If there was a championship for holding grudges, my dad would be a shoo-in for first place and my sister would be a prominent contender for honorable mentions. Me? I’d be fifty feet from the podium with nobody but a disillusioned coach to half-heartedly console my loser’s tears. It’s a verified fact that I can’t manifest, hold, or in many cases remember grudges to save my life. If there’s bad blood, I have a persistently nagging compulsion to dilute it. That’s why the following blog entry is an ode to a friendship past, a concept I never fully appreciated until I lost my good friend Felicia.
If she’d been keen on entering beauty pageants, Felicia would have made a pit stop at Miss Africa en route to the universal title, no contest. A Portuguese-South African bon vivant that not only turned heads and captivated attention with her winning smile but with her radiating charm besides, Felicia’s was the kind of character you couldn’t help but admire. Incredibly inventive and avant-garde in her architectural pursuits, Felicia’s sheer excitement for innovation and creativity always imbued infectious energy in her peers. Maternal, comforting, hilariously goofy, endearingly frightening via her penchant for brightening the macabre (“You’re so funny I just want to cut you up, put you in a jar, and carry you around with me!”), and delightfully mischievous, Felicia was the gnocchi-gourmandizing self-proclaimed Charlotte to our Sex and the City quad. And when I was privileged enough to serendipitously be her roommate my sophomore year of college, I whole-heartedly looked up to her for the optimism and joviality she sowed into every adventure we embarked on.
She was a breath of fresh air in an academic world dictated by stress-inducing GPAs and successive all-nighters. A gem so hard to come by in life that I feel I must take this opportunity to apologize for the fact that my aversion to drama kept me from fighting for our friendship when I realized too late that it was already slipping by.
While enrolled in the Savannah College of Art & Design, I had a tendency to allow my crusade against depression to overshadow the utter joie de vivre that existed all around me. And because my melancholia stemmed from a very negative, and fortunately terminated relationship, it seemed apt to my naïve mind that the solution to my sorrow lay in potential boyfriends who could hopefully allay the setbacks of my past. While this theory proved true farther down the road when I stopped immersing myself in “the hunt,” my sophomore preoccupation with courtship distracted me from the relationships that should have taken precedence: my friendships with people like Felicia, who absolutely did not deserve to be dragged to college parties so that I could inattentively flirt the night away.
The lessons I’ve learned from innumerable misadventures in life, love, and camaraderie have taught me that we as a species need to spend more time cherishing what we have, and not regretting the absence of what we want. It’s the same for every facet of life: from dismissing the incredible value of our wholly unique and life-sustaining bodies because they don’t look the way we think they should, to forgetting to appreciate the possessions we already have in light of those beyond our reach, to pulling vacuous stunts like the one I did and neglecting the people willing and eager to be close to you because you want the type of attention a bygone companion withheld.
I don’t say or express it nearly enough but I am so thankful for all the friends I’ve accrued throughout life, be they from my past or my present, 3000 miles away or a couple blocks down the street. Each of them has been so integral in the production of my current identity and will continue to be major influences on my life whether I’m fortunate enough to see them in the years to come or not. And because she was such a wonderfully inspiring and entertaining part of my college life, the same holds true for Felicia. Even if our falling out portends permanence, I’ll always look back fondly on the bizarre “Rubball” games we made up, the costumes we giddily assembled and photographed, the hirsute havoc we wreaked at Urban Outfitters, the wall art we spent hours fabricating, the pirates we rallied, the pranks we planned, the revelatory conversations we shared, and the endless laughs we emitted. Moreover, I’ll always remember and wholly appreciate the joy that a friendship so significant can instill in a life lucky enough to behold it.
Photography first became a prominent component of my life in 2003 when I decided to manifest the fanciful concepts of my illustrations in reality and recruited the technical aid of a tiny, auto-function point-and-shoot. But that pixelated, digital camera and an elementary photo editing software called ULead Express weren’t my only tools as I dove headshot-first into this new medium. A huge motive behind those early 72 dpi endeavors was the ability to actualize the characters from my imagination in reality using the Moon-Wood family affinity for costumes and makeup.
