Let Teens Trick-or-Treat

 

shutterstock_326989286Complaining about teenaged trick-or-treaters has become a tradition in America, almost as beloved as grousing about early Christmas décor. Who do these kids think they are? Halloween is for children, not bratty teenagers who should be doing their homework.

In the spirit of this longstanding tradition, Slate’s L.V. Anderson has decreed that henceforth, no person over the age of 13 may trick-or-treat. Candy will be dispensed to costumed 13-and-unders only; older kids who try to horn in on Halloween should know that they run the risk of being shunned, or possibly poisoned.

As a longstanding partisan of Halloween, I rise to challenge this ruling. Trick-or-treating is innocent and fun. It should be permitted for anyone willing to don a costume and recite the traditional script, from toddlerhood through the end of high school.

Anderson’s analysis is suspect from the start, because she clearly hates Halloween. She’s not just mad about the teenagers. Her crusade extends to costume parties, monster film fests, haunted houses, and effectively all other Halloween festivities that are not exclusively geared at the grade-school crowd. No spooky fun for anyone old enough to see an R-rated movie.

“Were I queen of the world,” she declares, “Halloween would be a holiday for children and children only.”

I don’t know Anderson personally, but I’m betting she’s one of these people who just hates the creepy-crawly October gimmicks. I have many friends like this, and they too find it difficult to acknowledge that their personal distaste may not need to become a moral crusade. Some people dislike fake tarantulas and monster masks. Others of us think they’re kind of fun. We could debate which group’s preferences should dominate public spaces, but decreeing that nobody anywhere may enjoy these antics past grade school is more than a little Puritanical.

Anderson does at least make a pretense of having an argument for stopping the fun at 13. She claims that age is, “the last plausible age at which a kid could sincerely get excited about dressing up and trick-or-treating. After 13, children transform into jaded, surly, rebellious jerks, as predictably as the onset of menses and the deepening of boys’ voices.”

Teenagers, she’s pretty sure, are not really enjoying Halloween with the joyful, imaginative creativity of their younger selves. They just want to take advantage. It’s about getting something for nothing. Conning neighbors into providing the snacks for their next kegger. Mocking the enthusiasm of the more genuine participants.

As Anderson sees it, the malicious cynicism of trick-or-treating teens destroys the spirit of the holiday even for those younger kids who still believe in magic. They should buy their own damn Snickers bars.

In other words: Get off my lawn, teenage witches!

This is highly unconvincing coming from someone who has effectively already confessed her hatred of the holiday. You’d like to ban the office parties and the adult costume shops, but you’d have us believe that your war on teen trick-or-treating is motivated by a desire to preserve the true spirit of the holiday? Color me skeptical.

You see, some of us actually like Halloween. We liked it as kids, and then as teenagers, and now as adults we still like it. We dressed up and trick-or-treated in our high school years because we weren’t jaded, malicious old cynics like… some other parties to this discussion. In college we hit up local drug stores (no, I didn’t mean that way) for spooky gimmicks to decorate our dorm rooms. And as grown-ups we still find it fun to improvise costumes to wear to our kids’ parties, or when answering the door for trick-or-treaters.

If you’ve got a problem with this, feel free to direct your complaints to the Office of Holiday-Hating Killjoys, c/o Ebenezer Scrooge.

I usually interpret holiday-hatred as the bitter passive-aggression of people who aren’t able to enjoy holidays as much as others they see around them. Teenage trick-or-treating raises an additional issue, though. It’s become a semi-acceptable means of scorning kids who have committed the cardinal sin of not being as cute as they used to be. Tiny skeletons and hobgoblins are just so gosh-darn adorable, and that’s some compensation for the trouble it takes to answer the door to them. The teens aren’t quite as prepossessing, so we snort and mutter, “Too old!”

The truth is, they’re not hurting anything. Even if they are exploiting their neighbors for treats, there are much more insidious ways to terrorize a neighborhood. Also, in a sense they do have to work for the goodies. They must pay their tribute to long-standing American custom. I only distribute candy to young people who are willing to 1) Don a costume, and 2) Say “trick-or-treat”. If that routine makes you feel silly, then yes, it’s time to retire the plastic pumpkin.

Anderson can sneer at her neighborhood teens if she wants to, but I’ll be sitting near my door tonight ready to welcome all costumed comers. I’m also putting out this reminder for all pubescent pranksters: I’ve got the treats. Send her the tricks.

There are 60 comments.

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  1. A-Squared Inactive

    At least once a year, I get a fully-adult couple trick-or-treating while pushing a baby stroller with an infant that is at least six months away from solid food.

    If I offer the bowl of candy, inevitably they grab a large handful. I would protest, but the guy usually outweighs me by at least 20 pounds, so I just smile and comment politely on the inventive costume placed on the baby sleeping in the stroller. These kinds of trick-or-treaters are why we hide in the basement with all the lights off once we’ve run out of candy.

