When you see doubles on Halloween

The witch, the ghost, the Nixon mask — Halloween costumes can be classic but a bit stereotypical.

For instance, look at what people searched this year on the Internet: some of the top Googled Halloween costumes were Nicki Minaj, Charlie Sheen and Angry Birds. These fan favorites are aligned to demographics and different types of Halloweeners.

Nicki Minaj is the vixen, the fierce rapper or pop diva (remember last year’s was Lady Gaga?), and presents the potential for so many men to go in drag. Charlie Sheen is for the playboys — those who just want to grab a bowling shirt and go, and still be “winning.” And, well, Angry Birds? You not only net in the gamers and the naturalists, but the jokesters and the children.

Halloween is your regular old census for personality.

Though everyone has his or her preferences, it’s a night to escape your mundane self. A costume’s popularity runs the high risk of having, say, a flock of Angry Birds flying around. Eventually, a few doppelgängers are bound to be in your midst.

The doppelgänger is a look-alike or double of a person — typically harbingers of bad luck — and is the definition of an uncanny experience. Could it get any ghastlier?

When you put on a character, you can’t help but think about your own identity, especially if you see 15 of the same in one night. This trend may be another example of how people are socialized to want the same things. Or could it be an aesthetic representation of our identity?

In the sixth grade for Halloween, I wore an Elizabethan gown, calling myself The Queen of Halloween. I liked the rhyme. I didn’t learn that you were supposed to be sexy for Halloween until I walked to school in the long-sleeved, floor-length, multi-petticoat, turtle-necked gown and saw all my friends by the lockers as sexy farm animals or french maids in short skirts and Rocket Dog sandals. But I still felt great.

It wasn’t until homeroom — we were all waiting outside the classroom for our teacher — when I realized I had made a horrible mistake. Down the long corridor there was a familiar blonde woman wearing the same exact costume as me. This woman was my science teacher, Ms. Lynch. And she wasn’t just wearing my costume, but she added a black nun’s habit and a real-life hawk (arm-guard and all) for flair. Ms. Lynch was known for rescuing birds and using her home as a fowl half-way house.

This was my doppelgänger — the woman I was compared to. To this day I do not have a more embarrassing moment. She called me “Twin” for the entirety of the class. Every 15 seconds in the hall I would hear someone yell “you and Ms. Lynch are the same person!”

Really? The same person?

When you see a doppelgänger, or perhaps a mirror image of yourself, how can you not reflect on your own identity? Was I to become a dark-eye-browed, blonde sixth grade science teacher who had more relationships with birds than with men? It was a grim time in my youth— a grim one.

The silliness of Halloween can be taken lightly, of course — just think of the candy and the Monster Mash. But it’s probably the only holiday where people collectively extend beyond what they normally think of themselves, even if it’s in a sardonic way.

Maybe Halloween’s tradition of superficiality, covering yourself up and becoming a counterfeit isn’t superficial at all but has the potential to see how multidimensional you really can be — for the good and for the bad.

Image source: Pedro J. Ferreira through Creative Commons