This is the year of the costume for more than 40 percent of Americans. At least that’s what the National Retail Federation’s research is telling us. And with Halloween upon us during these tough economic times, dressing up — or down — may be one way to have some truly affordable fun. Just be sure you know what your mask covers, or exposes, about your personality. Your choice of costume isn’t random and may show more of you than you want.

Since the 1950s, when "trick-or-treating" and mass-produced costumes became a centerpiece of this "holiday" originally rooted in the Celtic Festival of Samhain, we have put on masks to escape, entertain and even revel in feeling frightened. The "type T’s" among us, the thrill seekers, especially enjoy the ghosts, goblins, haunted houses and terrifying movies associated with Halloween.

Halloween is a "flip-flop" holiday for children, an inversion, where they turn the familiar parent-child role upside down. They demand and receive all of the candy and sweets they want from adults, dress up as adult characters and lead their parents by the hand from one home to next demanding even more treats.

So what should you be for Halloween? If you are a trend watcher, then witches lead the pack as the top choice for 2010. Lady Gaga, Jersey Shore characters and Alice in Wonderland (especially the Mad Hatter) are going to be all over your neighborhood. If it isn’t pop culture you’ll see, it’s going to be all about humor with giant bananas and mullet wigs.

Children will be wearing princess costumes, Toy Story characters and of course Disney will be on parade wherever children will be having Halloween fun. This year, family togetherness will be a big hit, with Mom, Dad and kids all staying within a genre.

So what does your mask say about you? For those of you who have spellbinding personalities, aren’t afraid to tell it like it is and like having power, try the witch costume.

But if you want to show your hipness, cover your insecurities, have a real need for everyone to know your name, show your pop culture knowledge and your self-appointed VIPness, then you’ll be Lady Gaga, Snooki or Don Draper at this year’s party.

Nobody who knows you will really buy you wearing an angel costume. Don’t even go there. Too holy and you come across as unsocial and untouchable.

Sexy characters like the French maid, hot nurse, prostitute? That vixen in you wants to be let out, at least on Halloween night. You may simply be expressing the healthy and timeless struggle between being pure, chaste, holy and a sex kitten who wants to be the center of attention.

Going the group route for this year’s party? Jersey Shore gang? Mario All-Stars? Harry Potter and kids? Well, well, well, you are telling the world you belong, that people like you and you have friends. You are a real groupie and enjoy the security of fitting in.

Like having pure fun and want to leave your serious work-a-day side at home? Then you’ll be donning a comic/cartoon/clown costume for sure.

While Erma Bombeck told us that grandmas pretend they don’t know who we are on Halloween, the real truth is that we may not know who we are on Halloween. And it was Mark Twain who said, "Everyone is a moon and has a dark side, which he never shows to anybody."

But our masks, costumes and the kind of thrills we expose ourselves to on Halloween can give it all away. So, think about the information you will be giving away about yourself when you attend your office Halloween party, your friend’s yearly Halloween blast or just stroll through your neighborhood with your kids trick-or-treating.

For me, the scariest thing about Halloween is the amount of sugar and sweets our kids will be eating! After all, dental disease is likely the most common chronic disease of childhood.

Happy and safe Halloween all, no matter how foolish we look in our ridiculous costumes. Lady Gaga’s meat costume ... really?

For more than 30 years, Dr. Mantell has successfully been bringing upbeat, friendly and helpful psychological insights to individuals, families and businesses in San Diego as a clinical and corporate psychologist in private practice. He's been a regular on Good Morning America, KFMB-TV News 8, has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live, the Today show, authored two best-selling books and speaks regularly for audiences throughout the country. Dr. Mantell is a member of the Sports Medicine team at The Sporting Club at the Aventine in La Jolla, where he writes and educates others in the psychology of fitness. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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