The 1585 Learns the True Meaning of Hallowe'en

        10/28/09


October has always officially been my favorite month.  Most writers like Autumn, what with the poetic turning of the leaves, the busy scent of apples and wood-stoves, the chill in the air that provides you with an excuse to be that douche who wears a scarf everyplace.  But even if Autumn didn’t have any of those things, it would still have Hallowe’en.  Which I like to spell with the apostrophe.  While wearing a scarf.

Unlike Christmas, which when you’re a kid is just like… well, Christmas, but then takes a sharp downward turn and never recovers, Hallowe’en grows with you.  When you’re young and like nothing in the world better than candy, it’s all about candy.  Then, just at the age when you’re no longer so much about the candy, but like nothing in the world better than destroying other people’s property for no reason, Hallowe’en thoughtfully metamorphoses into the day when you get to destroy other people’s property for no reason.  And finally, just when you get to the age where, although destroying other people’s property would still be kind of fun, there might actually be consequences for doing so, Hallowe’en pulls one more trick out of its enchanted sleeve and turns into a holiday about naked girls.

You see, contrary to those phony holidays invented by Hallmark in the ’80s, like Secretaries’ Day, Sweetest Day, and Yom Kippur, our modern Hallowe’en evolved from the ancient Celtic rites of Samhain, a harvest festival devoted to the worship of the goddess Mongfind, whose name was old Gaelic for “slutty nurse.”  It’s just one more thing (do I really need to waste time naming the others?) for which we have Druids to thank.  No-one knew who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains, gleaming like the shiny safety pins affixing a pair of angel wings to a vinyl halter top.

samhain
Amazingly, this holiday celebrating excessive consumption,
random destruction, and whores was invented by the Irish.

But at this point, we need to stop so I can point out to any first-time readers what those of you who’ve been reading 1585 for years have doubtless already assumed:  I’m not making fun of women dressing sexy on Hallowe’en.  I think it’s awesome.  In fact, I have (surprise, yet again) a complicated explanation for why this practice is actually moving society forward.  But first, I need to address the linguistic disadvantage I’m at as someone who wishes to defend Sexy Hallowe’en.

For example, I can’t call it “Slutowe’en,” which as you know from hearing boring women complain all month, is what people who are against it call it, and that term is shorter and catchier.  Rolls right off the tongue.  But what term can those of us who think a Strawberry Shortcake costume is vastly improved by red fishnets and fruit-shaped pasties use?  Forget punning on the name of the holiday itself — there isn’t even a way to fully describe how the women in question are dressed without it sounding like you’re putting them down.

Sure, a couple paragraphs ago, I said that women “dress sexy” on Hallowe’en.  But does that seem like an acceptably vivid description to you?  Shit, the women getting off the train at Rockefeller Center on any given weekday morning are “dressed sexy,” and that’s just what they wear to work.  What favorable term can we use to make the (rather sizable) distinction between that and how women dress on Hallowe’en?  There doesn’t appear to be one.  Meanwhile, people who wish to disparage the practice can go on and on about hating how everyone dresses like a slut, whore, tramp, skank, and the 912 other bad words for “sexy woman.”  

Seriously, as worshipful of sex as we’re always hearing our culture is, does anyone else think it’s weird that there is no complimentary word for “extremely sexy woman” in English?

Sure, there are terms like “goddess” and “diva.”  But just like every other word that could have worked as a term of approval for aggressively sexual femininity, those have been ruined by the fact that fat women said them too much.  So once again:  thanks a lot, fat women.

And it’s a shame that the language gives Hottiewe’en haters such an advantage, because their position really is indefensible.  The most common error they make when railing against it, of course, is to assume that the practice is new.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation…

Freshman Feminist:  It didn’t used to be this way, but all of a sudden everyone dresses like a slut on Hallowe’en.

Me:  It didn’t used be this way like, how long ago?

Freshman Feminist:  Like I don’t remember everyone dressing sexy on Hallowe’en even ten years ago.

Me:  You mean ten years ago when you were in third grade?

Freshman Feminist:  Yes.

Me:  No shit you don’t remember everyone dressing sexy when you were in third grade, because you were in third grade.  You probably don’t remember everyone drinking beer ten years ago either, so I guess that means beer just got invented.  I promise you, people who were the age you are now ten or twenty or thirty years ago were dressing sexy on Hallowe’en.  You just weren’t hanging out with them because you were a little kid.

Freshman Feminist:  You can’t prove that.

