…funk for the old soul…

A Wide Margin of Error

Posted by crowbiz on May 6, 2009

Fat CellsAt a recent family gathering I had some reason for recounting to my niece this Halloween story from many years ago ~~ insert blurry flashback ~~~

Mr Crow and I made a last minute decision to attend his brother’s Halloween party a few blocks away.  We were told it was indeed a “dress up” party, and without having planned anything, we took action that still haunts.

Now, hold my hand here and pity my middle-age.  Remember the old Wide-Ends skit from Saturday Night Live?  Astoundingly, there is nothing to which I can link – no You Tube clip, no still photos, nothing (that is, nothing worth spending more than 8 minutes digging for).  Just imagine a family with bodies scaled normally from the waist up.  From the waist down, they flair out to hilariously inhuman proportions, a gag that despite its seeming cruelty, was saved by its sheer ridiculousness and physiological improbability (though never say never, I contend).  If anyone can unearth a clip, do contact me.  The yuks predictably revolved around the Wide Ends getting stuck places, blocking access to things, and assorted one-offs, such as the ability to project a film on an expansive behind.

Fifteen minutes before a party, this could be construed as a good, no-cost idea for a costume.  In order to accommodate the enormous amounts of padding we’d need, we wore loose clothing, something we wouldn’t be caught dead in at a party, e.g., ’80s sweatpants.  Mine were… pink.  Away we stuffed with every pillow and cushion we could get our hands on, which surprisingly, was a lot.  Bed pillows, throw pillows of every size, the bolsters off our couch…it all went in till we were packed like we had a sumo wrestler in each pant leg.

Somehow, we drove to the party;  since it was close, we endured the ride with our heads touching the car ceiling and we crouched to look through the windshield.  These were the days when we’d also drink pitchers of margaritas and ride two to a bicycle, so the driving arrangement seemed reasonable.  Outside the party house, we did a last minute check.  We poufed each other’s titanic asses and thighs to suitable fullness, shored up the sweatpants, and climbed to the third floor with difficulty, hoist-swaying up each step for momentum.

At that time, our host – my brother-in-law – was in art school, and as federal guidelines require, also in a few arcane and highly ironic bands.  His friends, though always an eclectic bunch, happened that night to be entirely of the painfully art schoolish and arcane band variety.  In we walked, sideways, through the door and let loose with hearty laughs of self-mockery, hoping others would appreciate what magic could be wrought with fifteen minutes and several cubic meters of pillows.  But we didn’t walk into a Halloween party, exactly; it was an art-school-hipster-painfully-arcane-band party that just happened to be on October 31st. For historical reference, remember this was the late ’80s/early ’90s era, when art schoolishness was influenced more by Post Industrial Berlin Angst rather than the later-developing Socially Conscious Grungeism.  It was a sea of black clothing and asymmetrical haircuts, anorexia, black eyeliner and a miasma of European cigarette smoke.  This could be revisionist memory, but I believe the music stopped dead the moment we entered.  All black-lined eyes turned toward us in disbelief.  Several dark red lips dropped open on faces of art school pallor.  Did I mention I was wearing pink sweatpants and had an ass the size of Missouri?

To his credit, my brother-in-law nonchalantly steered us through the crowd, introduced us to a few people and politely fled.  Eventually, the music began again (Bauhaus, surely), but the mortified looks of contempt never faded.  I heard a wraithlike artiste whisper harshly “…his brother.. the sister-in-law…”  Only one other person at the party was in any way costumed; a carefree soul had wrapped his ear in a fake bloody bandage and dyed his goatee orange to channel Vincent Van Gogh.

Unlike some other times gone wrong, this adventure did not have a twist that turned us into surprise hits, nor did it lead to new friendships.  In fact, I had no conversations at all.  Eventually, our largeness became a burden, so we unloaded the stuffing to aid our movement.  Rather than giving us a sense of normalcy and freedom, it had the reverse effect of intensifying my self-consciousness, because now, instead of being a pathetically misguided Halloween character, I was just a hanger-on wearing pink sweatpants at UberHip Central.  A turd in the guacamole.  While Mr Crow managed to blend in (his sweatpants were dark blue) and chat it up with a few people he knew, I retired to the kitchen.  There I remained for the excruciating duration of the drearier-than-thou affair, feigning interest in a soundless version of “Atomic Cafe” playing on a tiny black and white television propped on a kitchen chair.Bauhaus

One could hypothesize that this was the cosmic penalty for making fun of disabling obesity, and that we’d endured a lesson.  As far as I’m concerned, one would be wrong.  Honestly, I’d revisit those pillow-packed sweatpants in a heartbeat if I thought I could get the right audience.

My niece, herself a 24-year-old art school student and current hipster, enjoyed the story and showed genuine empathy for our sour experience.  It’s comforting to find many modern day arty types and hipsters showing a kindness and global tolerance unfathomable in the old days; such characteristics in fact, have become nearly de facto.  Were we to appear at such an event nowadays, we would suffer the contempt of political incorrectness, not uncoolness.

Her final analysis was thus:  “You should submit that to ‘This American Life.'”


3 Responses to “A Wide Margin of Error”

  1. kyla kegler said

    well, i finally got around to reading it, i sit in crain library wiping away my tears of attempted silent laughter.

    you should submit it to this american life….

  2. Meg said

    I am a friend and co-worker of ellen stay… she sent me the link to your blog, which is funny/great and etsy stuff cool too.

    Sitting at my desk, everyone has left, I have many things to finish up, but I am reading your blog, you made my day with this story… I am also wiping the tears from my eyes,

    I love this the best…”Honestly, I’d revisit those pillow-packed sweatpants in a heartbeat if I thought I could get the right the prt about the pink sweatpant

    will visit you again… meg

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