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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

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It no longer seems like a miracle that kids who grow up in one part of the country have eerily similar coming-of-age experiences as those who grew up three timezones away.  I will forever be baffled by the notion that 80’s/90’s kids in both New York and California — without the luxury of the Internet nor the patience for pen-palling — enjoyed/endured the same schoolyard taunts, shared the same (hilariously false) rumors about the relationship between Pop Rocks and soda/pop/cola/Coke, and had the same two-dimensional love affair with a pair of stereotypically Italian plumbing brothers.

As children, we were also — from coast to coast — bound by certain identical rules.  The conventional wisdom is that each generation is raised by a particular set of parents who were themselves raised in a particular environment, read a particular book written by a particular psychologist spouting a particular theory of child development.  (And then we all turn out the same.)  But regardless of the era, a few rules have held remarkably steady:

  1. Do not talk to strangers
  2. Do not accept candy from strangers
  3. Avoid situations that are frightening

Those are The Rules.

The Rules must be followed at all times.

Or else.

Period!

Except, as it turns out, on Halloween — or as I like to call it — Opposite Day.

Here are The Rules on Opposite Day:

  1. Talk to ALL strangers
  2. Accept ALL candy from strangers
  3. Hooray for scary things!

On Halloween, we take these three completely universalizable, seemingly reasonable rules and — with a dismissive, Snickers-stained handwave — pish-posh our tightly held convictions from 24 hours earlier.  We have decided, as a society, that for one special day, up is down, left is right, and stranger candy is our nation’s most fantastic resource.

We live in a culture where telling a young girl that she looks like a princess and offering her a selection of fine candies is adorable in the pitch black night of October 31st…and grounds for a police investigation when the sun comes up in November.

All of this is not to say that our time spent celebrating this chocolatey pagan festival would be better spent safely contained within a panic room where no strangers can see or talk to or offer our children Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (if they are lucky) or peanuts, butter, and cups (if they are not).  In fact, most of us would rather live in a community where we can (and do!) trust our neighbors — even the neighbors we do not know! — than a collection of individuals cemented into their homes protected by the highest white picket fences allowable by law.

But at the very least, we should recognize when we are sending mixed messages to future generations, especially when the message we most often send — that we should be skeptical of the intentions of those around us — is more cynical and anti-social than the less-often sent.  Halloween is a day when we purposefully let our guard down, allow ourselves to be a little frightened, allow ourselves to talk to and to be talked to by strangers.  It is a day to look into the eyes of our neighbors and their children and see kindness, thanks, and a common understanding: that candy is delicious and smiling is contagious.

In many ways, Halloween is indeed Opposite Day.  But I think we should ask ourselves: does it have to be?

(For more Faux Outrage about Halloween — from 2002! — click here.)

 

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