Often, we can see how askew our norms are, just by taking a step or two back from them.
Today’s case in point is how all over America, adults are trying to dispose of the floods of candy that came into their house for Halloween, either cadged by their kids last night at their neighbors’ doors, or perhaps because fewer than expected of their neighbors’ kids came cadging at theirs.
At our house, we’re doubly flooded. Even though our “plan” was for wife and son to rove the neighborhood while I pulled the shades and turned off the outside lights, we still made a last-minute run to the store “just in case.” We don’t typically bring that stuff into the house, but hey, it’s Halloween.
And, of course, we have the boy’s spoils. Our developing practice — he just turned 4, although it was his third celebration; he missed only the Halloween that came on his third day of life — is to let him have a small proportion, to be doled out one piece a day. We bribe him to surrender the rest, in the form of a lie known as the “switch witch.” We “leave the bag of candy on the porch,” and in the morning, she has "replaced it" with a toy.
As bribes go, and as lies go, it’s a good tactic since it blunts the impact of having so much candy in our possession. It’s not among my proud moments to lie and to bribe, buy hey, it’s Halloween.
In my world, we’d remove the junk-food focus from Halloween, but to some, that makes me a curmudgeon, killjoy, or Communist. But let’s look at it: Yesterday, we bought a bunch of crap that we don’t usually buy, or bought a lot more than we usually do, and today we’re dumping it at the office or in the trash. Or worse, not dumping it.
The alternative is to let the kid keep it, depending on his self-control to prevent overload. Perhaps I’m an outlier, but here’s how I did it when I was a kid: Grab as much as I can get, eat it along the way, stash the rest of it under my bed for the few hours or days it would take to chew through it.
The only sure Halloween winners in this tradition are the candy makers and candy dealers, who sell much more product than they otherwise would. It’s offensive-yet-comical to see the drug stores, where we go for prescriptions and other health aids, put out their end-of-October displays in the dead of summer, in addition to the regular shelf space devoted to this crap. And of course, on this morning after, most of them have already switched over to red-and-green packaged versions of the same stuff.
So here’s the recap: We go to health stores to buy extra-large bags of health-negative concoctions to give them to our kids, whose welfare we are responsible for. Then we either lie and/or bribe them to get it away from them or let them eat it all so they can ingest a load of tasty but noxious crap, reinforcing a habit that, for many, lasts a lifetime.
Most of us, were we to peek in on some alien civilization doing the same thing, would question every part of the practice. But hey, it’s Halloween.