Well, it’s officially the end of summer, and I hope you thoroughly enjoyed yours. Hey, did you know that the Gaelic term for “end of summer” is Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”) and it’s also where Halloween is known to originate from? However, in the beginning, Halloween had more to do with the changing of seasons and preparing for winter than changing into costumes, with people often going “door-to-door” asking for food, in exchange for prayers for the dead. It was commonly believed that the souls of the dearly departed were supposed to revisit peoples’ homes on October 31st, with sinister black cats, goblins and witches paving the way. It was really only much later, after the massive Irish immigration into America, that candy, costumes, parties and pumpkins became the most common way to celebrate Halloween. So, from pagan ritual to party night, Halloween still stands strong as that popular time of year when many -not only children, but adults as well- choose fun over responsibility, imagination over reality, and sometimes even indulging in a private fantasy, or two!
And, when you really think about it, isn’t that what Halloween is all about? A celebration in transformation? Maybe I’m becoming somewhat of an existentialist as I get older. Or, maybe I’m just old:-). But, recently I came across an old photo album of Halloween pictures from all the wonderful parties we celebrated over the years and one particular photograph made me smile. It was the time I had dressed up as a saloon girl: a tight laced black bodice, a very short red satin ruffled skirt (oh, how I love satin!), lots of sequins, fringe and fishnet stockings held up by a garter and a pair of high-heeled shoes. Ooh-la-la! To look at me, you’d think sultry and sexy. However, what was definitely less apparent is that it took me almost an hour to work up the nerve to walk into the party dressed-up that way. Seemingly so provocative, yet so incredibly shy! But,I did it! Thinking back, I embraced both my persona and my inhibitions. And, it was so much fun! Oh, there’s something about the wild wild west:-) Although I do recall a look of disdain from my mother as I left the house that evening… Nevertheless, I forged ahead. Little did I realize back then I was putting training wheels on my fantasies and desires. Little did I know I was learning how to own my own sexual imagination and expression. That was already 35 years ago!
And, this is a story I still often share in my work with couples and especially so in the Sex onthe Menu workshop I offer to women. This past month I had the privilege of attending two different bachelorette parties. Both events were very engaging and entertaining as well as educationally enlightening. Notwithstanding, what continues to surprise me about these events is that even today, in our so-called sexually-liberated society in which we live in, female sexuality still has many myths, untruths, and taboos surrounding it. It’s almost 2015 and for many young women of today it’s like they have been pushed back into the morass of the sexual mores of my own generation. In particular, I find that many young women continue to grapple with the whole “bad girl/good girl” dichotomy or what I like to call the Madonna/Whore Complex. Many continue to second-guess themselves, teeter-tottering between prohibition and permission to be able to be both. Many of these young women who would love to enjoy sex more freely either do so begrudgingly, or hold back out of shame. For so many, sex cannot just be about pleasure and play for it is mired with too many fears and inhibitions. The proscriptive head seems to get in the way. Even the word “fantasy” conjures up confusion. How come I don’t fantasize? What’s a good fantasy? How do I create a fun fantasy? What act shall I perform? ….are questions I often get asked. To which I respond: “It really begins with your sense of immersion in your own “self”: by getting in touch with your own thoughts, feelings and memories as well as all of your senses, too. Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound! Although fantasies are unique and require the use of your imagination, a fantasy isn’t necessarily about what you “do” as much as it is about what you think or know about yourself, especially that which would make you feel more passionate, more playful, more alive? A good fantasy brings forth your unencumbered spirit.”
I think fantasies perform a valuable function. To be able to go anywhere in our imagination is pure freedom. To claim it is to feel alive. To share it can be exalting. And, perhaps within our intimate relationships, getting into the Halloween “spirit” can be the perfect time to “dress -up” and step into our fantasies and have fun with a loved and trusted partner. Whatever costume or disguise we wear, peu importe…it’s more about “becoming” and “possibility”, bringing in an element of both creativity and surprise, perhaps breaking our routine…masquerading and owning our imagination. Art. It’s a chance to watch and to be watched. Anticipation. It’s also an opportunity to shirk our vulnerabilities for a bit of courage and confidence. Aliveness. It’s about possibility, it’s about playfulness. When I was a child, I used to equate Halloween with candy and chocolate. Today, when I see costumes of ghosts and monsters, swashbucklers and superheroes, vixens and maidens, I think: transcendence.
Maybe Halloween is more about taking off the mask than putting one on?
Happy Halloween everyone!