For the month of October “Listing Toward Forty” Has become “Listing Toward Halloween” and features a variety of Halloween posts including many by guest authors. This post is by John-Paul Nickel.
It’s an odd thing: my wife is a costume designer, but she hates Halloween. Her day job is designing costumes for other people; she hates the idea of dressing herself up. (Her favorite holiday is New Year’s. She loves fireworks.) So, every year it takes a little prodding on my part to get her to dress up and go out. Begrudgingly, she does it because it’s my favorite holiday.
Halloween is one of those days that you either get or you don’t. I feel bad for people who don’t get it… or just think of it as a kid’s holiday. It’s often overlooked, but one of the great things about Halloween is that it’s NOT a Hallmark holiday. Sure, you see Halloween cards in the drugstore. But who buys them?
Does your mom get pissed at you for forgetting to call her on Halloween? Do you run yourself ragged trying to find someone the right Halloween gift? Of course not. There are no gifts involved. There’s no forced sentimentality. It’s a no obligation holiday.
Yeah, you’re kinda obligated to dress up. But you can always do a cheap, quickie costume. And sometimes those turn out to be the most creative. I had a friend who dressed all in black one year. Then she pinned socks, handkerchiefs and other random clothes to herself. She was going as Static Cling. When I’m really in a bind for a costume, I just throw on my blinking bowtie (yes, I always have one on reserve) and tell people I’m the Blair Witch. That one’s a bit of a thinker now. But it killed back in 1999.
My dated pop-culture references notwithstanding, my point is this: you can put next to no effort into a costume and still go out and have fun.
But the very best thing about Halloween? It’s that it makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. That’s why we don’t do cards, or gifts, or make sure mom knows we’re thinking about her on this “special” day: if we treated this like an important—or dare I say real—holiday, we’d start to realize just how, well, stupid it is. And we don’t want to admit to ourselves that Halloween is nutso. All it really is one day a year to be creative and express ourselves without judgment. And while that might be great for us mentally, we could eliminate Halloween and nothing would happen. The world would keep spinning; the economy would be fine.
You could make the argument that we spend 364 days a year having to be “normal” and that as a society we actually need one night a year to escape from reality. But I think it’s more fun to think that one night a year America’s collective sanity goes out the window just for the hell of it. Halloween is this sort of unspoken, cultural pact we’ve made with ourselves. And the pact states that we get one night a year to go bug nuts crazy. We transform the world into something unreal—and, let’s be honest, kinda dumb—and as a society we just say “go for it!”
There’s no other time of the year where adults can get away with the silly crap we do on October 31st. Wanna be a super hero? Sure! Wanna show some skin? Please, do! Wanna gorge yourself on candy and booze? Why the hell not? (And those are just some PG options.)
We go out and party. Or walk the streets and people-watch because the world has gone completely nuts. And the next morning we go back to our humdrum lives like nothing ever happened. The only evidence that the world turned into Wonderland for the night might be a hangover. Or our cheap costume crumpled up on the floor.
When you boil it down, my love of Halloween springs from the fact that my favorite genre of film is the One Wacky Night Movie. And if there was ever a night where it feels like you can step outside and end up having an all-night, madcap adventure, it’s Halloween.
And now that I finally live in a big city, that’s never been truer. I heard somewhere that Halloween is the heaviest traffic night of the year in Hollywood. I don’t doubt it. If you live in a big city, you can always find something to see or do on Halloween. You don’t have to get tickets to the hottest club. If you’re in a big city like LA, you can just walk around Hollywood and people watch. And sooner or later you’ll find someplace that’s not charging a cover.
I actually like to go out and just wander more than I like going to something like a friend’s party. Friend’s parties are safe. But when you’re out wandering or at a bar with strangers, the bizarreness of the whole endeavor really sinks in. And honestly, is there a better night of the year to people-watch? Even if you don’t want to drink or party, you can still watch this case of accepted, social insanity unfold for the evening.
And the price of admission? All you have to do is throw on any kind of costume and you’re allowed into the madhouse with the rest of us.
So, if you’re on the fence about whether or not to go out this year, remember this: you only get only get one night a year to throw on a blinking bowtie and have people tell you how awesome it is. Why would you want to miss that?
John-Paul Nickel lives a double life in sunny Los Angeles. By day he’s a writer for the Syfy’s Network’s WAREHOUSE 13. (The series comes to an end next summer and JP was lucky enough to be able to write the series finale.) By night, he’s an actor for the internet’s fastest growing sketch comedy troupe SMBC Theater. He can be found on Twitter at @JP_Nickel but be warned: all he talks about is his wife and his job.
All Halloween posts from this series can be found here.
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