The Medusa Costume

When I was 12 years old, one of my cousins did my hair and makeup for the 8th Grade Dance and for once, it looked pretty darned good (unlike my Prom). To this day, my mother occasionally pulls out the 8th photo, sighs, and says, “You used to be so sexy.”

It’s amazing because most peoples’ mothers would like to have photos of them in their graduation caps, prom dresses, or confirmation gowns. I’m quite certain that my mother would prefer a photo of me airbrushed, bikini-ed up, and straddled over some kinda sports car or bear skin rug. Let’s be realistic – since I have a respect for human life and the persistence of vision, I am going to abstain from any bikini-ing in the near future.

Well, one year during Halloween I was a poor college student and looking around for a costume. I happened to come across about 12 yards of free pink chiffon fabric in my Fashion Design class, so I somehow jerry rigged a toga out of it, pinned some snakes in my hair, did some crazy makeup, and went as Medusa. The only problem with the free fabric was that it was a bit sheer, so just in case, I had to wear beige “pasties” so I didn’t expose myself. I looked “okay”, so like most Halloweens, my friends and I took a bunch of pictures, had a grand old time, and weeks later, I forgot about the old Medusa costume.

Eventually, Christmas rolled around and I had no idea what to buy my mother. And as usual, my mom requested “A Sexy Photo.” So I rounded up what I could into a 4×6 photo box, and somehow the Medusa picture ended up in the mix. I thought nothing of it until I went back home for Easter that spring and saw that old Medusa picture – blown up, mounted, and framed on my aunt’s piano.

“Where did you get that photo and why the heck is it gi-normous?!”

My aunt shrugged. “Oh, your mom blew it up at the office supply place and gave them out to everybody at the new church so they could see what you look like. What’s the big deal?”

“She gave that picture to churchy people? But I’m wearing PASTIES!”

To make matters worse, that evening, I had to go to Easter service with my family. I hoped that everyone just forgot about the weird picture, but of course, the second my mother introduced me one of the Church Ladies, I got a look of judgement and surprise. “Oh, my, Stephanie, you look awfully different from your picture!”

You see, my mother strategically cropped the snakes in my hair of the photo and neglected to tell everyone that this was a Halloween costume. Everyone assumed I just dressed that way because I went to “art school”. I covered my face in shame.

The church lady continued, “Well, I like you better without makeup!”

My mom was not pleased. “Oh, no, no, no, the makeup is better.”

I knew what was coming. She reached in her wallet and pulled out the 8th grade photo and shoved it in Church lady’s face. My mother shook her head with disappointment, “See, didn’t she used to be sexy?”

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert