake. Now there’s a good costume idea.”
“That’s an interesting argument.”
“The most interesting part is that Halloween used to be the high holidays of queers. Because you could be out, like fey or in drag in public, but still invisible, because everyone was in costume. I was texting the French actor about all this and he replied—” Fiona mimics what’s meant to be a French Canadian accent but ends up intoning like German Super Mario, “O, yeez, Alloween, dee night ven girls dress like sluts and boys like trah-knees.”
“Have you ever noticed,” Brant offers, “that it’s the straightest dudes who dress in drag?”
“Yeah, it’s like bros wearing pink. They can do it because they’re so #nohomo.”
“Genau. Bros like dear Devon. Do you remember dear Devon?” Brant shakes his head. “He was that beautiful, broad, gym-friendly ginger I slept with in… 2010? A Wall Street type—well, not Wall Street because Montreal, but you get it. One year, Devon went,” Fiona’s words turn wheezy as she starts hiccuping giggles, “he went, he went, Devon went as Anne Hathaway! And he went all out. Like details. Like lipgloss. Like nail polish. Dude was so into it.”
“I love how it’s recycled sexshop clothing,” Brant’s back on the pop-up shop costumes, “Do you think people realize that? That what they’re buying in October other people buy year round for sex? Shit’s made in the same factory and they just print out different labels.”
“Speaking of recycling,” Fiona pulls out her iPhone. “Have I showed you this already?” Fiona thumbs through to photo #4,217 in her roll: a poor image snap of hot girl with brown Bow Peep curls in a green latex minidress with a universal recycling symbol on the front; a Halloween costume made by a brand called 100% Baby by Shirley. “I recycle boys,” the bodice of the dress boasts, “All the bad ones get thrown in the dump.”
“This is clearly designed for enviro cosplay,” Brant chimes.
“That’s a thing?”
“Everything is a thing; just depends how rough, weird, or boring your childhood was.”
“I’m picturing some kid from the 89-plus gen, San Francisco born to Long Now Foundation eco-freak parents. Look, there’s more,” Fiona slides back in her roll to photo #4,208. That picture shows two packaged costume sets, both are from a manufacturer called Secret Wishes (“Costumes for Playful Adults”), both include emerald mini dresses and thigh-highs; one comes with a mask, the other with an insignia collar. “That’s sexy Green Hornet on the right, and on the left, sexy Green Lantern.”
Fiona keeps shuffling—through sexy bees, sexy pandas, sexy pirates, sexy mafia, sexy inmates… #4,211: “Sexy Ninja Turtles! Can you believe it? A miniskirted Rafael?”
#4,212: “Sexy Willy Wonka.”
#4,213: “Sexy Cowardly Lioness.”
#4,214: “Sexy Ghostbuster.”
#4,215: “Sexy Beetlejuice!” Fiona squeals. “This isn’t Heteroween, it’s queer as fuck. I love, love, love it—this masculine drag performance for women that maintains the draggiest elements of femininity; heels and garters and make-up. These costumes are just hyper-femme-y versions of pop culture’s dude heroes. It’s so unoriginal, it’s original! Sexy Spider-man.”
“It’s masterful,” Brant says, “Corporate art. Picture the board meeting.”
“Wait for it…” Fiona waves her right arm like a magician and swipes the screen once more for, “the grand finale! Sexy Little Red Riding Hood slash Sexy Big Bad Wolf. The queerest of them all. A trans-dystopia. You get to be both predator and prey. The innocent little girl and the hairy aggressor. This costume cannibalized itself. Ha! What would Camille Paglia say?”
(If you live in rock and roll, as I do, you see the reality of sex, of male lust and women being aroused by male lust. It attracts women. It doesn’t repel them.)