Around this time last year, I was crouched in the living room of my house with the lights off and the telly on mute. Noises in the street outside were making me anxious. Every now and then, there were scuffles and thumps on the door.
Yes, it was that time of year: Halloween, when all the horrid kiddies in the street threatened to sing songs or tell jokes in return for sweeties. One year I opened the door and stood there with my arms folded, judging their performance: “Nah, not good enough. Do another one. Nope, that was rubbish. Go away“. What better way to learn that life isn’t handed to you on a plate than when you’re seven years old and dressed in something that resembles a monkey wearing a parka (“And tell your mum she’s rubbish at costumes“).
If you insist on opening the door this Halloween, my advice would be to psych them out. In answer to the squeaky chorus of “Trick or treat!“, always ask for a trick. Especially if it’s a group of little girls. They won’t have a clue. Then close the door firmly, but not before slowly shaking your head in disappointment and watching their crestfallen little faces.
This year I will escape the harassment at the door because I live in a first floor apartment and have disabled the buzzer. But it’s unavoidable. Halloween isn’t just celebrated here, it’s feverishly embraced, like a blow fly that’s just spotted an open wound.
According to the National Retail Federation, this year Americans will spend on average $72 celebrating Halloween, with a predicted total spend of $6.9 billion. That’s slightly more than the GDP of Rwanda. I’d like to know the equivalent spend on alcohol for parents coping with sugar-crazed, screaming kiddie-monsters.
Here in DC, Halloween started a week ago. Leering pumpkins balance on apartment steps alongside home-made scarecrows and ghosts; pumpkin-shaped lanterns hang in gardens, and skeletons and bats flutter in shop windows. There’s so much orange about, you’d think the Dutch had returned to have another go. In reality, Halloween has a greater significance; it signals the onset of autumn, the colour of the pumpkins reflecting the turning leaves.
Dressing up to mark this autumn festival isn’t just for children or indeed animals (pet owners in the US are expected to spend $300 million this year on costumes); yesterday I joined thousands of spectators to watch the annual Tuesday-before-Halloween ‘DC High Heel Drag Queen Race’ on 17th Street, where runners must wear at least 2 inch heels to be eligible to participate.
This event more than any other demonstrates how diverse DC is, and dispels the view that DC is a boring, political city. There’s nothing funnier than watching grown men running in heels, particularly when they’re dressed in flamboyant costumes and wearing wigs and full make-up. In between screeching with laughter at the absurdity of it all, I could see women in the crowd nod knowingly as another pair of stilettos stumbled past, as if to say “Yeah, that’s right, feel the pain. FEEL THE PAIN“.
My favourite runners were the bearded Black Swan ballerinas and the Pan Am girls, complete with airline trolley. I shouted “chicken or beef?“
Happy Halloween to all.