Cultural Appropriation Fail

The rule is, your Hallowe’en costume should be either be a horror creature, or else something  clever and funny and preferably inanimate.  Be a deer or a demon or an avocado or a donut or a steak. Don’t dress up as any kind of a person.

The only time you may dress up as a person is when you already look exactly like that kind of person, in which case, depending on the circumstances, it may or may not be much of a costume, but I digress.

A year ago I broke this rule and here’s what happened.

I am a middle-aged blond woman.  I went as Mario from Super Mario Bros. My costume consisted of a fake black mustache and the trademark Mario hat.  (It was a costume of convenience. My kids had developed an interest in Mario and Luigi, and had already acquired the props.)  It was a not terribly convincing costume, since with my shocking white skin and light-colored, curly hair poking out from under the hat, there was no disguising that I was a lady of Dutch ancestry. Also, I don’t own any blue coveralls.

Trick-or-treating in our then neighborhood was the most fun I’ve ever had trick-or-treating. People decorate their houses, come outside, and sit in lawn chairs in costume, holding bowls of candy, sometimes flanked by a glowing brazier or a bowl of dry ice.  The streets throng with families.  All the little kids and many of the parents are excitedly complimenting one another’s costumes. Cars, if they venture out at all, drive at 2 mph. Everyone is feeling happy and excited.  No one is drunk, but their inhibitions are down. It’s a real party atmosphere.

(The year my one son was two, he was so cute that people kept giving him extra candy. After an hour, his trick-or-treat bucket was so heavy that he couldn’t carry it.  But I’m digressing again.)

When I showed up in my Mario costume, it was immediately recognized by a mustachioed, curly-haired man about my own age. He pointed at me and yelled at the top of his voice,

Look! It’s an older Greek woman!

Then as I doubled over in laughter, he added, “That’s how we tease our Grandmas.”

Darn. I was trying to appropriate Italian culture.

11 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation Fail

  1. hahahaha this was hilarious!!

    Although I’ve just realised I committed a grievous crime dressing up as Mario when I was 10- cos I’m not Italian either- mia culpa! (oh no, I just did it again by saying “mia culpa!”)

    One important correction: it’s not okay to dress up as an orangutan without my explicit permission- which I’d never give cos I am a killjoy 😉 😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, look, if you want to culturally appropriate from me and my people, you’ve gotta be more dedicated than a mere mustache and plumber’s hat. Here are some tips:

    – wave your hands when you speak, especially bringing all 5 fingers together and shaking them, fingers pointed back towards you
    – bring a pot of pasta with you and tell everyone to “Mangia! Mangia!”
    – declare that “The Godfather” is offensive but sing shamelessly along with such Italian classics as “That’s Amore”
    – find out how to bake sfingi and share them with everyone (if you’re going for Sicilian, which, why wouldn’t you? Those Northern Italians are too Frenchified anyway)
    – weep whenever you hear “O Mio Bambino Caro”
    – insist that the people you’re with aren’t eating enough food, no matter how much they’ve actually eaten
    – have large, loud family gatherings

    Well, there’s certainly more, but at least you now have some basics! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks for all the great tips! I had no idea that I was in the presence of such a knowledgeable culture friend.

      Yes, I believe I would go for Sicilian, since that tends to be the region that people are thinking of when they think of Italian stereotypes.

      But, try as I might, I fear it will all end in failure. I will still be an uptight Dutch-Irish-American woman. Reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s boyhood fantasy that his staid German family would turn out to be secretly Italian with lots of good food and a big, demonstrative family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My family loved Garrison Keillor’s show! My family isn’t quite the stereotype, but I do have a handful of cousins with their own families who have often gathered for holidays and events, and when those happen there’s always lots of noise and food (including cheeses, salami, olives, bruschetta, and other Italian-American snack staples). I’ve often said (to myself and sometimes friends) that I feel Irish or Scottish at heart, as I’ve always been so strongly attracted to their cultures, languages, and poetic aesthetics. But I’m also plenty glad to be Italian. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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