Halloween drives me berserk with ennui.
And, please, spare me the enraged e-mails about my Grinchiness. I got it: I’m obstreperous. But I’m not one of those people who hates holidays in general. I celebrate all the big ones: Christmas and Chanukah and Easter all get thorough goings over in our house, even though my Jewish husband and I are both atheists. We make a huge deal out of Valentine’s Day every year, even though it’s truly a Hallmark-manufactured holiday and St. Valentine was clubbed to death for marrying Christians.
To be clear, I am not opposed to the celebration of Halloween by children. I love when kids get all excited about dressing up, and I look forward to meeting them at my doorstep, where they come for the “fun size” candy bars I hand out each year on October 31. I don’t even mind when vans pull up on my street corner and a dozen kids from the suburbs pile out to trick-or-treat here, because some grownup has decided that the dollar store goodies I hand out are somehow better than the crap they’ll get over on the Westside. And I’m almost willing to forgive those ass hats who turn up — and there are more of them than you’d imagine — with a three-month-old and a plastic shopping bag to collect Baby’s share of the candy. Really? You’re giving SweeTarts to a toothless infant? Fuck you.
I even give a pass to my friends with children who dress the kids and themselves in some kind of theme each year. I have a colleague whose family costumed themselves last year as a vegan bakery: He was a wheat flour muffin, his sons a pair of gluten-free popovers, his wife a stick of butter whom the other three glowered at and made walk eight steps behind as they made their Halloween rounds. It was silly, how excited my pal became about dressing up. But at least he was being clever about it, and could use his kids as an excuse for being banal.
But, you know. Adults dressing up for Halloween is ridiculous. Halloween is a children’s holiday. Like acne and crushes on network television stars, Halloween is meant to be left behind. Preferably in grade school. If one more middle-aged person asks me “What are you going as?” I’ll punch a wall. I’m not “going as” anything. I’m 53 years old. I hope, if I ever decide to dress up as a giant chicken, that someone will call a mental health facility on my behalf.
I’ve looked at adult Halloween costuming from every possible angle, and all I can come up with is this: It’s some kind of nostalgic hankering for childhood by people old enough to know better. So, why am I, a man who routinely binge-watches reruns of The Carol Burnett Show because it reminds him of more carefree days, so unnerved by a grown woman dressed as a bowl of fruit or my cousin’s proud photographs of himself in an Aquaman leotard?
Mostly, it’s watching adults publicly embarrass themselves that makes me squirm. When I’m watching Tim Conway try to crack up Harvey Korman or thrilling to an over-costumed, third-rate Broadway medley by Vicki Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, I’m doing it in the privacy of my own home. Seeing you all gotten up as Sexy Donald Trump or a Hooter’s waitress is humiliating — for both of us.
It’s fun to give a tiny Snickers bar to a kid who’s all excited to be dressed as Darth Vader, knowing he’ll end up at the end of the evening with a pound of candy be couldn’t afford to buy himself and wouldn’t normally be allowed to eat. His life is small: He can’t drive or drink scotch; he presumably hasn’t started having sex yet. Putting on a Star Wars costume and having his pillowcase filled up with Tootsie Pops is as good as things get for this poor slob. But why are you, an adult with an American Express Gold Card that will allow you to buy as many Milk Duds and sets of wax lips as you like, standing on my doorstep dressed as the tooth fairy? You look like an idiot. Go home and watch some old TV shows and get off my fucking front porch.