This week’s highly entertaining blog is from guest blogger, Vanessa Park, a brilliant writer and editor with her own business, VKP Editing. She has clients all over the country for whom she ghost writes, edits, and consults. Vanessa also writes her own person blog, Spiralwoman.com. Sit back and enjoy Vanessa’s witty suggestions for your Halloween festivities.
It gets boring, doesn’t it? What to be for Halloween? You both want to dress up but all the “couple ideas” are so predictable. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Cleopatra and Caesar. Eleanor and Franklin D. Hillary and Bill. Bonnie and Clyde.
I used to play a game with my best friend on long road trips. Who would you want to meet if you could go back in time? Not that original, I guess, but the real fun is in putting unexpected historical figures or fictional characters together in one room. With us, so we could see what happened next. Cleopatra would be much more interesting if she came face to face with Anne Boleyn, a woman as captivating and ambitious as she was. Or what if the Emperor Caesar could have a little chat with FDR? What would Franklin have to say about Caesar’s messing with the Republic the way he did? Tsk tsk…. Or perhaps Caesar would scoff at FDR for putting the needs of the common people above those of the state. Maybe they’d just smoke cigars, drink fine brandy and listen to baseball on the radio. Who knows?
So this year, for Halloween, let’s mix it up. You and your partner can pick any two people – from history, literature, wherever, and pair up in a wholly unexpected way. Have your answers ready when people ask you, “How did you meet?” Solve the problems of today by pairing the Buddha with Hillary Clinton. See if Harry Houdini can forge a lasting friendship with Edgar Allen Poe…. I think they’d get along quite well.
The great thing about this idea is that it works with people of all genders and all sexual orientations. Why be hogtied by the stereotypical expectations of costume companies? Change history and who knows, you might find that yours is a match made in heaven.
Below you will find lists of colorful men and women it might be fun to dress up as, and a few outrageous suggested pairings. Have fun!
Historical figures (women):
Hildegard of Bingen, medieval composer, writer, mystic, and saint, 1098- 1179
A little known feminist icon from the Middle Ages. Who knew? She did everything from compose music to write treatises about medicine and science. Plus she was a visionary. Costume: white cowl, black veil, halo.
Eleanor of Acquitaine, Queen of France and England, 1122-1204
A French royal who married two kings – Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. Eleanor’s is a complex and dramatic story. She had chutzpah, incited her sons to rebel against their royal father, and was imprisoned by her husband for over a decade. Costume: white veil held in place with golden crown, red cape, shackles.
Alice Paul, suffragist, activist, feminist, writer of the ERA, 1885-1977. She got us the vote. Need I say more? She put up with imprisonment and force feeding to do it, too. (So after Halloween be sure to vote.) Costume: Think “Gibson girl” for the hair, high necked blouse, long skirt, and a sash worn across the chest saying: “VOTES FOR WOMEN.”
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, 69-30 BCE
A bit of a Halloween cliché, but we can’t leave her out. Compelling, alluring, and irresistible to all who met her… especially men. Cleo was the last pharaoh of a great civilization and forged alliances with the powerful Rome by marrying first Caesar, then Marc Antony. She died famously by inviting an asp to bite her, rather than face dominion by the emperor Octavian. Costume: black blunt-cut wig, kohl eye liner, white sheath, rubber snake.
Historical figures (men):
Charles I, King of England, 1600-1649. Quarreled with the Puritans, who wanted him out, so he got his head chopped off. It was treason to put his own needs above those of his country. (Sound familiar?) Costume: wide brimmed black hat, goatee, doublet, pantaloons, blood stained lace ruff.
Siddhartha Gautama, aka the Buddha, 563-483 BCE. Indian prince who famously achieved enlightenment after meditating under a Bodhi tree for 49 days. He realized that desire is the root of all suffering and now 6% of the world’s population follows the path of Buddhism. Costume: top knot, simple drapery, wooden bowl to beg for rice, bindi (small dot) applied to third eye.
Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, faith healer and advisor to the Romanov tsars, 1869-1916. The man behind the Russian throne – Rasputin gained favor with the last tsar by healing his hemophiliac son with prayer. He was a spooky guy. Costume: black jacket with high Mandarin collar, long hair, bushy beard, crazy eyes.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, social critic, and poet, 1844-1900. Very controversial thinker who messed with a lot of dearly held beliefs. You may think he was nuts, but he was for sure when he lost his marbles due to syphilis. Costume: tiny “John Lennon glasses”, woolen topcoat, ribbon tie, poofy hair, massive ‘stache. Optional: a stack of books, including Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Jane Austen, English novelist, 1775-1817
Jane Austen captured English society with deft wit, and created characters who are relatable 200 years later. Costume: empire waist gown (blue), capped hair, ribbon (blue), ink-stained hands.
