Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year. That’s not such a big deal for the kids, because they start trick-or-treating before dark and are done only a little after their normal bedtimes, when the sugar crash takes them down harder than an old casino. But for the grown-ups, who for the sake of this argument I will include to mean people in their 20s and 30s, a mid-week Halloween presents some problems.
Principally: when does one throw a Halloween party? Or hit the bars in costume? Or wait in the bushes for a suitably sexy nurse/French maid/schoolmarm? It seems to me that the answer is obvious, that the nearest weekend night that’s not after the actual holiday is the de facto stand-in non-schoolnight Halloween. Right? Isn’t that the way it’s always been?
And yet in recent years I have been noticing a steady erosion of this unspoken social contract, with people taking to the streets in costume on non-sanctioned surrogate Halloweens.
At the risk of coming off like a great big bah-humbug Halloween Grinch (note to self: that’s a good idea for a costume) I submit the following: Halloween should only be one night. A special dispensation is universally granted when it falls on an inconvenient schoolnight.
But a couple of years ago, when Halloween fell on a Saturday, I couldn’t help noticing people were out in costume on Friday night. Now look, I’m not saying I was outraged, or even angry, but when Halloween’s on Saturday night, THAT’S HALLOWEEN. There’s no need to dress up on Friday when you can do it on Saturday, is there?
I spent this past weekend behind the bar, and while I fully expected to see people in costume on Saturday night (and I did) I was a little surprised to see that Friday night was almost as costumey. On the subway, on the street, in the bars. So that’s two Halloweens, before we even get to actual October 31 Halloween, which makes three. It looks like Hurricane Sandy is going to make this question moot, but in better weather would people have been dressing up on Monday and Tuesday also? What about next weekend? My band had a gig booked for November 2 and it got bumped for a Halloween party, so it appears next weekend is in play. So that’s four to six Halloweens. How many Halloweens do we need? Why not have one the following weekend?
We also see this phenomenon with people’s birthdays these days. As a bartender, I have heard a wide range of questionable behavior justified with the statement, “It’s my birthday week.” People are so into themselves and their birthdays anymore that one day is not enough to contain it. Once again, if your birthday lands on Tuesday and you want to have a party on Friday, you have my blessing and my best wishes. But your birthday is your birthday. If you want to have an extra dessert or call your freelance pharmacist it’s none of my business, but don’t bring your birthday into it unless it’s your birthday.
I’m tempted to chalk all this up to the steadily swelling level of narcissism in our increasingly coarse culture. One night of birthday, with everyone saying nice things to me and buying me drinks and pretending not to cringe every time I open my stupid mouth isn’t enough! I need a whole week! One night of people paying extra attention to my super clever Binder Full of Women costume isn’t enough! I need to break it out the night before, and the night after, and then the weekend following the actual holiday.
But I’m hardly one to complain about narcissism in other people, not when I’m constantly pimping my band, my blog, my video series, my self-help book, my solo career, and my line of beauty products, so rather than worrying about the cause, let’s focus on solutions to this grave (Halloween pun!) and worsening problem.
I think it’s time for the government to step in and solve the problem the same as it solved the Lincoln’s Birthday problem. For a long time, Lincoln’s birthday was just Lincoln’s birthday and it fell wherever it fell, and the people who wanted to celebrate it in the traditional fashion — the same fashion as we celebrate every holiday, by getting drunk, only in this case with a tall hat on — were all over the place, celebrating on the day, on the weekend before, on the weekend after… it was a mess. But then the government stepped in and invented a little slice of genius called Lincoln’s Birthday (Observed). It was always on a Monday, creating a three-day weekend and eliminating any confusion about when exactly one was supposed to get drunk.
So in Obama’s second term I would like to see him lay down the law and introduce Halloween (Observed). If the 31st happens to be a Friday or Saturday, great. Proceed as normal. If not, the Saturday prior to the 31st will be designated Halloween Observed. Anyone caught in costume on any other day will be mercilessly mocked as a crazed narcissist and forced to wear a storebought (cringe) pimp costume.
Now look: I love Halloween. Depending on what I had for breakfast, it’s either my favorite or second-favorite holiday (also a big fan of Thanksgiving). Which is why I hate to see it cheapened this way. What would you rather see: one huge, kickass Halloween with everyone in well-constructed, thought-out costumes, or a bunch of half-assed Halloweens with a bunch of half-assed costumes?