Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Are you too old for Halloween?

 By S. Derrickson Moore
What are you going to be this year?
Like most Baby Boomers, I once thought that I’d heard that Halloween query for the last time sometime back in the Jurassic Age — or the 1960s, which is roughly the same time period to some of the whippersnappers whose conversations I caught while visiting local costume shops for today’s SunLife story.
“There are all these old people in here. Why are they doing anything with Halloween costumes?” muttered a shopper who appeared to be in her late teens.
Though I’m not of the fan of ageism that may have motivated her protests, my natural inclination is to agree with her.
In fact, back in the day, she and her companion would also have been considered way too old to get involved in Halloween activities.
Maybe we were in too much of a hurry to grow up, but we Protest Generation kids were ready, maybe even eager, to abandon all the Halloween accoutrements — costumes, parties and trick-or-treating — long before high school. In fact, if we hit the streets beyond grades 6 or 7, it was probably because our parents ordered us to babysit our younger siblings on their candy quests.
I can’t recall any major Halloween festivities in high school or college. And the few adult costume occasions my contemporaries got involved in had nothing to do with Halloween. I remember concocting outfits for spring croquet tournaments, Octoberfests, medieval feasts and summer Renaissance festivals. Every now and again, there would be some ambitious adults who would transform a front yard into a Halloween attraction and maybe dress up in matching costumes to delight trick-or-treating kids.
But when did the big kids and adults take over Halloween itself?
Tour any costume emporium and it will be pretty obvious that at least half, and sometimes a lot more, of the Halloween acreage is not devoted to kids’ attire.
Some of it is very adult — you’ll find everything you need for sexy, or even stripper-caliber, incarnations of school girls, policewomen, bombshell Wizard of Oz characters and more. What isn’t aimed at titillation often has scatological or double entendre appeal that even today’s savvy tots would not likely understand.
Then there’s the gore. In the olden days, a few decades ago, most of it would have been seen as too frightening for tots or grade-schoolers. After a generation or two of hard-core horror and video games, the fear factor seems to have evolved into something else.
Various gory special effects at a local store that delighted a little girl elicited jump-caliber shock for her mom, and me, as I passed by.
It’s probably too late to put the living dead and vampires back in their crypts. But I still have wistful moments when I wish crowds at my door on Oct. 31 would be composed of pretty little princesses, teensy superheroes and cuddly animal costumes.
There will still be some of those, I’d guess, but we’ll also be seeing a lot of teens and parents, all in costume.
Carolyn Dye, who owns La Vieja in Mesilla, which stocks Borderland and historic costumes, thinks the Halloween celebrants may be trending downward in age again. The economy and crackdowns on drunk driving, she opined, have curtailed some of the wilder adult Halloween celebrations.
Maybe so. I don’t want to discourage anyone from creative self-expression. And it may be healthy to live out some, if not all, of our fantasies and experiment with new personalities.
Still, it would be nice to let the kids have their day and be its focus.
And luckily, since we live in Las Cruces, there will be many other opportunities to dress up and celebrate cultures living and dead. Días de los Muertos and the Renaissance ArtsFaire are right around the corner, the first weekend in November.
Choose your outfits. And bring the kids for an encore.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or 575-541-5450.

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