    • #1
    • October 31, 2016, at 2:45 PM PDT
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  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    My oldest loves to make her own costumes, but she goes and collects food for the food bank instead of candy for herself. Here’s her Mad Hatter from last year. This year it was Steampunk Hatter, but I don’t have the picture of that one yet.

    kcostume

    • #2
    • October 31, 2016, at 2:47 PM PDT
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  3. Basil Fawlty Member

    Any teenager who trick-or-treats is either suffering from arrested development or is a budding extortionist. And, yes. Get off my lawn.

    • #3
    • October 31, 2016, at 2:53 PM PDT
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  4. Pugshot Member

    @thekingprawn

    That costume is so cool! And collecting for the food bank – she deserves all the candy she can carry! Kudos to her!

    • #4
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:06 PM PDT
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  5. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher

    The King Prawn:My oldest loves to make her own costumes, but she goes and collects food for the food bank instead of candy for herself. Here’s her Mad Hatter from last year. This year it was Steampunk Hatter, but I don’t have the picture of that one yet.

    kcostume

    My eldest (13) was also a Steampunk Hatter of some sort this year! Good for your daughter for doing the volunteer work. Mine is sheparding a bunch of younger kids (including her brother) around tonight. I’m sympathetic to kids like her who are still emotionally between childhood and full blown adolescence. I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    • #5
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:19 PM PDT
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  6. Spin Inactive

    Better idea: let’s get rid of Halloween altogether…

    • #6
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:29 PM PDT
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  7. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    A-Squared: If I offer the bowl of candy, inevitably they grab a large handful.

    Yeah, that’s why they get what I give them.

    I don’t especially care how old they are, as long as they have a costume.

    • #7
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:33 PM PDT
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  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Halloween ends up as an excuse for women to dress , um, interestingly. I am all for it.

    • #8
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:35 PM PDT
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  9. GrannyDude Member

    Rachel Lu: Trick-or-treating is innocent and fun. It should be permitted for anyone willing to don a costume and recite the traditional script, from toddlerhood through the end of high school.

    Agree. My rule was: gotta have a costume and be polite and sincere. No sullen boys in hoodies… unless, of course, I had a lot of leftover candy, in which case I’d give it to just about anyone, just to avoid the temptation of eating it all myself.

    • #9
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:37 PM PDT
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  10. GrannyDude Member

    Dick from Brooklyn: I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    TOO adorable! My 24 year old dressed as a monkey, and her new boyfriend, of whom we approve heartily, was the Man With The Yellow Hat. Pretty cute.

    • #10
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:38 PM PDT
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  11. GrannyDude Member

    Basil Fawlty:Any teenager who trick-or-treats is either suffering from arrested development or is a budding extortionist. And, yes. Get off my lawn.

    Grump.

    • #11
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:38 PM PDT
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  12. AQ Member
    AQ

    My husband loves giving out candy. It drives me crazy, but I also love to see him have fun.

    Whatever age, if they are enjoying themselves, my husband is enjoying.

    This is an awful year. Today we are both set to celebrate anyone who comes to the door.

    • #12
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:41 PM PDT
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  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Ask the teenagers for a trick before they get their treats. Make them earn it-they can probably do something cute.

    One year, I dressed up as a black cat for work (meowing at everyone who came to my desk for something), and left my costume on to hand out candy at home. One lady had her little boy, about 3, in her arms, and he said “Look, Mommy, it’s a Kitty!”. Needless to say, he got what he wanted.

    • #13
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:44 PM PDT
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  14. Basil Fawlty Member

    Kate Braestrup:

    Dick from Brooklyn: I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    TOO adorable! My 24 year old dressed as a monkey, and her new boyfriend, of whom we approve heartily, was the Man With The Yellow Hat. Pretty cute.

    Only two more years until adulthood.

    • #14
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:48 PM PDT
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  15. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    It’s been a long time since you haunted these hallowed halls – welcome back!

    • #15
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:48 PM PDT
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  16. Basil Fawlty Member

    RushBabe49: Ask the teenagers for a trick before they get their treats

    You can go to jail for that.

    • #16
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:50 PM PDT
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  17. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher

    Have a prune!

    Basil Fawlty:

    Kate Braestrup:

    Dick from Brooklyn: I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    TOO adorable! My 24 year old dressed as a monkey, and her new boyfriend, of whom we approve heartily, was the Man With The Yellow Hat. Pretty cute.

    Only two more years until adulthood.

    • #17
    • October 31, 2016, at 3:57 PM PDT
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  18. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    I started handing out apples years ago. Word got around so no more trick or treaters at my door. Oh well. No tricksters either. I have a lethal reputation. As for age. The great Obama has dictated that individuals are children till age 26 and eligible for the great free healthcare treat. Since I do not wish for the special attention of the IRS, DEA, ATF, etc, who am I to disagree with The Great Unifier in Chief’s holy progressive decree? So trick and treat till 26, it is the law.

