This year for Halloween, my male alter-ego Carl dressed up as a lumberjack. And went to school.
I wasn’t planning to go all-out for Halloween. October was a whirlwind of moving and suffering through my first cold of the school year—activities that left me without the energy to devise and track down the pieces of an elaborate costume.
But then, on the 30th, I really got to thinking about it. I hadn’t had a proper Halloween since 2009: I was in Europe for 2010 and 2012, and I was in a Florida at the Associated Collegiate Press journalism conference for 2011. Plus, when else would I have the opportunity to dress up in a ridiculous costume and flaunt it at my place of employment?
I’ve been dressing up as Carl since his birth in the spring of 2009 for Whitman’s annual “Dragfest”—a party for which students dress in drag.
Once the floodgates had been opened, the world was exposed to a whole variety of Carls.
This year’s lumberjack Carl (being largely unplanned) had to work within the confines of my wardrobe. He wore jeans, a flannel shirt, a black puffy vest, Dr. Martens and a superb hat that Binta gave me for my birthday.
And though not nearly all of my belongings have made the move to Portland, I somehow had the foresight to pack my trusty Carl mascara—used for facial (and leg) hair—way back in June. (It’s moments like these that really make me love myself.)
Et voilà! Lumberjack Carl.
Carl arrived at school and was initially spotted by several coworkers who did double takes and said things like “I hardly recognized you!” and “Forgot to shave this morning?”
Then Carl bumped into Evan, one of my fellow aides, who had also come as a lumberjack. Evan and I had interpreted “lumberjack” in exactly the same way—jeans, flannel shirts, black puffy vests, Dr. Martens, hats, and full beards (Evan’s was real though).
After my boss asked if I had purposefully dressed as Evan, I decided to just run with it.
Carl as Evan as a lumberjack? Why not?
The kids, of course, had the best reactions. And boy, were they varied.
The first kindergartener to spot me stared at me from a distance, wide-eyed with a mixture of confusion and fear.
The first one to approach me asked timidly, “What’s that on your face?”
“My beard—I didn’t shave this morning.”
As he backed away in horror, I said, “I’m kidding, it’s just make-up!”
My third grade lunch class was much more receptive. The teacher greeted me with a joking “Bonjour, monsieur.” And several of the kids exclaimed “Woah! For a second I really thought you were a guy!” To which I replied “Thank you, that means my costume’s a success.” By the end of lunch they were happily in on the joke and referred to me as Evan the rest of the day.
And my beard earned me some major points with my sixth grade lunch class, who voted my costume “most hipster” of the lunchroom.
But the conversation I had most throughout the day went something like this:
“What are you?”
“What’s a lumberjack?” [Seriously, how do kids growing up in the PNW these days not know what a lumberjack is?]
“Someone who cuts down trees.”
“But couldn’t you have been a girl lumberjack?”
“I guess I could have. But I’m a girl every other day, and since I can be anything for Halloween, I decided I wanted to be a boy lumberjack.”
Interestingly, the kids had no problem envisioning a female lumberjack. What bothered them was someone they typically see as feminine hiding her hair in a hat and painting a beard on her face. The question wasn’t so much “why are you pretending to be something that you’re not?” as “why would you want to change your gender?”
In most cases, once I explained myself, the kids accepted my logic—even if my gender bending made them uncomfortable.
And I overwhelmingly found that the kids who know me better and interact with me on a daily basis appreciated Carl the most.