Holidays, like sports and most of pop culture, are to me readymade traditions that the unthinking masses engage in because they haven’t thought of anything better to do. Thus, an unending delightful consequence of being an adult is the ability to decide for myself what holidays I celebrate.
In true anarchist/atheist/selfish fashion, I celebrate no holidays except birthdays. The joys of doing my taxes on Thanksgiving or spending all of Christmas reading a novel are ceaseless wonders to me. Without mandated family gatherings or oppressive religious traditions (a luxuriously empty womb also means I don’t have to go through the motions of enjoying holidays in order not to deprive a kid), the lack of holidays has come to signify something truly worth celebrating: escaping from a chaotic, sad childhood into a hand-crafted, well-examined adult life.
I usually feel gleeful when my sweetheart and I are escaping the banality of what the rest of the country pretends are celebratory occasions, but for some reason Halloween always trips me up.
It seems innocuous enough: I like candy, I like outfits. It’s not a religious holiday, in fact it’s an explicitly irreligious one. But every year Halloween just about breaks my heart, so maybe it’s time to get to the bottom of why.
Maybe it’s because I can’t stand horror movies or anything gory. I can’t tolerate being scared by imaginary demons when the world terrifies the fuck out of me on a daily basis. If I let myself, I could have nightmares about the soap aisle in the supermarket. Staring too hard at a strip mall brings tears to my eyes if I don’t catch myself. I am just not cut out for this harsh American world. The idea of a holiday designed to scare people when everyday life is rife with serious terror is inexplicable to me. I know I have a horrid gift for finding the downside to everything Americans seem to enjoy—maybe people not possessed of this knack actually need to go searching for things to be scared of?
Maybe it’s all the feminist ridiculousness surrounding the holiday we’re all aware of—how it’s all about being a “sexy” whatever. Any excuse to parade our indoctrination into the patriarchy, right?
There is also the small matter of “costumes.” As someone who has the terrible habit of dying her hair unusual colors—these days demure, almost imperceptible blue streaks—a holiday where people give themselves “permission” to wear “crazy” hair styles and clothes is just patently ludicrous. I “dress up” every day (well, OK, I dress up 3-4 days of the week, depending on if I’m working a regular 8-hour day and might see another human, or a 15-hour day when wearing a true outfit and a bra is just stupid). People who wear Uggs and leggings every day of their unimaginably horrific lives then go crazy on Halloween seem breathtakingly sad. (On the other hand, people who wear amazing outfits every day and use Halloween as an excuse to wear extra amazing outfits are breathtakingly rad. I’m not one of those people, but I at least understand and like them.)
And then maybe it all comes down to that thing I have with festivals and fairs, again. And that fall is just a depressing season for a sun worshipper like me.
Or maybe it’s just that my sweetheart has been out of town forever and all I ever do is work and work and think about work and come home and read The New Yorker and drink wine with my cats and decline offers to hang out with good friends because being around anyone just reminds me how he’s not around and maybe if my bestest partner in crime was here we could go out on Halloween and enjoy the ridiculousness and I wouldn’t be here stewing in my own pickled juices and overthinking everything and could just let people go and have their fun without hating on everything, all the time, always, forever.
Ugh. I want this day to be over.