Fear of Halloween
October 31st, 2004 | Posted by Shannon
Halloween. What is it about this holiday that makes me feel like I want to pound some valium? Do I have any valium? Hmmm….
I don’t remember trick-or-treating too often. I grew up in a rural coastal hamlet, but there were a couple of housing tracts down the highway, and that is where all the kids went to trick-or-treat. There was no point wasting time on our own street, where the take would most likely be carob kisses, fig bars, and “earth muffins.” Clipper’s Ridge and Frenchman’s Creek, with their streets and cul-de-sacs full of identical houses and lit porch-lights, were the places to be. Odd that I can?t remember the actual act of trick-or-treating, but that I remember where I wanted to do it. I do remember the different ways my brothers and I sorted and stored our candy. Candy was pretty much verboten in our house, and we didn’t take the hoard lightly. I always ate the good stuff, the miniature Butterfingers and tiny packets of M &M’s, too quickly, because my self-control in those days was even worse than it is now. That would leave me with a selection of the 2nd rate stuff like those mints they give you in a restaurant for free. Then it would be all about my brother Jay, who carefully sorted and stored his hoard and had it for weeks after I had already consumed all of my candy. Jay was also a kid who ordered bubble gum ice cream at Swensen’s and kept all the gumballs stuffed in his cheeks, like a chipmunk, as he ate. I would have chewed all the gumballs at once and spit them out as soon as the flavor was gone.
I do remember costumes. I know as a very young girl I had a princess costume, and later this princess dress ended up on a giant stuffed animal that doubled for me a couple of times when I snuck out in the middle of the night. Later, I ended up as a sort of mini-Stevie Nicks, always a gypsy, wearing assorted scarves and peasant dresses and jangly bracelets. I still haven’t gotten over the “I am a Princess” thing (because I AM, just not living in in the country where I, uh, am a Princess) and I really am a nomadic, gyspy kind of person. So do the costumes you wear as a kid create what you think of yourself as an adult? Or are your costumes already pre-ordained and your parents are just carrying out the wishes of the cosmos? Hmmm…
When I was thirteen, me and two friends dressed up in identical baby-doll nighties, all different colors. We were probably too old to be trick-or-treating, and definitely too young to be wearing those nighties. I was no Lolita, and only felt revulsion for the way I looked and how people were looking at me. That was one costume that was absolutely not me. Well, not until I was in my thirties anyway. Then I liked to get dressed up like a twisted Daisy Duke, but even then, never, ever on Halloween.
For much of my adult-life-so-far I lived in San Francisco, and out of fifteen years there I spent nine living in the Castro district. The Castro being, like, Halloween central. It sounds pretty cool and fun and urban, this party where 300,000 people descend on your neighborhood, but it is anything but. These people, coming out of the bridges and tunnels and holes in the earth, come to gawk, litter, and vent their anger and frustration on a night when they can get away with it. The energy in the Castro is really ugly. The night BEFORE Halloween, when everyone from the neighborhood goes out to show off their costumes and practice their strut, is always a lot of fun. Halloween though? yuck. In the early days, I actually had a Halloween party, and I opened my door for someone and something like fifteen people followed her in. They made themselves at home and I worked myself into a frenzy trying to figure out how to get them out. After they drank all the sangria, they asked me to make more, and I was like, are you fucking high? Get out of my house! After that I never had a Halloween party again.
A couple of years later, one Halloween night I heard that River Phoenix had died, and morphing into a Castro drama queen right up there with the best of them, I looked glum and cried and wailed at the bar of a Mexican restaurant while a sympathetic bartender made me a series of really strong margaritas. The combo of death and tequila did not help me navigate the throng outside when I finally left the bar. I got stuck on a streetcar platform with no way to escape. All the way down Market Street there was a sea of heads, the sound of breaking bottles, and a feeling that someone was going to get their head smashed in. I swore at that moment, never again will I go out on Halloween. Instead, I bought provisions and locked myself inside. From my bedroom window, I could view the destruction from a safe distance. I much prefer my own kind of destruction, like the Folsom Street Fair. Screw Halloween.
Now, here in Ocean Beach, San Diego, there are no trick-or-treaters. They are probably up on the hill in Point Loma or other, greener pastures. This is my third Halloween here, and I have never had – oh, what’s that? A knock on the door! Hey, I had some trick-or-treaters, for the first time in my life! Good thing I had some little hard candies from Spain in the house. They’ll go into the secondary pile for sure, but at least I had something. A little devil and a mini-SWAT guy. How totally cute. Maybe Halloween isn’t so bad, after all.