This holiday always reminds me of how square I am. There was a time when this made me feel sad, like in 1990 when I expressed reluctance to push on with trick-or-treating on a cold pre climate-crisis night and my friends told me to live a little, I mean they actually used that phrase, we were nine and they said: live a little, Jean! and I was like, huh. I had just recently moved to the neighborhood, and changed elementary schools, and of course their exhortations — learned, I presume, from some mom telling one of her friends to have a second glass of wine on a school night — sent me into a panic that I would be rejected by my new under-10 pals for failing to live.
I pushed on through the chill, wearing my winter coat over my costume which that year was — if I recall correctly — ’glamorous witch’. Let me tell you I felt so relieved when we got home and I could dump my candy out on the family room carpet and know that I would not have to plod the streets for sugar for another whole year.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked making costumes, enjoyed coming up with a creative vision and manifesting it with a trip to JoAnn’s Fabrics, but the actual walking around in the cold made me quite anxious. What a relief it was when I hit my teen years and could beg off a costume because I was too old; what a horror it was when the tide turned and adults started wearing costumes, too.
Fast forward twenty years from that fateful evening of trick-or-treating. The wisdom of my years had made me confident about who I am. I was writing copy for a seasonal campaign and my creative director sat me down and took issue with the fact that I had spelled Hallowe’en with an apostrophe.
Well, I said, that’s correct, it does have an apostrophe, it’s an abbreviation for ‘evening’. I can show it to you in the dictionary.
You’re uptight! the creative director said, not joking. I crumpled: I was new at the job, I wasn’t used to this kind of criticism, but worst of al l this assessment was correct. I was uptight! And it was being leveled at me as if it was a bad thing. I guess some people like dressing up because it gives them an opportunity to be someone else? I don’t have a problem with that, with them. But at this stage of my life I just like to be me.
I’m still raising funds for three weeks from now, when I run a short distance to combat colon cancer.