When I was in the 6th grade, I had a special morning routine. I rose at 6:45 to the shrill buzz of a 1975 alarm clock purchased from an estate sale when my aging neighbor had died, dressed in my favorite school outfit of high-waist, light-wash jeans and a sweatshirt advertising a resort in Belize but was actually from Pennywise, and arranged my hair into a fetching middle-parted low ponytail (normcore before it was normcore!). Then, I’d sit down, pour myself a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and read the Washington Post Style section in full, starting from the back page and moving to the front.
Clearly, it was rubbing off on me.
Any part of this regimen can probably be used to explain why, for that Halloween of 2004, I chose to dress as a carbohydrate. I had long been developing a taste for things that delighted myself and, at best, confused and alienated others— 2004 was an election year, so had I waded into the actual news section of the Post at any point, I likely would have chosen to be something similarly obtuse, like the Foot in John Kerry’s Mouth or the War on Terror.
As it was, all I knew from my daily, exclusive perusal of the Style section that low-carb, protein-heavy diets like South Beach and Atkins were the trendy methods of attaining trimness. From that, I deduced that to the health-conscious residents of my Northern Virginia suburb, there would be nothing more terrifying than a rogue carbohydrate traipsing around their neighborhood in the night, and I planned to use the horror I would surely inflict to abscond with as much candy as I could.
Whether this plot was the zenith or nadir of my career as a human being remains to be seen. Regardless, it is common knowledge that a female tween with a unibrow has to get creative if she is ever to get anything that she wants, and so I decided to go full-force.
Choosing this costume was easy, but executing it was another matter. I felt that dressing as a loaf of bread or a human-sized potato would be far too on the nose, and that both would require hefty amounts of wiring, papier-mâché and time. My days were already full with learning vocabulary words for the SAT, which was a mere six years away, and sprawling on the leopard-print bean bag in my closet and imagining that I was Jane Eyre (a character who resonated with me both because of her plainness and similar inclination to middle parts), and thus, I simply could not devote any energy towards a new task.
Besides, I had seen To Kill a Mockingbird and knew what might happen if I dressed in a motion-restricting, food-based costume. Suppose I was knocked to the ground by an errant, revenge-bent racist and, entrapped in my plaster baguette, was unable to escape, just as Scout Finch had been in her Alabama Ham? It was unlikely that my father had incensed any possible local members of the Ku Klux Klan to the point that they might try to murder me or my siblings, but the idea of relying on a friendly neighborhood lunatic to save me if such an event did occur was not appealing.
Instead, I went for a minimalist approach— “all black everything,” as Lupe Fiasco would later opine, so that my subjects could project their own personal fears onto my murky visage. I had a black skirt, top, and, to complete the look, a long, flowing cape. On my front, I attached a sign, with what I deemed a “spooky” font:
Am a carb.
In what was a surprise only to myself, nobody really “got” what I was trying to do. Photographic evidence prior to the event shows the chasm between what might have been recognizable and relatable on Halloween, and what was not: my sister is an adorable witch. My brother, a tiny skeleton. I am, unintelligibly, a young carbohydrate, blissfully content to wander the streets striking fear into the hearts of some and comprehension into the minds of none.