This year when brainstorming Halloween costumes, I had an additional factor to consider: I had a partner. Now, I’ve never been a fan of couples costumes; I find them tacky, unoriginal and, frankly, embarrassing. In the first weeks of October, as the Halloween costume crunch began to set in, I found myself caught between my desire to do something cute with my partner and my fear of being a hypocrite.
So—in an attempt at mental gymnastics to excuse my hypocritical behavior—I began my reckoning with couples costumes. In theory, couples costumes can be successful displays of creativity, with each partner dressing up in stand-alone costumes that, when combined, are even more clever. Think Frog and Toad from the beloved children’s book series, which evokes nostalgic domesticity.
In practice though, it seems that such pairings merely uphold heteronormative stereotypes. Example: my boyfriend’s first serious suggestion for our costumes was bunnies; him as a regular bunny, and me as a Playboy Bunny. That was a definite no. On the other hand, when he jokingly suggested that I should be Mr. Darcy and he would be Lizzie Bennet (I had just forced him to watch “Pride and Prejudice” 2005), I was all ears.
My issue with the bunny/Playboy bunny idea was that it only reinforced the gendered divide between objectified and not. Instead, Lizzie and Mr. Darcy subverted the narrative of ‘stereotypical straight couple’ through its gender bending, and would have been executed in an ironic fashion. Similarly, my friend and his boyfriend’s Fred and Daphne costume pokes fun at the fictional-couple-turned-Halloween-costume cliché.
This doesn’t mean that non-heterosexual relationships are excluded from my couples costumes criticism. In the past, my former partner and I dressed up as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from the ‘50s sitcom I Love Lucy. This one was alright. It had the plus of co-opting the straight couple archetype and applying it to lesbians, but it didn’t escape my second major problem with couples costumes: sincerity.
See, one of my big qualms is that some couples genuinely believe that they’re being cute. They think that dressing up as a moth and a lamp, or some random TV couple actually isn’t ridiculously silly and contrived. I think I wouldn’t mind couples costumes so much if people recognized and embraced their cringiness.
In the past, my position on this was often brushed away: Oh, Amaya, you’re just bitter because you’re single and don’t have anyone to do this with. No longer! I am intensely happy in a loving relationship, and I’m still convinced that couples costumes are cringe.
Nevertheless, I’m not one to tell someone they shouldn’t do something that makes them happy just because it’s embarrassing. I do cringy stuff all the time, and I’m not about to start letting other people’s thoughts get in the way of my enjoyment.
Just know, however, that if I see you and your partner dressed up as Barbie and Ken, or (god forbid) Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, I will be judging you. Just as much as I’ll be judging myself when I’m dressed as a Victorian ghost and my partner is dressed as….(drumroll please).... my Victorian ghost boyfriend.