My Sister And I Once Dressed As Death And A Mermaid For Halloween — And It Turned Out To Be Deeply Symbolic

Photo: courtesy of the author
Why The Halloween Costumes My Sister & I Chose Made Us Strong Women

If you put my me and my sister next to each other for observation, a few things would become immediately clear.

The first is that we are related. Yup, we look a lot alike.

The next thing you'd notice is that she wears amazing hipster clothes, has full sleeve tattoos on both arms, and she looks out at the world from beneath a wild mane of stunning red hair, while — in contrast — I dress like a secretary, wear glasses, have dark blonde hair and just generally look like someone's mom.

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In short, we appear to be two people leading very different types of lives, and that is because we are and we do.  

The differences between us aren't only on the surface.

She is a literal rock and roll star compared to me, for whom a wild night is one where I manage to take my bra off before I make it to my bed to binge watch the newest season of Bojack Horseman.

I love my sister. I am devoted to her and she is devoted to me.

But if you were asked to identify which of the Stokes sisters is the weird, freaky, edgy one and which one is married, took her husband's name, and cherishes her family and home above all else based on superficial observation, you would probably get it all wrong.

See, I'm the weirdo.

If you don't believe me, let me remind you that I'm a single 34-year-old woman living in Brooklyn happily unmarried to her kinky polyamorous boyfriend. Let me also remind you that I write publicly about my own kinky desires, such as my wish to have sex with Pennywise the Clown.

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And yeah, my sister may be a rock star, but if you come between her and an episode of Intervention, you're going to get smacked.

And if that's not enough to sway you, please consider the following photograph of me and my sister taken on a Halloween long ago.

You will see that while she is dressed as the Little Mermaid, I am dressed as Death — literally. 

I don't know for sure how old I was, but I know I must have younger than nine because the photo was taken in New Jersey before my family moved to Rhode Island. 

I always considered my family's move to be at fault for making me into such a weird, death-obsessed, little creep, but if my math is correct, I suspect my true reason for opting to dress up as Death was that I'd recently seen silver screen classic Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and found the character of Death to be entirely hilarious.

Obviously, my sister's Halloween costume was also inspired by a movie of that era. Her selection just happened to be a tad more, you know, iconic and age-appropriate — though I would assert that her seashell "bra" should leave that argument open for debate. 

I believe it's a testimony to how awesome my parents are, really, that my sister and I are both entirely comfortable being our authentic selves.

I have friends who, as adults, are still struggling to allow let their truest selves to exist in the open. And I get it. Being yourself isn't always an easy task.

Which is why, when I am at my most anxious or feeling my most insecure, I like to look at that photo from that Halloween and remind myself that I've always been the kind of person who embraces my passions, even when those passions are things that might make other people look at me vaguely askance. 

I seriously cannot imagine what must have gone on through my mother's head when 9-year-old me stated: "I need to be Death." 

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She could have said or done all sorts of stuff to try and convince otherwise. Instead, she went out to find me the appropriate prop pieces, going so far as insisting I use a cut up handkerchief as the face mask. I vividly remember begging her to paint my whole face white, but my mom, knowing my tendency to break out in hives when I even say the word "hives" figured the handkerchief was the way to go.


I was annoyed at the time, but now I have to give it up to her: It's way creepier looking than my painted face ever could have been.

It never occurred to me when I was growing up that the way we choose to dress and style ourselves tells the world a great deal of what you're all about.

I dressed in whatever clothes fit comfortably and were more or less clean. And I still operate by the same practice, for the most part. It's baffling to me how quick we are to judge people up based on a few cursory facts, be they visual or otherwise. 

Just because I'm a woman taxi drivers and pizza delivery men already call ma'am, that doesn't mean that I'm not heading out to get spanked by a stranger.

And I've got the jarring childhood photograph to prove this isn't a phase, a show for the public or even a new development.

I am who I have always been. 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:20 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.