It should be socially acceptable for teens to go trick-or-treating
October 31 is an important date in high school. We stay up late and eat way too much junk food and call all our friends and scare ourselves out of our minds––because it’s the day college apps are due, of course. Or it’s the day the essay is due, or the group project or one of hundreds of major assignments we panic trying to complete. Nothing else is really going on. October 31 is just another work day, and––hey, why is some miniature-sized Batman banging on the front door? Will it go away if I give it candy?
It’s a sad truth that Halloween isn’t what it used to be, and the only reason for it is that we’ve grown up. Everyone expects us to move on from this annual children’s candy rush, but hey, teenagers want to trick-or-treat too! We all used to love it as kids. Some of us still love it. There’s a thrill in the air, a sense of unreality and rebellion when you go trick-or-treating. Dressing up in costumes, treading moonlit sidewalks, exchanging whispers about which houses might have the best candy…there is an art to trick-or-treating and a mysterious, attractive air around it that we barely get to explore. And I think it’s ridiculously sad how the process of growing up involves manipulating children into giving up their own enjoyment for the sake of maturity.
When we’re young and excited and in costume, parents hold our hands and insist that we remain within their eyesight. But by the time our ages have earned us phones and freedom, they’ve also shot us past the period of our lives where adults will tolerate us marching up to their doors to demand junk food. It’s seen as immature and unnecessary. And this constantly perpetuated idea that leaving things behind is necessary to grow up creates so much shame.
No one wants to be the tallest person in the trick-or-treating group. No one wants to choose the biggest size in the children’s section and hope the costume fits. It quickly devolves into a vicious cycle: we high schoolers resign ourselves to staying home on Halloween night because we’re too embarrassed to go trick-or-treating, and then it becomes the norm, which makes us reluctant to go out and have our fun in defiance of societal expectations, and so we stay home and it goes on and on and on.
It is also true that some of us stay home simply because we have too much homework––but wait a minute––why is that? High school teachers could absolutely work around not being able to assign homework the day of Halloween. They don’t, however, because the expectation that we will be curled up at home stands. Everyone assumes that we don’t want to go trick-or-treating; rarely is it recognized that the reason for our apathy is the societal requirement of having outgrown the tradition. Soon teenagers call it cool to be able to say, “I can’t go trick-or-treating; I have too much homework.” There’s pressure to make good use of time we would otherwise be spending having fun. We’ve been taught that enjoyment is not productive, and that is a complete lie that only further disconnects us from the activities we should be allowed to enjoy.
Then there are some teens who do get to take to the streets.
Those of us with siblings are forced to throw on a costume and a fake smile so we can watch the younger children hoard candy. Or even worse, some determined teens finish their homework sometime in the evening and then begin their trick-or-treating, only to discover that adults have no patience for older kids the darker the sky becomes. There’s no more candy left for us; the Halloween merriment has died down; everyone else wants to go to sleep, the light displays are taken down, and our trick-or-treating experience is over before it has even begun. It’s disheartening and humiliating, and next year we will conform and stay home.
Society is built around this prejudice of treating teenagers like children until they want to engage in children’s traditions. The whole system works in a way that continually reinforces its rules, and simply put, it is dramatically unfair. Trick-or-treating does not hurt anyone. It does not dismantle the total and absolute hierarchy of age in society.
It simply allows children with ages in the double digits, children who have gone through more than they thought possible and realized that relaxation is sometimes more important than schoolwork, children who are constantly stressed by the need to find their independence and identity, to dress up in something ridiculous and make adults give them free candy.
Trick-or-treating is the experience of the year, and we deserve to be a bigger part of it than babysitting or passing out candy we wish we were eating. Besides, between us and the six-year-olds, it’s pretty clear who needs the sugar rush more.
Caption: Everyone except teenagers walks around town filling up their trick-or-treating buckets with candy.