It’s Halloween Eve (yes, apparently that’s a thing, although I always knew tonight as Mischief Night) and I am sitting here wondering who was the crackhead that came up with Halloween. Like, ‘Hey, here’s a great idea – let’s have a (mostly) non-secular holiday that involves pulling apart over-sized cotton balls to make fake cobwebs that are actually more annoying to walk into than real cobwebs. And let’s make everyone wear complicated costumes that never look like Pinterest suggests they will!’ Add a shit ton of chocolate for the kids, administered over the course of several hours – or even days – and one late night of wandering the neighborhood like feral cats, and voila! Halloween! A single day for which the level of excitement may be eclipsed only by that for Disneyland or Christmas.
Halloween is fun. I get it. But it’s gotten a little over-the-top. Maybe it’s the ‘it’s everybody’s holiday’ thing, but I feel like Halloween has gotten disproportionately huge. There are Halloween freaks like there are Disney freaks and Christmas freaks – always happy to take it to the next level. And retail answers – Halloween decorations start popping up in every storefront sometime around the 4th of July, rivaling only Christmas in the prematurity race. Self-proclaimed Costume Contest Moms are the new Pageant Moms: It’s Honey Boo Boo meets Paranormal Activity.
When I was a kid, you had to ransack your closet, your parents’ closets, your basement and attic to make your costume. Costumes were original, yet there were few that could not be created without some duct tape, a trash bag, and face paint (sold in an $8 package of five gold-wrapped colored face paint crayons). Now, there are goddamn Halloween stores. Like, stores that sell nothing but Halloween crap. Spirit Halloween: “For $180, you, too, can dress your 6-month-old like a chicken!” (yeah, I was tempted). And, “Hey kids – wanna be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? Here’s a strap-on green and yellow pillow and a red bandanna for only $150. Don’t forget you need the nun chucks to complete the look! On sale for $80 if you buy with the strap-on!” Then there are the home decorations and displays. $2 grand for a fake fucking straw bale with a skeleton and fake mums on it. No, that’s not a typo: Two. Thousand. A 2 with 3 zeros.
I am not as anti-Halloween as I sound. But, for the last three Halloweens, I’ve been “drunk,” “haggard,” and “pregnant,” respectively. As in, someone asks “What are you for Halloween?” and I respond “drunk.” I don’t even have to dress up. If I was feeling really ambitious, a $10 dollar investment at Spencers would have me set. (Note to self: Spencers has little in the way of costumes that are appropriate for kids. Who knew?!). As an adult and a parent, though, Halloween just can’t be taken so lightly.
I have learned this: Making any kind of decision on a kid’s Halloween costume before October 30 is like betting on the Super Bowl in June. My 4-year old usually starts telling me sometime in August exactly what he is going to be for Halloween. A “Doctor Dinosaur.” No, not a doctor that’s a dinosaur and not a doctor for dinosaurs, but a Doctor Dinosaur. It has to have beady red eyes and a green stethoscope and a spiky long tail. I never did figure out what the fuck a Doctor Dinosaur was, and it didn’t matter because by the time Halloween rolled around, he’d gone through 18 more costume prospects before settling on being . . . a cop (pre-packaged and purchased in one of those clear plastic bags from – you guessed it – Spirit Halloween).
This year, my 4-year old wants to be a “Skeleton with drippy hands and a broken head and an oozing brain that carries an orange gun.” W. T. F????? I have less than 24 hours to figure it out, in which time he will almost certainly change his mind. I can only hope Plan B involves some part of the skeleton leotard and orange gun we already bought.
Just like every female 21 and under prefaces their Halloween costume with “sexy,” a the 4-and-under set prefaces every Halloween costume with “dead” or “oozing.” Which is all well and good until we are talking mainstream loveable characters like Doc McStuffins or Mickey Mouse. It’s at least mildly disturbing to see Doc with a bloody knife through her head. I am confident that neighbors have suspicions about my son’s future as a homicidal maniac.
We have learned which neighborhoods – and which houses in those neighborhoods – to hit up for candy. The houses with real hearses on their lawns (as decoration, of course), fog machines, and a Wes Craven soundtrack (playing on their outdoor Bose surround speakers) are most likely to have King Size somethings. When I was a kid, my neighbors gave shit like raisins and pennies. One used to tell us to “pick five pennies” out of her damned plastic orange pumpkin (that smelled like an old milk carton), and if we were “lucky” we might “get a shiny penny from this year!” No, lady, if I’m lucky the next house will understand that Halloween is not an acceptable substitute for a trip to Coinstar. If I’m really lucky, next year I’ll remember to skip yours.
Also, in 2016, trolling the neighborhoods for one night apparently is not enough. Now we have “trunk or treats” everywhere, too. Because, after finally deciding on and wrestling my kid into a costume that offends as few members of the general population as possible, and selecting a completely allergen-free candy (maybe the penny people were on to something), I definitely have time to decorate the trunk of my car. (n.b., most days my trunk could pass for a scene from an early 80’s horror film, no decorating required. Throw a bag of Tootsie Pops in and I effing rule the preschool parking lot).
Despite all the complaining, I am actually looking forward to Halloween. We do it right and take a hay wagon with friends through a rich neighborhood that gives lots of King Size somethings. No pennies; no raisins. Just a bunch of parents sitting and pretending to ration kids’ candy (some for you; some for me) while the kids jump off every few hundred yards like passengers from the Titanic. Make no mistake, the hay wagon is fully stocked with adult refreshments. And if history tells, our kids will pass out before the end of the night and we can pilfer their KitKats. Or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Oh, those tiny little chocolate cups of peanut-buttery deliciousness . . . OK, Halloween. Bring it!