This is my third Purim in Israel and I’m kind of getting the hang of it. I get that there are festivities for a week even though it’s not one of the eight day holidays. I’m fine with that now. I know that Sunday will be Dress Like a Traffic Light Day, Monday will be Pajama Day. Tuesday will be Face Painting Day. Wednesday will be Accessories Day. Thursday will be a day to catch our breath and Friday is all-out Purim Costume Day.
I also know the drill about mishloach manot, the gift packages the kids need to exchange with other kids at school. I know what to buy. I know how to wrap them in cellophane. I got this. Then there’s the big Purim carnival that the scouts put on and there will be cold hotdogs and it will probably rain and the hand-made rope and pallet wood rides will be awesome and life-threatening to our children but everything will be fine. And then there will be two days off school.
It all makes perfect sense and I no longer resent Queen Esther for saving the Jews and coming up with this insane holiday in the first place because I now have Purim under control. Which is also ridiculous since it’s a holiday when you are commanded to completely lose control, get drunk, party until you’re sideways and wrestle a tiny bit with the dark and scary recesses of your existence.
Here is what I don’t get. Now that my kids are a little older, the costumes seem to have shifted and this year, I noticed. While we lived in the US we only barely celebrated Purim because it was bad enough having to deal with Halloween, another holiday I despise, so when Purim came around the kids just threw on whatever was in the costume box, I dressed like a pirate which I have been doing since 1997 and we hauled ourselves over to the JCC. That was on a good year. No one obsessed about mishloach manot. We didn’t work ourselves into an eight day frenzy. And that was fine. And the costumes were benign. A butterfly. A lion. A shark. A vampire. One year my then three-year-old daughter was “Princess” Frida Kahlo and rocked the unibrow. I liked Purim that year.
Now the costumes marketed to girls my daughter’s age and older are stripper costumes. It’s not Hello Kitty. It’s Hello Kitty who looks like she might jump out of a birthday cake. And Cinderella in a shiny, short skirt making a pouty face. Strawberry Shortcake is in hooker boots, Bat Girl is in pink chiffon and, my favorite, Japanese Pirate Hello Kitty is in fishnets. And the women’s costumes are worse. The choices are nurse stripper, flight attendant stripper, bumble bee stripper, lady bug stripper, police officer slut or, my favorite, Israeli fighter pilot stripper.
Back in the day we dressed as…wait for it…the characters from the Megilla! Boys were either Haman, King Ahasuerus or Mordechai. Girls were usually Queen Esther. If you wanted to be slutty you put on a belly dancer costume and you were Vashti. Which, come to think of it, makes no sense either since she was probably the only one not putting out for the King’s court. But I digress. Sometimes we broke tradition. One year I was Haman. Mustache. Napolean hat. Dark cloak. It worked. Now you can barely even find the character costumes and why would you be Queen Esther when you could be Slutty Queen of Hearts?
Why, people? Why are these my daughter’s choices? Well, they’re not actually her choices since we are too cheap to buy costumes from a store. We make them ourselves and they look crazy and we don’t care. Although last year my husband sewed a Princess Leia dress for my daughter and she wore her dark brown hair in buns and looked fabulous. But not everyone is as skilled as Mr. Rosen and sometimes homemade costumes go awry. A friend of mine told me that the principal of her kid’s school, an alternative school for democratic, environmental, Waldorf loving families, dressed as a black person. Not as Obama or Oprah or Beyonce. Just a black person. IN BLACK FACE. This is the principal of an elementary school. Was she already drunk? Was she going all out for Purim and had already completely lost her mind? Hard to say. This is one instance where it might have been more appropriate for her to dress as Slutty Japanese Pirate Hello Kitty.
Which brings us back to raunchy store bought costumes. Is this happening for Halloween too? Or are just the Jews getting naughty? Now I’m no prude and if you are an adult and want to wear a lot of spandex and put on an Elvira wig and show off some cleave on Purim then you go for it, especially you ultra-Orthodox folks out there. It feels good to go wild if not but once a year. I saw a six foot tall Haredi guy in full Haredi regalia standing in a toy store holding an XXL blue spandex Power Ranger costume telling someone on his phone, “I’m just not sure it will fit” and I thought, you rock that blue unitard, Rabbi! It’s your one day to wear a different color and maybe a cape. DO IT. Come to think of it, maybe he was just choosing between the Haredi costume and the Power Ranger. Who the hell knows. One thing I know for sure, my daughter will not be dressing as Little Red Riding Whore, this year or any other year, as long as I can help it.