Being on the homeowner side of trick-or-treating makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know the rules. I do know that 364 days out of the year, if a child rang my bell and I offered it a fun size candy bar, I’d have police at my door within seconds. But here we are, the one day of the year when this exchange is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
On October 31st, you’re a good neighbor, and on November 1st, you’re a suspected pedophile.
What a difference a day makes.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Halloween costume selection hadn’t gotten so depraved. I remember dressing up as a California Raisin when I was a kid. We’re talking full-body purple Styrofoam. That was a decent costume. There’s not a single adult in the world who thought I was in stranger danger while wearing that thing.
Fast forward thirty years, and last Halloween I had a grade schooler in a short green dress tell me she was “sassy Tinker Bell.” I think she said “sassy.” I hope she said “sassy.” She was missing her front tooth, and her alphabet tumbled out of her mouth like someone was tossing out a wash bucket. I’m giving her the benefit of a very little doubt.
So here’s this little girl, dressed up like Kylie Minogue in Moulin Rouge, and she’s holding her pumpkin bucket, and her mother is standing on the sidewalk, glaring at me, just daring me to be a creep, and I want to shout, “Hey, Mom, I’m on your side! I want nothing to do with this absurdity!” And frankly, I don’t want to give candy to a ten-year-old sexy Tinker Bell, because no one should be teaching a girl like that to receive any type of currency from strangers, it’s a seriously bad precedent to set for someone like that, and her life starts to flash before my eyes. I see her dropping out of high school to go dance on tables in East St. Louis. Meanwhile, her mother’s out there wondering what’s taking me so long to dish out the candy, and she’s got one finger on the 9-1-1 speed dial button, and I start to panic, because I realize that if I don’t give this girl candy from this bowl that’s literally overflowing with the stuff, I’m the neighborhood monster, but if I do give her candy, I’m potentially a pervert who likes to slip razors into candy bars, and only time will tell.
Halloween is stressful.
To make things worse, children are small. If you’re looking at a child, you’re looking at the entire child and all of its parts. It all just falls into your periphery. Parents know this. It gives them extra cause to be worried, even though they’re the ones parading their children around your front porch. When you hand out candy, you’re looking at the kid, saying things like, “Well, aren’t you just the cutest sex worker mermaid” and, “Wow, what a neat and historically inaccurate ninja pirate Lincoln costume,” but the whole time, you’re thinking, I’m just going to drop candy into your bucket, please don’t touch me or make any sudden movements, I just want to go back inside and watch season three of Homeland and not be treated like a man who’s two seconds away from committing a serious felony.
Halloween is the world’s most miserable trap.
Fortunately, we live in Chicago, where it’s typically about -40° by Halloween, and all the kids have their $90 costumes stuffed beneath Day-Glo parkas. My wife thinks this is a shame, because the kids look so cute in their costumes, and it’s sad they have to bundle up. I think it’s a mercy.
Of course, not all the kids are toddler beauty pageant drug addicts-in-waiting. Sometimes, you get the kids who are just phoning it in:
“Trick or treat.”
“What’re you supposed to be?”
“A ghost? You’re just wearing a baggy white t-shirt.”
“MOM, HE SAYS I’M NOT A GHOST, AND HE WON’T GIVE ME ANY CANDY!”
“No, whoa, geez, kid, all right, all right, fine, here.”
“I want a Snickers bar.”
“Then you should have put a sheet over your head like a real ghost. Lazy kids get Bit-O-Honey. Scram.”
Still. I’d rather deal with a lazy ghost than sexy Tinker Bell.
Then, of course, you have the high schoolers, the ones who show up at your door wearing jeans and hoodies and who are stuffing candy into pillowcases that they’re probably going to fill with quarters later so they can bash out some mailboxes. And you don’t want to give them candy, because this candy is for the kids, the ones who have been putting on their Despicable Me minion costumes every day for the last three weeks because they’re just so excited, those are the kids who deserve candy, and these teenagers are just ruining it for the sake of being ruiners. And also, don’t they know it’s 7:00 on a Thursday night? Go get a job.
But the high schoolers have you over a barrel, because they know that you know that if you say no, they’ll be back in 20 minutes with a carton of eggs. Every time a high schooler rings your bell on Halloween, it should play the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Still. They’re better than sexy Tinker Bell.
This year, to make things extra fun, we’ve got an eight-month-old puppy at home who goes absolutely bananas when anyone gets within 100 feet of the front door. It’s actually been really great for campaign season. Bodhi’s scared away so many politicians and pollsters, I think they’ve started hobo-marking our sidewalks with whatever chalk lines mean “violently apolitical dog here, stay away.” But on Halloween, his little puppy excitement is liable to land us in the middle of a lawsuit.
So maybe we’ll take Halloween off this year. Maybe we’ll turn down the lights and watch TV in the basement and be super quiet and pretend like we’re dead. Or maybe we’ll go out of town, take a few days away to do something a little less stressful than handing out candy. Maybe we’ll decide to take up lion taming that day.