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Costume Trauma

Halloween is the wildest holiday—and the most conformist. How to escape it.

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If there are few forms of misanthropy that can still raise jaded New Yorkers’ eyebrows, hating Halloween is surely one of them. You can resent Christmas, kvetch about Yom Kippur fasting, and grumble about Thanksgiving’s genocidal history. A vocal loathing of New Year’s Eve is practically a social requirement.

But just try to dampen the spirits of Manhattan’s overgrown moppets as they brave the autumnal chill in fishnets and a rubber nurse’s uniform, or joyfully throw open their dead-bolted doors to sticky-fingered children. “Who doesn’t love Halloween?” they’ll coo.

I never loved Halloween. When I was a kid, my father made no bones about the Halloween hatred he had inherited from his own dad. It was a dirty, buzz-killing trick, but it worked. Turned off by costume hierarchies and genuinely unnerved by the night’s malevolent teenage-gang energy, I spent many Halloweens skulking sullenly after friends, wanting to belong but hobbled by my conviction that this holiday sucked.

In later years, I tried to duck the enforced exhibitionism by staying home, but found it no easier on the other side of the doorbell. Sure, I have warm memories of creative costumes—like the toddlers who donned purple and brown, strapped cardboard bread to their backs, and hugged to form a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. But they don’t make up for all the anonymous kids in Scream masks complaining about candy selection and brandishing plastic knives.

You’d think that in a city as averse to joinerism as New York, I wouldn’t be a solitary Scrooge McPumpkin. But Halloween is one big convivial aberration in the city’s psyche, when Gothamites wallow in nostalgia for the grassy streets whence they came. They forget that here, neighbors are creatures to be excoriated at co-op board meetings, and the only things we gladly give hyper kids are murderous stares.

How to escape? Many buildings offer a sign-up sheet, making avoidance easy. And even without an official exemption, it’s possible to hole up—without street windows, no one knows you’re inside watching TiVo’d Apprentice episodes. But if ignoring the repeated ring of your doorbell leaves you feeling icy-hearted, try leaving a bowl of something healthy and un-sinister—like oranges or Luna Bars—outside your door. You’ll give the impression of vague benevolence, and won’t have to worry about running out, since no one but a handful of organic moms will touch your offering.

If you have kids and don’t want them ostracized for your niggardly ways, take them to one of the neighborhood street parties (like the one along West 69th Street, starting at the park). Or find a local elementary school hosting Halloween-themed festivities and park your kids there. Not their school? That’s what costumes are for.

Of course, if you’re a Halloween hater without a child, you can still go out for the night, as long as you pick your destination carefully—you don’t want to wind up in a neighborhood overrun by sexy pussycats and stumbling Freudian slips. (Steer clear of the Village, in other words.) Seek refuge in a grown-up outing that keeps you off the streets: Score reservations at a Time Warner Center restaurant or catch a ’night, Mother preview.

Or simply cut your losses and leave town. The fall foliage is past its peak, but no one will accuse you of being a Skittles skinflint when you go razor-free-apple-picking upstate.

But If You Want to Join In...
Our Halloween Guide
Get in the spirit with parties, parades, costume balls, and fright flicks.


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