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Culture in Context

Why I don't like Halloween

If dressing up in costume was satisfying on its own, we'd all spend the evening doing homework in our dorms dressed as our favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. But it isn't. That’s why we have Halloween — so we can dress up in costumes and have everyone else appreciate them.

And that’s why I don’t like Halloween.

I mean, I’m not morally opposed to Halloween. I know a certain segment of the population at Biola probably is (re: homeschoolers), but not me. Maybe dressing up as the slutty variant of some woodland creature is distasteful, but most of us just use it to pay tribute to whatever pop culture icons we enjoy. And that’s OK.

But what I don’t like about Halloween is that it’s not really for you. It’s for everyone else.

This may come as a shock to you folks, but I have a tendency to overthink things.

So imagine my surprise when my good buddy and blog co-host Mack Hayden invited me over to his place for a Halloween party on Saturday, and I found myself wracking my brain about a costume.

Thus begins what I like to call the Halloween meta-game. It goes a little bit like this:

Oh crap. It’s Friday night and Mack’s party is tomorrow. I haven’t even come up with a costume yet. Hmmm ... well, I guess my fiancee thinks couples’ costumes are fun. What do I like? Well, Pam and Jim from The Office are kinda similar to us. I mean, we work at an office. And we’re the token couple. But, well, The Office is kind of old. I guess that makes me lame. Oh, I could totally dress up as the Scout from Team Fortress 2! But then, this crowd doesn’t seem like much of a gaming group. I don’t think they’d know what I was. I’d have to explain it all night. That would suck. Hmmm. I could do something generic, like dress up as a Mormon! Nah. Somebody might take offense. Besides, I don’t have the time to make a bicycle out of cardboard tomorrow ...

And so it went in my head, ad infinitum.

Finally, my fiancee (your senior copy editor) and I finally settled, briefly, on going as Roger Sterling and Joan Harris from Mad Men. It was perfect. I could easily make the costume — just dye my hair white, wear a 3-piece suit and carry around a tumbler of watered-down Coke and a candy cigarette and I’m in. It’s a cool enough cultural reference, one that a majority of guests will get but not one so ubiquitous that it would offend any hipster sensibilities. Perfection. 

Then my fiancee balked. I don’t blame her. Girls have it 10 times worse! Here’s how I imagine that meta-game played out in her head.

Oh yeah, Joan from Mad Men! People know who she is, and Jeff kinda looks like Roger. It would be fun to dress up like Joan, I get a cool vintage dress out of the deal, so it’s a win-win! I’ve always wanted an excuse to dye my hair red ... but wait ... will they think that I’m claiming that I look like Christina Hendricks? I’m not that vain. But Jeff will be so bummed. Then again, I guess she is kind of a sex symbol. I don’t want them thinking I think of myself that way! Or maybe they’ll think I admire the character. I don’t. I just like the show! Gah!

We then debated and browsed the Internet for inspiration until the wee hours of Friday night. With nothing to show for it, we spent our Saturday evening at G Burger instead, waiting in line behind a German beer wench in sneakers.

I never like to do a thing just because of the way it’ll make other people think of me. And that’s why I’ve never been a big fan of All Hallows Eve: the meta-game. It would turn me from a free-thinking critic of culture into a masses-appeasing shill willing to fork out just to look like whatever appeals to the lowest common denominator. Or make the most obscure pop-culture reference.

I’ll counter that by making my own obscure pop-culture reference that sum up my feelings: 

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

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