Those of you who have been reading my column for years know how much I dislike Halloween. For some reason, I have never enjoyed that holiday. I know how much the little ones love getting dressed up, traipsing through the neighborhood, and coming home with a Jack O'Lantern full of candy. I, on the other hand, can't wait for November 1st to come.
Perhaps my dislike of Halloween started when I was young. I never liked candy. The only kind I eat is black jellybeans. I enjoyed making costumes but didn't like wearing one. I recall one Halloween when I made a robot costume out of boxes. I taped them together, painted them black and attached my mother's strainer funnel to the top of the head. I cut eyeholes and put silver paint around the edges. It was a work of art.
However, when I went to the Halloween dance and tried to dance or sit or even walk normally, the costume was a nightmare. I ended up taking it off early in the evening and not participating in the contest for "Best Costume." I envied the unimaginative kids who cut holes in their Mom's sheet and came as ghosts. At least they could dance, sit, and walk.
I believe that much of my dislike of Halloween springs from the knowledge of the 'mask' syndrome. As a school principal, I attended a national conference and sat through a lecture about "Discovering the Face Behind the Mask." The expert speaker told the gathering of principals that kids would act out negatively when they had the protection of anonymity.
Isn't that a "duh" moment? Most would-be miscreants try and hide their identity somehow. Bank robbers wear ski masks. Purse-snatchers wear silk stockings over their heads. Even the Unabomber wore a hooded sweat shirt pulled tight around big sunglasses. And, when delinquents are part of a large crowd (where they become hard to spot individually), they can let loose in nasty ways. Soaped-up car windows on Halloween are usually done by a gang of marauders, not a single individual.
In the 'good old days,' kids on our street came to the door on Halloween and were expected to perform something before getting their 'treat.' After that, the host tried to guess who was behind the mask based on the voice, size, or demeanor. It was fun, because we knew everyone on the street. Nowadays, lots of strangers come to the door for candy handouts. They don't expect to be asked to perform a song or trick.
Putting a mask over your face gives you the feeling of anonymity required for bad behavior. Wearing a costume makes that poor behavior even easier. Folks who enjoy hiding their faces from the rest of us scare me.
Do you remember the Simon and Garfunkel song "Eleanor Rigby?" Part of the lyrics goes like this: "Eleanor Rigby lives in a dream – waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?"
I suppose that all of us wear a mask sometimes. We smile while our hearts are breaking. We pretend to enjoy something that makes us uncomfortable. We convince ourselves that putting on a mask is the only way to deal with certain life issues.
Halloween – for most people – is a child's flight of fantasy and a great way to get free candy. I wish I felt that way.
Contact Dr. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the newspaper