The Halloween People
Holidays have a way of giving me terrible social anxiety. You know what else gives me terrible social anxiety? Pretty much the entirety of life. Yet I feel myself compelled to live it all the same. I like to joke that I don’t throw parties any more because the theme of every party I have ever thrown is, “Jesus, I am unpopular! People just do not seem to care for me!” Yet I’ve always loved Halloween in theory even if Halloween has historically been a crushing anti-climax for me. As with so much of life, a lot of it comes down to managing expectations. And by “managing” I of course mean “lowering.”
I found that when I stopped expecting anything to happen on Halloween that I stopped being disappointed. Hope is such a tricky beast! How often it leads to crushing disappointment. This year, however, I find myself getting excited about Halloween in a way that I honestly never have before. That’s because this is the first year that our three year old son Declan is really able to understand and appreciate Halloween.
And because he is my son, and my wife’s son, he doesn’t just understand and appreciate Halloween: he’s absolutely obsessed with it to a degree both pathological and also deeply healthy. For Declan, Halloween is not just a holiday that occurs every October 31st and provides an invaluable forum for both children to dress up and get candy and women to dress up as over-sexualized versions of various professions and/or pop culture figures: it’s a state of mind. But it’s more than a state of mind. It’s a whole world onto itself and right now Declan is absolutely in love with everything that he associates with Halloween, whether it’s skeletons (he calls them “Skellelons”), witches, ghosts, Bobby “Boris” Pickett singing or rather, lip-synching to “Monster Mash” on an American Bandstand Youtube clip I’ve probably played for him literally three hundred times or more, or any number of scare season staples.
Needless to say, I am overjoyed by this. I love that my son is popular and outgoing and non-neurotic, even if I don’t understand what it’s like to possess any of those qualities, but I also love that my son appears to be one of the Halloween people. Who are the Halloween people? The Halloween People are The Rocky Horror Picture Show freaks. The Halloween people have seen The Nightmare Before Christmas more times than they can remember. Juggalos are Halloween people. Slasher movie aficionados are Halloween people. People who line up to get Dick Miller or Roger Corman’s autograph are Halloween people. True crime buffs are Halloween people. Stephen King super-fans are Halloween people. Goths are Halloween people.
I, low-key, am one of the Halloween people so I am beyond excited that my son appears to be shaping up to be a Halloween person as well. That’s why I want this actual Halloween to be as perfect as possible for him. I want it to live up to his impossibly high expectations, but one of the many wonderful things about Declan at this age is that he’s capable of such incredible joy.
My wife and I recently took Declan to Legoland for his birthday, and if he was visibly having any more fun his brain would have exploded from pleasure. I hope that the perfect storm of trick or treating and jack-o-lanterns and costumes and candy and kids dressed up as super heroes and monsters will result in Declan having a Halloween worthy of his feverish expectations and fervent wishes, but us Halloween people know that disappointment is an almost unavoidable fixture not just of Halloween, but of life itself, and that knowing how to cope with that disappointment is of the utmost importance. That’s why, as Declan’s parents, it’s as important, if not more important, to teach him to deal with life’s inevitable disappointments as much as it is to try to make milestones like his first real Halloween as special and unforgettable as possible.
Because the Halloween people know that a lot of growing up is about disappointment, and not getting what you want, and not fitting in, and feeling like an outsider. Hopefully he’ll find more Halloween people like him in the road ahead to help him feel a little less alone and a little more accepted. That’s what we all want, really, the Halloween people most of all.
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