Halloween Part 2:
Honestly, I was not giving too much thought to Halloween before my partner and I ventured out in search of maternity clothes on the afternoon of. Walking through the mall, I noticed a few kids dressed up, some toddlers waddling around as monkeys or power rangers, and a few babies in strollers made to wear pumpkin outfits, but my mind merely registered the thought, that little pirate is cute… oh, and its Halloween, before drifting off into random day-dream mode.
About ten minutes later I found myself stationed awkwardly outside of the Forever 21 dressing room waiting to see if any of these garments of the highest quality might work as maternity wear for my partner. While attempting to focus on the ceiling, stare at mannequins, or inspect the fabric of a floral patterned cardigan–anything to not seem like I was a creepy stalker of tween girls–my attention was drawn to the front of the store where a mob of parents and children were gathered.
It took me a few moments to figure out why so many individuals, so far outside of the Forever 21 demographic, might be clamoring to get anywhere near the establishment. After spotting a Darth Vader, two Princess Jasmines, a turtle, and a little devil lined up by the entryway, the reality dawned on me. They are trick-or-treating!
This reality had me reeling a bit. On one hand, this situation felt so wrong. My Halloween had always consisted of speeding through my dinner so I could put my costume on, get outside, and go to as many houses in my neighborhood as I could so as to accumulate as much candy as was possible in the time I was allowed. I did much of my trick-or-treating after dark, actually knocking on doors. There was always the chance that one household might try to scare us with some gag dummy, or surprise us by coming to the door dressed up as a witch. Yet, we decided which houses to go to, running from house to house, strategizing how we might best use our time, “That guy gave away full-sized Nerds last year! Let’s go there… We don’t need to go to that house, there are too many steps, and I heard they are giving away dried fruit.” The fact that we were outdoors and in the dark added an element of suspense and spookiness to the experience. Most of all, when I was out and about trick-or-treating with my friends, I felt free.
Alas trick-or-treating at the mall is everything that my experience was not–sterile, well-lit, void of surprise, confined, and orderly–and it is hard for me not to feel sorry for the children who are not, and may never experience a Halloween like the ones with which I grew up.
Maybe times are changing. Maybe this dissonance is a sign of me getting old. I sound just like the cliche of the out-of-touch old person: Back in my day, I had to walk twelve miles in the snow to get to school…
Yet, am I that out of touch in believing that it is a bit awkward to have little children line up by the eight-foot tall picture of one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels sprawled out, modeling the company’s latest bra and panty line, on pink satin bed sheets, as they wait for one of employees to hand them a Tootsie Roll? Isn’t it a bit impersonal to have Victor, from Game Stop, joylessly handing out Starbursts to trick-or-treaters rather than their next-door neighbor, Ms. McNabe? Maybe the mall is just being honest in perpetuating that which Halloween has always been for such establishments, an opportunity to inspire more consumerism. Maybe Jordan, the sales associate from Bebe–dressed in fish net stockings and six-inch stilettos as part of her “cat” costume–is the future of trick-or-treat candy distribution.
All that being said, I am trying hard to empathize with the mothers and fathers that brought their children to the mall on this Halloween afternoon.
As a potential future parent, one thing I continue to hear from current parents is that time and energy are constant issues in their lives; they never seems to be enough of either. The mall is convenient, and finite. There are no hills to sap a parent of their energy. One parent can go shopping while the other walks their child around so as to kill two birds with one stone. And, once said child has made his or her rounds, that’s it. A parent only needs to simply point out, “We started at Chicos, and look! We’re back at Chicos. There aren’t any more places we can visit. Sorry, Billy… Okay, time to go home.”
I also understand we are living in a culture of fear (whether it is reasonable or not is debatable, but we live in it nonetheless). With all of the news stories about car or property-related accidents,kidnapping, and child molestation, I can see how parents might fear for their children’s safety. I would like to think that I will be able to get over such unsubstantiated fear, but I am not currently in their position, so it is hard to say what I might do.
Moreover, I know that my class privilege factored into my idyllic trick-or-treat experiences, so the comparison can be unfair. For some children, the streets they live upon truly aren’t safe to cross, let alone wander around at night as a candy solicitor. Some may live small apartment complexes or in high-rises, so the mall may actually be a more engaging trick-or-treat community. I do not know what it is to be a child or raise a child in such situations, so despite my incredulity, it is hard for me to be completely outraged.
As we headed for the mall exit, we passed a number of kids fully decked out, and I discovered one additional benefit to trick-or-treating in the mall: everyone can witness the costumes in all of their glory. We walked by a girl, who was about ten, with wavy shoulder-length black hair, a black fedora, white v-neck, an unbuttoned white dress shirt, flooding black slacks, white socks, black shoes, and a white bandage wrapped around her right arm from palm to elbow. She was a spot-on mini Michael Jackson from the “Black or White” video, circa 1991. I could not help chuckling to myself.
No doubt, thanks our visit to the mall, I think I might be starting to get back into Halloween again.