I have a message for those of you out there who are too uptight or think it's sophomoric to deck yourself out in a costume on Halloween: Lighten up.
I'm a holiday person, but not an overzealous one. Sure, eating too much on Thanksgiving and watching TV all day is great, and what's not to like about getting presents in December? But Halloween? That's what I call a holiday. And while you won't find me decked out in any pumpkin sweaters or any sort of themed apparel, you also won't ever catch me at a Halloween event sans costume. Because what's the point of even going if you're not going to play along? In my mind, I find it as rude as going to a potluck empty-handed.
Maybe because I'm a writer married to a musician, my friends tend to be a bit more on the artsy side. We like to come up with original costume ideas. It's fun, and if I'm not mistaken, there's a tiny undercurrent of competition as to who really nailed the Great Costume each year.
Although my costumes have tended to be a little odd (or "nerdy" as many of my non-Halloween-loving buddies claim), they're original, to say the least. In no particular order, I've:
• Dressed in all pink, pinked my face, and put a tennis shoe atop my head (piece of stepped-on gum)
• Dressed in all black, and glued socks and Bounce sheets to my clothes (static cling)
• Donned a beret, clutched a painter's palette, and hung a license plate around my neck (artistic license)
• Worn black boots and tights, red miniskirt, black sweater with the letter "S" on the front, black wig (cheerleader from hell)
But you don't have to go over-the-top; any little effort will do. I can't tell you how many folks I've seen at parties with whiskers created from eyeliner and a set of furry ears atop their head. Hey, you're a cat. I get it. Not going to fault you for lack of originality, because at least you tried.
And I understand that kids don't have as much control over their costumes as adults, but I have a real problem with parents who happily let their kids run from house to house, gobbling free goodies, without making the first effort to dress them up in a costume. It doesn't have to be an expensive costume, because I know for many, money is beyond tight. But come on, putting your kid in a yellow T-shirt and having him tell me he's a banana isn't going to cut it. I'll still give him a piece of candy, because for Pete's sake, he's just a kid, but I'll give his mom or dad a dirty look as I do.
And then there are the adult trick-or-treaters. This can get awkward, if not scary. I've had a grown man in need of a shave show up at my door and simply hold out a bag, expecting candy. Not even the polite attempt at the classic "trick-or-treat!" What to do? This guy'd clearly been working out, and was smoking a cigarette. I chose to give him a piece of candy, just for safety's sake, but after that, the porch light went off and I went to bed, disgusted. In fact, when telling artist Tom Martin my idea for this column and how he might create an appropriate illustration for it, he told me about a guy who showed up at his door last year, and when politely asked what he was supposed to be, the guy replied gruffly, "I'm an Eddie."
Guess that was the man's name. And I guess this is more common than I thought.
My point is, grown-ups, take this once-a-year opportunity to flex your creative muscle. It's one of the few chances you'll get to act like kids again. And parents, teach your kids the right way to trick-or-treat, including (I know I might be asking too much here) a polite "thanks" as they run off to the next house. It's supposed to be fun. It's a time to let kids' imaginations go wild, creating characters they'd like to be. Give them that opportunity, and then, just maybe, jump on the costume bandwagon yourself. I promise you'll enjoy the ride.