By Mordechai Schmutter
A lot of people wonder, “Should I dress up on Purim?”
Okay, adults wonder this. Kids take it for granted. Why not get as much candy as possible all over an outfit that can’t stand up to laundry?
Oh, and by “adults,” I generally mean men. Most women don’t dress up, unless you count wearing a different color sheitel. But as a man, you might be wondering, “Should I dress up?” You might want to, but every time you bring it up, your wife changes the topic—generally to mishloach manos. Her goal is to make you as embarrassed by her mishloach manos theme as she is by your costume.
So it’s good to weigh your options. Because now is the time, right? After all those years growing up where you had to wear hand-me-down “cowboy pants,” whatever those are, you finally have access to money and a car, and you have no one to tell you that you can’t wear something, except your wife. And she doesn’t have to come. Where was she when you were figuring out what to wear in the first place?
On the one hand, as an adult, who is going to see the costume, really? You’re definitely too old to dress up for Megillah, and the whole rest of the day you’re going to be in the car, looking for parking. Or circling blocks and looking for address numbers in a costume that doesn’t leave much in the way of maneuverability. No, one size does not fit all. Who is “all”? Am I not part of this “all”? How many midgets did they test this on before they decided it was okay for everyone else?
Maybe it’s a typo. Maybe there’s a guy at the factory named “Al,” and “one size fits Al.” But not this size. A bigger one.
Or maybe they realized that their profit margin would be bigger if, on top of making the costumes not stand up to laundry or weather, they also made each costume slightly too small. Who’s going to call them on it? Is someone coming back into the factory and going, “Look! It doesn’t fit me!” You don’t even get your money back if you can prove it doesn’t fit all. They’ll probably say you just gained weight so you could come in and try to get a refund. (“One size fits all? Challenge accepted!”) Best case scenario, they still won’t add material to every single costume. They’ll just change the label to, “One size fits all except Mr. Schmutter.”
But you still have options. For example, you can pretend you’re wearing a small costume on purpose. Depending on the costume, you can say, “I’m a fat baby!” Or, “I’m a fat Kohein Gadol!” or whatever.
On the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance your wife will be driving, especially if you can convince her that you’ve been drinking. (Though don’t actually drink if the costume is a rental.) If your wife drives, you can actually get out of the car with your kids and impress their rebbeim. Because this is the kind of thing that impresses rebbeim. Though good luck getting in and out of the car in that costume. They’re also not easy to walk in, and the eyeholes don’t always line up. You’d think costume designers would measure the eyeholes on an actual person. And not on that gorilla named Al that they keep in a cage at the back of the factory.
Also, with adults, finding the right costume is a difficult balance to achieve. For one thing, with about half the kid costumes, if an adult wore it, he wouldn’t look special. Like for example, a lot of kids dress up as a rabbi, complete with a fake beard. If a Totty put on a fake beard, everyone would be like, “Why can’t you just grow a beard?”
“I do have a beard. I’m wearing the fake one over it.”
And yes, people would mention it. Society doesn’t view fake beards the same way they view toupees. It’s not like everyone’s tripping over themselves trying not to let you know that they know that you’re wearing a fake beard. Especially since you keep pushing it down to eat.
Another issue is that adults look too authentic in most costumes. You can’t even tell that they’re wearing a costume. For example, when an adult dresses up as a pirate, he looks like a pirate. When a kid dresses up like a pirate, he looks like a pirate that is for some reason very short and has marker scribbled on his face. Is this something a lot of pirates had? I think if a pirate shows up to work with marker on his face, the other pirates would push him overboard.
And it doesn’t help that a lot of adults don’t wear costumes at all, so if you dress up as a profession other than your own, people won’t assume you dressed up either. They’ll just ask, “Oh. When did you become a farmer?”
“What? No, it’s a costume. My mishloach manos is vegetables.”
Think about it. Have you ever seen an adult dressed up as a rabbi? No, because it’s not an adult dressed as a rabbi. It’s a rabbi. (You assume.) You suddenly come over and start asking him personal she’eilos. Or else it’s just an adult in a bekeshe.
Because if a kid wears a bekeshe, it’s a costume. If a Totty wears a bekeshe, it’s a guy in a bekeshe. People go, “So you’re not dressing up?” They think he’s just wearing Shabbos clothes.
Some adults have bekeshes that they pull out of the closet every single Purim. (I’m referring here to people in communities where no one wears them the rest of the year. I’m assuming people who wear bekeshes all year suddenly pull out regular suit jackets on Purim and blow everyone away. “Look, I’m a ba’al ha’bayis! I’m going to pretend to like wine and talk about the economy!”) For example, a couple of years ago, my shul had a small sit-down party on Purim night—men only—and the invitation said, “BYOB.” And apparently no one knows what that stands for, because not a single person brought booze, but like seven people showed up in bekeshes. And we were all sober. So it was a pretty awkward night.
But that’s what kids do, for the most part—they dress up like adults. Kids want to be something when they grow up, and Purim is the time to try it out. “The world is endless possibilities—I want to be a pirate.” As an adult, you know: “I’m never gonna be a pirate.” At some point in life you look around and think, “It’s probably too late to be a pirate. I’d probably have to go to school or something, no? I’m an accountant. That’s all I know how to do: account for things.” A kid never wants to be an accountant.
Adult ego-boosting tip: Any job where it doesn’t really matter what you wear to work is something no kid will ever want to be for Purim. Actual income potential is not a factor. So if your kid doesn’t want to dress up as someone “in real estate,” don’t feel bad.
(And yes, I know; I keep bringing up pirates. My 4-year-old is really into them. I don’t know why. They’re basically robbers with boats. Talk about a high-speed getaway vehicle. “The cops are coming! Quick! Everybody start rowing! Or maybe we should hoist the sails and let the wind blow us in the same direction it’s blowing their boat!)
Meanwhile, an adult can’t convincingly dress up as a kid. What should he wear? Clothing with kneeholes and condiment stains?
“What are you, a homeless person?”
“No! I’m a kid!”
So our costume options are very limited.
My point, I guess, is that I wrote this article to make a list of pros and cons as far as adults wearing costumes, and most of what I came up with, apparently, was cons. But if you’re going to let a few downsides stop you from doing something, you don’t really understand Purim. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.