- Halloween-hating editor found herself part of a group costume one week after starting a new job.
- Being unabashedly weird around new coworkers, and totally embraced for it, set the tone of complete acceptance from everyone on the team moving forward.
- Costume contests can be really important bonding experiences that shape coworker relationships in enduring ways.
I hate Halloween. It may be an unpopular opinion, but it is easily my least favorite holiday. This might be because I grew up in Vermont, where most years any awesome costume was obscured by coats, hats, and gloves. Most likely, though, it’s because I’m also a big scaredy cat. Haunted houses and scary movies are not my thing.
That said, even I find it surprising that one of my favorite office memories is from a Halloween costume contest. This year is actually the 10th anniversary of the first (honestly, the only) time I truly embraced dressing up for Halloween — and utterly embarrassed myself in front of new coworkers.
This odd turn of events happened immediately after I started a new job. I joined the company on Oct. 24 and found myself dressed up exactly one week later.
The editorial department I had joined was a jovial team of six, one of whom adores Halloween. She is the queen of punny combination costumes — her most memorable include Stevie Wonder Woman, Forrest Trump, Ghost Malone and Dumbledora the Explorer — and took the lead on developing our group costume.
Naturally, we decided to dress as Word Nerds.
This was hardly a stretch for any of us. We all already wore glasses, so wrapping some tape around the middle — the epitome of instant nerd recognition — was an easy add-on to tie all of us together.
I was more than a little nervous about what to do for the rest of my costume, though. I seriously contemplated telling them I’d rather not join in, but I wasn’t comfortable letting down the people on my new team. I wanted them to like me!
Not knowing what else to do, I turned to every ‘80s baby’s ultimate nerd icon: Steve Urkel. Sufficiently inspired, I somehow found a pair of suspenders and hiked up my pants as far as I could get them.
To tip things over the top, I took tiles from my Bananagrams set (Nerdy wasn’t a stretch, remember?) and used double-sided tape to make a crossword on the brightest-colored shirt I owned. I donned a ridiculous pair of socks to round things out.
The day of Halloween I was nearly late because I sat in my car so long. What in the world was I about to do? Most of the people in this building didn’t even know my first name yet, and this was going to be my first impression…yikes.
When I got to my desk, everyone else in our group looked equally ridiculous and I immediately relaxed as we laughed at each other. It was the first time I really felt like part of the team. We all had committed to this 100% and were clearly proud of each other.
We were so proud of ourselves, in fact, that we had the department photographer take photos of us in the studio, leaving lasting proof of our antics.
The realization that I could be unabashedly weird, and be totally embraced for that, set the tone of complete acceptance from everyone on my team moving forward. It was unexpectedly powerful.
The judging happened in the office atrium, and I was so nervous again when we went downstairs carrying our AP Stylebooks and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. The contest included both group and individual prize categories.
Our team won second place in the group contest, and we were all thrilled. We were honestly headed toward the stairs when they announced that I won first place for the individual costume category. Me. Halloween-hating, self-conscious me! To say I was shocked is an understatement.
Since then, I’ve largely reverted to my cynical self, laughing and sometimes rolling my eyes at costume contest pictures in company newsletters. But, every once in a while, I remind myself how important that first Halloween at my new job was.
Silly costume contests can also be really important bonding experiences that shape coworker relationships in enduring ways.