My Summer As A Costumed Character

Sometimes, on late-night talk shows or women’s magazines, an interviewer will ask a successful actor about the terrible jobs they had on their way up. And invariably, the star will respond that at some point, they had to dress up in an embarrassing costume for minimum wage. And guys, stars really ARE just like us, because I had to do the same thing! Here is my story.

The summer after my junior year of college, I decided I was so over working at a movie theatre box office/ concession stand and found a new job as a hostess at a family dining chain that I’ll call Blue Bluebird. In case you’ve never been to a restaurant, a  hostess is a person who underestimates your wait time, shows you to your table, and is dressed as a human. Within a few days, it was pretty clear that the head hostess absolutely hated me. She was a young blonde girl around my age, who went to community college nearby. She’d do things like “forget” to give me all of the training information, so that I’d fail the stupid test we had to take on what goes on the Mexican Fiesta Fun burger.

After I’d been on the job for a few weeks, this girl decided that, since one of the other hostesses was away at dance camp, I’d have to start taking shifts as “Blue,” the chain’s costumed bluebird who appears in the lobby to terrify children a few times a week. As time wore on, I noticed that I was having to dress as Blue almost every shift.

In case you’ve never worked as a costumed character, here are some things you should know:

– So that you don’t overheat in the costume, you have to strap ice packs to your person. The device pretty much resembles an armored vest full of freeze-pops. This is so cold that it hurts upon contact, but once you have been walking around in costume for a few minutes, it is entirely useless.

– Like a baby or a bride, you cannot be trusted to dress yourself. Fortunately I’m not very shy.

– No, seriously, fortunately I’m not very shy. There is no changing room, so you get dressed in a corner of the stock room. You were allowed to get changed behind the coat rack. But it was summer, and the coat rack was empty, and you can’t hide a half-naked, half-bird-costumed body behind a metal pole with bare hangers on it.

– As often as not,  the bus boy had to get something from this part of the stock room exactly at this time. I don’t mean to flatter myself too much, as he was a very busy young man who often had to retrieve things.

– As Blue, you had to have a buddy lead you around because your field of vision was very small. You could see in front of you, beginning at about 4 feet ahead – you couldn’t see your feet and had no peripheral vision.

– The buddy also had to play lookout to see if there were any kids who were terrified of you.

– One toddler came up to me and wanted a high five, so I put my hand out. Then the toddler started crying, and the mom FREAKED OUT on me. Lady, I don’t know your baby! And don’t even try to pretend that two year olds are logical, ‘cause they’re not.

– A 12-ish year old girl who seemed like she had special needs insisted on hugging me for so long that I thought I was going to get prosecuted for child abuse.

– When you weren’t being led from table to table, you were supposed to hop around with balloons and dance like a buffoon in the front lobby.

– The job was sort of cushy in that you had to take breaks once an hour or so so that you didn’t overheat and die.

– The costume consisted of an enormous bird head, a bird body, shiny yellow leggings, and oversized sneakers. Although I’d started wearing leggings because they were “in” in Spain during my semester abroad, they hadn’t caught on in the states yet. This was 2007 or so. Thus, most people hadn’t seen a lady in leggings for about 20 years. As such, despite the fact that I was dressed as a horrific costumed bird, more than a few adults made inappropriate comments about my legs. I don’t think this would happen these days, because leggings aren’t so out of the ordinary. Although, these are adults making obscene comments to a young lady dressed as a cartoon bluebird, who am I to say where they draw the line?

– In general, adults are very likely to say horrible things to you or try to touch you if they can’t see your face.

– Some children are little a-holes who will try to trip you and taunt you. They will probably grow into adults who make lurid comments to college-aged girls dressed as birds.

By the end of the summer, the mean hostess girl had taken a Disney internship, where I hope they made her dress as Chip or Dale, but where it is more likely that she bossed around her poor underlings at Ariel’s Grotto. And shortly after that, I was long gone, back to college with only terrible memories, minimum wage savings, and probably a few extra pounds from the unlimited french fries I consumed to drown my embarrassment.


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