I did it.
Despite all best efforts to the contrary, I had a good time.
Prior, it had all the makings of another self-conscious meltdown. Another clock-watching, finger-tapping waiting-for-the-end holiday. I mean, I went as far into nerdom as to self-analyze my odd Halloween discomfort.
Here’s what I came up with:
1. The Cool Factor. All Hallows’ Eve enjoys a few distinct advantages over New Year’s Eve, including, but not limited to, dating back to a turn of the rhythmic pagan sense of time, rather than the Julian calendar’s equivalent of rolling over 100,000 miles in the Silverado. And candy.
To mask their natural absurdity, both function as cool barometers. Cool, with some degree of success, can set its own schedule. It can overdo Wednesday, work Thursday through the malaise and take the weekend off to garden. But not on New Year’s, or Halloween. Even the runts of the punctuality regiment have to show up for inspection, or doom themselves to the cultural shame of growing old too soon. Birthdays aren’t uniform; Mardi Gras is too remote. The last days of October and December join together to fulfill the need for adolescent panic about the prom.
Speaking of high school…
2. The Spirit Week factor. Nothing brings out peer pressure like grownups in fur and face paint, and nothing brings shame like an obvious 11th hour costume. Columbus Day fervor doesn’t assault the naked eye, but when you get wedged in the corner of the bar between Captain Jack Sparrow and Barf, who lost countless dollars and man-hours on their hairdo, you’ll feel the indignant eyes upon you. You haven’t just embarrassed yourself and your family. You’ve let down the Party. Easter is going to take the spirit week trophy this year, and it’s all your fault.
You’d think I’d fall for it. Booze, autumn, fancy clothes – these are a few of my favorite things. But the 15-year-old in my brain senses the wealth and needless dedication around me and quakes for not starting in July. I loathe nothing more than being underdressed.
Mired in self-effacement and long after Walgreen’s closing hours, I forged a breakthrough. I could scrounge up enough continuous items among my scant possessions to be somebody. An old-school newspaperman, to be exact. Sure, maybe it’s not the most creative, given my long flirtations with that mistress. But when I figured it out relief rushed over me, and that rush told me everything I needed to know about myself and October.
I wanted to belong, and just that. Perhaps this isn’t a forehead-slapping revelation to you, but let me finish. More than anything, I long to be extraordinary. The field of excellence isn’t really that important. Bowling over the room with charisma, scoring 30 goals for Liverpool, poring over awestruck reviews of my books – I’d take any one of them.
But on Halloween, all I wanted to be was totally innocuous. This revelry belongs not to me or to frat boys biding time until someone else starts a riot; its owners are the people who would wear the outrageous for one night with all the fiery passion they can muster.
I just wanted to go to their party.