Celebrating The ‘Ween (Please Start Using That Term)
This year was my first year participating in the “trick-or-treating” world of Halloween in probably 15 years. The last time I remember being involved in suburban trick-or-treat culture in any way is when my friend Nolan and I were 12. Like many kids at that age, we were incredibly lazy and didn’t wear costumes, per se, just a mask and dark sweatshirt.
It’s easy to forget during your teenage years, and especially your wayward mid-twenties that there is a whole ‘nother Halloween going on. It’s almost like there are two, very different holidays happening at once. One to accrue vast kingdoms of sweets, and one to show the world what different objects/characters/famous people would look like if they were drunk to the point of belligerence.
This year was my inaugural voyage back to the Halloween of my youth, but now as a candy-handler. I found the whole experience as a non-child, non-parent, non-drunk idiot to be filled with delights, surprises, and crinkly candy-wrapper sounds. The recording below is a simple cross-section of all the intelligible “trick or treat”s that I recorded that night. It turns out that “Happy Halloween” is also a favorable thing to say in leu of the standard “T.O.T”. Personally, I find this shift away from the classic phrasing to be upsetting, but I’m not one to cling to my youth.
I set it to music and included the rhythm of knocking and doorbells. Interestingly, three knocks, and nearly always at the same frequency is the kn0ck-du-jour for kids these day.
All Hallow’s Fun
By far the most confusing aspect of Halloween as an agreed-upon cultural ritual is the dispensing of candy. At my sister’s house, she, her husband, and their friends seemed to have no consternation over this issue. They would either grab some candy and give it to the kids, or let the kids take some. They seemed to lack the moral integrity necessary to see (or at least to address) that Halloween candy-handing is a badly broken institution in need of overhaul.
I was baffled by their lack of concern for the fair dispersal of candies. Clearly, there is no universe where a tootsie roll has the same value as a snickers bar, or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which borders upon sacred object in many childhood folk religions. But being forced into a position to make split-second determinations of who-gets-what is an unreasonable burden to put on a person. Clearly, lowering the bowl and allowing the kids to take a paw-full is not an option. They cannot reliably act as their own moral compass and they will reliably act on impulse and sugar-lust.
I then had no choice but to dispense the candy to the children. But the questions remained about what to give and to whom. My instinct was that for better costumes there should be a better yield. But costumes really aren’t within the control of the children, and if they can afford either the time or money to invest into a great costume, maybe should receive less candy. This is more-or-less an analogue to the problem of “the rich get richer”.
Also, there was the very-real issue of 13 year olds not really even trying and just wearing a sweatshirt. I did that, too, but it’s total bullshit. You don’t just get candy for showing up. I directed this grievance to the party, but they didn’t share my hardline views and I was more or less forced to give them candy, as apparently an open dialogue regarding the issue with the children themselves is out of the question.
I Could Abduct Your Child: Lessons on Trust
Arguably the biggest shift as my transition from mop-headed dreamer to childless heathen takes place is that I have become an increasingly likely to be distrusted near children. I mean, duh, I have no interest in abducting a child, or really even hanging out with a child for more than a few hours at a time before I remember how demanding and selfish they are. But I’m just saying: People that already have their own kids are unlikely to abduct extra ones. Bearded adults looming on poorly-lit porches are exponentially more likely to be suspected of being capable of this crime.
Every time I opened the door for the kids, (who’s relative smallness and use of costuming made them easy to identify as trick-or-treaters) I would hand out candy and take careful note of their parents/guardians standing 12 feet back, on the sidewalk. Sometimes they were indifferent (they probably had indifferent parents, too, and needed counseling), but often they were watching their kids add increasing fuel to the candyfire that would blaze brightly within them before leaving them sad, tired, and weak.*
If I were a parent, I would probably be scoping out the heathens at the door to make sure they didn’t appear to be bearded hippies that were quietly subverting my children by telling them not to worry about brushing their teeth, or to be sure and thank Lord Satan for the bounty they had received this night. (I did both of those things)
Generally, in a culture where trust is not off-the-charts high, I think it brave and curious to send children galavanting up to the threshold of danger, repeatedly.
The Best Interaction I Had All Night
A kid was walking up to the door alone dressed as a Pokemon. I was pretty sure it was Charizard, though not 100%. But with risk comes reward:
Mike Bonds With Charizard
You can hear that he thinks a tree (though I was the forest) is the opposite of Charizard. While I did not have time to explain to him that the third evolution of a fire-based Pokemon is NOT the opposite of a complex ecosystem, I could see how he might sort of arrive at this conclusion. Either way, it definitely felt like we saw eye to eye. Surely he went home and journaled with a crayon about this experience as well.
The Worst Interaction I Had All Night
Mike Attempts to Jest With Young People, Fails
“Superman and Superman. Nice one, guys!” I said to two kids obviously dressed at Batman.
They took some candy and one of them said,
“Man, I just lost respect for you.”
This situation is fraught with insight. Firstly, the implication is that upon seeing me, they were filled with great amounts of awe+respect, which I quickly lost. But OBVIOUSLY I know you guys aren’t Supermans. Wake up, guys. And then to snatch candy as you say something like that to a stranger? They’re lucky the forest did not give them 40 lashings. AND KIDS THESE DAYS.
The Agreeable Absence of Clowns
Thankfully, I saw no clowns this year. I remember many more clowns as a kid, despite the presence of movies like “It” to teach us the clowns are unequivocally not-funny things. I even remember my sister dressing as a clown. It’s surprising, because I thought my mother was fairly in-control, and made good parenting choices, but in hindsight, she really blew it. Never let your child dress as a clown.
Another Fine ‘Ween
There’s really so much going on with The ‘Ween that it rattles me to consider where and what to address. From the pagan harvest-day origins to the totalitarian strangehold of “big candy” and made-in-sweatshop costumes (I assume), the holiday has more levels than a skyscraper.
My experience, of course, was one of direct action. It’s pretty amazing to hang out for a night dressed as anything you can think of while an endless parade of small, cute versions of objects, fictional characters, animals, and people come to you. All you have to do is provide candy and the show pretty much runs itself. Thank you, great Satan for what you have given us.
-Way too many superheroes and fairly restrictive gender roles
-Very few parents dressed up with their kids, except for a little dressed as a bee with her mom as the “queen bee”
-Some of the realism of the gore on zombie costumes was disconcerting
*As an aside, perhaps Halloween is really the best time we have, as adults, to talk to our children about addiction and recreational/responsible drug use.