A Costume Named Fraud by Nisha Mody


Halloween instantaneously activates my anxiety. It’s not because I hate spiders. It’s not because I cannot handle watching scary movies. It’s not because people wear culturally appropriated costumes. It’s not because I despise pumpkin-spiced everything. It is because Halloween is a month-long reminder that I am a fraud.

My mom is an artist. And while she didn’t always work as one, she exhibited it in her delectable and visually alluring meals. She would always help me with elementary school art projects – I even won a button contest in elementary school because of her ideas…and her execution. She invents gorgeous jewelry. Her happiness while creating these gems is magical. I, however, was not so creatively inclined.

In 6th grade, my mom had a genius idea of making me a Halloween costume of a jelly bean jar. This was by far my favorite costume. She sewed this netting material to slip on over my head. It had a hole to stick in multi-colored balloons….and TA-DA! A life-sized jelly bean jar! I bragged about my mom’s resourcefulness to all my friends…I still do. I reused this costume in high school with equal excitement.

As an adult, I fear being invited to costume parties. Coming up with an amusing costume stresses me out. There are only so many times I can recycle the jelly bean jar. I have definitely googled “easy and creative Halloween costumes” on a few October 29th’s. I’m always afraid that my costume will be boring. I despise planning it out. I fear that said boring costume will be ridiculed. And that everyone will wonder why my costume sucks. And why I suck. I fear my own fears and how they paralyze me.

Most of my friends are enthusiastic about Halloween costumes. They spend a significant amount of time brainstorming clever ideas, scavenging for materials, replicating pop culture icons, or creating witty couple costume ideas. It is amazing. And they have so much fun doing it! I am always in awe, but it also makes me hate that I hate it. I hate that it stresses me out. I hate that I am not creative. I hate that I become stunted when asked to come up with anything on my own. I hate that my mom took the creative reigns while I grew up. I hate that I didn’t get an ounce of her artistic genius.

As many moms do, my mom has done everything for her children. She sacrificed and sacrifices. She dismissed her needs and continues to do so, just so our needs come first. But I will never forget the sparkle in her eyes when she was designing that button. Or when she found the perfect fabric to sew into an Indian outfit for me. Or when she found the perfect beads to create a masterpiece jewelry set to match that same outfit. Her independence, her art, her desires, her dreams, and her heart are in that sparkle. And that shine makes her who she is.

But what does it make me? I often wonder if that creative gene just wasn’t transmitted to me or if it was never allowed to take shape. Was my mom my teacher or was I her subject? The root of my anxieties are my actual roots. A denied dream for my own sake.

Maybe the next costume party I am invited to will be less scary. Perhaps I will allow that creative gene to be expressed. Perchance next October I will have my innovative redemption.

Or maybe I need to ask my mom for a hand again…this time for both of our sakes.

Nisha Mody is a writer, graduate student in library and information sciences, and former speech-language pathologist. She is a lover of eggs, bunnies, and avocados. Her work has been published in Role Reboot, Chicago Literati, and Hack Library School. Learn more about her at www.nishamody.info.