By Anne T. Donahue
Halloween is here, and unless you are a time traveler, there’s nothing you can do about it. Children will inevitably come to your home, and you will award them with candy for wearing a costume or for even venturing out into the terrible weather for the chance that someone, somewhere is giving out full size candy bars. And this is as it should be.
Trick-or-treating as a kid, I remember taking stock of certain homes and the people who lived in them. I’d mentally file away who gave out cans of pop (literal heroes), the “good” chocolate (that isn’t for me to post here), tiny bags full of miscellaneous offerings (something I wholeheartedly believe in), chips (meh), and one lollipop (are you fucking kidding me). I’d vow that as a grown-up, I’d never force children or tweens or teens to regret swinging by my humble abode, and while I live in an apartment where I can’t control a blessed thing, I do live close to my parents whose house I now consider my responsibility.
Unfortunately, my mom’s sick with some type of stomach bug (gross) and it’s going to rain really hard tonight and I actually don’t feel well myself (if it’s the same bug, I will be livid), so the Donahue family homestead will be closed for business. Which is why I will pass these lessons to you to ensure that your Halloween experience would do your childhood selves proud.
Don’t be weird about ages
“How old are you?” is such a bummer question to ask, particularly because even if you’re faced with two teens on your doorstep, you’ve just immediately reminded them that the joy of childhood is fleeting and they’ll soon be doomed to be just like us. (Cynical, joyless, inherently very sad.) So I like to handle teens at the door in the following way:
TEENS: “Trick or treat!”
ME (giving them candy): “Here you go!”
And that’s all there is to it. I recently tweeted about this and someone got all high and mighty, claiming they’re not about to award anybody anything if they’re not wearing a costume. And guess what: jog on. Are you going to walk up to someone’s home and ask for free food? No. So I award points for bravery. Also, one year I wore a large hoodie and told everyone I was Kurt Cobain, which made no sense. No one challenged me, and I consider my neighborhood blessed because of it.
Don’t pretend you expect a trick
What’s wrong with you? Just fork over the Nerds.
Answer the door if your lights are on and the candy is in the window
They can see it. They can see the candy. We all have to use the bathroom and I get it, but if that’s what’s happening to you, shut off your light, do what you must, and then return to your post. One year, my friends and I were dying of thirst and saw a case of Pepsi by the door, suggesting we were about to be reprieved of dehydration. Instead, someone – after we knocked for 45 minutes – trounced down the stairs, handed us one pack of Rockets each and left us suddenly aware that we might die. This isn’t super-related to my point, but it’s a memory that’s been burned into my brain. Be normal, everybody. I had been mentally prepped to chug said Pepsi while running from house to house.
Don’t just give out one candy
What in the actual fuck is going on? “But Anne! It’s expensive!” Is it? IS IT? Is giving two tiny Snickers going to make or break your fiscal year? Which, by the way, is a question I am allowed to ask because I grew up poor, have been personally poor, and am still in more debt that I can grapple with but who cares because: it’s goddamn candy. Candy! You’re not handing over keys to a Tesla. What’s the worst that can happen? You run out early and have to shut the lights off? Okay! Good night, and good luck. The world is on fire, a few packets of Sour Patch Kids can be your contribution to making it all seem less terrible for a second.
Do engage with trick-or-treaters like they’re people
Remember when you’d walk up to a house and the person there would be either inexplicably rude or talk to you like you were six? Me too, and I haven’t forgotten their faces. So my last suggestion is this: just be a normal person. Just talk to trick-or-treaters like they’re normal people. Say you like their costume. Ask what they’re dressed up as and then get psyched as hell about whatever answer they give you. Acknowledge the parents and maybe give them candy too. (I don’t know.) Ask if it’s “busy out there.” Hold the bowl of candy and tell them to grab as much as they want when you realize you’ve only had two kids in two hours and the night ahead looks bleak. Be the goddamn adult you wanted to see when you were conquering neighborhoods, pretending it didn’t bother you that your paper costume was melting in the rain.
And also, if possible, do that thing where it looks like there’s a dummy or whatever on the lawn and it turns out to be an actual human. It scared the shit out of me every time growing up, but deep down I loved it because that is what Halloween is all about.