There are many reasons not to like Halloween. The top two? Pirates and trick-or-treating.
I don't know why so many adults insist on dressing up as pirates for Halloween. I don't care for pirates -- not even slutty lady-pirates -- because with pirates comes pirate talk. Arrrg matey!
But trick-or-treating? What kind of Grinch-o-lantern doesn't like trick-or-treating?
Perhaps my heart is two sizes too small, but even as a kid, I was not a fan of playing dress-up and knocking on doors asking for handouts. It was awkward and degrading.
"And what are you, little boy?"
What am I? I'm a friggin' knight, lady. You see my sword and shield and tin-foil helmet? I worked on this costume for three days. It totally rocks and you ask me what I am!? And what's this? Three stupid watermelon Jolly Ranchers? This is total crap.
I would have been happier saving the costume for slaying dragons in the backyard and dropping 50 cents at the corner store to get a full-size Charleston Chew in a flavor of my choosing. I also resented wearing my costume to school only to be marched around the hallways with a boom box playing "Monster Mash" in the background. I'm a snicker-from-the-sidelines kind of guy, not a show pony.
The only time I got a real thrill out of Halloween was the year of the razor-blades-in-apples epidemic. You remember -- the year parents worked themselves into a panic because, in quiet suburban neighborhoods across the country, psychopaths were planning to hand out booby-trapped Pippins. They made it sound like there was a 25% chance you wouldn't make it home alive.
Now that was exciting.
I figured out early on that zombies did not rise from the dead and hide behind trees, waiting to pounce on kids with lousy costumes. But it was conceivable that someone might put a razor blade in an apple. Hmmm, which of my neighbors is the closeted child-killer? Wooohahaha!
But even this excitement wasn't worth the humiliation of trick-or-treating. And the thrill itself soon faded, once it became clear this story was just one more of those urban myths that freak parents out beyond all reason. If it's not razor blades, it's something else, like homemade brownies laced with tainted Tylenol, or predatory automatic-transmission Audis demonstrating unintended acceleration at busy crosswalks.
Halloween, like most things that involve children leaving the house, terrifies parents. The Internet is awash in suggestions for helping kids have a fun and safe time out there in the brutal October chill. However, I'm not going to haul out the cliché about our modern safety-first culture sucking the fun out of the (stupid and reckless) things free-range kids used to do back in the good old days. I'm for anything that undermines the fun of Halloween, if it means I won't have to sit by the door waiting to engage in the obligatory banter with ghosts and witches grabbing handfuls of M&Ms. Besides, reflective tape on a 6-year-old jacked up on Jujubes is a sound idea any time of year.
Still, I am tired of this perennial fear that a horrific death lurks behind every fourth door. Even entry-level psychopaths know that kidnapping or poisoning their neighbors' kids on the most supervised night of the year is bad for business. If there's ever a safe time to talk to strangers, it's Halloween. Besides, have you ever tried to stick a razor blade in an apple? It's damn near impossible.
But we don't even need to get to the level of what your average psychopath would or wouldn't do to see the absurdity of this kind of hysteria. Just ask yourself, would your kid ever eat something that doesn't come in a wrapper? An apple!?
This 31st, I'm not going to worry too much about my children (who still believe my wife when she says that Halloween is fun). I just want them to look both ways when crossing the street, use their manners and be home around 8. I'll be hiding in the basement wrapping my fingers in gauze.