Halloween: a season of contradictions

Published 6:50 am Saturday, November 3, 2018


Life with a Smile

Halloween is a funny season for me, one filled with intense contradictions. On the one hand, I embrace holidays with themes and welcome any opportunity to add a little seasonal panache to my wardrobe. Spider web nail stickers, pumpkin leggings, and dangly bat earrings? Yes, please! Maybe a bit of purple lipstick? Why not!

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On the other hand, full-blown costumes stress me out, whether they are for me or for the little people in my house. This year, I thought I was going to get lucky in the grownup costume department. My friends host an annual Halloween bash and had opted for a medieval theme, with knights, dragons and a bouncy castle for the kids. Perfect. Back in the day, I was a big fan of the renaissance fair and my mom had made me a stellar peasant wench costume that I planned to dust off for the big shindig.

Unfortunately, the good old days of wench-dom were quite a few years — and quite a few pounds — in the rearview mirror by this point. I believe I was nineteen years old when I last put that costume on. I thrashed about for a bit, trying to get the skirt to zip and the bodice to lace before giving up and wistfully returning it to the closet. Maybe my girls can wear it someday.

Then there are the kids’ costumes. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security regarding the immediate availability of basically anything. Thus, I procrastinated this year and ran into trouble. The entire world’s supply of Black Panther costumes were on back-order. Ruby red slippers cost $25 and came with dubious reviews. The only Etsy shop marketing a remotely cute tooth fairy wand listed a 2-3 week turnaround time.

Cue the cuss words and chocolate therapy.

And speaking of chocolate, can we talk about Halloween candy for a minute? If anything about the season is likely to make me have a nervous breakdown, it’s Halloween candy.

Full disclosure — I have the world’s largest sweet tooth, so I totally get the appeal of procuring giant bags of candy bars. But I cannot deal with the sugar tsunami that is produced by the shared efforts of Halloween parties, trunk-or-treat events at church, and neighborhood trick-or-treating. I think paring down the candy haul is a great opportunity to practice the art of the compromise, but I do wish someone would tell my children that.

I identify the weeks following Halloween as the “season of the candy wars,” as my children wheedle and cajole and salivate at the thought of the insane mountain of chocolate that lurks in our cupboards. What do people DO with all that candy? You can’t possibly eat it all. I just threw out the last of the Easter candy, for goodness sake.

Over the years, I’ve loosened up a bit on the candy consumption, at least on the Big Night itself. I try to at least get the kids to eat dinner before we set out, although that also leads to some odd parenting declarations like “eat a hot dog before you have another piece of candy.” Like somehow the sodium-infused, nitrite-bearing, fat bomb is healthier than a fun-sized Kit-Kat bar.

I had a friend tell me once that he considered Halloween a success if none of his kids puked in the night from over-consumption. I made a heroic effort to keep the look of horror off my face, but I don’t think I succeeded.

People make all kinds of odd choices at Halloween – like the decision to scare themselves silly. I don’t “do” scary and for that reason, my relationship with Halloween will always be somewhat fraught. I am a giant wimp and the idea of deliberately seeking out frightening experiences is utterly baffling to me. At our friends’ Halloween party this year, the hosts had set up a few freaky ‘things’ like a shrieking skeleton and faux portraits on the wall that cackled or moaned as you walked past them. I put on a brave face for the children, but I actually found it terrifying.

The kids screamed appropriately, but were definitely braver than I was. My younger daughter was particularly captivated by the werewolf throw rug that would periodically snarl realistically. She and a buddy decided it was ill and launched an imaginative game of werewolf veterinarian. I couldn’t even look at the darned thing.

Still, despite the last-minute scrambling for costumes and the power struggles over candy, it was a good holiday. Black Panther, Dorothy, and the Tooth Fairy were all thoroughly pleased with their costumes and their candy haul and I got to wear my skeleton earrings not once but twice this season.

The one dark moment came from my eldest child’s stubborn refusal to give me the lone peanut butter Snickers bar in her haul. I tried to play the “I gave birth to you, so you owe me” card, but she was unmoved. Oh, well. There’s always next year.