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Jeff Ward: Put the Beer Down, and Step Away From the Halloween Decorations! (Jeff's 5 Rules for Oct. 31)

What is wrong with you people? Please allow me to suggest five simple rules that will make all of our pumpkin fests more pleasurable.

As my lovely wife and I were enjoying a lovely evening stroll, I caught a bright orange glow out of the corner of my left eye. Turning to face the abomination, I sneered, “Would you look at that! Some overzealous Genevan already has their blanking Christmas  lights up! Why, there oughtta be a law ... ”

But before I could finish my inspired rant, my sainted spouse interrupted it with something even more terrifying than Christmas in October. When she said, “Those aren’t Christmas lights, you idiot. Those are Halloween lights,” I almost ran home to hide in the crawlspace.

“Halloween lights!?” I exclaimed. “They can’t be Halloween lights because there’s no such thing as Halloween lights. Why, when I was a carefree young lad in Evanston, no one dared to have Halloween lights. That would have made them the laughingstock of the entire neighborhood.”

But when I went online in hopes of issuing that final and triumphant, “Ha!,” to my utter dismay, I discovered that Halloween lights actually do exist. “Mother of all things holy,” I wailed.

It already takes me months to recover from the psychological damage inflicted by optic-nerve-shattering yuletide displays, and now we have to deal with this crime against humanity? Isn’t it horrifying enough that we give ill-mannered costumed urchins license to infest the neighborhood with their insatiable demands for a sugary tribute?

And even the unplugged variety have gotten completely out of control. While we’ll collectively gasp at any teenage Eminem wannabe with the temerity to flash the top of his boxer shorts, we have no problem exposing 2-year-olds to the most graphic scenes of blood, gore and dismemberment you could imagine.

My family’s lone October decoration consists of that ubiquitous witch who received bad flight instruction. There’s no blood, a lot of humor, and a wonderful Zen-like quality to a nefarious female sorceress who somehow managed to barrel head first into your front lawn.

Here’s something to consider. If after completing your Halloween display, you’re either temporarily blinded or you can’t see a single blade of grass, then you need to dial it down a bit.

Please don’t tell anyone this, but even this cold-hearted curmudgeon can’t help but find some solace in the annual trek of local rugrats in their more imaginative costumes. But that small pleasure is summarily shattered when a pack of tween girls show up in something that truly makes what’s left of your hair stand on end.

And it ain’t scary in the good way, either! As friend and Lisle School Board member Anne Blaeske likes to say, “Girls’ Halloween costumes come in three sizes: baby, toddler and slut.”

Do we really have to sexualize every aspect of teenagers' miserable middle school lives? Can’t we let kids be kids just a little while longer?

Oh! And here’s some advice for you mature ladies considering a Halloween costume. If you don’t have the good sense to avoid the slutty nurse/policewoman/teacher theme altogether, then please try to remember that putting 20 pounds of sausage in a 10 pound casing is never a good idea.

Before you hit the send button, I’m well aware (and thankful) that no one’s asking me to pose in a Speedo, either.

Not that it takes all that much, but when did Halloween become another drinking holiday? I’m not talking about partying in your basement—though that’s getting out of hand, too—I’m talking about parents’ inability to escort their treat-seeking miscreants without a beer in hand.

Last year, I actually considered handing out Bud Lites instead of candy, but then realized I'd have to come up with bail money again.

And just when you think your end-of-October ordeal is over, dressed only as themselves with a pillow case in hand, the 6-foot-6 high school seniors show up at your front door. And if you dare to scowl at them disparagingly and refuse to fork over the goods, odds are, the next morning, your house will look like a giant roll of Charmin or the early stages of a Denver omelet.

This is exactly the kind of thing our “bigger is always better” hyperactively competitive culture loves to do. Take something simple like youth sports, school events or an autumnal celebration and blow it so far out of proportion it becomes unrecognizable.

Halloween was once a modest and fun fall experience for  elementary and middle school children. But once adults got their grubby little mitts on it, just like the vampires their children portray, they sucked any remaining vestige of childhood pleasure right out of it.

So! In the spirit of comedian Bill Maher, here are some “new rules” to make Halloween a far more pleasant experience for everyone—and especially me.

