Very Scary Halloween Costumes

What do "Pink Leopards," "Oatmeal Bears," "Sleeping Beauties" and "Debonair Vampires" have in common? No, they're not designer drugs. They're just a few of the many Halloween costumes available for your toddler, according to Party City's recent 24-page mailer.

More than 600 get-ups adorn the pages, with models modeling each one. Even if you have an infant under 6 months—who you'd like to pretend is something else for the night and then reveal the emotionally scarring pictures years down the road—you still have two costume buntings to choose from: "Tootsie Roll" (which could be dangerous should any ravenous older kids be nearby), and "Pea in a Pod" (which looks less like Little Sprout, and more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Perhaps you're a pragmatic parent looking for a costume which implies a respectable future for your child? Well ... you can dress your boy as "UPS Guy." Feeling less confident about his prospects? Try "Li'l Hobo" (ages 3-6).

I say "boy" and "his," because beyond 18 months, the offerings

bifurcate along gender lines. Girls' costumes are predominantly fluffy and frilly with wings and tiaras and pom-pons (as in "Patriotic Cheerleader" and "Rag Doll Cutie"). Boys' costumes are predominantly aggressive and disturbing (as in "Zombie Skate Punk" and "Ghost Face Scream Bleed").

Many young boys' costumes are pictured with weapons: swords, daggers, knives and guns. I have to wonder if, in this armed and tense nation, it's a good idea for Junior to wear foam body armor and point a toy laser gun at a homeowner on Trick-or-Treat night. Did someone say, "Self-defense litigation?"

Moving on to the Teens and Adult categories, Halloween starts to look like a lascivious version of Valentine's Day. Beginning with Teen Girls, most women's costumes have mini-skirts. I know this must save on material costs, but that hardly explains the phenomenon. "Army Cadet" has a mini-skirt. "Straight 'A' Student" has a mini-skirt. Female firefighters, taxi drivers and Eskimos all have mini-skirts. Spongebob is called "Spongebabe" and has a mini-skirt. Going from male to female: "Ghostbuster" becomes "Sexy Ghostbuster"; "Jailbird Convict" becomes "Jailhouse Honey"; and, "Cutthroat Pirate" becomes "Forbidden Pirate" (or, if that's still too subtle, "Pirate Wench").

For their part, men can display testosterone through several Halloween classics: "Very Cool Vampire," "Dashing Devil," "Captain America" (XL with added muscles), and "Cain the Vampire Tyrant." The staple witch costume for women runs the sexist gamut from "Glamour Witch," to "Ruffle Witch," to "You Sexy Witch." I've seen fewer sexual overtones in the Victoria's Secret catalogue!

Involuntarily, I start to imagine combinations. I mean, who wouldn't pay to watch "Lt. Dangle" gettin' down with "Plug and Socket." Or, "Betty Rubble" (brandishing plastic bone) and "Wilma Flinstone" (brandishing plastic club) keepin' it real with "Big Daddy Dolla" (available only in plus-size). These costumes raise deep, psychological questions like, what's the difference between "Elvis" and "Elvis Presley" when they're both $39.99?

Perhaps the most surreal costume treads the gender line in a truly scary way. In the Adult Humor section, at the end of a row of outfits apparently grouped together for their debauchery, after "Beer Can," and "Beer Bottle," and "Tequila Poppin' Dude," one finds a costume simply called "Freshman 15." This costume for a man consists of a tight black mini-skirt, an enormous fake beer belly, a hot pink half-top with "KEG" written across the chest, and a curly blonde wig with black roots. Oh, and a red plastic beer cup. Wow.

I'm glad I don't attend parties where people wear these freakish, sweatshop monstrosities. This year, I think I'll continue my seasonal tradition: cutting cartoonish bones out of copy paper, sticking them with packing tape to my black sweatshirt and pants, and walking in the All Souls Procession. Somehow, that seems a bit more appropriate and grown up than purchasing "S.W.A.T. Police Set," or "Hugh's Smoking Jacket."