    • #18
    • October 31, 2016, at 4:00 PM PDT
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  19. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Basil Fawlty:

    RushBabe49: Ask the teenagers for a trick before they get their treats

    You can go to jail for that.

    Dress as Bill Clinton and it is ok.

    • #19
    • October 31, 2016, at 4:01 PM PDT
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  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    RushBabe49:Ask the teenagers for a trick before they get their treats. Make them earn it-they can probably do something cute.

    One year, I dressed up as a black cat for work (meowing at everyone who came to my desk for something), and left my costume on to hand out candy at home. One lady had her little boy, about 3, in her arms, and he said “Look, Mommy, it’s a Kitty!”. Needless to say, he got what he wanted.

    You have pictures? Please tell me you have pictures. Please share the pictures.

    • #20
    • October 31, 2016, at 4:03 PM PDT
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  21. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    One year I dressed up for Halloween as a Republican. I just laid down a lot like I had no spine and complained about the media. Whenever I saw a Democrat I would bend over backward trying to please them. I won first prize. ?

    • #21
    • October 31, 2016, at 4:06 PM PDT
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  22. Basil Fawlty Member

    Dick from Brooklyn:

    Have a prune!

    Basil Fawlty:

    Kate Braestrup:

    Dick from Brooklyn: I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    TOO adorable! My 24 year old dressed as a monkey, and her new boyfriend, of whom we approve heartily, was the Man With The Yellow Hat. Pretty cute.

    Only two more years until adulthood.

    If prunes are what you give out, it’s no wonder this year will be the last.

    • #22
    • October 31, 2016, at 4:09 PM PDT
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  23. The Whether Man Inactive

    On a serious note, my cousin at 11 years old was taller than I am now. I’d think that it would be bad enough to be the tallest kid in the fifth grade without being humiliated and denied candy on Halloween, too.

    #treatsforteens

    • #23
    • October 31, 2016, at 5:47 PM PDT
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  24. Solar Eclipse Inactive

    She claims that age is, “the last plausible age at which a kid could sincerely get excited about dressing up and trick-or-treating. After 13, children transform into jaded, surly, rebellious jerks, as predictably as the onset of menses and the deepening of boys’ voices.”

    As part of my job I went trick-or-treating with a 14-year-old tonight. And let me tell you, it’s quite possible to get sincerely excited about dressing up and trick-or-treating, and to be a jaded, surly, rebellious jerk. There is nothing mutually exclusive here.

    • #24
    • October 31, 2016, at 6:06 PM PDT
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  25. Richard O'Shea Coolidge

    Took my three year old grandson all around the neighborhood. My daughter was appalled by how many empty wrappers we brought back….

    • #25
    • October 31, 2016, at 6:06 PM PDT
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  26. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher

    Basil Fawlty:

    Dick from Brooklyn:

    Have a prune!

    Basil Fawlty:

    Kate Braestrup:

    Dick from Brooklyn: I think this year will be the last for her and it is another in a long line of bittersweet memories I’ll have.

    TOO adorable! My 24 year old dressed as a monkey, and her new boyfriend, of whom we approve heartily, was the Man With The Yellow Hat. Pretty cute.

    Only two more years until adulthood.

    If prunes are what you give out, it’s no wonder this year will be the last.

    LOL. You and Mrs. Wilson enjoy the holiday, ok?

    1324345765_9

    • #26
    • October 31, 2016, at 6:09 PM PDT
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  27. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher

    Fake John/Jane Galt:One year I dressed up for Halloween as a Republican. I just laid down a lot like I had no spine and complained about the media. Whenever I saw a Democrat I would bend over backward trying to please them. I won first prize. ?

    Oy vey. Where did you hide your pitchfork?

    • #27
    • October 31, 2016, at 6:11 PM PDT
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  28. Metalheaddoc Member

    Basil Fawlty:

    RushBabe49: Ask the teenagers for a trick before they get their treats

    You can go to jail for that.

    Or maybe get pardoned, if you have a well-positioned Weiner.

    • #28
    • October 31, 2016, at 6:55 PM PDT
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  29. A-Squared Inactive

    A-Squared:At least once a year, I get a fully-adult couple trick-or-treating while pushing a baby stroller with an infant that is at least six months away from solid food.

    When I got home tonight, my father-in-law told me of an adult male with a 6-month infant asleep on his arm. When offered his choice of candy, the man asked if my FIL could place the candy in his bucket because his baby was asleep.

    Like clockwork, every year.

    • #29
    • October 31, 2016, at 7:10 PM PDT
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  30. OldDanRhody Member

    I enjoy Halloween, I enjoy the kids coming around. I make them either say “Trick or Treat,” or give me cash in exchange for candy – which I hand to them or put in their buckets: No grab-bags here. I’ve toyed with the idea of going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood myself with an empty beer glass, but I always end up staying home to have some fun with the kids. And yeah, I always have some sort of crumby costume, although I could easily enough just say I’m dressed up like a little old man.

    • #30
    • October 31, 2016, at 7:28 PM PDT
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