Halloween Special: Children Dressing Up

the book:

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

published 1978


Mary Ann tugged on her driver’s arm. ‘Oh, Norman… beep will you?’

‘Who is it?’

‘Michael and his parents. Mona’s roommate.’

Norman tapped on the horn. Michael looked towards them as Mary Ann blew a kiss from the window of the Falcon. He smiled feebly and pretended to yank out a handful of hair. His parents were charging ahead, oblivious.

‘Poor baby!’ said Mary Ann.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘Oh….it’s complicated.’

‘He’s queer, isn’t he?’

‘Gay, Norman.’

Lexy poked her head over the seat. ‘What’s queer?’

‘Sit down,’ said Norman.

Mary Ann turned around and fussed with Lexy’s Wonder Woman cape. ‘You look so nice, Lexy.’

The child bounced on the back seat. ‘Why don’t you have a costume?’

‘Well… I’m a grownup, Lexy.’

The child shook her head vehemently and pointed out the window to three men dressed as high school majorettes. ‘Those grownups have costumes.’

Mary Ann sighed. ‘How old did you say she was?’

observations: Halloween in San Fransisco in the 70s - it is a Sunday, which pretty much makes it 1976 – was something like Mardi Gras. Michael hasn’t come out to his parents yet, and is nervous wandering round the city because Oct 31st truly was The Witches’ Sabbath for the gay population – ‘In this town, he thought, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name almost never shuts up.’ In the end he gets away with only having to explain away the roller-skating male nuns who loved his jockey shorts.

Meanwhile Mary Ann Singleton (the name tells you her story) is going on a practice date with straight guy Norman and a borrowed child. But of all the story strands, this one, unexpectedly, is one of the darkest, and will drift back into sight in the late addition to the series, Mary Ann in Autumn, 30 years later.

Dressing up and costumes are an important part of Maupin’s series of books, usually seen as a celebration of differences and a way to have fun, rarely negative or hiding anything. 

Links up with: The books follow the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane over the years – the blog has previously visited
Brian, the straight guy on the look-out for women. More Halloween entries yesterday and tomorrow.

The picture is a Halloween
greeting card from the New York Public Library’s collection.


  1. Love the first couple of books in the series especially - I spent a lot of time in San Francisco in the 80s and early 90s so it has always had a special place for me on the shelves. Thanks Moira, great choice,.

    1. By the time I got to San Francisco I had read the books, and the main thing I wanted to see was the area around Barbary Lane. I love this series so much, and I'm sure will keep re-reading them every few years forever...


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