Halloween is one of the most popular holidays of the year, and for good reason. Who doesn’t love the spooky feeling that comes with the falling leaves, dark nights, and candy-corn flavored treats? The Sanderson Sisters are on TV, and all is right with the world once more…or is it? Picture the scene: you’re kicking up your heels on October 31st ready to dive into the leftover candy when the doorbell goes. Reluctantly, you haul yourself off the couch, ready to greet another pint-sized ghoul being shepherded along the streets by a mom that works late, only to find something truly horrific waiting for you on your doorstep. Teenagers.
Despite what my daughter may tell you, there was a time many moons ago, way back when I could get a full eight hours sleep and didn’t know every episode of Spongebob Squarepants off by heart, that I too, was a child. As a youngster growing up in England, I always loved Halloween but didn’t always celebrate it. While it’s certainly becoming more popular here than ever before, we were still catching up in the nineties and noughties.
Trick or treating was something that you maybe did but didn’t always do. When I did go out into the dark night it was often with my father, who is the biggest kid I know. He would wrap bandages around his head and stand behind me like a silent mummy as I went from door to door, alone, hand outstretched with a vampire smile.
By the time I was deemed old enough to go out by myself at night, I was fourteen. I was too old for trick or treating, but I wasn’t really sure why. One year, my friends and I thought we’d give it one last hurrah by dressing up and seeing if we could get away with it one more time. By that point though, we weren’t interested in putting on a spider costume, or a goofy mask. I distinctly remember feeling like we were pushing our luck and would probably get shooed away from doorsteps by annoyed neighbors.
What’s more – and this is a thought that sticks in my mind more than anything else – I had reached the age where I didn’t want to look scary. I wanted to look pretty. Dare I say it, I wanted to look sexy. I wanted to look like the hottest dead cheerleader you’d ever seen in your life. Yes, I was 14. Yes, the thought alarms me now.
The night went down without incident. We did get some candy, and no one really said anything about our ages at all. Bear in mind that I have always been tall, and at 14 looked more 16. Still, no one said a word, and we went home and ate our fill, probably listened to some Nirvana and talked about what we would do when our band made it (spoiler alert: it never did.)
I can’t say that I would be as gracious as the residents were then if it happened to me, an almost 30-year-old mother of one, now. Trick or treating should be an innocent, playful thing that breeds excitement, and full of the magic that breathes life into All Hallows Eve. When you’re very young, there’s a charm to being out in the dark that makes you feel like you’re doing something incredibly special. However, when you’re a teenager, typically, your motives change.
It becomes less about the fanciful notions of real witches and wizards or ghosts roaming the Earth and more about what you can get for free by knocking on someone’s door. I’m aware that this is a sweeping, broad generalization, but one that many people share. I know of neighbors who purposely refuse to answer the door because they don’t want to give a 15-year-old boy with a five o’clock shadow a lollipop. Let’s not forget that all else put aside, teenagers, much like a murder of crows, tend to migrate in flocks.
In my town, as with many other towns across the world, this can be very intimidating at the best of times. To open your door to a group of youths in lackluster costumes is something else entirely. Why should we feel a duty to doll out candy to someone who is legally old enough to work? Isn’t it our duty to tell our teens to leave this to the little ones who still feel like it’s a special night, full of wonder, and who still think mischief consists of not eating vegetables?
It may be a night that the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, but teenagers don’t fall into that category…even when trying to get them out of bed in the morning is like trying to raise the dead.