Halloween. Oh, how I love it. I love the scary music (Bach Tocatta and Fugue, anyone?). I love the scary stories. I love that my neighbors have put up a coffin, and a hanged man, and a ghost in varying positions on their lawn. I love escaping into some other identity, feeling the spookiness of it all. Just for tonight.
I read this column last night, by Cary Tennis of Salon Magazine. Someone asked a question about a teenager who wanted to dress "slutty." I wish that hadn't been the question that prompted this answer. I love this answer for other reasons. There is a time and a place to talk about young women and how they value themselves, and what it means to them to show a lot of flesh. So, for that question, I wish this hadn't been the answer, and the closer he gets to that particular issue, the less comfortable I am. But this is the answer to my other Halloween questions, my adult Halloween questions. So I share it with you here.
Dude, it's Halloween.
People wear costumes. It's pretend. It's I Think That's My Boss in the Bustier and Garters Ween. It's Hallo Hookers and Sluts Live in the Hearts of All Righteous and True Women Ween.
Let us sing a song of Halloween. An ancient incantation. Here are words for us to sing.
It's time for all that's repressed to rise from its graveyard and flout its slutty self, for everything frightening to scare us, for everything attractive to fill us with desire, for everything hidden to be seen and shared, for everything strange to seem normal once again, for everything insane to be understood, for everything unbearable to be borne, for everything unhearable to be heard.
If any lines are going to be crossed, any untoward word said, any strange vision appear, any unthinkable thought be thought, any unbreakable rule be broken, any impossible fences be climbed, any clothes be shed, any roles be exchanged, any vows be suspended, any treaties be sealed, any enemies see themselves in each other, any false friends see their falseness, let it be done on Halloween.
It's a night to praise our ancestors burned for being witches. It's a night to bless our ancestors imprisoned for being anarchists and hung for being black and tortured for being gay and sneered at for being strange and blacklisted for being communist and shunned for being lame and shut in for being blind and cursed for being devilish and frozen out for being warm. It's a night for the fucked up and fucked over and fucked around to get back and get even and get over and get well.
It's just one night. For just one night we let go of our precious, obsessional hold. We let go of the ringing cash register and the heavy, silent till. We let go of the obsessional ledger written in that obsessional, speed-freak hand. We let go of the hourly wage recorded with a clunk and a clang on endless yellow timecards. We let go of the minuscule raise that we hardly even want. We let go of our computation and our consultation and the tiny hateful things we control the rest of the year.
We Protestants let go of our righteousness and virtue, we pagans let go of our orchestrated coolness, we Catholics let go of our crushed erotic saints and we Jews let go of whatever it is that binds us and drives us into the desert. Whatever it is that won't let us sing and dance, we let go on Halloween.
For one night we stop. We stop being executives. We stop being cops. We stop being artists and we stop being salesmen. We stop being editors and we stop being kings. We stop with the puffing and the huffy huff huff. We stop with the glad-handing and back-slapping and the promises of call-backs never to be made. We stop with the tickets and stop with the bail. We stop with the judging and sending to jail. We stop our bitching and moaning and at midnight we think about death.
Death. Here it comes in costume down the street. Death as the reaper. Death as the white sheet of insubstantial memory. Death as the bloody car crash victim. Death as the maggoty corpse risen from the grave. Death as the headless horseman riding his cliché. Death in all the forms we can imagine it in save the one form that resists all our fiercest imagining, the one form in which it forever hides its truth.
Snap out of it. Sit on the curb and try to sober up. Think about death, how soon it will come. Think about your breath: How many are left? Count your coupons and your change. How many are left?
Think about your feet. Think about the night. Think about the nurses and the schoolgirls. Think about your mother and the strap. Think about the birthing and the screams. Think about the screams in the graveyard and the maternity ward. Think about the bullshit, how you'd like to rise above it. Think about being 16. Think about facing George Bush from when you were 9 to when you are 16. Can you imagine what it's like to be 16 today? What hope is there? What dreams? What possibilities? Let her dress like a slut if she wants.
That's why we do it. That's why we pretend. The real thing we can't handle. The real thing is too much. So we pretend.
Dude, it's Halloween.