My flatmate the cosmologist (who will henceforth be known as "David Goldberg", because when I asked him what he wanted his alias to be his first concern was that it project the correct air of 'nice Jewish boy from Jersey' no I swear I cannot make this stuff up) is a bit of an odd duck. Enumerating all of the reasons I say this would take a mid-length novel, but the pertinent one right now is that he loves costume parties, and particularly loves throwing them for his birthday. I actually showed up about twelve hours before the last one -- literally, my plane landed at 5am and I ended up napping on the sofa after being driven out from the airport by a cheerful madwoman named Jazmin, because at that point, between packing and freaking out and flying and time changes, I had been awake for something between two and three days.

(If anyone is interested in the minutia of my life, I happened to have known said flatmate online before I moved out here, and when I called ahead the first thing out of his mouth was, "Wow, you sound just like you write." Truer words have ne'er been spoke. I do in fact sound just like this in person.)

Last year's theme was Mad Science!, and God help me but I managed to put together an evil librarian costume entirely out of things I already owned and could pull out of my suitcase without making the rest of it explode onto the floor. This year, the theme is Heroes & Villains.

"Self," I sez to myself when I heard this, "you are going to be broke -- because you are always broke, because being smart pays peanuts and apparently has done at least since Kit Marlowe was bitching about it in rhyme -- and you live in a house that predates both world wars plus telephone service and central HVAC. So the salient questions here are, how cheap can you make a costume? and how naked can you legally be?"

The answers are "very" and also "very". I settled on Poison Ivy as the most interesting and the least likely to roast me so badly I start peeling off peripheral costume pieces. Ivy is also one of the more mercifully easy things to design, since she has a recognizable running theme, and because I swear to god that woman never shows up wearing the same thing twice in a row. All I have to do is find something very small and green, attach a bunch of ivy leaves to it and possibly also to me, and see if I can remember how to put on false eyelashes so they don't fall off again at awkward times. (I did consider the Arkham Asylum version, but 1. I prefer it if my costumes are street-legal, just in case, and 2. I don't own a red shirt.)

So I went down to Goodwill and bought a pair of nice European ankle-breakers with wooden stiletto heels on them, to wind some leaves around. They're about half a size too big, but they were also $5 that would have originally been in the neighborhood of $100, so I'm not going to complain too hard. I was wearing them around the house today, in the interest of making sure I could actually do that and not die, and checking the lines in the mirror the first thing I thought was: jesus christ what happened to my ankles. I have tiny wrists and ankles; I wear regular bracelets as ankle bracelets and have half the links taken out of my nice watch bands, that kind of tiny. I do not have especially tiny calves, and I definitely don't have tiny thighs, and the shoes have a big concealed platform under the front. The end result of watching me balance all this is that it basically looks like I can't do that. Even I'm waiting for me to fall over, and I can feel that my ankles are fine.

It is surprisingly difficult to dress me so that I don't look like a damn cartoon sometimes. Everybody in the audience is looking at me blankly, except for the more boobularly-blessed women, who are nodding so hard their heads are in danger of coming off. I mean, you can tell people your measurements are [x]-[x-11]-[x], and they go 'wow' and wander off all impressed, but nobody really grasps that those are your proportions all the time, even when you are actively trying not to look like Betty Boop. Great for black tie occasions, not always so great for job interviews. And this is true no matter what x is, believe me. If you're built like Playboy caricature at any circumference, there is no dress on Earth that will succeed in making you look like a nun.

You can't really just go up a size and go for a 'loose-fitting all over' look, because it won't be -- it's tight enough across the bust and the hips that it looks like the middle just plain doesn't fit right, and makes people wonder if maybe you don't own a mirror that you didn't salvage from an abandoned carnival funhouse. Wearing anything tailored or stretchy makes it look like you're trying to get one over on someone who took the husband you wanted, and can get you So Not Hired in a ridiculous number of places, depending on who's doing the interviews. You just want to stand in the middle of the room and burst out wailing sometimes, This has nothing to do with you! This is just how it fits! It actually eclipses the urge to yell My eyes are up here!

It also rather forces you to learn to be a bit extroverted, even if you're naturally not. I had a friend once who was built similarly, with a little less va-va on the bottom of the voom, who did her level best to blend in with the wallpaper. She was adamantly Not Interested in fielding any attention for it whatsoever. She got the most exceedingly creepy fuckers I have ever heard of before in my life, doing things like walking up behind her in the bookstore unannounced and smelling her hair. There is a certain subset of skeezy guys who scout out and prey on girls who reject (or are terrified of) their own aesthetic appeal. Not the girls who adopt an alternative sense of fashion, where they hope to stand out to a different crowd, but the ones who try desperately to downplay, to hide, to avoid being acknowledged as attractive in any way. The guys who prey on them give me the heebie-jeebies, and I say this as someone who is not particularly fussed by your average subway perv in the same way that I am not particularly fussed by house spiders -- I do not want them in my personal space, and will do violence to them if necessary, but I do not exactly spend my every waking moment paralyzed by the idea that I might run into one. There's just something 'specially nauseating about someone whose main plan of attack involves praising someone for something they fear and believe they shouldn't.

Anyway, looking like a cartoon is the point of a Poison Ivy costume, but I may have to rethink ever wearing those heels with any normal clothes. I tend to attract attention, but I don't really need extra helpings of it from middle-aged tourist women in Harvard Square, watching me from across the street and cringing in expectation of me going ass over tea kettle on the sidewalk.

Also, the rats are getting dressed up, too. Rats don't give two-tenths of a shit what they're wearing, it turns out. This was one of the important lessons I learned when dressing a set of rats named Athos, Porthos and Aramis up as their namesakes. (I made them little blue Musketeer tunics with white collars and crosses stitched onto them. Also tiny little felt hats with feathers, held on with chin straps -- see if you can spot the fatal flaw in that plan.) Unlike cats and dogs, as long as whatever it is doesn't prevent him from waddling around and eating, the rat is completely oblivious to whatever you have decided to dress him in. The current concept is that they will be attending the party as some of the Rat-Vengers: Captain Rat-Merica; Iron Rat; Rat-Hulk; and Thor, Rat of Thunder. I expect them to consume a substantial amount of beer as we try to bribe them into all staying in frame at the same time.