Putting tireless effort into creating and inhabiting the guise of a separate entity isn’t just a fond pastime though: costumes are admittedly the reason for my existence. My parents first met at a college Halloween party where my mom sported a cat suit complete with a homemade tail, ears, and makeup that would put the cast of Cats to shame. My dad, inversely, wore a gory Frankenstein mask through which you couldn’t see his handsome face (although the exposed forearms beneath the classic horror visage were enough to reel Maman in). And quite frankly, if young, coquettish Paul and Linda hadn’t been eager to take advantage of Halloween’s identity-morphing free card and suit up in a guise ulterior to their own, this blog would have a very different voice.
Although the college circumstances I met my boyfriend under weren’t even close to that archetypal 80s love story, I was reminded of the fact that I virtually owe my life to a catsuit when my man and I attended a costume party this past Friday. The theme was the impolitic subject of “gangs,” and in lieu of seizing the obvious inspiration of LA’s red, blue, or gold banners, my mind immediately went back to gang-savvy cinema and Broadway shows in which switch blade-toting thugs pirouetted their way to the kill and gang slogans went something like, “Do it for Johnny.” In my mind, the gangs that deserved imitative homage included the finger-snapping Sharks and Jets from West Side Story, Ponyboy Curtis’ macho denim crew in The Outsiders, Ace in his all-too-intimidating Hawaiian shirt and Eyeball with his coif in Stand By Me, and all the slicked pompadours of Grease. Yes, I realize I had a whole host of gangs to garner inspiration from merely by watching The Warriors, but rather than donning the green makeup and baseball cap of the formidable Furies or taking the Hi-Hats route and embodying a dastardly mime, I decided to emulate the classics. So my tough guy beau and I attended the party decked out in tight pants, high-tongued boots, a flannel rolled up to the shoulder on his end, and a leather jacket, Anita-of-Sharks-fame hoop earrings, lipstick, and a high-do on my behalf. Out we strolled from an uncharacteristic luxury vehicle (courtesy of Uber Los Angeles) into an LA house party where we were equally amiss in a sea of endless red and blue bandanas and a couple flannel shirts buttoned at the collar.
This phenomenon of appearing wholly overzealous when it comes to costumes is no new bone of contention for a Moon child though. We’ve experienced a life’s worth of bemused stares, whether cuchi-cuchi-ing all over a Latin American-themed party in Charo garb while everyone else sports sombreros and mustaches, spending hours epoxying plastic bullets into a bandolier to attend a costume party as a living Brian Viveros painting, breaking my teenage bank on every themed Homecoming dance, or garnering a crowd of onlookers while conducting costumed photo shoots in the enormous wall-length window that comprised my old bedroom. But this aversion to Party City all-in-one costume packages that results in endless hours of what sane people would consider unnecessary costume preparation is no fault of our own, and our obsessive-compulsive drive for authentic interpretation can be traced back to one progenitor: our mother.
With a B.F.A. in fibers and a lifelong flair for needlework, my mom is a homemade aficionado whose original costume designs would put McCall and Simplicity catalogues to shame if she ever decided to disseminate her patterns. Working as a third grade teacher for years, my mother became both an anticipated and legendary spectacle at her school’s annual Halloween parades, for which her perfectionism prompted numerous all-nighters in front of a sewing machine. The impressive results of these undertakings included characters like a Día de los Muertos Catrina bride, a revamped Maleficent (complete with shoulder-perched crow), and a life-sized praying mantis supporting a huge papier mâché-fabric head with large, multi-ommatidia eyes (all the better to beguile edible male mantises with).
But although we may stick out like over-dressed sore thumbs at every themed fête we attend, I have my mom’s tireless quest for perfection in homemade costuming to thank for a career in metamorphic self-portraiture that began long before I’d ever heard of Cindy Sherman, Claude Cahun, and Leigh Bowery. Since then, this inherited passion for costumes and makeup has enabled innumerable transformations for both photo shoots and costumed affairs alike. For when you invite a Moon sister to your costume soirée and inadvertently open her hefty wardrobe filled with wigs, jewelry, traditional Mexican huipiles, hand-me-down fur coats and hats from our Nana, those medieval gowns we had to wear to a great-aunt’s wedding, shoes of every heel height, patterns galore, authentic 80s Benetton solids, and makeup palettes that span the color wheel, you really never know what you’re gonna get.