On Pretending to Be Somebody Else

Everybody is planning costumes and dressing up and pretending to be somebody else. I am too. For the first time in years, I actually have a Halloween party to go to. I bought a blue wig which I probably will not end up wearing for very long because it will probably be very itchy. 

I know some people who hate Halloween and dressing up and I know some people who absolutely love it. I don’t feel particularly strong either way but that is how I feel about most things. 

The whole appeal of wearing a costume is the chance to be somebody else. In real life, people are always telling you to ‘be yourself’ and Halloween is the perfect excuse not to be. It’s the one time of the year where we get to rebel against being ourselves. The time of year where actively pretending to be somebody else is celebrated. 

Some people think finding a costume is hard or that it requires too much effort but the same can be said about being yourself. It’s very hard to ‘just be yourself’ especially when you don’t know who you are or have many different versions of yourself yet people are always saying it like it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

Even people who know exactly who they are probably make themselves smaller to fit into boxes, or laugh at jokes they don’t think are funny, or reject parts of themselves in the presence of certain groups. It might be an unavoidable part of being human. We are constantly pretending to be somebody else; somebody that isn’t truly, authentically us. If you dare to be that person who shows up at a party without wearing a costume, preferring to come as ‘yourself,’ you run the risk of being shamed and called boring. Nobody really wants you to be yourself – not on Halloween and not in real life either. Being yourself is dull and unexciting, even though the posters at school said we’re all original and unique as snowflakes. “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken,” they tell us. Yet we can’t help but strive to be glossier, funnier, smarter, better, and more exciting than we actually are to fit in, or make new friends, or impress people. Maybe people will like us more; maybe we’ll like ourselves more.

As the years roll along, maybe we experiment with different parts of ourselves until we find something that sticks for a while, and then – when we realize it’s no longer working or that it requires too much effort to keep up – we resort back to older versions of ourselves, ghosts from our past. Or else we put on a mask and throw on some fake ears to see what that’s like. It’s as though being yourself is as simple as pulling out last year’s Halloween costume or reaching for a bright blue wig that you’ve never tried on before, even though it’s not. 

The scary thing is that we are different people when we are with our co-workers, and when we are with our family, or friends, or strangers, and when we are on dates, and when we are alone, constantly pretending to be somebody else, losing ourselves in the process without even realizing it. Suddenly, it’s impossible to know what’s the real you and what’s just a costume you threw on because it made sense at the time. Suddenly, it’s Halloween all year round. 

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