Thursday, November 1, 2007


Ever since I lost my taste for Snickers, Halloween has been a drag. First, there's the scare factor. Why does no one seem to realize that life is scary enough as it is? I seldom make it through the day without at least one bracing hit of adrenaline; why would I want to exhort my amygdala to even greater glory? Isn't driving, and walking down the street, and following the news, and schmoozing, and performing, and having people come up behind you, and submitting yourself or your work for rejection, and contemplating the future MORE THAN ADEQUATE?

I think so. But then again, I find The Little Mermaid vaguely terrifying. (In fact, the only scary movie I've ever made it all the way through is The Blair Witch Project, which, probably due to its lack of a manipulative musical score, only made me seasick.) So perhaps I'm not the best judge.

Not to fear, though: I can attack Halloween on any number of other grounds. For instance, there's the costume thing. Not that I don't enjoy seeing other people disguise themselves as Karl Rove or teletubbies or whatnot, but oh, the effort. Going to a costume party is like going to a potluck, only worse, because you can't eat your entry ticket. Nor can you taste it in advance or enjoy the leftovers, unless you have an inadvisable predilection for paste. And it's not only physical labor that's required; there's mental effort, too. You have to decide what you will be, which requires some sort of analysis of the person you are, the person you might be, and how little work you can get away with in making the transition. Besides, I think we dress up more than enough in real life, putting on "teacher" clothes, or "performer" clothes, "on the market" clothes or "don't touch me" clothes, clothes that say "I'm not trying" or "I'm blending in" or "I put off the laundry three days in a row and am stuck wearing bikini bottoms instead of underwear; also this New Kids on the Block T-shirt I've had since seventh grade."

So the costumes are exhausting. The candy is sickeningly sweet. Scariness sucks. And I haven't even touched on the dilemma -so very fraught!- of whether to eat your candy right away or string yourself along through the year like an addict husbanding cocaine.

What's left? The thing is, Halloween is the only holiday of the year when you actually talk to your neighbors. Think about it: when else, barring fire or flood or extremely loud Justin Timberlake, do you knock on your neighbors' doors? When else (even if it's only "Happy Halloween") do you utter more than a shamefaced half-grunt of greeting? We've crawled, especially in suburbs and cities, into isolation: shutting ourselves up in our houses, scuttling for the car, treating the nearby houses and the trees and the street as a backdrop, part of a stage set against which we play out our lives.

Trick or treat? That's Halloween's false choice, its dummy dialectic. The trick to Halloween is the same as its treat: the open door, the glimpse -five seconds long, ten- of life wriggling in the wings.

1 comment:

Ellie said...

Oh, you curmudgeon, you!

Tell me you don't like watching little kids wanter around dressed as bumble bees and princesses and Spiderman.

It is cute and it is nostalgic. So there.

What you need is to carve a pumpkin and roast the pumpkin seeds and eat them with salt. That'll ameliorate the holiday flood of sickly-sweet.