The Purge Report: Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts about things I’m purging from my apartment and why I’m getting rid of them.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to dress up as Superman for Halloween. Back when I was growing up in the Seventies, we didn’t have the elaborate costumes that they make for kids today. The costumes you bought in department stores like K-Mart and Zellers consisted of a flimsy plastic mask with two pin-pricks to breath through, and a pair eye holes that were hard to see through, especially if you wore glasses like I did.

The costume itself was made of this thin synthetic material that tore easily and barely made it through a night of Trick or Treating. The garment did little in the way of portraying who you were supposed to be. Instead of replicating Spiderman’s costume, it had a picture of Spiderman on the front of it. This never made sense to me, but in the absence of a bonafide Spiderman leotard, it had to do. The streets would be filled with these costumes, all purchased from the same two stores, hidden with overcoats to protect us from the Canadian cold.

Although my parents were Portuguese immigrants with no experience with Halloween before they moved to Canada, they obliged me with a new costume every year. Of my ten or so years of Trick or Treating, I only ever had one homemade costume; a clown costume my sister made for me in Home Economics class. It was beautiful and lasted two years before I grew out of it.

I’ve never been one for dressing up for Halloween as an adult. Working in the Service Industry in my twenties I was usually required to come up with some sort of a costume. My best costumes came from friends who knew how to sew or were ingenious enough to put a few secondhand clothes together.

When I worked at The Badlands in San Francisco, we were required to dress in drag. I hated it. The only time I looked somewhat half-decent was the year we all dressed in tutus and the only reason I liked that outfit was because of the Lisa Loeb glasses I accessorized it with. Left to my own devices, I would come up with something simple that didn’t require any make-up like a sailor.

My last Halloween in San Francisco, I was determined to go as Superman. I put some money aside and waited for the Halloween pop-up store to open in the abandoned Blockbuster Video store on Church Street. I had budgeted $50 for the costume; when it came to nearly $70 I gasped and then forked over the cash. I figured I would the costume would last  forever so it was worth the price of admission.

Superman Costume

Superman Costume

It wasn’t a bad costume as far as store-bought costumes go. It was one-piece, with a plastic chest plate, a nice cape, and rubber belt. The legs ended in these little booty things to hide your shoes. I worked out a lot back then, but it was still baggy on me in spots.



The costume was mass-produced and poorly made. The first thing I noticed when I tried it on was that it was going to be miserable to take a piss in since you had to undo the string at the back of the neck and lower the chest below your waist. Were I to get drunk in I would risk pissing in the chest.

Chest Plate

Chest Plate

I had only done Halloween in the Castro once before when I first moved to San Francisco. A bunch of us dressed up as Go-Go’s from their Beauty and the Beat album cover. We wore cheap night gowns and applied cheap face cream to our faces. We weren’t experienced enough Halloween goers to know that we should have used make up instead of actually beauty product. After an hour on the street the face cream started dripping off our cheeks so that we looked like escapees from a mental hospital.

We had a good time until about midnight when everyone from the suburbs invaded the Castro. Fights erupted and the threat of violence was everywhere. After a while I just wanted to get back into men’s pyjamas and hide in my apartment.

Every Halloween after that, I was working in the bar, and was shielded from the chaos on Castro and 18th Streets. Regular customers always commented that the bartenders made a killing on Halloween night, but it was quite the opposite. Sure it was busy, but there were more of us working, and most of the idiots that came in for a drink didn’t tip. Still, it was better than being out on the street.

Dressing up as Superman was the first time I had been excited about Halloween in years. I quickly learned that my costume was meant for house parties and not a street fair. San Francisco is freezing at night in October; I had to put on a pair of Long Johns underneath my costume, and couple of layers of long sleeved jerseys.

By the time we made our donation to get into the street fair, The Castro was already packed with so many Halloween revellers you could barely move. People were pushing and stepping on each other. There seemed to be no reprieve from the crowd. To add insult to injury, there were about a hundred other guys wearing my costume; most of them looked better in it than I did.

My biggest complaint about the evening was that there were hardly any gay people. It was the gayest night of the year and I felt like a closeted teenager in high school. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like all these people had come to the City for the sole purpose of beating the shit out of each other. It made no sense to me.

We were trying to get out of the crowd and find our way into a bar when I turned to my friend and said, “What’s with all these fucking straight people?” Some guy in the crowd heard me and punched me in the eye, breaking my $600 pair of glasses. I lunged at him, but he was already being carried away by the crowd. Not like it would have mattered. He would have beat the shit out of me even if I had caught up with him.

The costume felt cursed. Plus I was out a pair of glasses. It was horrible.

That didn’t stop me from wearing the costume my first Halloween back in Vancouver. While the costume didn’t get me punched in the face, it did elicit the same kind of animosity from straight guys on the street. For whatever reason, straight guys see someone in a Superman costume and they want to pick a fight. I found the phenomenon so strange I wrote an article about it.

I wore the costume a couple more times in a pinch. It was fun, but I hated having to pee in it. I tried selling it on Craig’s List last year for $50 but there werent’ any takers. I put it on Craig’s List in September for $30 just to get rid of it.

When I pulled the costume out of my closet to take photos of it I noticed it had beer stains around the collar and on the elbow where I would have rested my arm up on a bar. I thought it was kind of funny in retrospect, but it would definitely impact the asking price.

Beer Stain

Beer stain

As it got closer to Halloween it looked like the costume wouldn’t sell again and I would have to donate it if I wanted to get rid of it. I saw the same costume selling for $50 at a vintage shop on Robson Street. I thought you had to be an idiot to pay full price for a second hand costume, but someone must be doing it.

A couple of days before Halloween a guy sent me a message on Craig’s List. He was much shorter and little stouter than I am, but for the price, he didn’t care how it fit him. He looked at the costume. I showed him the beer stains and said I always wore underwear when I had used it in the past. He asked me if I would take $20. I said sure, just to get it the hell out of my apartment.

About garpinbc

Author of the forthcoming "Same Love" published by Lorimer, as well as the memoir "Foodsluts at Doll & Penny's Cafe", and the YA short, "Haters Gotta Hate".
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