We were in Party City, green Spandex alien morphsuit Halloween costume in hand. Lil E was studying the pimp costume accessories — “Mommy, would an alien wear a bling cash-money necklace?” / “Maybe not one made out of plastic.” — and I was standing in front of the wall of pictures of people who look too happy to be wearing hot dog costumes or Elmo costumes or hippie costumes.
A mother was standing a few feet away from me, and her three young boys, all under the age of five, were pointing and talking and shouting about the section of women’s costumes.
“MOMMY! MOMMY!,” one of them yelled, tugging at her cardigan. “YOU SHOULD BE THAT ONE! YOU WOULD BE PRETTY IN THAT ONE! THAT ONE IS PERFECT FOR YOU.”
In tandem, the mom and I glanced to the square where the middle child was pointing.
Sexy Little Red Riding Hood.
The costume model stood in front of a giant, slightly leering man-wolf in the background. She was perky, lacy and super-happy to be wearing a skirt that barely covered her hoo-hoo and an even shorter crap-velvet cape. She had an obvious blond wig and contrived basket.
The mom beside me was, at a glance, lovely — an attractive brunette who was, frankly, far more put together than I’d ever expect a mom of three preschoolers to be. She didn’t need a wig to be hot. But the costume choice was still startling.
I laughed. I couldn’t help it.
But before that slipped out, I heard the mom say sweetly, “That’s not really me.”
When she heard me, she turned, smiled and confided, mouthing, “Shit, it has started.”
I laughed again but her attention was already back on the boy who insisted his mom go all Mother I’d Like to Fairytale.
“But, Mommy, it is perfect for you! It really is,” he whined.
It was funny in part because it was familiar. My own son has asked me many times, this year alone, what I am dressing up as for Halloween. He knows in the past I’ve rocked Princess Leah and a crazy-looking witch. But those were for costume parties and one adult evening out for the holiday. But I always answer the same way.
“Trick-or-treating is for kids. Kids get to dress up and parents give out candy and take thousands of photos that will never be printed out,” and then I add a little something. “ENJOY!”
His dad doesn’t ascribe to this thinking, choosing to trick-or-treat for an hour in a costume that matches his son’s every year. That’s his deal. There’s also an exception for the dad of a friend who has proudly shown off a generous midsection in a Tinker Belly joke costume while the kids ran from door to door. Still, I stand firm in my belief: Unless it is for a dress-up party or super-good reason (that I can’t come up with right now), costumes to trick-or-treat are for kids.
Sexy versions of Red Riding Hood, nurses, Katy Perrys, goth girls, nuns, hippies, devils, kitties and ketchup are for private parties. Of two. No kids or fun-sized bars invited.
My parental costume rule doesn’t mean that my kid, or that mom’s children or your own, won’t stop asking a mama to get gussied (or hussied) up for Halloween. But it does mean better judgment should keep you redirecting your attention and plastic cash-monies on a giant slice of pizza costume for your little ones rather than a much-smaller (sexier and sausage) version for yourself.
Hey, breaker of my rule and MILFairytale encouragers: Will you dress up with your kids to trick-or-treat?
This post originally appeared on Babble.com.