No. Not because of my econometrics assignment. And not because of that soon-to-be-due-but-I-have-done-zilch paper on China's domestic debt market reform either.
It's Halloween. In fact it's my first real, authentic Halloween in America. And I don't know what to wear to the school's Halloween party.
I could sense an impending crisis.
Some of my uni-mates tried to be helpful.
"Oh, you can go as Evo Morales. You've got a similar (read: ugly) haircut and I've seen you in an ugly sweater before. Just wear that ugly sweater and carry a chop that says "Property of Bolivia" and you are set."
I was stumped. But isn't Halloween supposed to be about ghosts and witches and monsters? Aren't you supposed to go as something scary?
Like a true international affairs specialist well-trained in the ways of the neo-cons, he retorted: "You think a raving jingoist like Evo Morales as the president of Bolivia is not scary?"
A gay uni-mate tried to educate me on the differences between children's Halloween parties and Halloween parties for adults.
"As children you tend to dress up as some of the more obvious scary stuff. Witches, ghosts, monsters. But at adult Halloween parties, costumes must fulfill the one and only important criterion: they must be sexy."
"Well you can still go as a ghost or a monster. But it has to be a sexy ghost or a sexy monster. Anything else won't do."
Curious, I asked him what he was going as.
"Oh, I'm coming as sexy me." was the matter-of-fact response.
I asked a few other people and got a variety of responses. One favourite theme seemed to be US public personalities ensnared in recent scandals. A few people talked of teaming up: one person will dress up as Mark Foley and the rest as pages (click here for the Mark Foley and Congress pages scandal). One guy was going as George Allen, the senator who recently got into trouble for his racist remarks. People also talked of many creative ideas. My favourite was the one where two people can pair up: one dresses up as a dance pole, and the other as a pole dancer. The dance pole can have people dance around him all night.
Damn. I had to think of something. Fast.
The whole city seemed to be mobilizing for Halloween. In front of almost every home, Halloween decorations were going up. In many places you will find the ubiquitous jack-o'-lantern or at the very least pumpkins littering the front lawn. Some people have even gone through the trouble of setting up fake spider webs all over their front door. Not to mention scary plastic figures that light up at night.
The morning of the Halloween party, on the way to the university I saw hundreds and hundreds of school children dressed in their Halloween costumes walking in line, led by Halloween-costumed teachers no less. Subjected to indoctrination at such a tender age, is it any wonder that the whole nation seems to go crazy over Halloween?
One week leading up to the party, every conversation was punctuated by "What are you wearing at the Halloween party?". The social and peer pressure of going to the party and dressing up was tangible. People seemed to be trying to outdo each other in terms of how creative, ridiculous and outrageous they can be with their costume. In short, Halloween seems to say that as Americans, people in this country can't take themselves too seriously. There is a time to let your hair down and make a fool of yourself. No one excepted.
At the 11th hour I had a brainwave. I knew what to wear to the party. I would go as something scary.
I would go as Mahathir "Mahazalim" Mohamed.
There I was in my baju melayu, sampin and a hastily crafted name tag saying "MAHATHIR" on my left chest, trying to navigate through the packed dance floor. Suprisingly, even in the half light of the dance club, quite a few people recognised who I was (the name tag no doubt helped). This is as much a tribute to Washingtonians' extensive knowledge of world affairs as it is to Mahathir's reputation for saucy controversial remarks (quite a few people seemed to have heard of his remarks about the Jews).
As it turned out, I was not the only dictator around. I saw Kim (Jong-Il) carrying a volleyball with a large nuclear symbol imprinted on it and Fidel (Castro) nursing his fake beard. I also saw a few magical creatures: half a dozen angels, Harry Potter, a few witches and Dorothy's Tin Man. I also saw a vending machine, a Ceiling Fan (wearing a T-shirt that says "Go Ceiling!") and Steve Irwin in his trademark shorts and a sting protruding out of his chest.
Now I'd better start thinking what to wear next year...