Hallowe’en is a bizarre time of year. People seem to get super-excited about it and spend inordinate amounts of time planning costumes, fixating on candy, making crafts and “fun” Hallowe’en foods—and that’s the adults. Never mind the kids who are throwing tantrums because the costume store sold the last Elsa outfit, and now they have to be Cinderella—“No one will know who I AM, Mom! It’s not fair!” It’s also the time when it becomes socially acceptable to denigrate females in any profession—“Let’s see…what do I want to be this year? Sexy Nurse, Sexy Librarian, Sexy Teacher, Sexy Doctor, Sexy Astronaut, Sexy Physicist—gosh, I JUST can’t choose!” And for men, apparently it’s holiday that lets them REALLY express their inner selves. I was on the streetcar last week, having a WONDERFUL time listening to the driver and one of his work colleagues (who was just standing next to him the whole way for some unknown reason) trash talking their “shop steward”, which I assume is like the union leader or something, because of course, there’s nothing more pleasant than listening to two grown men acting like 12 year-old girls. Then a man got on the streetcar and sat down next to me. He was probably in his late sixties, very portly, sporting a bushy, grey mustache, and carrying a plastic bag. After about 30 seconds he turned to me and said, “I’m so sad right now.” I hesitated, but what the hell, right? So I asked, “Why?”
“Well,” he said. I’m supposed to be going to a Hallowe’en party tonight, but it’s raining so hard that my costume would have been ruined, so I decided not to wear it.”
“Is it in your bag?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he laughed. “But it was a great costume.”
“What were you going to be?” At this point, I figured ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, and it was better than listening to “Chrissy” and “Madison” griping about how Frank wouldn’t drive in from Brampton at 10 o’clock at night to see how badly the streetcar system was backed up. Anyhow, I thought, judging by the looks of the man next to me, that he was going to say “Scarecrow”, or “Witch”, but it turns out he was more the “Dorothy” type.
“I was going in drag,” he announced. “I do it every year. My friends will be so disappointed. Here, let me show you what I was going to look like.” With this, he pulled out his cell phone. And if you think things were a little weird up until now, just wait. He opened up a picture of himself, standing in front of a full-length mirror, dressed in a black wig, a colourful dress, full make-up, and high heels. “Very nice,” I commented, thinking that Rupaul might have given him a passing grade. Then, as he was trying to zoom in on the wig, which he seemed to be particularly proud of, he accidentally (oh God, please let it have been accidentally) flipped to the previous picture, which was the “before” picture—that is to say, a full-length shot of him wearing nothing but a pair of bikini briefs. Then he got flustered and tried to change the picture back, but he flipped the wrong way, and before I had a chance to avert my eyes, I’m pretty sure it was the “before Before” picture—ie: BEFORE he put on the bikini briefs.
“Gosh, these phones,” he giggled, and put it back in his pocket, while I tried to recover from the shock of seeing all that portliness in its natural glory. Then he began regaling me with tales of previous Hallowe’en costumes, including his first foray into the world of drag. “I dressed as Nana Mouskouri, but everyone thought I was a hooker. I thought I looked just like her—I even blackened my mustache to match my wig.”
We spent the rest of the ride with him talking and me smiling and nodding, still unsure if I had been flashed on purpose or not. We were getting off at the same stop, and when we finally exited, he said, “It was lovely talking to you, dear. Have a Happy Hallowe’en!” and with that, he disappeared into a sketchy-looking bar.
A group of us were reminiscing about Hallowe’en as we’d experienced it as children. The general consensus seemed to be that we had two common experiences; first, that no matter what your costume was, it had to fit over a snowsuit. There’s a wonderful picture of my brother and I when we’re about 8 and 6 respectively. I’m wearing a snowsuit and a Frankenstein mask, and he’s wearing a snowsuit and a tiger mask. Costumes today are so much more season-appropriate. When K was little, it was fake fur animal costumes, which looked cool and were also very warm, so I was never the mom who ruined Hallowe’en by saying, “You’re not going out as a Sexy Ballerina—you’ll freeze your tutu off. Now go find your snowsuit.” My favourite Hallowe’en memory of K was the year she wanted to be a shark. Very badly. The problem was, I couldn’t find a shark costume to save my life. So I found a dolphin costume, cut out teeth from a piece of white cardboard, and stapled them to the dolphin’s mouth. She was never the wiser, but we were all hysterical at the sight of this deranged porpoise toddling up to people’s porches.
The second rule of thumb for kids of my generation, and this is, sadly, still true today, was if there was anything unwrapped or homemade in your loot bag, your mom threw it away on the grounds that someone might have put a razor blade in it. I understand that it’s statistically EXTREMELY rare that anyone has ever tried to hurt a child by putting something nasty in their candy, but it’s also statistically true that there are crazy people in this world, sometimes in your very own neighbourhood, and you’d never know it until your child is all glassy-eyed from the hash brownie they just ate.
Saturday: The Day Arrives
On Saturday, I finally started to feel a little bit excited over Hallowe’en, as the time approached for the trick or treating to start. We live in a small town, and our house is set quite a bit back from the sidewalk, so I was worried that no one would come. I got a little obsessive, but Ken was just being mean, and refused to find our Christmas floodlights, so we could shine them on the house and let the kids know we were open for business. At around 6:00, it was getting pretty dark, and we’d only had two kids. I was getting desperate. Then I heard voices going past our gate. “We have candy in here! Come to our house!” I yelled out the door. In retrospect, maybe it was a little more like “luring” than “encouraging”, but I hadn’t carved a pumpkin for nothing. (In fact, I hadn’t carved a pumpkin, but I’d used a Sharpie to draw eyes and a mouth on one, and it looked GREAT.) The voices stopped, the group of people came up our sidewalk, and I was thinking this was a super plan. Then Ken came downstairs:
Ken: Was that you yelling at people to come to our house?
Ken: Are you going to do that all night?
Me: Well, I don’t see any FLOODLIGHTS, Ken. How else will people know we have candy?
But despite my best efforts, we still only had 14 trick or treaters, and it was like the devil sent them to taunt me.
Little Ninja: How many people have you had tonight?
Me: Oh, a few.
Ninja: MY mom had a bowl with ONE HUNDRED bags of chips in it, and they’re all gone now!
Me: Shut up, demon child. (OK, that last line was in my head. What I really said is, Gosh, that’s a lot! Have a happy Hallowe’en.)
My favourite moment of the night: a little brother/firefighter and sister/princess came to the door. I gave him a KitKat and a sucker. I gave her an Aero bar and some rockets. As they were about to leave, she turned back:
Princess: Um…can I have what you gave him?
Me: Oh, you want a KitKat too? Sure.
Princess: (whispers) And the other…?
Me: The sucker? Of course, sweetie. Here you go.
Their mom (mortified): Sorry…
Me: No worries—I have a LOT of candy.
Most random occurrence: 3 kids and their parents came to the door around 7:15. The kids yelled Trick or Treat, then they held out their hands. I said, “Oh, don’t you have bags?”
“No,” said one of the dads. “Just give them the candy and they can put it in their pockets.”
Then Hallowe’en was over for another year. And I know this for sure, because I was in a store this morning, and they already had their full Christmas inventory on display.