Sunday, October 28, 2012

Humor Me: When are you too old to trick or treat?

As another Halloween approaches, it's time to address a common question surrounding trick-or-treating:

"Does anyone really eat candy corn, or is it like a Christmas fruitcake that gets re-gifted each year?"

Actually, I don't have an answer for that. So let's move on to another common question, which is being asked this week by a large crop of potential trick-or-treaters who no longer fit into a Dora the Explorer costume.

"Am I too old to trick-or-treat?"

Relax, spooky mooches. You can never be too old.

You just need to be a kid at heart, have the right Halloween spirit and find a costume that completely covers you as you crouch down and say "trick or treat!" in a high voice. And, oh yeah, remember to take off your wedding ring. That's a dead giveaway.

Honestly, I don't know when a person is too old to trick-or-treat. And I would never turn away anyone willing to dress up and ring doorbells on the annual night of permissible panhandling. Well, almost anyone. I don't want to be issuing a challenge.

But I'm open to all trick-or-treaters. Still, when I open the door to someone nearly as tall as I am, it does feel a little awkward. And it seems like the teenage trick-or-treater feels the same way. He stands there, holding a pillowcase open, trying not to look me in the eye.

"Trick or treat," he says, with little enthusiasm. His voice cracks, a sign of the puberty that's robbing him of his trick-or-treating innocence. For Brady Bunch in-the-knows, imagine Peter saying "trick or treat" in the episode where his voice changes and he nearly ruins the Brady kids' surefire hit record. For those who have no idea what that previous sentence meant, I promise the next one will be better.

So the teenage trick-or-treater is at my door. His costume?

A dark coat. That's pretty much it. And some stage blood thrown on his face, which draws more attention to the wispy mustache that teenage boys refuse to shave because it makes them feel older. Some teenage trick-or-treaters are more elaborate with their costumes, but I always get the same feeling. The feeling that "trick or treat" is more of a threat than a plea:

Look, sir, I know I'm like 15 years old and I'm not as cute as the Bob the Builder or the adorable witch walking behind me. But what I lack in cuteness I make up for in ability to accidentally trip over one of your sprinkler heads and break it. Or snap some branches off your tree. Accidentally.

So I hand over a candy bar. I give him a few, actually, because they are "fun size" -- the name for tiny, one-bite candy bars. (An inappropriate name unless the regular bars are called mind-blowing euphoria size.)

The teenage trick-or-treater smiles weakly and says "thanks." Then he's off to the next house, brushing past a Winnie the Pooh and a 3-foot dinosaur that keeps tripping on its tail.

I can't remember if I was a teenage trick-or-treater. But I probably was, especially considering how much I liked candy as a kid. I ate chocolate until my stomach hurt and Pixy Stix until the dust came out of my nose. I also once got sick after eating Dots, and I still feel nauseous whenever I see a box of them.

And I remember it was hard to give up trick-or-treating. There was no more free candy, for one thing, but it was also like giving up a part of my childhood. Admitting that I was no longer fun size.

Yes, it's tough being a teenager. You're in the most awkward stage of your life, caught between childhood and adulthood, and you're not really accepted in either category. And here comes Halloween, your chance to redirect some candy money toward a larger-size tube of extra-strength Clearasil.

It's a tough decision.

But teenagers, I'll have an open heart -- and door -- for you on Halloween night. Come on by, ring the doorbell, and I promise that I won't ask for an explanation of your costume.

Just mumble "trick or treat," hold out your pillowcase and you'll get the goods.

I have plenty of candy corn to go around.

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