I have a confession to make and I feel awful about it, but the truth must out.
I’ve been hiding from your children.
For the last couple of nights, lights off, quietly extracting a baking frozen pizza from the oven, I’ve been living stealthily and ignoring knocks at the door.
I guess, much as I’d love to, I still just Don’t Quite Get Halloween.
I did make a brief effort, scouting the vast candy aisles in Walgreens (only in America: a “drugstore” which sells fattening confectionary and cigarettes), thinking about buying a selection of goodies for Trick or Treaters to ruin their teeth with. But I just couldn’t get my head round it – should I create a “lucky dip” assortment of sour fruity things, chocolate treats and dentist-horrifying gobstoppers? Or should I just buy a bag of “fun size” Mars Bars and have done?
And I couldn’t decide. I gave up in the end – I live in a restricted-access building anyway so it wasn’t like there would be hordes of ravenous kids with sheets over their heads queueing up. And the last thing I need is 117 fun-size mars bars left over after the pumpkins have been thrown away and the cobwebs torn down.
So I’m the guy skulking in the darkened apartment down the corridor because I don’t want to make your children cry through a lack of candy. Sorry.
Halloween has been growing in popularity in the UK for the last few years. Sure, quite a few people went trick-or-treating when I was a kid, but the shops maybe put out a token stand of cheap plastic witch masks and a bin full of sweets. There weren’t massive Halloween decorations everywhere, and adults didn’t tend to have blow-out Halloween parties.
But even though it’s grown in stature in the land of my birth, UK-style Halloween has nothing on the US. It is, quite simply, a mania over here, and my first experience of it has been… bewildering.
Pumpkin patches? Wow. Halloween decorations absolutely everywhere? More parties than you can shake a stick at? Blimey.
The UK only goes to town this much for Christmas (and, admittedly, without the commercial “buffer zones” of crazy-Halloween and Thanksgiving we start on “xmas” in October). It’s all been a bit too much for me.
I’m not really cut out for costume parties – I simply haven’t had much practice. I made it to one Halloween party this weekend, dressed as a rather lacklustre vampire (teeth, stage blood, long black coat – it worked for me). And on Saturday I was unfortunately in bed (pretending those weren’t knocks at the door) with the lurgee. Funny thing about me and American celebrations – they seem to cause virii to flock to me like flies to something unpleasant. I was ill on July 4th too.
Thing is, I find child-centric “events” like Halloween bewildering for a more fundamental reason than my faux-sartorial ineptitude. I’m really quite settled in a slightly haphazard bachelor lifestyle at present (cue a sharp intake of horrified breath from my mother), and dealing with other people’s rather demanding larvae is, well, a bit trying for my carefully cultivated inner curmudgeon.
But at the same time, seeing their excited little faces poking out from under a carefully-chosen (and clearly adored) costume awakens another part of me. The part that goes “awww”, and can readily imagine standing on strangers’ doorsteps with my own little offshoot one day, begging for sugary treats (cue a relieved exhalation from the aforementioned mother).
It is, as they say, an inner conflict.
But hey, it’s probably time I got into the spirit of these things lest I end up entertaining Marley’s Ghost sometime. Having suffered something of a Halloween culture-shock this year, I shall make amends in 2006.
I’ll be living in the city and I pledge that, in the interests of becoming one with American culture, I shall construct a fabulous costume (not as fabulous as Michelle’s; t’would be foolish to suggest otherwise, but fabulous nonetheless). And I shall buy a carefully-planned assortment of candy, bounding happily to my door and distributing it to your children with glee.
And, most importantly, I shall sit in the dark less. Unless, y’know, it counts as “mood lighting” at a party.