Becoming Halloweenies

pumpkin sadWhat happened to Halloween? It used to be my favorite holiday. I loved to dress up. As long as I can remember, I’d choose my costume on November 1st of the previous year. All year long I’d plan it, anticipate it. When I was young, I’d ask my mom to make it and she’d plan it along with me. As I got older and lost my mom’s services, I’d have to figure out how to make my costume – no small feat since I don’t sew. And my costumes were good. They were fun. And every year I’d have a great Halloween.

When I was young, there was, of course, trick-or-treating. In junior high and high school, there was egg-and-shaving-cream-sponsored vandalism. During college and beyond, there were parties. Sophomore year of college, my mom made me an “Addams Family” Cousin It costume and once I was on my own, I made an Oompa Loompa costume. In my 30s, the annual Parrot Head convention in Key West would coincide with Halloween. I went as the “Conjunction Junction” guy and Princess Leia in the gold bikini and had a blast, every year.

Even when I was married and we first had children, there were parties where we could dress up and take our daughter. We went to our first Seattle Halloween with a family costume. I was a sock, my husband was a monkey and our daughter was Sock Monkey. By the time we had our son, though, we’d stopped getting invited. Our childless friends didn’t want any kids at their blowouts. We were hurt, but we planned our own parties. We tried, at least. Once. Two families came, at different times, so there never was a party. It was more like a playdate.

We gave up on parties, but my husband and I still dressed up to go trick-or-treating. The last time we dressed, we were Sherriff Bullock and an Old West hooker from “Deadwood.”  The neighbors appreciated it, but then there was a year we didn’t think of costumes in time, so we didn’t dress. The next year, we didn’t want to face the inevitable Seattle rain in costume. So Halloween evolved, and now we just focus on the kids. Our golden days of Halloween are over. And that makes me very, very sad.

Not only has our role in the holiday changed, Halloween itself has undergone a huge transformation since we were kids. Okay, we were kids 40 years ago so we’re not shocked, but we’re saddened. Trick-or-treating around the neighborhood has given way to trick-or-treating businesses, in town or at the mall. Everyone’s terrified of their neighbors (at least here) because they don’t know them. And obviously people who work for businesses don’t represent “Stranger Danger,” right? They’re all background checked before they’re hired at Abercrombie and Fitch because they may hand out candy on Halloween. Of course. No pedophile or serial killer ever had a job.

Some kids don’t trick-or-treat at all. They go to parties instead. So far, our kids have not been invited to any Halloween parties, but this is Seattle, where most people never go beyond “hello,” so that’s no surprise.  Kids can’t dress up at school anymore. At least ours can’t. I don’t know why. The school doesn’t offer any explanation. If they said that costumes disrupt classroom instruction I’d buy that, but I suspect they’re just being “culturally sensitive.” Which I seriously don’t get. I’m not out to offend anyone but I thought cultural sensitivity was achieved through education and inculsion. I thought that the whole cultural sensitivity movement sought to inform people about all the other cultures they may encounter. So why not teach everyone about Halloween? Halloween’s part  of my culture. It’s ridiculous. And so is our current experience of the holiday.

I miss Halloween the way it used to be. I miss dressing up. I miss the whole neighborhood trick-or-treating, greeting neighbors and the endless parade of costumes. I miss parties and friends and costumes in school. But there’s so much paranoia about our children, so much fear of offending people and so much water under the bridge that it will never be the same.