Sappho, Greek poet, 630-612 BCE
Sappho is a mystery. But one thing we know is that she’s often called the Tenth Muse. She holds a place, along with Homer and Aristophanes, as one of the truly great Greek poets. Costume: toga, air of confidence.
Flannery O’Connor, Southern American writer, 1925-1964
Flannery O’Connor wrote novels and stories in the American Gothic tradition, with a wicked sense of the absurd, a biting wit, and a scathingly honest voice. Costume: Coke bottle glasses, red lipstick, pageboy hair, laughter.
George Sand, French novelist, 1804-1876
Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin published under the pseudonym George Sand. She refused to be pigeon-holed, would be as likely to dress in men’s clothing as women’s, and did not always adhere to society’s expectations when it came to romantic dalliances. Costume: long flowing dark hair, fitted jacket and wide legged pants, soft bow tie.
Lord Byron, English poet, 1788-1824
George Gordon was a baron and a poet of the English Romantic movement. He was an iconic lover, a prolific writer, and he cut a swath through Europe, breaking hearts… including his own. Costume: voluminous white poet’s shirt and a cape, flowing ascot, dramatic hair, soulful eyes.
Virgil, Roman poet, 70-19 BCE
Publius Vergilius Maro, otherwise known as Virgil, managed to write epic poetry (like The Aenied) that is still read today, especially by Latin students. Costume: A laurel wreath, toga, and trailing scroll.
Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, 1899-1961
Hemingway was a bull fighting, big-game hunting, heavy drinking, womanizing, ex-patriot writer who changed the course of American letters. Costume: Safari wear, white beard, and a bottle of absinthe.
Walt Whitman, American poet, 1819-1892
Walt Whitman sang the body electric before American writers had such notions. A lover of nature, men, women, words, he basically invented modern poetry. Costume: big floppy hat, baggy pants, huge white mustache and beard, honest eyes, leaves of grass.
Fictional characters (women):
Lady MacBeth from Macbeth by Shakespeare
No one messes with the woman who turns her own husband into a killer. Is she crazy or ruthless? Costume: ill-gotten crown, bloody hands.
Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew mystery series by Carolyn KeeneNeat as a pin and smart as a tack, Nancy can solve any mystery and does it all in loafers and knee socks. Costume: loafers, knee socks, plaid kilt, “That Girl” hair flipped up at the ends, oversized magnifying glass.
Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
This kick-ass fighter/ brilliant investigator does not give a damn what anyone thinks of her. Costume: facial piercings, black spiky hair, dog collar, leather, expression that says “back the &@%^ off.”
Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The classic example of a woman stripped of power by society who has no recourse but to wield what power she can muster through the men in her life. She never finds happiness and leaves wreckage in her wake, in the form of shattered hearts and a totaled Rolls Royce. Costume: flapper dress, helmet hair, dazzling smile that masks the emptiness inside.
Fictional characters (men):
Pip from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Pip is a romantic idealist who must learn to grow into his life as a gentleman without hurting the people who love him most. Costume: floppy bow tie, top hat, sad eyes.
Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
>One of the greatest men ever written for literature, Santiago has a heart full of love. The ocean is his home, the marlin and Joe Dimaggio are his brothers. Costume: sun-bleached and threadbare clothes, broken straw hat, ripped-up hands, harpoon.
The Little Prince from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The ultimately charming innocent who teaches love and acceptance as he tells the story of his home planet and adventures. Costume: messy blond hair, long blue coat, sword. Optional: a rose.
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Atticus is the hero. He manages to be a good dad and an honorable lawyer who defends a black man in the South against racial injustice. Costume: squeaky clean soul, sense of humor, skinny tie, black framed glasses (think “Gregory Peck”).
Some suggested match-ups:
Two religious ascetics could do some serious damage together at a party. Hildegard of Bingen and the Buddha could partake of a little line dancing while comparing heaven to Nirvana.
Pair Nietzsche with Alice Paul, and watch the fur fly. Not known for his open-mindedness towards women, Friedrich is still probably no match for the redoubtable Alice.
Lisbeth Salander and Daisy Buchanan definitely need to spend some quality time together. First of all, what a dichotomous pair – flapper femininity meets hardcore tough-girl.
Both full of passion, love, sensuality, and artistic genius, Sappho and Walt Whitman might be BFFs harking from different millennia.
Lady Macbeth – fictional, ruthless, vaguely maniacal – and Rasputin – historical, ruthless, vaguely maniacal – could find lots of common ground. The lady with the blood stained soul might blackmail the promiscuous “mad monk” into manipulating her husband onto any available throne.
Had Nancy Drew lived in Maycomb County during the trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s great novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and had she and Atticus Finch not both been fictional characters, she could have done Atticus some real good as his legal investigator, getting hard, forensic proof of his client’s innocence. Let’s imagine a world in which that happens – at your Halloween party where Nancy and Atticus team up, at last.