Life Politics/Community

How Modern Society Has Ruined Halloween

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I feel bad for my kids. I do. They’ll never know the intimacy of having a childhood birthday party wherein their parents don’t rent out an entire amusement park and invite anyone they’ve ever come in contact with in their entire lives or the simplicity of Mom not sending them to their school holiday parties with some outrageously artistic expression of elementary-aged existentialism crafted out of organically grown broccoli and gluten-free sprouts that she found on Pinterest.

I mean, my kids will definitely know the intimacy and simplicity of such things because I am not doing that shit. Ever. But they’ll never know it was once considered normal to live like this.

That’s because modern society, with its Pinteresting and its Bento Boxing and its over-celebrating and over-organizing the motherlovingshit out of everything, has ruined life as we know it.

Take Halloween, for example. Halloween is no longer the carefree, ghoulish affair it was when we were children. Instead, we’ve ruined it with things like:

Closing down trick-or-treating once it’s dark.

Really? Why? Because our kids might get kidnapped? Run over? Have too much fun? News flash: They might get kidnapped in the daylight. They’re at risk for getting run over no matter what time of day it is. And what is wrong with kids staying out a little bit later than they usually do once or twice a year? We didn’t start trick-or-treating until it was dark back in my day (What am I, elderly? The answer is yes, apparently.), and we didn’t stop until every last porch light in the neighborhood went out. We’re still here and relatively intact (well, most of us, anyway).

Besides, who has the time or the leeway to leave work at noon just so they can get home to prepare their kids for the obnoxiously early, housing-association-sanctioned trick-or-treating time of 3 to 5 pm? I’m guessing people who don’t work for a living, that’s who. Because it’s certainly not us.

Moving Halloween to dates that are not Halloween.

I’ve seen some uproar about communities changing Halloween to Oct. 30 or Nov. 1 some years in order to accommodate things like high school football games and Friday night bar hopping. Is this a fucking joke? Might as well move Mondays to Tuesdays now that Sunday Night Football is on or Independence Day from July 4 to July 5 because we can’t risk fireworks interfering with garbage day.

Situations like this call for a little something known as prioritizing. I do it all the time. Some days I just want to binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix, for example, but I don’t. Instead, I get up, put on my big girl panties, and head into work. Why? Because not getting fired takes precedence. The same applies here.

Which do you want to do more? Go to a high school football game or take your kids trick-or-treating? Make a choice. The world doesn’t revolve around making sure you or anyone else gets to do all the things. (If it did, St. Patrick’s day would be a nationally recognized holiday accompanied by full government and retail shutdown, and none of us would have to give up drinking until we pissed ourselves in favor of working.)

Overdoing the Halloween costumes. 

Whatever happened to simple sheets with holes cut out as eyes or clever, homemade costumes made out of used moving boxes and leftover asbestos insulation? (OK, maybe that last example wasn’t the best.) Kids’ costumes now cost more than my prom dress and require no fewer than 63 hot glue guns, an industrial-sized sewing machine, and a team of 30 overworked, underpaid third world children just to hand make. What the Christ? Halloween is becoming yet another of many opportunities for parents to extol their own socioeconomic status and spoil their children by giving in to the latest trends, cost be damned.

Here’s a thought for you: I don’t give a shit about nor am I impressed with your socioeconomic status, and neither does/is anybody else. They’re too busy advertising their own to care. And your kid will live if she doesn’t get to be Elsa this Halloween, especially if it’s going to set you back a hundred bucks to make it happen. Really, she will. Nobody ever died from having to go as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz for the second time in one’s life (to my knowledge; I suppose anything’s possible — even death by outdated Halloween get-up).

Banning the homemade treats.

When we were kids, my grandmother would make some kick ass Halloween-themed Rice Crispy treats and other yumtastic baked goodies for the neighborhood goblins and Frankenmonsters. They were the best (and not just because they were the biggest). Today, Mother Teresa herself could be handing out the Sacrament, and parents would insist on running that shit through the TSA bomb detector machine before throwing it out anyway.

I’m all for protecting our children from creepers and arsenic enthusiasts, but can everybody just calm the fuck down for a second? Not everyone is a murderer in disguise — especially not the sweet old lady down the street whom you’ve known for the past decade and from whom you’ve accepted numerous culinary offerings on any other day except Halloween.

Insisting the kids use the Zoolander-cell-phone-sized, hand-stenciled goody bags for collecting candy.

Does everything have to be a demonstration of how crafty and inventive we are or how much money we have to spend at high end children’s stores? And why so small? What’s wrong with pillow cases? Buckets? Free shit from McDonald’s Happy Meals? (Oh, that’s right. We can’t let our kids have that stuff ever.) The thing is for collecting candy and other treats, not for pitching Fendi’s latest handbag line. Between those things and the costumes, might as well set fire to a pile of money and call it a day.

Regulating children’s candy intake.

OK, this one isn’t unique to modern society, but it’s annoying nevertheless. I remember a select group of children on my school bus and in my classes whose parents would sit them down after trick-or-treating, go through their candy, and divvy up the goods into tiny piles that they would individually hand out to their children every day between Halloween and Memorial Day. We always felt bad for these kids, particularly because we had happily consumed nearly 3/4 of our take just the night before, and we knew by the time our peers got to those treasured peanut butter cups, they’d be stale and crusty and white where they shouldn’t be (a sure sign the chocolate had gone bad). At least back then these poor souls were the minority. Today, it seems like every child is battling parents with Overprotective Candy Consumption Disorder.

Let the kids go balls out on the sugar this one time, parents (provided they’re not diabetic or endangering themselves, obviously). So what if they get chocolate drunk and puke in their pillow cases? It’s practically a childhood rite of passage, for goodness sake. Plus, they’ll learn to be more careful and self-regulatory next time. After all, there’s nothing quite like 6 hours of Halloween tummy to teach you never to make the mistake of overdoing it again. (Bonus: They can draw upon this experience when Mommy and Daddy aren’t present at their first college frat party to discourage consuming all the Captain Morgan rum and half the keg in one sitting.)

So, yeah. I feel bad for my kids. Not only will I never take out a second mortgage and hire a clothing designer to hand stitch the hot costume of the moment for them, but they’ll also never know the pleasures of hitting the streets of the ‘hood on Halloween without the confines of strictly enforced trick-or-treating times and the delight of consuming a lovingly baked treat without hearing from God and everybody that they’re being poisoned to death. And while I’m certainly exaggerating a whole lot when it comes to modern society having “ruined” Halloween, I do think we’ve gone over the top when it comes to our holiday guidelines and expectations.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a part of me definitely laments that my children will not know the simple satisfaction of yesteryear’s Halloween.