I am old enough to remember way back when Halloween was a holiday for kids. It has now been completely hijacked by two separate adult groups, the partiers and the worriers. The partiers use Halloween as an excuse to dress up and go get drunk. I have been a part of this crowd, and they are a fun people. Many women in the partier group use the Halloween costume as an excuse to dress, let’s just say, a little more provocatively than their normal persona.
Vampire? No. Sexy Elvira vampire? Yes.
Witch? No. Sexy bikini top-wearing witch? Yes.
The guys’ costumes can vary, but are usually pretty low-effort. Guys are basically just there to see the sexy bikini top witch. One year in college I went to a party as a Christmas tree. I put on a green shirt and brown pants, wrapped myself in miniature Christmas lights, headed to the party and plugged myself in. Since I needed to stay within three feet of an outlet, I plugged myself in near the beer keg and offered to run it all night so I could serve everyone and mingle from a stationary position. Looking back on that, it’s amazing I didn’t electrocute myself.
The worriers are the parents. I am now part of this crowd, although many times these two crowds can overlap.
“Be on your best behavior for the babysitter, kids. Mommy and Daddy are going to a grown up costume party. Daddy is going as a cowboy and mommy is going as a smokin’ hot zombie with cleavage.”
Halloween used to be a night where kids went out, expecting to trade the possibility of being scared to death for the opportunity to score some free candy, and maybe pull a few harmless pranks on the neighbors. These days, the worriers have scrubbed this “holiday” clean of any actual fright or mischief, and turned it instead into a three-week-long event that far more resembles a cheery Disney parade than a foggy night ride through Sleepy Hollow. Our job, as parents - as we now see it - is to suck all the “I can’t believe I lived through that!” out of Halloween night and replace it with the October equivalent of July Fourth “Safe and Sane” fireworks, which suck, plain and simple.
As an example of how sanitized Halloween night has become, we received this handy set of safety tips for tomorrow’s big event from our local police department:
HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS
Select a safe area for trick-or-treating. Choose streets that are well lighted and landscaped so you can be seen. Avoid trick-or-treating on streets you are unfamiliar with, and try to go out before it gets dark.
Oh, boy! Let’s trick-or-treat before dark. That should be really scary. What is your jack-o’-lantern supposed to be? I can’t tell because it is still daytime. How come you don’t have the candy ready yet, lady? It’s already 3:30 P.M.!
Always keep the adult who is watching you in sight. Never go into a stranger’s home while trick-or-treating. Never get into a stranger’s car or go anywhere with a stranger.
Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks. Do not walk out from behind parked cars or try to cross in the middle of the block.
Use the buddy system. Parents or older brothers and sisters should go with young children. Older children who are going out with their friends should be given a specific time to return home. Parents should know who their children are with and where they are going.
Most of these helpful instructions are written as if the kids are the ones reading them, which totally renders the whole thing useless. If a kid is about to go out trick-or-treating from a home that doesn’t give a rat’s hindquarters where he goes or what he does, I seriously doubt he is going to seek out these helpful tips on safety from the local police department. And vice-versa, if the adults need to be reminded to pay attention to where their children are and who they are with, they’re probably not doing a lot of reading police safety tips, unless this list was included with their bail hearing notice.
Wait until you get home to eat your treats. Your parents should inspect each item carefully, looking for needles, open packages and other signs of tampering. Do not eat homemade items prepared by strangers.
Because this is the year we’re finally going to start seeing all those needles and razor blades in the apples!
Costumes should be light-colored so motorists can see them. Use reflectorized tape to increase visibility. Costumes should not be too long or too restrictive. Masks can make it difficult for children to see or hear. Consider using make-up instead of masks.
Do not carry or wear sharp objects that may poke others or damage eyes. Objects like swords, wands, canes, etc., should be left at home. Do not carry toy guns that look like real guns. A citizen or a police officer can mistake a toy gun for a real gun.
So, our miniature soldiers and policemen will all be unarmed? I guess they could all go as U.N. soldiers and British cops, which would also explain the reflectorized tape. (Is reflectorized even a word? What happened to reflective?) Our superheroes will not have capes or masks, so you kids should just feel free to wear loose-fitting, yet properly-sized business suits and go as Clark Kent and millionaire Bruce Wayne, instead. No ties, though, since ties are both long and restrictive. You need to go with more of a ‘Clark and Bruce on casual Friday at the office’ kind of thing. You want to be Harry Potter, instead? No cloak, wand, or Nimbus 2000 for you. Have fun, kids!
Carry a flashlight to light the way and to alert motorists of your presence. Never carry candles or any other flammable object. Do not use candles for decorations or displays. They can easily be knocked down or can set fire to a nearby curtain or costume.
So, no candles in my jack-o’-lanterns? Hmm… And why are you, as a police department, concerned about my indoor candle usage? Unless you meant the very real possibility of setting fire to my large array of front porch outdoor curtains with my dangerous jack-o’-lantern candles? And I mean, come on, setting fire to a costume? Has there ever been a safer burning candle than the jack-o’-lantern candle, each one completely housed inside a rotting, sticky, hollowed-out gourd? I dare you to try and burn something with that one-inch-tall candle buried inside its protective, organic, fire-proof shroud. I double dare you.
Motorists need to be extra careful on Halloween. Watch out for careless children who may run into the street without looking. Expect the unexpected, and anticipate the actions of others.
In order to decrease vandalism and improve pedestrian safety, avoid parking cars on the street. Whenever possible, park vehicles in the garage and light up your front yard.
Ah, the always helpful, but completely impossible “expect the unexpected” advice. Yes, I will try that again this year. While I try that, if you guys could please give me a list of all the unforeseen issues that might arise, that would be great. And I should light up my front yard? Really? On Halloween night? Why don’t we just have Halloween in June?
Have fun out there kids! Remember to wrap yourself in bubble wrap and Styrofoam, tape yourself to your buddy using reflectorized tape, don’t eat any candy or carry any pointy objects, stay away from any house that has one of those dangerous candles inside a pumpkin, and get home before the sun goes down. Enjoy!
See you soon,
Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen
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