It started out as all great evenings do: With a plastic Spiderman mask, a rubber band, and some red and blue Underoos.
I loved everything about Halloween… Walking out into the crisp, Fall air with nothing but a cheap, plastic pumpkin with a handle to throw the candy into. The “real” candy (aka the mini name brand candy bars–you got your Milky Way, your Snickers, your Three Musketeers, your Twix, your 100 Grand, and your Kit Kat) were gone within the first day. Then you had the stuff that might make it to day two: Your Baby Ruth and your Butterfingers, your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and M&Ms (both underwhelming Plain and disappointing Peanut), your Mounds, and to a lesser extent, your Almond Joy. Then you have your third tier candies: Your Blow Pops, your Bit-O-Honey, your Nestlé’s Crunch, your Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops (with their urban legend of getting a free sucker if your wrapper had a star on it that no kid ever actually took advantage of), and your Dots. Then you had the leftovers: The no-name hard candies, the Dum Dums, the Smarties, the slap-in-the-face that was Candy Corn, and those piece of shit peanut butter things that were wrapped in black or orange wrappers–only people who truly hate children ever gave these things out.
As we got older, I and my friends got more and more efficient at candy collection on Halloween. It became less about the costumes and more about “the haul.” Plastic pumpkins were replaced with pillow cases–KING SIZED pillow cases. The costumes needed to be lightweight and aerodynamic, and those plastic masks, with their two small nostril holes and mouth slit, no longer provided adequate air flow for the kind of high-impact, cardiovascular workout we were going to go through. We prepared for this night like one might prepare for a marathon–There was stretching involved, and even talk of “carbing up.” One Halloween, I had a stroke of genius: I decided I would go as a werewolf, but then underneath my mask, I would spike and color my hair. Then at the houses with top tier candies, I would remove my mask and return to the door dressed as a “Punk.” By this time, most of us were nearly 6 feet tall, and occasionally we got the old, “Aren’t you boys getting a little bit old for Trick or Treat?” It was answered either with a kind “We’re tall for our age” or a terse “Don’t make trouble, Ma’am.” The answer would depend on what tier candy they were providing.
When we were finally too old for Trick or Treat, Halloween turned to a night for pranks–usually involving toilet paper. One night, we decided to TP (this is what we called it. Some might call it “roll”) our Vice Principal’s house. He was also our soccer coach, and our track coach, my girlfriend’s dad, and even though he was well into middle-age, I think he was a former All American in the 400 and he was faster than any of us. Midway through the TP-ing of his yard, he leapt from the garage and yelled something unintelligible. None of us had much experience with charismatic churches, but we all identified this utterance as “speaking in tongues,” and we were all temporarily blessed with the gift of interpretation. Loosely translated, it had to do with us “getting out of his yard” and being “little sons of bitches.”
We ran like gazelles–literally leaping over hedges and fences and vehicles like they weren’t even there. When I jumped into the back of the pickup truck, it was already going about 20 m.p.h. I was halfway in when the truck shifted from first to second gear. The tires screeched, and I fell out and landed squarely on my ass, bounced two or three times, and was back on my feet and into the truck like nothing even happened. I still don’t understand how I could have done this. If I step on a Lego these days, it takes me a few minutes to recover. I fell out of a moving truck and was back on my feet and running immediately. If this kind of thing happened to me today, I would have had to have been life-flighted out of there.
Now Halloween has turned into figuring out what a “detective disguised as a pirate” would look like for the boy, deciding that our daughter is too young to dress as a “Vampire Princess,” and dreading the time when every girl’s costume has to involve cleavage in some way. Seriously, when did Halloween (for girls, at least) become about dressing up like a slutty version of things? Everything’s slutty now–Slutty nurses, slutty cowgirl, slutty referee, slutty Abraham Lincoln…. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m willing to bet it involves thigh-highs and a push-up bra (I’m laughing as I write this because I’m imagining the Google searches that will now lead people to this blog).
The starkest difference between the high school version of me and the current version of myself might not be the ability to bounce back from injury–It might be my annoyance with Halloween cleavage. Either way, one thing is clear: I am getting old.