Time for the usual argument over whether some Halloween decorations are too gruesome? Eh. It’s not that I have a big problem with rotting corpses hanging from trees, guts spilling out like a sack of stunned snakes, the upended faces snarling with blind mindless fury toward the living, hands reaching out to drag your soul to the depths of perdition. It’s just an odd thing to learn about your neighbor. October’s here! Now I can strew guts on my lawn! It seems like a lot of work, and would require maintenance — after a week without rain you’d have to get out the hose to glisten up the viscera, rearrange the intestines just so.
Seems odd. But so does the Zombie Pub Crawl, where people stand around looking like they flossed with a chain saw. In my childhood, Halloween decorations went up on Halloween, and consisted of a cardboard picture of a witch Scotch-taped to the window. It wasn’t scary. It was spooky. A kid knows fear, and knows all about the monsters in the closet and under the bed. A kid knows the thump in the attic, the dog’s alarm at something unseen in the corner. All the cartoony pictures were a way of putting a lid on the things you hoped weren’t really there, and letting you run around on the monster’s night and open your bag so someone could cast a handful of candy corn, like a farmer strewing seeds for the next crop of cavities.
I just don’t like the horribly realistic lawn decorations. If I wanted to see screaming mindless creatures trying to eat my brain, I’d move back to Washington, D.C.! Ha ha. Topical! Send my Will Rogers Award to the address below. But seriously, he said, intending nothing of the sort, a trip to the local costume store reaffirmed a trend you may have noticed over the years. There are two different Halloweens. One for little kids who want to be a princess or Darth Vader or something else they’d like to be, and one for adults who actually, for a moment, consider whether they want to be SEXY MUSTARD BOTTLE for a night.
There are many adult costumes in the SEXY genre, and someone actually marketed SEXY DONALD TRUMP. The man himself might point out that’s redundant and self-evident, and it really should be Sexy Donald Trump Who By The Way Was Voted Billionaire with Best Teeth last year by some dentists, and he loves dentists, they’re spectacular, he has the greatest respect for them, and it’s a disaster that we buy most of our dental floss from Indonesia, did you know that? And he’s had many dentists tell him this is a problem and he’ll do something about it.
There used to be SEXY METER MAID, but now that Minneapolis has those mid-block automated pay terminals, SEXY I.T. PERSON MONITORING CREDIT-CARD UPLINK NETWORKS probably won’t fill the absence.
Anyway: The store was one of those Halloween SuperMegaCenters that pop up in abandoned retail outlets. The costumes for me were boring. Kings and cowboys. Just about everything for women was naughty: Provocative Insurance Claims Adjuster. Alluring Medicaid Forms Processor.
What I didn’t find was “Sack O’ Organs” or Hallow-Fun Truncated Torso. The most grotesque item was a sticker you put over your microwave oven window, showing a bloody head on a plate. As you stand there looking at the hideous thing, a clerk drifts by and asks if you need help. You could whisper, “It’s like they took the pictures in my head and made them real,” and he’d laugh because, hey, Halloween. At least there aren’t warning labels. FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY. DO NOT ATTEMPT. FILLINGS IN ACTUAL SEVERED HEAD MAY DAMAGE MICROWAVE.
There must be warning labels on some of these things. The full-face mask without any eyeholes has to say, “DO NOT USE WHILE DRIVING,” but even then you know the person who wears it will not only drive, but text while doing so.
I left the store somewhat reassured: more dress-up and harmless fantasies than depressing visions of death and decay. But: you can buy the masks for all the popular slasher-movie icons, from Freddy Kruger to Jason to the “Scream” guy to forgotten symbols of horror, like Clippy from Windows, telling you an update was available. Not even Sexy Clippy. But there wasn’t much love for the classics. Frankenstein. Wolfman. No Mummy, but John Kerry masks, for heaven’s sake.
I am John Kerrrrry! Mwah! I vant to talk to you about international protocols to establish a schedule for the bilateral reductions of financial sannnnnnctions!
If you want to go to a party without wearing a costume, the standard option is to wear street clothes and pass it off as ironic. I’m dressed like someone who doesn’t dress up. That was funny for two minutes in 1983, but now you actually have a new angle. The website RoadSnacks recently undertook a survey of Minnesota’s Laziest Cities. I hope they included such factors as “I’ve been watching CNBC for three years because the remote ran out of batteries” or “My main form of exercise is yanking the handle on the recliner.” Top local lazybones town: Grand Rapids. So you can dress up in normal clothes and say you’re a Grand Rapidian. To which someone might say: Someone else has that costume, except he Skyped into the party. Which would be even lazier.
So you’ll have to pass yourself off as Sexy Grand Rapidian, I guess. Shirtless or short-skirt versions of your regular Target-run garb. That would be a brave move, but if we’ve learned anything about modern Halloween: It takes guts.