Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Micro-Managed Trick or Treat

The concept of Halloween has changed a lot in 20 years. In the 1980s, my friends and I started the day's festivities about 6 AM as we dressed in our costumes for school. In those days my favorite character was your standard Dracula. My version of ole' Drac came complete with white face paint, blood dripping from the corners of my mouth, plastic fangs and a black valour cape. If I was lucky, I could find a knotted branch from a crape myrtle tree to use as a magic staff.
The school day was pretty much a throw away on Halloween; filled with parties, costume contests and dramatic improv. (that's why I dressed as Drac because I got to, well, ya know, suck on the girls' necks!) I also remember a particular teacher, Mrs. Stutgert -- a genuine witchy woman -- but on this one day every year, she came dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with her gray wire-haired sheepdog, Toto.
Following the bus ride home from school, the treating started. We'd knock every door all the way home and have a half-filled pillow case by 3:15 pm!
By 5, we were back out and hitting up every door within a 3-block radius. To finish off the night, we begged our parents to take us to what we assumed were "rich" neighborhoods, because those people gave away better candy; or so we figured. That usually took us to about 9pm. The treat gathering ended and we headed for home, but not before stopping at McDonald's for a free swirl cone.
Today, the entire process is controlled by governments, school boards and homeowners associations. Tricks and treats have been regulated to the point where it is nearly impossible to pick up the bounty of candy a kid desires: plus, it just ain't any fun anymore.
First off, my boys (they're in Junior High) are not allowed to wear costumes to school on Halloween. The only opportunity they had to share their creativity was at a Fall dance 2 weeks ago. My boys didn't dress up for it though, and good thing, because neither did any of the other kids ... it was just too early. What's more, the school sent home a list of "prohibited" costume-wear.
--no masks
--no full face paint
--no "all black" clothing
--no trench coats or cloaks
--no blood or perceived violent characterizations

So, basically, Mrs. Stutgert's Dorothy would be approved, but the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow are all off limits!
And then, us parents have to look in the paper to find out what times the town has approved the actual "Trick or Treat."
Funny, this year it's from 4-6 PM ... I work until 5 and have a 45-minute commute. It figures that government workers would be able to start their trick or treating at 4PM. Plus, it's not even dark at that time, what the heck?
Finally, to top it off, a list was published of certain subdivisions that were "highly discouraging" trick or treaters from neighborhoods outside of the town.
I told the kids that this year, we're foregoing the candy gathering; it's just too restrictive. Instead, we're going to toilet-paper the mayor's house ... no one has outlawed that yet!