This was originally going to be printed in an e-publication but because of various mundane reasons it didn’t happen so I thought I’d share it all with you today as a little Halloween gift.
When my son and I walked inside our local Halloween Super Store we were greeted by a cackling skeleton with flashing red eyes. My son grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the spectacle as quickly as possible.
“Remember,” I said, “it’s not real.”
My son looked up at me with an expression that told me he was in no way reassured. “It’s scary,” he said emphatically.
I shrugged. “Lots of people like to be scared by pretend villains on Halloween.”
“Like when that lady told you she got scared while reading the park scene in your book,” he said slowly.
“That’s right.” I gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder. “That lady enjoyed being scared by that scene.”
“Are adults scared of the pretend villains on Halloween?”
I hesitated as I examined some “instant scar” make-up. “Most aren’t…grown-ups are scared of different kinds of villains.”
“Like the ones in your books?”
“Tell me about the villains in your books.”
“Well, in the next book there’s a man who is unfaithful to his wife and emotionally detached from his child.”
My son shook his head vehemently. “No one dresses up as one of those on Halloween.”
Of course I laughed but I also felt that he had a point. On Halloween we go to great lengths to recreate all of our childhood nightmares. Of course there are a few of us who take the opportunity to dress up as our favorite rock star or as a dominatrix nurse (see below post) but zombie, mummy and werewolf costumes have enjoyed continued popularity for well over half a century. But no one ever tries to look like something really scary. I mean has anyone ever attended a Halloween party where people were disguised as IRS employees and abusive boyfriends with drinking problems?
Let’s face it, Halloween is about giving our kids nightmares but most of us aren’t really interested in scaring grown-ups. Otherwise we’d be dressing up as Borders executives and trick-or-treating at independent bookstores.
Perhaps we make Halloween about childhood fears because unlike children most adults are scared every day of the year and we don’t want the personification of those fears knocking at our door begging for candy.
Of course we manage our fear better than our kids; we problem solve, compartmentalize and/or take Paxil. But managed or not the fear is there. Most kids experience fear like a rollercoaster. It’s scary but there’s a 99.9% chance that the ride will function properly and the whole thing will be over in a matter of minutes and (perhaps most importantly) no one will be the worse for wear. For adults facing our fears is like skydiving. Maybe we’ll have a safe landing but we can’t help but ponder the necessity of the agreement we signed saying we wouldn’t sue the company that gave us the parachute if fails to open.
So perhaps it’s better that we keep the adult villains between the covers of books that we can tuck away on shelves or confined inside two hour films. That way the things that scare us remain manageable (the way we like them). Besides after Halloween there’s Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas to deal with and if the family and economic obligations that accompany those holidays aren’t enough to scare the bejeezus out of you you’re made of tougher stuff than I am.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!
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