It’s near inevitable: Every year, hurricanes hit our coasts and destruction blooms, and every year, Halloween hits and people wear costumes so inappropriate, you shake your head in disapproval, Big Mama style.
We like you too much to let you go out in public looking cray-cray. Please, use this guide as a litmus test. If you decide to wear one of these costumes and end up getting a social media beatdown from black Twitter, don’t blame us. We warned you.
1. 1970s Disco Dancer
Don’t you dress up like a disco dancer and sport a fake Afro. Don’t do it. First of all, it’s played out, like the Jheri curl. Don’t do that to yourself. Shoot, don’t do that to us. Black hair in its natural state is not a costume to be taken on and off for entertainment one day a year. To do so is an insult to black people, especially when we are being told that companies can keep us from wearing our hair in its natural state at work. If you want to pay tribute, post pics of Colin Kaepernick on your Instagram, OK? (Disclaimer: This recommendation does not apply to black people. We can do whatever we want.)
2. Pimp or Prostitute
Please don’t dress up as a prostitute or sex worker. It may be a fantasy of yours, and it may be the only way to release your inner Sasha Fierce, but please don’t minimize this dangerous (and, might I add, illegal) work that tens of thousands of women and girls are forced into every year. If you want to become a steaming-hot sexpot, you can always just dress up as a teapot and act really sexy. (Oh, and if you were thinking about sporting a feathered fedora and a purple suit so that you can look like a pimp—that’s out, too. Please don’t make me pimp-slap you … )
3. Baby Food
Yes, sometimes we say that babies are so cute we want to eat them up, but it’s just an expression. We don’t mean it literally, which means that you shouldn’t dress up your baby as a burrito or a carrot stick or a turkey. Yes, her cheeks look yummy, and yes, he looks like a little butterball, but the comparisons should end there, folks. No need to prove your love for Chipotle or—if you’re on a budget—Taco Bell. This Halloween, resist the urge to dress up your little ones as an item on the dollar menu. (Their adult selves will thank you when they look back on their baby pics.)
4. ‘Culture Is Not a Costume’
Don’t you do it! Don’t you dare dress up like a First Nations (Native American) person. Yes, the headdress is amazingly ornate and quite a showstopper. Yes, it would get you a lot of attention at that costume party, but no. Why not? Well, imagine having people break into your home, kick you out, steal your clothes, then wear your clothes out to a party and post pics of themselves in your clothes on social media, with big grins. … Yeah, don’t do that.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s add kimonos and sombreros to our “thou shall not wear” list. Say it with me: “Culture is not a costume.”
I cannot stress this enough: Under no circumstances are you to put black (or brown or yellow) paint on your face. Do you hear me? None. If you need to know why, read this. If either you or your child wants to pay homage to President Barack Obama before he exits the Oval Office (or some other famous African American), you can do it without the color embellishment. Wear a black suit with a “Yes We Can” button, impersonate his voice like this Obama impersonator, and go around saying, “Michelle and I” or “Sasha and Malia.” Now is not the time to try to prove that we are post-racial by trying to flip racist imagery on its head. Even if it were, you are probably not the one to do it.
6. Religious Figures
You admire people who are radically religious, and you’ve always wondered what it would be like to don a nun’s habit, minister’s collar or Sikh’s turban. Some things, my friend, you can never know. Some things aren’t yours to know. So please don’t become that friend—the one everyone refuses to take pictures with on Halloween for fear of being found “guilty by association.” If you want to pay tribute to work that is often thankless, dress up as a firefighter or police officer. (The police department could sure use some good P.R. these days.)
7. A Condom
“Just say no” to the idea of going anywhere as a used condom. It makes sense that you want to show the world that you are really responsible and you want to make America safe again. I understand that perhaps a part of you wants to jolt people, like the X-Man Bolt, but dressing up as a used condom … well, I have no words for that. I have only questions: Why? What are you hoping to accomplish, exactly? Why? Is this your creative version of performance art meets pick-up line? Why? Help me understand. Please.
8. A Lame Ghost
I get it—the idea of dressing up as the Holy Ghost is intriguing. You want to dress up as a white dove, or cover yourself in a translucent sheet, so that you can float around the city, “laying hands” on people. Congregants can “fall out” under your power or become electrified by just one touch. But can I urge you to deny the fleshly part of you that wants to become a part of the holy Trinity? If you want to be Trinity, you can wear a black catsuit and have people “fall out” when you kick the s—t out of them. If you really want to be a ghost, you can always be Casper and explain who he is to the youngins who ask inane questions like, “Who is Missy Elliott?” If you are spooked by ghosts and instead prefer to zap them, then dress up as your favorite Ghostbuster.
Don’t dress up as a Pokémon and play Pokémon Go. Why not? Because of kidnapping, and danger, and assault. People have fallen off cliffs and roamed onto private property where guns greeted them—all while playing this game. Even if you avoid yellowface (per slideshow rule No. 5), wisdom says to avoid playing this game on the scariest, spookiest night of the year.
10. Presidential Candidates
For the love of your fellow Americans, please don’t dress up as either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Just don’t. Really, what good can come from this? If you just have to wear a politically themed costume, then come dressed as a “nasty woman.” You can do this even if you’re a dude. If you get s—t done, dress up like a lawyer or rock a judge’s robe, grab a gavel and go around overruling people everywhere you go. If you’re smart, dress up as a professor or a teacher and go around giving lectures, intentionally boring your friends in the process. If you’re a prolific spoken-word artist, go around reciting unnecessarily long, multisyllabic, slightly pretentious ramblings about the need to vote, weed, reparations and the ancestors. Whatever you do, just keep it nasty.
Remember: Friends don’t let friends wear horrid Halloween costumes. Please share this with your friends.