Saturday, October 20, 2012

Making Due with Halloween in France: the Doctor Who Edition

Warning: this post will either make you laugh or, if you are a Whovian, cringe and hate me.

(Also, this post is long because I probably won't be writing anything new until mid-November. Deal with it.)

It all started the moment I made plans for the Toussaint break. Here in France, French schools are blessed with a ten-day break that is meant for French families everywhere to pay tribute to their ancestors by visiting their graves on November first. Of course, the day that precedes All Saint's Day is All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween.

The French notion of Halloween isn't quite the same as back in the U.S. On my original side of the Atlantic, it's perfectly acceptable to see a bunch of bratty hyperactive midgets small children dressed in just about anything: pumpkins, bumblebees, Power Rangers, even as Winnie the Pooh. The cuter the kid looks, the better the costume is. To expand further on the subject, seeing a grown woman dressed as a hooker Strawberry Shortcake won't cause anyone to bat an eye.

Here in France...Halloween's popularity has been on a decline in the past ten years. It's not like the French don't like to disguise themselves. Au contraire. I could walk into the nearest Foir'Fouille store and purchase a powder blue wig if I wanted to. It's just that the French prefer to dress for a different, more traditional occasion: carnaval, which is Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday. 

However, when it comes to Halloween, it's mostly considered an American export that is meant for children to dress up as scary characters, with a specific emphasis on scary. Good luck finding a cutesy Winnie the Pooh within a sea of Frankenstein's monsters, ghosts, witches and vampires over here.

That's why when I made my train reservations to head on over to the Burgundy city of Sens to visit a friend and her husband, she asked if I would be in town on October 31st. 

Oh, by the way, I have not had the time to post photos of a trip to Sens I took back in August.


*twiddles thumbs and whistles nonchalantly*

Here's a very belated French eye candy tour of Sens:

Happy France gives an approximation of where things are located

I felt very happy when I saw la Bourgogne's flag that day.

Maybe it's just me, but every time I see the French flag, "La Marseillaise" plays automatically in my head.

C'est moi!

The Hôtel de Ville 

With a statue of the Gaul known as Brennus. He's got a rooster perched on top of his staff.

The entrance to Sens's cathedral has several statues that have had their heads (literally) defaced. A reminder of the Revolution's brutality.

The covered market

A random head lodged between some columns in the Cathedral

I held my breath when I looked on the stain glass.

Such detail!

A monument to France's fallen soldiers from the Great War

A sign explaining that the stained glass in Saint Savinien's chapel dates from the 13th century.

Not much is left of the original stained glass, though.

Some more stained glass

Jeanne d'Arc, France's patron saint

The French love to decorate their buildings in scaffolding.

A view of the Cathedral

Yup. "La Marseillaise" is playing in my head right now.

A model of a couple of arches in the Cathedral's museum

And here are the original statues that were perched on the arches.

'Tis Brennus

I found this cross to be interesting. Instead of seeing a crucified Christ, you see Marianne and a rooster chilling right on top of it. 

Brennus has a rooster as well.

Hipster Christopher Columbus danced to disco songs 500 years before they even existed.

Go forth and explore for the Spanish royalty.

Awww, look at that face!

In case you all didn't know it, the French love their poultry (the rooster is the national symbol).

'Tis an awesome chicken.

Do not pick the flowers, beeyotches.

Let's get back to the story. 

My friend in Sens asked if I would be in town on October 31st, to which I replied "yes, I will."

She then said, "okay, I'm asking because my husband and I have been invited by his friends to attend a Halloween party. We wanted to know so we could notify his friends that you will be going as well."

A Halloween costume party, in France? 

At first, I was like:

But then, I was like:

Allow me to explain why my enthusiasm took an immediate nosedive. 

To attend a costume party, it is kinda obvious that you will need to dress up in a costume. However, when you are a short, fat American who unfortunately gained 30 pounds in one year (of which 12 have been lost, whoot) and you have to find a costume in France, a land known for having stereotypically thin ladies, you're utterly screwed

Weight issues aside, I began to think about what could make for a good costume (SO MANY OPTIONS). Last year, I contemplated dressing up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I instead chose to disguise myself as Sophisti-Cat

I still haven't gotten over my decision to not dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but if you are going to a Halloween party in France, you need a scary costume. And, quite frankly, I'm still not up for dressing as a Slutty Candy Corn Witch.

Then, in a sheer moment of a lightbulb sparking alight, I remembered the totally awesome image that I had seen a week ago about Disney Princesses dressed as the eleven Doctors. A lifelong epiphany had dawned upon my fleeting existence.


The best part of my costume? Should anybody tell me that my costume isn't particularly scary, boy, do I have the perfect comeback for them: "Hello. I'm the Doctor. And I can break out into a song and dance number with inanimate objects at will. Basically, RUN."

(If it worked on the Atraxi, it sure as Hell should work against a legion of cynical sparkly vampires.) 

