Today is the day when 20- and 30-somethings everywhere will dress up like television characters from their childhood. Or sexy broccoli. Or semi-obscure Internet memes. Tomorrow is the day when they will run to their Tinder and OkCupid and Match accounts to update their profile picture to one of them drunkenly clutching Ron Burgundy and a witch. And it might not be a great idea.
The Halloween picture stands alongside “dudes with big fish,” “ladies with fishfaces” and “anyone just chilling with a famous person” in the pantheon of reliable online dating photo tropes. It’s designed to show your future date that you’re funny/sexy/carefree, or at least able to support a mask with your facial structure (points for a functioning nose and cheekbones!). But what effect does showing strangers your least you you really have?
Emma, 28, vehemently believes that using a costumed picture to attract humans is “bad.” “90 percent of the time it’s either a bad costume or you don’t look… your best,” she explains. Why the either/or? “Because good costumes are always unflattering! If they’re good.” If you look hot or even dateable, you’re doing a disservice to the venerable holiday of Halloween. “You make sacrifices in this life,” she says, and sexy Halloween costumes should be one of them.
But can’t a well-thought-out costume speak volumes about who you really, truly are? Michael, 26, thinks so. “I think if it’s a clever costume, or one you think is somehow revealing about your personality, go for it,” he says. This can be even more helpful if your costume is distasteful in some way—potential suitors will know to steer clear. “I wouldn’t be all that interested in someone who had a picture of them in a Sexy Ebola Nurse costume,” Michael says.
Seth, 29, agrees with Emma, saying that the best costumes are “performative” and therefore make for terrible pictures. “Without that [performance], it’s just a photo of that time someone wore a leggy dress and a wig, or an unflattering elephant costume, or a too-clever joke that doesn’t make sense.”
Seth goes on to say that Halloween photos are “unhelpful” in the world of online dating. “Costumes are fun because you present yourself as someone you’re not,” he told me, but for that same reason, they “make no sense in the context of a first impression.” Even coupled with other photos, the Halloween picture can create a “huh?” moment. “If it’s photo number four, OK, maybe, but you’re painting a really quick portrait of who you are with very little information, and one of those [pictures] is going to be you dressed as a sexy cat?”
Despite her great affection for the holiday, Alyssa, 26, cosigns this sentiment. “I mean, I love Halloween so much. I love costumes so, so much,” she says—but when trying to meet a total stranger for dating and more, “you should make a concerted effort to just look like yourself.”
When it comes to her own pictures, Alyssa doesn’t even consider posting a photo dressed as “sexy corn” or the like. “Not to be like ‘I don’t want to attract the wrong element’ but like, man,” she sighs. Costumes that can seem sexy and situationally appropriate during the riotous bacchanal of Halloween, can seem untoward in the calm, blue light of another person’s computer screen.
But to play devil’s advocate, aren’t Halloween pictures the exception to the rule? Don’t we all get a pass on boobier, leggier, abs-ier photos as long as there is a wig and some face paint involved? Nina, 25, rolls her eyes at the idea that half-dressed photos of women she might date get a pass because they’re Halloween-themed. “I’ve never looked at anyone’s profile and thought, ‘Wow, I need more pictures of you in LESS CLOTHES.’” She doesn’t mind Halloween costumes as a rule, but says it’s a “lame excuse” for pictures where your butt hanging out is the costume.
Jules, 27, says posting these pictures proves less of a quandary for dudes. “I don’t mind Halloween pictures in online dating profiles because I’m checking out guys, who rarely go the slutty route,” she says, “and thank god for that.” While women have to worry that their regulation-level revealing costumes will result in judgment or scorn, men are usually safely covered up. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t being evaluated by women like Jules.
“I judge them on their creativity and humor,” Jules says. A great costume can go a long way to proving a man’s bona fides, but if their idea is boring or tired—no matter how funny their bros think it is—it can result in a left swipe or ignored message. “The guy who went as a baby piggybacked on top of a blow-up doll of a woman? I’m impressed and still confused by the costume engineering,” Jules recalls, but “just another Kenny Powers? GTFO.”
So, to escape judgment for being festively wanton or not particularly clever, leave your Halloween pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Unless you’re dressed as Sexy Ebola Nurse. If you’re that kind of monster, you should probably let people know upfront.
Photo via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)