September 2011

October 2011: A Line In The Sand - Halloween

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. and Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

FRANK’S OPINION:

Courtney has a seasonal question for this month’s Sand column: “Halloween, scary movies, scaring yourself just to scare yourself? I don’t get it.” Taken at face value, I’m pretty much on the same page (figuratively) with Miss C on this one. Can you believe?

Like I told her, to me Halloween is just something that passes by on the calendar. Sure, I liked it as a kid and I’ll go to a party if I’m in the mood. But by and large, I’m not into the hype. I haven’t even worn a costume (some will argue that I don’t need one) since college.

And scary movies? They just don’t scare me. A really, really well-crafted one might raise a few goose bumps, but I recall laughing at The Blair Witch Project, which was supposed to scare the bejeezus out of everybody. I pretty much gave up having expectations for horror films after that and don’t even bother with them anymore.

So, you ask, why are you two bothering with the column? Because I think I know what’s going on. That is, I think I get what Courtney doesn’t get, and since helping Courtney get it is what this is all about, we have the basis for a column. I know, it’s a stretch, but it’s all we have.

Let’s start with Halloween. First of all, Halloween isn’t really about scary. For kids, it’s about two simple words: FREE CANDY. But what about adults? It used to be that adults had two clearly defined functions on Halloween: 1) handing out free candy and 2) chaperoning the younger children on their quest for free candy. Nowadays, adults get as excited about Halloween as kids do. It might be more popular than Thanksgiving! What’s going on here?

Think about it. What do you see when you go to a “grownup” Halloween party? Fishnet stockings, tiny PVC skirts, Wonder Woman, cleavage, bunny ears…and you can probably come up with of a few of your own. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; maybe that’s all you remember about the last Halloween party you went to, Frank. Perhaps, but try a Web search for “most popular adult Halloween costumes” and see how many Naughty Schoolgirls, Racy Rabbits, Sizzlin’ Sheriffs and Sexy Squaws pop up. Tearing myself away from this fascinating research project, I could only conclude that grownup Halloween is also all about candy, albeit an entirely different flavor of candy.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, what Courtney really wants to know is why people scare themselves on purpose. It does sound kind of idiotic, but broaden the scope of the question and it makes some sense. What are you really doing when you knowingly put yourself in a situation that will frighten you? You’re stepping out of your comfort zone. There’s a certain thrill to that—an actual physical rush. We all like that, and different people have different ways of getting there. For some, a scary movie will do it. Others may choose rollercoasters or bungee jumping. For me, like Courtney, the scary movie doesn’t do it, but if you say hey, let’s go skydiving or let’s see how fast this car will go, I’m right there with you. Hope that was helpful.

Happy Halloween everybody! Have fun, enjoy your candy, and be safe. I sure hope I meet Wonder Woman again this year.

COURTNEY’S OPINION:

How does some runny nosed six-year-old, who’s still afraid of the dark, dressed like Dora the Explorer, begging for candy, under my front porch light, in any way connect back to the secular origins of Halloween?

The answer is simple. It doesn’t. The sniffling, Spanish explorer is simply caught up in the web of an over-commercialized “holiday” scam. Six billion dollars was spent on Halloween related paraphernalia in the United States last year. As a point of reference that is six times more than President Obama and John McCain collectively spent on their respective campaigns in 2008. God bless America.

I don’t want to go political, so let’s instead focus on the ridiculousness of said holiday, the purpose of which is to scare others, be tricked, and oh yeah, collect candy as a reward for putting on a costume. So, we spend $40 on a costume, to get back three dollars in candy; no wonder 46 million people in our country are living in poverty. Oh wait, that’s politics again…

Of course I celebrated when I was little. I was a clown and an apple (both costumes masterfully hand-sewn by my mom), a cheerleader, a soccer player, the full gamut. We’d rush home from school, and head right back out to comb the neighborhood in search of the candy windfall. We’d avoid the house, where that weird guy lived, and our parents warned us not to knock. (Rumor was he was distributing apples with razor blades.) As the sun set, we would head back home for a dinner of mini-snickers, milk duds, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and as darkness fell, the doorbell would ring intermittently as the big kids got their trick on. At nine o’clock, Mom would deem it “too late” and switch off the porch light.

Me dressing as a clown and shrieking in delight over a Sugar Daddy lollipop, hardly seems to have a connection to the Christian pre-amble to All Saints Day (a celebration of a bunch of dead guys) and/or the trivialization of paganism.

But, I don’t want to go religious on you either.

Here’s the bottom line. I’m not 10 years old, I try to avoid sugar, and I’ve outgrown my French maid costume, so Halloween holds no allure for me. On October 31, you’ll find my porch light off and me out for dinner.

Maybe I am just anti-social. Maybe I don’t want to listen to the dog bark at the door bell for three hours. Maybe I am so anxious for the real holiday season to begin that I don’t want to waylay it with the 10-year-old Brittany Spears at my front door. Maybe the tradition of carving pumpkins, which is based on the practice of carving turnips to honor the souls in purgatory, is just a little hard for me to get behind. I’m lighting a candle, and shoving it in the bowels of a pumpkin for some dead guy in hell? (Likely that same guy in my old neighborhood who was feeding razor stuffed apples to a gang of Smurfs on Lenape Trail.)

Nope. I’m not game. Let’s get the silliness over with and move on to the good stuff. Bring on Thanksgiving!

This column was written while on a strict diet of 19 candy corns (140 calories) per day. The only perk of Halloween.

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