Last night I attended the first annual AWP Costume Parade and Ball. Prizes were given for best-all-around, most creative, and best team costumes. I didn’t win a prize, but I did get a bad burn on my face when a man dressed as George Eliot threw a lit candle at me when I pointed out that George Eliot was actually the pen name of a woman named Mary Ann Evans.

“You think I don’t know that?” the guy said. “I’m a fucking tenured professor at an Ivy League school. It’s in Boston. That’s all I’ll say.”

If the Ivy League is a trash dump, Harvard is the hobo who thinks no one can tell he’s masturbating because he’s got his hand down his pants instead of his dick out in the open.

“But you’re dressed as a man,” I said. Not caring, but fighting is fun.

“I’m the idea of George Eliot,” the guy said. “I wouldn’t expect you to get it. It’s a comment on the fact that people don’t know she’s a woman.”

I asked him how anyone was supposed to figure that out and he said the right people, who the costume was meant for, would know. I said by the right people he must have been talking about other stupid buffoons and he grabbed the centerpiece off the table—a candle, like I said—and popped me in the face with it.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get burned for a line more cutting than calling him a buffoon.

This was at the ball, after the parade, while we were waiting for the prizes to be announced. I was sitting across from the George Eliot guy, the rest of our table was made up of six different Max’s from Where The Wild Things Are. Max was by far the most popular costume at the show, followed by the bearded men in flannel who decided to pass themselves off as Hemingway (forget that Hemingway probably didn’t have gauges in his ears or wax his mustache up into stupid little curls) followed by ‘slutty’ takes on Austen and Brontë heroines.

There was one Jane Eyre that had especially caught my eye earlier in the evening—it’s amazing how those frumpy Victorian dresses can go from drab to fab with just a couple missing buttons, lipstick, and a blowout, especially when the clothes are struggling to contain some serious Kate Upton style curves and topped off with a sharp-featured pretty face twisted into a kind of judgmental scowl. And if we’re being honest, the scowl was what did it for me. Maybe I was raised all wrong but there’s nothing hotter than a judgmental woman. Except maybe for a judgmental woman with chalk dust on her hands and a scar shaped like a seashell at the point of her chin. Sometimes I wonder if this fairly specific kink has anything to do with why I have no memory of third grade, but when I ponder that too hard I tend to get a migraine and lose control of my bladder, so I’ll probably never really know for sure.

Anyway, I ended up at the table with all the Max’s and George Eliot because I was angling to meet this Jane Eyre. She was sitting at the table directly across, with my seat in her direct eyeline. I wasn’t in costume but in my experience all you need to do to get a woman’s attention at AWP is let her believe you’re an established writer, which means turning your name ID tag around so no one can see your name and acting like you’re caught between wondering why no one is kissing your feet and acting like you’re being stalked by a murderer.

When the guy hit me with the candle it burned my face and splashed hot wax all over, too, so I got up from the table to run outside so no one would see me cry. I thought for a moment the Jane Eyre woman would follow me to see if I needed help, that she’d hold a cold compress to my burns and we’d fall in love and go back to her hotel, make love between five and nine times and then in the morning she’d try to slip me $300 cash, and I’d realize she thought I was an escort. But she wither didn’t notice or didn’t care.

I waited around for a while outside, thinking maybe the George Eliot guy would come out and I could avenge myself upon him, but after a while I got bored and went back to the hotel. So I don’t know who won the costume contest, but I did ‘slip’ in the lobby and made a big stink, so my room for the rest of the weekend is free.