By Michael Gushue & CL Bledsoe
Halloween is less that two weeks away. All the good pumpkins have been taken. If candy could get stale, it would be stale, because it went on sale in July. It’s not too late, though. We’re here to help. This week we’ll give you a primer on Halloween 101. In the following few weeks, we’ll show you how to even survive a paranormal encounter, and how to even remember your (spooky) dreams. By then it will be November, and you can catch your breath. We’ll still be here, though, every Thursday (until something better comes along). How To Even: the advice column that makes you want to throw rocks at other people’s advice column.
Halloween used to be for kids. Come October 31, they’d dress up as ghosts, pirates, princesses, or your mom. They’d climb the sugary slopes of Trick Or Treat Mountain on their way to incipient diabetes. Grown ups would come to the door and fill pillowcases with every conceivable form of glucose, asking kids “who are you supposed to be?” as if the kids were entering a witness protection program.
There were two advantages to this system. First, children got to call the shots for one evening a year. This inculcated the idea that when they grew up, they would be in charge, and life would be one long potlatch where the candy corn flows like wine. This kept them subdued and obedient until they were adults, at which point it would be too late. The locks were changed. The mail was being forwarded.
Second — and more importantly — it gave adults a progeny-free evening, allowing parents a chance to catch their breath before the onslaught of Thanksgiving and Christmas descended upon them like a convention of used car salesmen.
Then it stopped. Suddenly, kids were kicked to the curb, Halloween-wise. What happened?
It was not because Halloween had become unsafe for kids. Nope. If you’re a kid, Halloween — like every other day of the year — is ridiculously unsafe, and always has been. First, everything is both bigger and heavier than you, and it can fall and crush you in the blink of an eye (sky whales, for example, or your mom). Second, adults control you with the kind of absolute, despotic power a dictator can only dream of. You’re at their mercy, subject to any whim that flits through their incomprehensible grown up minds. You, as a child, simply don’t matter. Don’t believe it? Watch a 12-year-old go into a bar and order a bourbon, neat. Dollars to donuts they’re going to give him the cheap-o house brand, instead of Maker’s Mark. Or try to get a 7-year-old to rob a bank. No matter how big the gun, they’re going to think she’s cute as the dickens and ask her if she wants a lollipop.
So why has Halloween morphed from being a fun holiday for kids into a desperate holiday for adults? Let us offer some possible reasons.
Halloween Is Just Too Good To Waste On Kids
Let’s face it. Most holidays are horrible endurance contests. Thanksgiving? Here come the relatives you’ve avoided visiting all year, including Uncle Bill who shows up drunk with two strippers who he says are his “sniffigicant others,” and cousin Don who is frighteningly unstable, even for a white male. Christmas? Please. There are only two modes available for Christmas. You run around in an adrenalin-saturated panic buying stuff you can’t afford for people who are going to hate it, or you kill yourself. Then there’s New Year’s (“Let’s get herpes!”), Valentine’s Day (ditto!), 4th of July (“Let blow off a couple fingers! And then get herpes!”) and on and on.
No, Halloween is the only legitimate holiday where you are likely to experience less stress than you do in the rest of your life. Why? Because you get to be someone else. You’ve probably noticed that some people put a lot of thought and creativity into their Halloween costume. These people, admirable as they are, are missing the point. The point is you are freed from all adult responsibility and the crushing oppression of your own personality. For one day a year, you’re not Howard whose desk job in accounting is giving him an ulcer and slowly eating away his life. You’re…Dracula, Prince of Darkness (insert Kiss me! I’m Undead! button here). It’s like committing a felony and getting away with it. It’s a one-day-only blank check.
This kind of license is totally wasted on children, who are generally without any responsibilities or morals anyway. They don’t need it, but we adults do.
Our Old Friend Late Capitalism
Look, we’re not knocking capitalism. If we were, we’d give all our stuff away and go live in a sewer, coming out only at night to forage. (Wait, did we just confuse Capitalism with C.H.U.D?) Regulated Capitalism is…well, it’s, you know, dang spiffy. It’s certainly better than lowercase-ism, which isn’t proper at all.
But this is how it works: if an opportunity presents itself, then someone is going to use that opportunity to line their pockets. Capitalism is all about filling niches, and then making more niches to fill and then filling them. You can sell plastic and rayon costumes to kids for $11.99. Or you could sell plastic and rayon costumes to adults for $129.99 as well as decorations that shoot laser beams everywhere and animatronic spider-witches as big as a house, all for thousands and thousands of dollars. This is called “helping you to creatively express yourself to discover pure joy.” Will that be cash or charge?
Of course, now that adults have seized and completely colonized Halloween, there are only two kinds of costumes: a hockey mask, or a sexy [whatever]. There are a tiny percentage of costumes that fall outside of this rigid code, but you don’t see that many people dressed up as patio furniture or the ineluctable modality of the visible. And even then it’s more likely to be sexy patio furniture or the ineluctable modality of the visible wearing a hockey mask.
Craving Those Never-Were Halcyon Days
We said earlier that one of the purposes of Halloween is to fool kids into thinking life is sometimes pleasant. The thing is, that works so well that adults often want to try it for themselves. They “remember” how much fun it was to slog around sweating in an uncomfortable costume they couldn’t see out of, dealing with cranky siblings, getting disappointing candy (memory is a fickle thing). The sad reality is that even the most unflattering representation of Halloween sounds way better than what many of us do in our normal lives.
We were young. We were with our friends, if we had friends. If we didn’t have friends, we could pretend we did for one night and be part of the communal celebration of St. Sugarrush. This is the same reason grown-ass folks wear sports jerseys and paint themselves team colors. In terms of abnormal psychology, it’s known as “nostalgia.” If that means we ruin it for the kids, well, they can have their chance to try again when they grow up, damn it.
So How Do I Celebrate Halloween?
You know how many religious groups insist that Halloween, rather than an innocent frolic for kids, is in actuality a pagan blood-feast given over to human sacrifice, Satan worship, and obscene, blasphemous practices? Turns out they’re 100% correct. Halloween is the one day of the year when the spirits of hell rise up to give the living such a pinch. It’s meant for the worship of the Unholy One, the summoning of the Elder Gods, fiery sacrifices of innocents, and coupling with root vegetables. Behind the smiley pumpkin face of Halloween is a drooling satyr-beast slavering to feast on you, or at least take the last free parking space. Halloween, like election day, is Ye Olde Celebration of Evil.
That’s how you enjoy it. You are most likely aware that, in terms of eternal judgment, you’re headed downstairs to the sub-sub-basement. So, you might as well have some fun….some more fun. On the other hand, if there is no eternal judgment, then you should still have some candy. Candy is always a good idea. Like drugs. It all means you have nothing to lose.
In the spirit of Halloween — the spirit of anarchy and chaos — we’re not going to program your Halloween for you. We’ve given you the lay of the land, and pointed you in the right direction. The rest is up to you. Get all creative and stuff like that. If you need help, Google “GG Allin.” BUT NOT AT WORK! That’ll get you started.