I momentarily fretted upon choosing which Doctor would be represented with the costume. Would it be David Tennant's Doctor with the big, brown coat, the business suit, tie and the Converse sneakers, or the Matt Smith Doctor with the tweed coat, suspenders (braces for you Brits), bowtie and fez?

I eventually chose David Tennant's Doctor out of convenience: I already own a brown coat and it would be a bit of a hassle to find a fez, no matter how geographically close I am to Morocco.

Not exactly like the Doctor's coat, but it'll do. I'm too broke/cheap find a new one right now.

I still had to assemble the rest of the costume, which I figured wasn't going to be an easy task. In my mind, I was aiming to find a blue pinstripe business suit like the one David wore, but again, considering my size, France's availability, and my lack of impressive sewing skills, I was going to make do with whatever I could encounter. If I couldn't find the business suit, then I would simply purchase a dress.

Luckily, I found this TARDIS-blue dress for 19,99 Euros!
I wasn't going to settle for anything less than TARDIS-blue.

I also got this pair of girly-girl earrings for the Belle part of the costume (3,99 Euros).

I hearts me some girly-girl jewelry.

I was missing a pair of red Converse sneakers. That was fun walking into shoe stores in Sablé-sur-Sarthe's downtown area and asking the salesclerks "Avez-vous des baskets du genre Converse, et en rouge?" I have never bought a pair of Converse sneakers, and in French, no less. 

I still haven't bought the shoes, by the way. None of the stores I asked around carried RED Converse sneakers, and I certainly didn't fancy wearing pink or yellow.

I settled for these Converse-esque babies from Spain. Only 29 Euros, too. 

Bright red makes me happy. 

To accessorize the costume even more, I needed a tie as well. Keep in mind that, as a lady, I do not have the habit of purchasing Men's clothes, let alone for myself. I won't deny that it felt a tad awkward buying a product that is intended for men to wear for myself. But unless you are Matt Smith, how often do you get to dress as the Doctor?

I walked into the first Men's clothing store closest to me and asked without shame if they sold red ties. 

Say what you will about women and how we have a million terms for describing the same color, but we know our colors, damn it. The part of my brain that focused on color-coordination and aesthetic balance lurched violently. 

It was at this point when my "Why the Hell Not?" mentality kicked in. I find that it generally takes a greater precedence whenever I live and travel abroad.

I almost responded with "no, actually, the tie is for me." I checked myself, remembering that it probably wasn't the wisest answer to give, lest I wanted the salesclerk to think I was a cross-dresser.

He could tell that I had hesitated with my answer and asked again if the tie was to offer as a gift. I responded  with a little more firmness and some vigorous nodding. He wrapped up said tie in a gift bag, explained that the exchange receipt was in the bag, squirted some perfume and bade me a good day.

I immediately felt bad at making him the victim of my charade.

Now that I think about it, it wasn't technically a lie...I was giving the tie to myself as a gift as dressing up like the Doctor. And that's a pretty awesome gift. So. Yeah. There you have it.

This is the manliest, nicest-smelling gift bag I have ever received from myself. 

This activity of buying a tie for no guy in particular has made me realize that this is a perfect example of being "Forever Alone" because I am currently sitting in my room with an attractive, manly aroma that's driving me crazy with lust and fills me with the expectation that a guy will randomly show up someday. 

Either way, I feel pretty damn awesome about being "Forever Alone" with my red, white polka-dotted tie.

And this tie, which I am only going to wear once, cost me 24,99 Euros. That's right: the accessory cost more than the TARDIS-blue dress.

But it (sort of) matches my shoes, and I don't get to dress up as the Doctor everyday. So totally worth it
I know that I am "Forever Alone" and enjoying it, but in case I do end up getting a guy in my life, he'd better like this tie.

The total cost to date of my half-assed Belle Doctor Who costume is 77,97 Euros (not counting the coat that I purchased back in 2011 for 35 Euros). Now all I need is an Enchanted Sonic Screwdriver Rose and some cheapo 3-D glasses. Perhaps Ebay and will help me out.

I just made the Sonic Enchanted Rose, all with the use of one plastic red rose (1,60 Euros) and one small bottle of blue glitter (1,99).

It's completely drenched in glitter, though. On the bright side, its glitter fabulousness might be enough to blind a Dalek a mile away. 

"WTF did I do to that poor rose? Oh, well."

When I'm not grading papers, I'm goofing off with the camera. Make a note to never let me near your cameras, folks.
As for the 3D glasses: after combing various French stores for a pair of anaglyph 3D glasses, featuring one memorable moment in which I strolled down an aisle filled with various plastic/rubber breasts and penises, I came to the conclusion that I would have to turn to the Internet for help.

Oh, online shopping, I heart you so.

I could even accessorize and borrow one of the 50-something horses that live right next to me, paint it blue, and say that it was TARDIS Philippe, Belle Doctor Who's horse. 

Barb the French Bean


For those of you wondering how the costume turned out, here ya go!

I opted to paint a mini TARDIS on my left hand.

I blinged out the 3-D glasses

Believe it or not, the French like Doctor Who as well (and the costume I had)!