November 2008

Why Halloween gives me the creeps

By Suzanne Strazza

I hate Halloween. Truly hate it. And of course I have two young sons for whom Halloween is the culmination of all things cool and exciting.

Everything that I have decided that I will be against comes out on October 31st.

Commercialism.

Over-indulgence.

Violence.

Stereotyping of the sexes.

Children running wildly out of control.

Could I be a bigger party-pooper?

When I was a child, I loved Halloween. I was consistently a gypsy (the female version of a hobo). I just liked wearing the big gold earrings. And the head scarf.

We lived in an area where the nearest house was a mile away, so we had to trick-or-treat by car, which kept away that out-of-control element. Mom and Dad would load us into the woody station wagon and drive us to the Pattersons’. The Feltzes’, the Wynns’ and the McGuires’.

Mrs. McGuire always dressed up like a witch, which I found very creepy. Not because she was a creepy witch, but because she got dressed up. I was pretty clear that Halloween was for kids, not adults, and since there were only about five houses within a 10- mile radius, it’s not like she was fooling anyone about who she was.

At the end of the night, my brother and I would come home and divide up our candy. Since I was allergic to chocolate, I had to trade all of my Hershey bars and Babe Ruths for Double Bubble and apples (this was pre-razor-blade days).

And we wonder why my memories of Halloween are not all that fond.

As I got older, I realized that with a bit of alcohol involved, Halloween took on a whole new meaning. Suddenly it didn’t matter if I was allergic to chocolate any more, since trick-or-treating usually involved booze instead of candy.

Now, those were the days.

Those were also the days when “costume” meant wearing as little as possible and looking rather slutty, although I do remember one year with my friend Lucy, dressing up as the B-52’s, feeling rather clever.

After college, alcohol led to more “developed” substances for the holiday. So instead of being an excuse to look risqué, all in the name of a costume, Halloween became an excuse to “release inhibitions,” so to speak.

This was all fine and dandy with me until the year that I dressed up as a Bad Acid Trip and every time I passed a mirror, well. . .

Thus ended my dress-up days, until now.

The boys do not see the evening as an excuse to wear minimal clothing or to abuse extra-curricular substances, but instead, they view the night as one when all the rules in our home go right down the tubes.

As they cloak themselves in black, head-to-toe, for the fifth year in a row, carrying ever-increasingly large weapons, the excitement to look as gross and scary escalates into a fever pitch. It’s so intense that even as they prepare for this year, they are plotting for next, scheming about how they can look even more gruesome.

They begged me to hit up Wal-Mart the other day so that they could buy a black robe.

“I have bought you one each year for the past five years – can’t you just wear one of those?”

“Duh. No. This is a different costume. Mom.”

It sure looks the same. Black robe. Black hood. Dagger. Skull necklace.

I must be really old if I can’t see the obvious change from Black Wizard to Skull Guy.

This year they wanted those gross masks – you know the ones…The Scream. I flat out refused. This was going too far. We try to be a happy, optimistic family. Not the Addams Family.

So I said no and then my two closest friends, who are the mothers of their closest friends, said, “Yes”.

Wanted to throttle them.

I was holding my ground until one of these moms, whose standards are way above mine and often put me to shame, said, “Lighten up, Suzanne.”

Humbled, I got the masks and all the boys wore them together Halloween night. The only way to tell the difference between them was the shoes sticking out from under the robes.

And I suppose next year will be the same. We will go out with these same friends and 52 other neighborhood children on that dark night. I will lose track of my boys in the dark. I will wonder how much candy they will be eating as they knock on door after door and I will find myself wondering why I didn’t end up with a Fairy Princess instead of a black creepy-guy wizard.

When we get home, I will want to limit their sugar-intake and throw out the masks. I will wrestle in my own mind about being remotely kind and actually letting them enjoy the night instead of being a total wet blanket.

I will remember the big gold earrings from my gypsy days and remind myself how it’s the details of the costume that make it special. I will tell myself that it’s only one night. I will be thankful that they are not allergic to chocolate. I will go to bed grateful that there will be an entire year before we have to do this again. I will vow that next year, my husband will be home and he will get to do the honors.

And then I will try my damnedest to “lighten up.”

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.