Every year I see other adults plan their Halloween costumes 2-3 months in advance with the same enthusiasm a young bride-to-be has when she shops for her first wedding dress. They sit in their office cubicle scanning Amazon for ideas, they run those ideas by co-workers at lunch, they call their significant other to brainstorm how they can coordinate costumes as a couple…it’s a big fucking deal and I just don’t get it!
I see it every year and I am completely baffled each and every time. The entire experience, and every emotion associated with it, could not be more foreign to me. I’m well-liked so I get invited to the same costume parties they do and I truly want, more than anything, to feel the excitement and residual joy they get from preparing for it, but it’s simply not there. I actually feel the opposite. As soon as I get the invitation or I hear someone else in my circle mention they got it; which means it’s just a matter of time before I get it, I’m immediately overwhelmed with anxiety. An anxiety that is easily traced back to my childhood.
So, when I was a kid, we were dirt poor. My dad always had good jobs but we had a family tragedy that tapped us for several years. Prioritization was a big thing when it came to spending money during this time and we were on a very tight budget. I was very young so my priorities didn’t always synch up with my parents’ priorities. Clothes and shoes were shockingly low on their priority scale. So, I went to school every day in hand-me-downs from my cousins or donations from some clothing drive. If I did get something new it came from some discount store that I’m sure has been the target of more than one of my standup bits. Needless to say, I took a lot of shit from the other kids at school. A LOT of shit. The carry-over to today isn’t too bad. I might have to change clothes 6 or 7 times every time I leave the house, which drives my girlfriend crazy, but other than that…the damage is manageable.
If everyday clothes were that low on the family’s priority list, imagine how low the Halloween costume budget was. These were clothes that would only be worn once! Which meant there would be no money spent. My costumes would be made by hand. And not just any hand, my mom’s hand. The least creative mind in the family. Every Halloween I’d leave the house to join my friends for Trick or Treating knowing that I would be the butt of the joke for the rest of the night. Like the year I had to go Trick or Treating as my dad after he was shot by a shrink ray. Yeah, just me…wearing my dad’s work clothes. The next year, my mom had picked up a part-time job which in my mind meant the Halloween budget was going up. What it really meant was I went Trick or Treating as a McDonalds employee…that was shot by a shrink ray.
But the following year my mom surprised me and went all out. This year I got to be a pirate!
I loved pirates! I wasn’t just any pirate either. I was Captain Fucking Hook! The biggest fictional pirate of my childhood! And when I say she went all out, she went all out! She had somehow met a woman that made costumes for a local theater group and my mom traded babysitting hours for her to make me a Captain Hook costume. And it was amazing! The only thing we were missing was the hook. Luckily for me, we lived on a farm so my mom took one of those hooks you use to throw hay bails with and made a little leather sleeve to cover my hand so you couldn’t see that I was holding the handle. It was perfect! I strutted out of my house to meet my friends for Trick or Treating with a confidence I had never felt before. I even made fun of one of the other kids for his shitty costume. I was on top of the world! The only thing that made it better was one of my friend’s mom was driving us to a new neighborhood. A neighborhood that was known to be the best candy-giving neighborhood in the area. And I had the best costume!
We unloaded in the new neighborhood and all 7 of us lined up at the door of the first house. I intentionally stood at the back of the line because I had the best costume. I was the closer. My friend Scotty rang the door bell, I straightened my vest and got my hook set just right, and the door opened. A woman greeted us with a smile and we all yelled “Trick or Treat!” Then her husband popped up from behind her to take a look for himself and my eyes went immediately to his prosthetic arm that had one of those grabber hooks at the end and I said to myself “God damn it.” I slowly let go of the hook in my right hand as I shook it loose from my sleeve and let it fall gently into my candy bag, turned right around and walked my defeated little hookless ass back to the van.
So, I guess when I say I hate Halloween I really mean that I hate having to dress up in costumes. I like candy and shit but people put a lot of emphasis on the costume thing. Which makes Halloween the one holiday I could do without.