This piece was also run by The Houston Chronicle on 31 October 2014 in the Gray Matters online section…http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/The-truth-is-I-hate-Halloween-5861001.php?cmpid=twitter-premium&t=1189e264dd79b87a02
Although everyone below voting age disagrees with me, the truth is I hate Halloween. It isn’t really a holiday, but still involves an exhausting amount of preparation. If it were a holiday, I guess it would celebrate tooth decay. Candy is ubiquitous, but it never is really very good candy, yet cruelly still contains the same number of excessive calories. Getting dressed for work is in itself sort of an ordeal, so the idea of play acting and dressing up like a character I will never be, or be like, is not that appealing. I don’t want to express my identity issues through something cheap and highly flammable….I would prefer those things to remain a mystery. The only costume I could ever muster up respect for was worn when a friend of mine, who had a last minute invitation to a Halloween party, but alas, no costume, took some white garbage bags and dressed herself in them head to toe. She went as “White Trash.” Now that was clever.
But the main thing is that Halloween is not scary. It is not scary in the same way that the Salem witches were not that scary, but the people who sentenced them to death were really scary. But hardly anyone dresses up as Puritan Judge. Who wants to be that? It’s all backward. In addition, entities that are supposed to be scary end up being the objects of pity: who is really scared of the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Uh, no one. And in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you are only slightly scared of Victor Frankenstein (because of his narcissism and all), and never the monster he creates. You are too busy feeling sorry for the poor creature for being misunderstood and the victim of plastic surgery gone awry.
In fact, unless a kid has a chainsaw in his or her hand, hardly any costumes are scary anymore. Going out on Halloween is more like going to Orlando and seeing a review of all the Disney characters on parade. Amusing, but not scary.
In fact, aside from the hideous and dramatic level of greed for candy that overcomes my son like a pernicious virus, not much is scary at all about Halloween. It doesn’t even make sense: all the other days of the year he could get that candy for a nominal fee at Kroger, but free candy from a few neighbors before it gets too late inspires a sense of competition in him that makes me think he might go to law school.
However, we are lucky in that there are a few poems to remind us how to recalibrate the scare quotient of life: and they are not about pumpkins or candy.
My favorite scare the daylights out of you kind of poem even mentions a witch, as in Ann Sexton’s “Her Kind,” in which she confesses:
“I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.”
Then there is some stuff about fixing “suppers for the worms and elves” and having a thigh bitten. Okay, that is scary, no costume required.
Don’t forget there is Sylvia Plath, who could be hilariously funny, yet also serious as a heart attack, with her “skin/ Bright as a Nazi lampshade.” Recounting a suicide attempt, she recalls how they had to “pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.” She asks, “Do I terrify?” Why, yessssss. She does. And why shouldn’t she? “Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ And I eat men like air.” Well, alrighty. If that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, I don’t know what will.
Halloween: Not Scary. All The Other Days: Very.