By Abigail Jones
The window displays at Ricky’s on 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue are a tidy mess of pirate hats, impossibly blond wigs, and feathered masks in lush golds, reds, and blacks. On the checkered floor, boxes of fake eyelashes and double-stick tape are scattered around a Michael Jackson kit, and up above, placed on a small black table, are packages of fishnet stockings and a Little Red Riding Hood costume (the adult version). In one window, a gigantic poster of a blond model looms above the paraphernalia. Dressed in a short, white nurse’s getup and red lace-up boots, she clutches a syringe and tilts her head to the right, luring pedestrians inside with thick lips, smoky eyes, and manufactured sexual perfection. Behind her, in black and orange script that drips like blood, a sign reads, “It’s Halloween, Anything Goes.”
The narrow aisles inside Ricky’s prove that fact. Row after row, fetish after fetish, walls are covered in French maids, Playboy bunnies, sailors, wenches, and superheroes. On the front of each costume, a woman poses and pouts, selling to shoppers the proposition that sex is expected, beauty is buyable, and instant gratification rules.
“You can’t wear this crap,” barks a fortysomething man in a Yankees hat and sweatshirt, his belly protruding and eyes wide with panic. “Look at this shit!”
He and his daughter, a short, plump, ponytailed brunette who looks no more than eleven years old, are surrounded by breasts, thighs, and orgasmic facial expressions — by women dressed as scantily clad prisoners, sheriffs, and FBI agents. Shoppers squeeze by the pair, some holding babies, many seeking out the very costumes Dad is trying to avoid. Suddenly, two girls, both around nine or ten, appear in the same section. The girl with frizzy hair laughs, pointing at a costume called Armed and Dangerous — and the accompanying picture of a model in short shorts and handcuffs clasped around her waist. The girl dances in place, shaking her hips until her friend pulls her toward another costume, which they examine closely, squealing as they sound out the words: “Rehaaaaab Reeeeejects.”
“This is what we went through last year,” the father continues, looking down at his daughter, whose baggy white sweatshirt, black leggings, and faded Converse stand out amongst the exposed body parts. “Let’s go to a different section.”
“We have a section for teenage girls,” a saleswoman says with impeccable timing.
“Where’s that?” Dad asks.
The young woman leads them to the tween aisle, which offers a diminutive collection of costumes deemed “age appropriate” by companies such as Leg Avenue and Drama Queens. Father and daughter examine the options. The girl pictured in the Hot Devil costume sneers in a slinky red dress, her hips cocked, nose raised, face full of makeup.
“How about Dorothy?” Dad asks, pointing to the most modest costume on the wall.
“No,” his daughter says. “I don’t wanna be Dorothy.”
He suggests the bumblebee and then pauses, possibly debating the viability of a costume called Super Bee Hornet Hottie, complete with thigh-high black socks, a short black tutu, and a strapless striped tank top.
Nearly an hour later, they settle on Little Miss Mouse, a mildly demure confection of red and black polka dots.
“Don’t worry,” the saleswoman whispers to the father, “I told her she can’t get the fishnets.”
Twenty minutes later, after a plea for glittery red lipstick (Dad says no), father and daughter leave in detante, costume in hand and conflict avoided, at least for another year. Walking out into the fresh, damp air, they pass the tantalizing blond nurse in the window and head down 72nd Street toward Broadway. Had they gone shopping the very next day, Dad might have turned around before even entering the store, because there in the window, pasted in line with the nurse’s voluptuous breasts, appeared a gigantic red sign: “50% OFF ALL KIDS COSTUMES.”
Filed Under: Reflections
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