The best part of Halloween has nothing to do with candy or getting dressed up, and everything to do with looking back at old photos of all the cringeworthy Halloween costumes you wore as a kid, and thanking the Internet gods that things like Instagram and Facebook didn't exist back then.
Halloween is my ultimate favorite holiday, and it was incredibly memorable as a child. Not so much for the candy, but because I could transform into something else for one magical afternoon. I fully remember the year where I was truly upset when my parents didn't let me dress up like my personal childhood idol, Jo from The Facts of Life, as a first grader. As a fellow brunette, I truly loved Jo's badass motorcycling ways, yet my parents just didn't think it'd be a great costume for a 7-year-old who had to parade around her school in front of judgmental parents with cameras.
Young Karen: Why can't I be Jo from The Facts Of Life?
My Mom: Nobody will know who you are.
Young Karen: Easy. I'll just carry a sign that says, "I'm Jo from The Facts of Life!"
*Mom walks out of the room*
That being said, parents sometimes get it wrong. As a full disclaimer, I come from a household packed with creatively talented human beings. My mom was a first grade teacher, and every summer she painted her own amazing and colorful creations that inspired young minds to be molded. She also loved me, and didn't mean to cause me any type of embarrassment. But also, this was the '80s. Here are some of my most epic Halloween costume fails from my childhood:
1. Dog In Sneakers, Approximately 3 Years Old
Listen, I don't even know what the hell this one is. My best guess is "dog," but since I've never met any plaid dogs in my life before, I could be mistaken. Secondary guess: floppy eared, plaid rabbit. While I seem happy enough wearing this outfit (I mean, I'm waving), I don't think I realized that the world was open to so much more.
2. Weird Jeweled Cat, Numerous Years In Elementary School
When I was a kid, I loved cats. I wanted to be a cat. Oddly enough, I truly feared cats. I liked the idea of them perhaps, but was frightened whenever I got close to one. When I realized that a black cat was actually a totally normal Halloween costume choice, though, I was all over it.
However, I made it real weird. After pouring through childhood photo albums, I can't believe that I haven't been able to find one photo of me in my best black sweats, with my creepy and unrealistic cat mask with false gemstones hot-glued to the side of it. Honestly, I'm kind of glad there isn't any photographic evidence.
I remember finding this mask at some sketchy Halloween cart at the mall, and having my dad ask me five times, "Are you sure this is the one?" Kudos to him, for making my dreams come true instead of telling me the harsh truth that I wasn't a cat — I was a young creep.
Anyway, here's a cute cat GIF to help erase that visual from your mind:
3. Care Bear, Kindergarten
Cheer Bear was my ultimate favorite (because she was pink, of course), so imagine my surprise when my parents told me that a local neighbor had a Cheer Bear costume on hand for my personal use. This was going to be the best Halloween ever!
Unfortunately, I was a little overwhelmed by the monstrous amount of material draped on my body. The head was gigantic. In fact, it flopped in the cold October wind.
It's unnerving to wear a head that's much larger than your own. Especially when that head doesn't even look like the Care Bear you once admired. It almost looks like a fake bear parading around as a Care Bear after it swallowed me whole.
4. Missing Tooth Cheerleader, First Grade
This was a cute outfit, but let's be honest — I only wanted the pom poms. I played with those pom poms throughout all of elementary school, even when my hands grew too big for those tiny plastic handles. Instead of actually cheering with them, I normally put them over my head and pretended I was a Fry Kid from McDonald's.
There was a missed opportunity here. With my missing tooth, this could have been my jack-o'-lantern year. I had jack-o'-lantern written all over me, but instead I was cheering for the fictional "Team K!"
5. Picnic Blanket, Third Grade
Here's another one that has no photos attached to it. Third grade was when things got massively awkward. My hair was triangle-shaped and frizzy, my glasses took up half of my face, and I discovered Doritos this year. What better way to raise one's self-confidence than by dressing up like a human picnic?
My mom actually bought a glue gun for this one, and worked her ass off. Honestly, her hard work didn't go unnoticed. The concept of the costume was great, it's just that the final product was so heavy, bulky, and slightly mortifying. Especially when everyone else you know decided to dress up like something more mobile, like The Pink Ranger. Me? I had plastic hotdogs glued all over me.
6. Care Bear, Second Attempt, Freshman Year
Then there was high school. Still scarred by the gigantic costumes of my youth, I decided last minute to create my own Care Bear costume when some acquaintances of mine decided to trick-or-treat well past their age limit. It couldn't be too hard, right? I had a blue shirt. And a paper plate. And a vision.
Friends, this is when I learned the lifelong lesson that you shouldn't sew a paper plate onto anything. Anything at all. If you're ever thinking, "Can I sew a paper plate onto this?" the answer is no.
Keep in mind, I also couldn't sew for shit. Buttons on shirts? Yes. Anything else? No. In fact, I broke my mom's sewing machine twice as a kid, and during those times, paper plates weren't even in the picture.
Out of all of the photos above, this is maybe the most embarrassing. But, it was part of my life that I've finally had the nerve to share with a bunch of strangers who will probably judge me. And that, I think, is called growth.
Lesson learned: Never mock mom's costumes. She knew what the hell she was doing.
Images: Karen Belz; Giphy