Aaron R. Davis
[Editor’s Note – Aaron R. Davis is putting the finishing touches on his Silver Surfer costume, so today we bring you a class Positive Cynicism From the Vault. This column originally ran on the site on Oct. 27, 2009.]
Finally, it’s my favorite week of the year: the week leading up to Halloween. My favorite day of the year. Yep, I’m in as good a mood as I can possibly be.
Well … almost.
Like most years, I feel compelled to ask a certain question: Where the hell is Halloween disappearing to?
I know that seems like a weird question to ask on the Internet. After all, there are lots of people (like me) who are using their blogs to count down to the big day, and pumpkins are popping all over the spidery worldwide web.
And certainly, if you’re one of those young Hot Topic shoppers who keeps buying my childhood on tee shirts and shoelaces, you’re the kind of person who appreciates the weird and the wonderful of the last day in October. Or you’re just a Tim Burton fan, but still, you like the trappings, and it’s all good.
But where has the Halloween gone in the everyday?
I know it’s been asked for so many years now that it’s actually become boorish, but look around, and you really are seeing a Halloween shrink every single year. I’ve been eating pumpkin pie and drinking pumpkin spice coffee and pondering this, and along with a bad case of heartburn, I’ve come up with several reasons why Halloween will most likely disappear from our lives as a major holiday by 2021 (my estimate, based purely on defeatist attitudes).
1. Health consciousness. We all know it’s not good to feed our kids lots of candy, even for just one day out of the year. So part of the ruination of Halloween comes down to those parents who give out healthy snacks like granola bars, raisins, or – worst of all – little tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes. Where’s the incentive to dress up and trick or treat when you might get the kind of food your mom’s already trying to shove on you at home? There’s a reason we all thought the coolest house on the block was the one that didn’t cheap out and gave full-size candy bars.
2. Kids between the ages of 12 and 18. Yes, you are too old to go trick or treating. No, the way to deal with that is not to get drunk and egg peoples’ homes, you whiny little brats. Find something spookily constructive to do – decorate your porch, make a haunted house or just deal with it and shut up. Vandalism is uncreative.
3. College kids. “Halloween parties,” my ass. I live among you entitled jerk-offs, and I know there are three parties a week. Just because someone might decide to dress up their overloud music-beer-and-date-rape festivals with half-assed stabs at costumes and a pathetically slutty spin on just about anything does not make it a Halloween party. You’re just cheapening the Halloween experience. You can (and do) have a party anytime. Halloween is better than that.
4. Those weirdos who think Halloween celebrates the devil. I don’t know what’s more depressing: that schools and parents can be influenced into not doing something because a few people object to it and think that means they should take it away from everyone, or that those same people actually think made-up concepts like witchcraft, ghosts and the devil actually exist. You can identify these people by the comments they leave on your blog. They’re the ones who demand that you respect their sacred beliefs while not respecting your belief that their beliefs are retarded.
You can hit me with the whole thing about the druids and pagans and celebrating the dead, but I refuse all that stuff out of hand. This is the way all of our holidays work – we forget their original meaning, commercialize it, add some candy and then do whatever the hell we want, anyway. Does it really matter anymore? I mean, where in the Bible does it say to celebrate the birth of Jesus by putting expensive presents under a fir tree and “enjoying” all of the family tension? You see my smarmy point?
5. The Christmas Creep. Christmas is coming earlier and earlier every year, despite a date that seems pretty fixed in the calendar. I really do remember a time when it was confined to the few weeks between Thanksgiving and December 25. But then, as people got greedier for gifts, guiltier for not being able to get them, more conscious about shopping early and more depressed economically than Eeyore watching a documentary about the Holocaust, stores started moving their Christmas season further and further up. It was amusing when Christmas merchandise started appearing a week or so before Halloween; now that this stuff is showing up in July, it ain’t funny anymore. As anyone who has worked in retail the last couple of years can tell you, Christmas shopping is going to start next week. Halloween, one of the few holidays that really is still about joy and amusement and having a good time away from overbearing family expectations, is getting completely lost in the shuffle.
Ask yourself this: how many Halloween commercials have you seen this year? How many did you used to see when you were a kid? For the first time in the decade since moving to the college town I live in now, there’s no seasonal Halloween store. But Big Lots has had Christmas stuff on sale since just after my birthday. (Which is July 17. There’s a day for you college kids to put on your slutty costumes. Just saying.)
6. Parents. With Halloween dying and so many kids soon to be unable to identify the body, we’ve got to finger the culprits behind the murder right here. And I’d love to blame my parents’ generation for it. After all, I remember being told how important it was to stay in groups and wear reflective clothing and never eat any candy that wasn’t wrapped, even though no one in history ever found a razor blade, staple or poison in any Halloween candy or popcorn ball or apple ever (despite what your friend’s aunt’s hairdresser’s second cousin from out of town who I totally don’t know said).
But I can’t completely put the blame on them. After all, when I was a kid (the early eighties, which were glorious), we still went trick or treating. Sure, we usually had someone’s dad walking with us (but not going up to the doors, gawd, Dad), but we still got to go.
No, sadly I’ve got to put the blame on my own generation. I’m 33 years old. Many of my peers have children who are in elementary school. And my generation of parents has proven themselves to be disinterested, ill-equipped and totally fearful as parents. (No, I’m not talking about you; I’m talking about those other jerks.) So we have parents now who think Halloween is too traumatic and frightening for kids. Or parents who really aren’t interested in doing all of the work of making costumes and buying candy and taking their kids trick or treating.
And the worst parents of all: the overprotective parents.
The ones who really believe that this isn’t a safe world for children anymore and that every second they don’t have their precious snowflake in their line of sight is a moment when that child is going to be stuffed into a trunk or a utility van by some kind of sicko.
The ones who seem to think that every adult who doesn’t have children is some kind of pedophile who wants to touch their babies in all sorts of inappropriate ways.
The ones who are convinced that all of us childless adults are buying sealed candy, steaming it open, putting razorblades and staples and poison and springs and cogs and rusty fishhooks and feces inside of the chocolate and then re-steaming the wrappers shut, giggling to ourselves and rubbing our stomachs with glee over the idea of harming their darling whelps.
The parents who have actually taught their children that everywhere they go they are always, at every second, targets for the apparently endless parade of secret perverts and psychopaths who are always watching them, behind every corner and under every rock, waiting for them to let their guard down for the merest instance so that the psycho perverts can strike quickly, taping them up and making off with them for molestation, cannibalism or even a satanic sacrifice.
And I’m saying this as a childless substitute teacher in his thirties who has encountered these attitudes. Parents can be fucking sick.
So, I’m sorry to say it, but the biggest player in the conspiracy to smother Halloween with a pillow is parental overprotection. This joyous holiday devoted to candy, scares, costumes and monsters is being slowly destroyed by the looming parental nightmare that behind every vampire, werewolf, ghost and Frankenstein’s creature is a (gasp!) single person. And as we all know, there’s something wrong with single people, especially when they like something associated with children.
It’s a depressing attitude, writ ridiculously large by my purple prose and complete exaggeration. But it does exist. And when your children or your children’s children are sitting in the classroom in a decade or two, eating their healthy snacks and making a pumpkin out of construction paper with safety scissors in vague tribute to a half-remembered holiday that no one observes anymore, there will be some of us shaking our heads and sighing heavily as we sit patiently and wait for the Great Pumpkin.
It’s on ABC tonight.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.