HALLOWEEN REALITY CHECK
What happened to Halloween?
When I was growing up back in the 1970s, October 31st belonged to the kids. It was our day to act crazy, consume lots of crap and party with reckless abandon. It was sort of like the pre-pubescent version of Spring Break, just without the expensive airfare and inconvenient genital warts.
Halloween was the one day when parents and teachers would give us a break. They looked the other way. They let us get away with stuff. We dressed up in costumes, got free candy, ate cupcakes with orange frosting and bobbed for apples -- which we didn't eat, of course, because they weren't covered in orange frosting.
Grown-ups were involved in all of these activities - as our servants, chauffeurs, costume designers and support personnel. They drove us to the mall to buy our costumes (or made them, if they were cheap or creative or both), they decorated the house with jack-o-lanterns and other scary items, they bought those little bite-sized candy bars and they handed them out to the kids who would ring the bell while we were out on the hunt for our own free candy.
That's it. No further participation was required, other than saying, "How'd you do?" when we would peel off our sweaty, plastic Batman masks and pour our gigantic bag of Halloween booty on to the un-vacuumed living room floor for inspection.
Sure, you might occasionally encounter an over-enthusiastic dad who dressed up like Dracula and would camp it up when he handed out candy, like, "I vant to giff you a Milky Vay Barrrr! Moo hah hah!"
But everyone knew those guys were gay.
Back in the 70's, real men didn't wear costumes. And they sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks didn't wear make-up. If I had ever seen my father wearing make-up I would have checked myself in to a mental hospital.
Not only was Halloween looked at as a kids' holiday, it was day that was militantly ignored by the older kids. It was a right of passage for a teenager to scoff at Halloween and to ridicule the kids who were still dressing up (some, perhaps, a few years later than they should have been).
If you were in high school, your Halloween celebration involved shaving cream, raw eggs and criminal mischief. And, if you were really lucky, you got a treat called a JD Card.
And then, somewhere along the line, everything changed.
Now, Halloween is a multi-billion dollar business, and those billions are not being spent on plastic Ninja Turtle costumes. American adults - and I use that term loosely -- have co-opted this former children's holiday in their never-ending efforts to infantilize themselves and postpone maturity indefinitely.
As I walked the streets of New York City today, I saw tons of Halloween costumes: a cat, a cave girl with fake club, a vampire, a skeleton, a butterfly. What I did not see, however, was a kid wearing any of those costumes. The same thing goes for this past weekend, when I watched dozens of twenty- and thirty-somethings ride the subway to various parties dressed in all manner of expensive get-ups.
I love Halloween. I always have. I love vampires and werewolves and Frankenstein monsters and scary movies and all that goes along with them. But as Pete Seeger once wrote (quoting the Bible), "There is a season (turn turn turn)."
I will honor the spirit of Halloween -- and the memories of my Halloweens past -- until I have kids of my own, or die (whichever comes first).
But I am more likely to enlist in the army and request a deployment to al-Anbar Province than I am to walk around New York City dressed up as a pimp. Or a ho. Or a sexy Harry Potter. Or a sexy Dick Cheney. Or a sexy (fill-in-the-blank). My days of costume wearing ended when hair started growing around my genitals.
Come on people. Give Halloween back to the little kids and grow the fuck up already.