31 Oktober 2006

All Hallow's Eve, eh?

Count Halloween among the growing list of things that I used to enjoy but in my encroaching fuddy-duddyism have started to disdain, if not outright loathe. On two fronts, at that, and honestly I cannot even determine which is worse: a) the fundamentalist dimwits who try to ban or sanitize it as some sort of threat to Christianity; b) its commercialization and co-option by adults.

Regarding the first gripe: as Episcopal theologian Joseph Fletcher once pointed out, Jesus Christ said nothing--absolutely nothing--about abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, contraception, and so on. By the same token, nowhere in the Gospels is there a discussion about children dressing up in silly costumes and cadging for candy or sweets. Given that Jesus wanted to "suffer the little children" to come unto Him, He probably would have approved of giving the tots some attention and a bit of fun at the expense of their parents' right to spend another evening in front of the tube. As for the pagan element, well, leaving aside the enormous historical fact that the Church has always adopted and syncretized pagan beliefs, get real: if your faith is so flimsy that it can't withstand a plastic witch or Batman outfit, you've got bigger things to worry about.

The second thing that irritates me at Halloween time, in fact, has to do precisely with children, namely, that it is a children's holiday, for cryin' out loud. When I was a kid, in the Seventies, Halloween meant a day or two of decorations, a few specials on television, and a few hours trick-or-treating and perhaps TP'ing (festooning, perhaps) the dorky kid's house. The role of the adult was confined to accompanying the kid, sifting through the candy to toss out suspicious-looking pieces, and making sure the little swine, er, tykes, didn't eat the entire batch all in one sitting.

But, naturally, these days the narcissistic Baby Boomers have ruined Halloween just like everything else they get their grubby mitts on. It's now commercialized, with decorations and advertising beginning weeks ahead of time (that's about when the Christmas (not "holiday") season would begin until a generation ago--certainly no earlier than the weekend after Thanksgiving). Worst of all, adults have snatched Halloween, a minor and harmless children's activity, and appropriated it for themselves, indulging their egos in the process. So now you see adults going to work in costume, etc. It's no less pathetic than when that dorky 10-year-old puts on a minature business suit and totes around a briefcase, trying to look grown up. I suppose one could argue that having a male senior law partner emerge from the 48th floor elevator in a dominatrix' outfit is no less inappropriate than simply holding a costume ball (actually I'm not too keen on those either, but never mind); however, at least the costume-wearing in the latter is an event, distinctly separated from everyday life. Go ahead, brand me stuffy, but it does not boost my faith in my doctor, lawyer, or waiter to see them indulging their inner child when I am relying on his or her services. I must confess that one time in my adult life, nine years ago, I did wear a Halloween costume, albeit only for going out in the evening, not parading about during the day. Looking back, I think it was stupid of me. We have selfishly usurped Halloween from its rightful owners, namely, children.