When I was eight years old, my parents and I went to California and did a tour of Disneyland, Universal Studios, and other amusement park-like facilities. I liked it alright, despite the inherent hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere of crowded funparks blown out by an unrelenting sun, but I found myself feeling particularly haunted by all the people dressed in costumes to look like famous characters. They wandered everywhere we went, apparently seeking companionship among the younger set.
I knew that I was supposed to like them, because I could see other kids my age grabbing onto the puffy legs of animals and royalty, but I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. It's not simply that I didn't like them, either. I resented their very presence. I was keenly aware of the individuals burrowed inside those stuffed suits, and it seemed a bizarre leap to me to be expected to treat them as though they were the characters the suits represented. Every time somebody pointed out an anthropomorphic duck or mouse, I would only glance at them sideways and hunch my shoulders a little in an attempt to look as disinterested as possible. My efforts had little effect, though. People still kept pointing out the stuffed suits to me day after day.
At Universal Studios, a hulking Frankenstein's monster lurched next to my father.
"Come here," my father said, motioning with his hand while Frankenstein's monster wrapped huge, green gloves around his neck and throttled him.
I would not do it. My father continued to wave me over, my mother implored, but my resolve was unswerving. I would not take one step closer to that monster. I wasn't afraid of him; I simply had no bond with the thing. I did not want it to touch me and then have to pretend like any of it mattered.
I wondered about the person inside the suit. It felt bad to pretend that he wasn't there.
"Next time, just pose and be nice. It's important to your father," my mother said as the monster lurched on to an older couple standing next to a stand of pink hibiscus.
In the cool dark of the rides, I could enjoy the monstrous facade of animatronic reality. I could let it entertain me. No one poked or prodded, no one pushed for reactions that were not mine, no one attempted to shoehorn our experience of the place into as unnatural a shape as the amusement parks' fake rocks and giant mushrooms.
My natural response when faced with social situations based around seemingly unnecessary constructs is to stiffen and avoid. I could find no natural inclination within me that would cause me to want to interact emotionally with a humanoid duck, and that others behaved as though this was expected of me irritated me beyond belief. I longed for the hotel room and the mini-fridge that felt so cool against my feet.
This is all to explain how I am when it comes to Halloween. I hate Halloween. Most costumes look and feel awkward and dangerous and grimy. I am as likely to want to touch you when you're in costume as I am to change a strange kids' diapers, and yet the expectations for our behaviour are such that the script is pretty much written before we even leave our houses. We will appraise everyone's costumes and tell them they look good whether they do or not. We will drink more than usual. There will be someone who skulks around anonymously in a smelly rubber mask, staunchly refusing to surrender their identity. The candy will be terrible and a tiny bit of foil will zing through one of my fillings. I will be irritated by the fact that I cannot interact with half my friends because I cannot properly make out there facial expressions.
The part of my brain that might understand the fun behind facepaint and shopping mall Santas and humanlike dogs eludes me, so harumph. I will have no Halloween candy for the neighbourhood children, and I will not wear a costume tomorrow. I will tell you that I like your costume, though, but that's because I'm kind of insecure and want you to keep liking me even if you freak me out and you look more like zombie roadkill is eating your head than a dead faerie.
Oh, wait. I did have fun one Halloween. Last year, I was standing outside this pub smoking a cigarette by myself, and this drunk guy dressed like a leprechaun wandered up and asked what I was. I looked at my short hair, black turtleneck, wool overcoat, and men's dress shoes reflected in the pub's windows and answered "lesbian spy". I wasn't dressed as a lesbian spy, but pulling that out of the ether was a stroke of genius, because I spent the rest of the night pretending I was under cover, which meant not talking to a lot of people and making no reference to my costume whatsoever. It was awesome.
One round of lesbian-spyness does not make up for the inherent lameness of the day, though. Halloween, an unnecessary attack against my finer social sensibilities that adds insult to injury by being littered with bad costumes and third-rate candy, can officially suck it.