Maeve Higgins: my ideal . . . fancy dress costume


I was in my room the other day, transcribing some recent phone conversations I’d had with friends. Repeatedly listening to Cherie’s quickened breath and timing her lengthy hesitation after I’d suggested we spend Christmas together made me realise a few things. And, when written down, TJ’s “I thought we agreed I’d call you” seemed . . . odd. I shook my head from side to side 15 times, as usual, but even that didn’t help to clear the feelings. I decided instead to imagine the ideal fancy-dress costume.

I’m famed for my quick fire assessments of who should wear what when it comes to fancy-dress costumes. As a young child, people would walk by my window and I’d call out helpfully “ruined princess” or “obviously a goblin”. It was cute then and it’s cute now. Just today I said to my bank teller “Eric, with your lurching gait and dead eyes, you’re practically a zombie already!”

People say be careful what you pretend to be, lest you turn into just that, but I don’t believe them. I’m a practical woman. I’ll have to stop you there because as soon as I said practical, you imagined me as plain of face and stout of body. You’re way off the mark.*

By practical, I mean saving slivers of old soap in a jam jar until I have enough to force together a new, grotesque bar and also, I’m not superstitious. I used to be cursed with superstition, until I took a healer’s advice on how to shake it. We were on a boat together at the time, and she told me to stop whistling and to tip a sailor’s collar. I did just that, then I kept my fingers crossed. When the ship’s cat looked up at the night sky and sneezed at a shooting star, I knew I was cured . . . touch wood. So, you see, I’m not worried that I’ll become a witch just because I dress up as one.

That said, incorporating some elements of your personality into your costume will make it more authentic. Are you a “bad boy”? Not sure? Well, have you done your taxes? No. Do you sometimes skip flossing? Yes. Oh, you’re bad alright. Exaggerate that, and go as the baddest boy of all, Mugabe.

My dream fancy-dress costume is just that, a fancy dress, at least at the front. Oh yes, an extremely fancy dress, made from tulle and taffeta, so divine and unspoiled I’ll need to be lifted over puddles by silent soldiers. Everyone in the ballroom will gawp, stunned by my beauty, silent and wondering, while I skit my toffee apple head off, imagining their reactions when I’ve passed them out and they see, slowly, horribly, that I am, in fact, part fox, and not a sexy play-fox, but a truly terrifying chimera – all dolled up, and looking to party.

* These dangly earrings and this orange lipstick are enhancing the face, not distracting from it, and I wear black because I’m an artist and a writer.

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