My name is Zara Barrie, and I’m not one of those cool girls who go for comedic, unflattering looks for Halloween. I deeply admire my friends who dress up as cows or hotdogs or bananas on Halloween. But that’s not me. I like to be as slutty as possible on October 31st, and I don’t anticipate that ever changing.
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Before you get on me for using the word “slut,” you must know that I love the word “slut.” I don’t think there is anything wrong with being one, so I use the term happily, enthusiastically, and freely. I was deemed a slut by the mean girls in middle school (I let two boys feel me up in the same week), and I was harassed and bullied for my sluttiness for the entirety of the 8th grade. So now, as a full-blown “adult” (whatever that means), it feels good to proudly identify as a slut. It feels good to reclaim slut, and it feels good to shout the word SLUT and type the word SLUT as often as possible.
Now that we finally have all that cleared up, let’s get to the story. Purr.
I started dressing slutty for Halloween when I was sixteen. Lucky for sixteen-year-old moi, my parents were out of town, so I decided to throw a teen Halloween soiree of epic proportions!
“What are you going to be for Halloween?” my friend Veronica asked me.
“I want to be a fairy. But a bad fairy,” I said, the idea popping into my brain right as the words flew out of my mouth.
“How ’bout a junkie fairie?” Veronica offered. Veronica was obsessed with the word “junkie.” She was going to my party dressed as Courtney Love during the Hole era, which was not that different from how we usually dressed, but Veronica was lazy so it made sense.
“I guess I could throw little bags of talcum powder at everyone and draw track marks on my arm?” I asked, like the total sixteen-year-old idiot I was, completely oblivious to the complex nuances and utter devastation of addiction (don’t worry — I quickly learned).
“The main thing you need to do is dress slutty,” Veronica declared, crossing her arms and taking a dramatic sip of her giant Starbucks coffee. We were sitting outside of Starbucks, like the rest of the high school cigarette smokers.
I hadn’t really ever dressed slutty for Halloween, but I was sixteen and my parents were going out to be out of town on the biggest teen holiday of the year. I was dressing like a fairy. A junkie fairy. I had recently chemically straightened my hair and had just started experimenting with red lipstick. My acne was clearing up. I had just read “The Bell Jar” for the first time. I was seeing Bright Eyes live in two months! Life was good, man. Why not try something new? Like dressing slutty for Halloween?
I won’t get into all the details of what happened that night, because A LOT happened that night — stuff that could make for an interesting/terrifying essay about teens and booze and drugs. But I will tell you about how I felt in my costume (pictured below).
(I’m the skinny bitch in the bra with the hideous cigarette hanging out of my mouth. Judge me, I totally deserve it.)
That night, back in 2003, was one of the most sexually empowering nights of my life.
It was the first time I’d ever gone out in public in nothing but a bra — the first time I exposed my raw flesh to the outer world. I wasn’t “allowed” to step out into the world wearing skimpy attire, but the harsh rules were softened on Halloween, so I rebelled.
It felt amazing to be around my peers wearing next to nothing! I harbored so much shame about my body, like all girls do when they’re teenagers. You’re constantly being told to “cover up.” You’re constantly being fed sexist lies, like “No one wants to buy the cow that gives her milk for free.” If you wear crop tops or low-cut shirts, teachers instantly hate you, and other parents deem you trouble. I lusted after those crop tops and cleavage-baring shirts, but I held back from wearing them because I didn’t want to be deemed “bad.” And clearly my body was “bad” — because letting her loose into the wild, made me bad.
But that night, I realized why the forces in “charge” were always trying to shame women for wearing revealing clothing.
It was rooted in fear.
As I stood on the roof of my parent’s house in only my bra, looking into the blue-black sky with all the twinkly stars brightening up my backyard, I felt a rush of strength and confidence sweep through my body. It was an empowering sense of autonomy that I’d never experienced before. I no longer felt ashamed of my sexuality. I no longer felt like I had to fear it or cover it up. I could celebrate it. I could strut around, confident in my bare skin.
I knew that there was no going back from there. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. I was powerful when I embraced my sexual prowess. No wonder the masses feared me feeling this way. No wonder they were afraid of women feeling confident in their sexual power. It was dangerous. A woman’s sexuality is the most powerful goddamn thing in the world. It’s the reason buildings are built and wars are started.
I reached into my cleavage and pulled out a cigarette. I wasn’t going to be a victim of their fear-mongering. That fateful night, I silently vowed to dress however the fuck I wanted to dress for the rest of my life. And I promised to always dress fabulously slutty on Halloween, in homage to this precious coming-of-age moment. I never wanted to forget my teenage self. I was just a teenager, but I still intrinsically understood that grown-ups neglected their inner teen selves too often. And what is more honest than the teen self? What is more raw and exciting than a teenage girl shutting down the noise of shame and replacing it with a song of total sexual freedom? All of this swirled around in my brain as I sipped on my Smirnoff Ice and blew smoke rings into the nighttime air.
I closed my eyes, savoring that feeling, wanting to memorize it.
Suddenly I heard my friend John scream: “Zara, the cops are here!” I opened my eyes. I wasn’t afraid of men in uniforms anymore. I was a sexual, confident, powerful woman. I strutted to the door ready to handle this shit.