(1) Turn off the lights or the party’s over! The only thing more heinous than Christmas lights are lines of little lighted smiling orange pumpkin faces. Stop it! Any violation of this blatant disregard for civilized behavior will result in the perpetrator having to repeatedly watch this video provided by Glen Ellyn Patch Editor Samantha Liss until they beg for mercy.

(2) Step away from the Halloween decorations! I’m unilaterally decreeing a two-figures and two-gravestones-per-household limit. Failure to comply will result in having to explain to your children why your skeletons and monsters have been placed in some rather compromising positions.

Whatever happened to that magnificent Taoist  concept of “less is more?”

(3) No inappropriate costumes! Let’s take the “allow” out of Halloween by encouraging our daughters to dress appropriately for their age.

(4) Please leave the beer at home! I understand how difficult upscale suburban subdivision living can be, but why not consider writing a blues classic instead? Even I’m convinced you can make it around the block at least once without an Old Style.

And lastly, (5) If you’re old enough to drive, then you’re too old to beg for free candy! It’s never too early to have a little class. The last thing this planet needs is another hopped-up-on-sugar teenager.

I feel much better now! You may now proceed to enjoy your Halloween!

Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Ray, Thank you! A column is better (and a lot cheaper) than therapy! Jeff
Jim October 28, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Major agreement. Last couple of years I have felt my blood pressure go up as I gaze at ridiculously early Christmas lights only to realize they're Halloween lights. This year I saw a "Halloween tree" in someones living room. Sigh. I'm usually all for adults having fun, but there's something creepy about the way these innocent sweet holidays are usurped by big business and over zealous grown-ups. I dunno, seems kinda selfish or something. I'm really enjoying your column!
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Jim, A Halloween tree! Oh no they didn't! That loud thumping noise you just heard was me banging my head against the wall! Jeff
TOL October 28, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Jeff, ...hate to say it but I will be first in line for the Halloween tree. Loved the article but only truly agreed with #3, #4 & #5. If you ask me, and no one has, society has its' holidays backwards. Cut the Christmas fanfare and enjoy the spirit of Halloween. Christmas is a religious holiday that Americans have lit up, over commercialized, unnecessarily decorated for and nearly forgotten the meaning of. Halloween however, is strictly for fun. It is for the kids, large or small, young or old. The weather is nice enough to put decoration out and take them down. The kids love the naughty and the nicely ornamented houses. We all have a bit of devilish behavior in us and once a year it feels good to express it. TOL
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 02:14 PM
TOL, That sounds fair! If you eliminate Christmas, bah humbug, then you can go crazy on Halloween! Jeff
Ray October 28, 2011 at 02:27 PM
"....and once a year it feels good to express it. " - That's what they say in Detroit too!
Kent Frederick October 28, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Jeff, I thought, "Less is more," was a quoted from renown architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, explaining why the International Style was austere in nature and devoid of the frills found other styles of architecture.
Albert October 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM
The very theme of Halloween dressing up is for the outlandish. I recall my parents neighborhood costume parties, the thought, time and effort everyone took. Elaborate, funny, innovative, all come to mind, as do my recollections of certain homes a must go to for their scary themes. The history of the day is intriguing, the concept of goodies to vandalism, the day of rage where vented rebeiilion was permitted. As one suggested, very theraputic.
Bob McQuillan October 28, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Jeff Wanta borrow my sledgehammer?
S Orichiella October 28, 2011 at 04:12 PM
"20 pounds of sausage in a 10 pound casing is never a good idea..." Jeff, you're a fan of Real Housewives of New Jersey!
robert poznanski October 28, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I can only think of one response,(not very original) "Lighten up Clarence"!!!!
Ryan Gallagher October 28, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Jeff, I hope you don't walk by my house this Christmas - at least not without very dark sunglasses. I found a "holiday projector" at GoodWill for cheap. No projection slides though - so my images will all be hand drawn. Heh, if it's not a busy weekend, I might get out the transparency markers and whip up some scary punkins and black cats for Monday. Oh, and at risk of sending the anti-treating-pets-like-people crowd into a total appoplectic fit, I'll confess a little secret - my wife is planning on dressing our dog up as a fairy; tutu, tiara, wings and all! Woot! Holidays!
