The Bright Side: Joe Bushue

The cold chill in the air, the rustling and crispy falling leaves, the earlier darkness resulting in a sort of spooky mist-covered moon, and the return of school meant it was time once again to start asking that perennial standard childhood question: “What are you going to be for Halloween?”

All you had to do then was figure out if you were going to be a cowboy, pirate, football player or hobo. A little makeup and a few old or borrowed clothes, and you were on your way. As you went from house to house with an adult, you heard all the people say, “What a cute little pirate!” You cared more about which house gave out the really big candy bars than you did about how you looked.

As the years went by, the question “What are you going to be?” became almost a competition among your friends to have the best and neatest costume, and the houses with the biggest bars became a faint second. Before you knew it, you were too cool to wear a costume, but still wanted the fun of trick-or-treating. You just had to figure out how to compete with the 7-year-old princess when you were 12 and 150 pounds.

You get older, and you’re the one commenting on that “cute little pirate or adorable princess,” and the house that doesn’t give out the big bars. All of the competition and peer pressure over costumes is gone, and you can just enjoy it.

Then, just when you start to relax, you get invited to a costume party, and it starts all over.

My wife took care of my worrying about what I was going as. She came home from shopping at the local Goodwill. She handed me the bag containing the Halloween treasures she’d gotten for me.

There was a cowl-neck soft green knit dress, a pair of women’s pumps, a fake fox stole, a string of matching costume pearls, a stylish gray wig and a pillbox hat (kind of scary that I even knew those terms). I was going to be a woman — all 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds of me.

Now the work began to make this costume look as good as possible. We bought a new pair of queen size pantyhose that actually fit me. My wife cobbled up a bra that would fit me and could be stuffed with socks. To really top off the ensemble, we added press-on fingernails and clip-on earrings. I was ready.

After some serious arguing by me, it was decided I wouldn’t shave my moustache before I was given the full makeup treatment: foundation, lipstick, eyebrow pencil and shadow, and mascara.

When the transformation was done, I looked in the full-length mirror and was surprised. Except for the moustache, I made a fairly decent-looking matronly lady. I was ready to go.

We arrived at the party, and after checking my makeup and adjusting my bra, I got out of the car, getting a huge snag and run in my new pantyhose in the process. Taking that in stride, we went inside. Upon seeing everyone else and their costumes, I started to feel comfortable and really enjoy the party. In doing so, I soon realized that sitting in a dress was really different than when you just had pants on. I soon found out I had to be careful to not look slutty.

After a while, my feet really hurt, and my pantyhose not only had a run, they were starting to get baggy and I had to keep tugging them up. My fake fingernails kept coming off when I did. I couldn’t wait to get that damned bra off, and those clip-on earrings hurt like my earlobes were in a vise. To cap things off, I was laughing so hard, it made my mascara run.

I looked again in the mirror. What I saw made me give my wife a hug as I realized what women go through to look good. As uncomfortable as I was, even if I did still look semi-decent, it wasn’t worth it.

The next year when I was asked, “What are you going to be?” I answered quickly, “A hobo.” At least I could sit comfortably, and my smudges’wouldn’t run.

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Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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