Barbara Reber October 28, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Jay-- Pretty funny, but I must take issue. In para. 11, referring to middle school girls, you say, "Can't we just let them be kids a little longer?" then you hop on the always popular declaration that Halloween is for kids and that high school "kids" should bug out. Au contraire: HS kids who stick to houses with their lights on should be equally welcome to trickRtreat. It's a fun event that doesn't involve drugs, drinking, sex, or driving. Perfect! Plus it involves fresh air and excerise. Too much sugar? Give the candy to a homeless shelter. Also, I resent these "helpful village guidelines" that trickRtreating should take place between the hours of 3 and 7. Who do they think will pass out the candy as most adults don't even get home until 6 or 6:30. In the time-honored tradition, trickRtreating should occur from dusk until people turn off their porch lights, which is what you do when the candy is gone. If you're afraid your little ones will fail to cross the streets safely, go with them. Or better yet, ask one of those terrible teens in your neighborhood to take your tot around the block; you both just might make a friend! We have FANTASTIC teens in this town; let's stop restricting them to "adults only" activities.
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Ryan, I have no choice, but to send the "you've definitely gone too far" police to arrest you. Jeff
Debbie Downer October 28, 2011 at 05:27 PM
In my neighborhood the parents drag their beer coolers around in the little red wagon!
Debbie Downer October 28, 2011 at 05:28 PM
I also wanted to add that it's usually the neighborhood douchebags doing it.
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Debbie, Unbelievable. Though readers come up with more absurd examples than I have is relatively rare, you all have topped me this time! Jeff
Nolan Day October 28, 2011 at 05:39 PM
All good points Jeff except that Old Style does need this holiday boost and I'm getting the Radio Flyer wagon polished up for the event. It is actually fun to go around and re-acquaint with the neighbors on a holiday meant for mingling. BOO!
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Nolan, But can't we leave the booze at home? The really bad example we're setting for our kids is that you we can't have a good time unless you're buzzed. Jeff
Kent Frederick October 28, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Jeff, Number 4 makes you sound like someone from the temperance movement, although my grandmother, who belonged to the WCTU, would have applauded the comment.
J Schwan October 28, 2011 at 06:39 PM
You are a bitter old fart aren't you? Go back to Evanston.
Nolan Day October 28, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Jeff, You assumed that the Old Style was for me. The beers are offered along with water or soda to friends in the neighborhood. There are many ways to set good examples. To drink alcohol is not taboo or to get buzzed necessarily. Drinking in moderation might be a proper example. Just say "NO" didn't work so well now did it?
Bob McQuillan October 28, 2011 at 07:48 PM
All I can say to this visual is "git 'er done"
Bob McQuillan October 28, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Jeff isn't that old!
Robert Bykowski October 28, 2011 at 07:58 PM
I don't have kids, so my perspective is skewed, but doesn't it seem with each passing year that Halloween becomes more and more of an adult holiday and less of a kids holiday?
Jeff Ward October 28, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Nolan, I'm not saying don't drink, I'm saying using a kids holiday as an excuse to do so is a bit much! Jeff
Nolan Day October 28, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Jeff, I thought your article had a lot of humor to it, but your assumptions are a bit much. Both my children are off to college and I have never needed my children as an excuse to enjoy the camaraderie of those in my hood. It is as great evening to catch people home that is not a more family oriented holiday such as Christmas, Yom Kippur or TG. To each their own. Keep it up with the humor. Your opinion on serious morals - not so much.
Matthew Hendrickson October 28, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Jeff, gotta disagree with you about that video... it's amazing!
Jim Pokin October 28, 2011 at 10:28 PM
The celebration of Halloween draws a distinction between being alive and not. Once the long dirt nap really begins, all of these irritations about how the holiday should be celebrated will probably go away.
Bob McQuillan October 29, 2011 at 12:33 AM
Jeff I can't believe you did it. You got 33 comments on a Halloween opinion column. How many did you think you would get? Fifty is in reach but you won't reach your record from the fire pit tirade.

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