Me:  Dammit, you’re right, I can’t prove that.  If only there were any movies from the late seventies and early eighties depicting young adults dressed sexy on Hallowe’en OH WAIT TEN THOUSAND HORROR MOVIES DO OR COMEDIES FOR THAT MATTER OR REALLY ANY MOVIE WHERE IT IS HALLOWE’EN IN THE MOVIE FOR EVEN TEN SECONDS.

Freshman Feminist:  So what?  That is just the media.

Me:  Yes, because when people film something that is supposed to mirror real life, and depict it a certain way because that’s the way it really is, it is actually the fact that they depicted it that way that magically retroactively made it be that way in the first place.

Freshman Feminist:  What about the episode of 90210 where Kelly gets almost-raped because she’s dressed as a sexy witch when nobody else is dressed sexy at all?

Me:  Few things here.  First, that show was for infants; like honestly that episode aired when you were 1 and even you were too old to still be watching it.  This is like basing an argument on the fact that no-one in the Babysitters Club did anal.  Second, remember that even though all the actors were in their mid-20s, those characters were supposed to be in like 10th grade, so I guess it had a point that maybe a fifteen-year-old shouldn’t go to a party in lingerie.  But even though you are still younger than all those actors were you are older than the characters.

Freshman Feminist:  Wow, that’s messed up.

Me:  I know, right?  And wait ’til you get older than the Beatles were when they broke up.  I have so done nothing with my life.

Freshman Feminist:  Anyway, I think everyone should go back to being scary things on Hallowe’en.  That was way better.

Me:  Okay, so what are you being for Hallowe’en?

Freshman Feminist: A big-titted werewolf. 

Me:  Do you even know what you’re mad about exactly?

Freshman Feminist:  Not exactly, no.

Regardless of how long Hallowe’en has been sexy, it’s sexy now, and I think that’s a good thing.  Holidays evolve to meet the needs of their cultures.  Hell, people used to run shitfaced through the streets setting random fires on Christmas until the late 1800s.  (Did you think wassailing meant singing carols?  Guess again.)  Now, of course, Christmas is a time to spend with family.  An interminable, high-stress, murderously infuriating time to spend with family.  And by “Christmas” we of course mean the entire month of December.  And the last couple weeks of November too, since Thanksgiving is basically the same shit but you don’t even get presents.

Sure, Yuletide has its moments.  Pretty lights.  The Phil Spector Christmas album.  That Rudolph special with the flaming gay elf.  But overall the effect of the last six weeks of the calendar year is one of being sucked back into childhood.  You have all this family stuff you can’t get out of.  You have to hide your real personality and beliefs.  You can’t say what you’re thinking.  You can’t smoke or curse.  You may suddenly find yourself wedged into the middle of the backseat of a station wagon wearing an itchy turtleneck sweater that you don’t even remember putting on.  And in the cases of people whose parents are still together, you can’t even pull that move where you tell one parent you’re going to the other parent’s house but then just go find those guys from high school who never left and smoke pot with them in the big parking lot behind the diner.  Yep, just knowing a time like that is approaching makes you want to kick it all off by doing things that your regressed family-holiday self isn’t allowed to do.

Things like getting.  Drunk.  Naked.

boob nurse
Those are some sincere pumpkins.

Especially for college students, whose newfound freedom is cruelly snatched away during the Winter Holiday breaks, and who may not yet even be allowed to drink a damn beer in front of their parents, Hallowe’en flips one last big middle finger to the approaching Winter Holidays, and for that matter to the Winter itself.  What, you think it’s just a coincidence that the big dress-like-a-slut holiday comes right at the last point it possibly could before it gets too damn cold to dress like a slut for five months?

Back when Europe cared about religion, it had a thing called Lent, where people gave up everything fun for 40 days.  (You know that day around March where a couple people at work show up with some shit on their forehead and you’re like “Hey, you got some shit on your forehead there” and then they get mad?  It has something to do with that.)  And sharply intuiting that this was probably going to suck (since, after all, the fact that it sucks is the point), they had a giant party right beforehand, called Carnival (you know, Carni-VAL).  This is where New Orleans’s Mardi Gras comes from, tits and all.  The name Carnival comes from carne vale, which meant farewell to the flesh, and had the neat double meaning of “no meat-eating” and “no fucking.”  For the next 40 days anyway, which is why everybody did a lot of both on the last day before the holy hammer fell. 

But since most Americans barely notice Lent, and even the Catholics don’t give up everything fun anymore (it's like, they don’t watch a certain TV show for 40 days, but big deal because they just DVR it and have a marathon when Lent is over, or actually I guess if they’re cool Catholics they don’t even watch TV but just wait for whole seasons of whatever show to come out on DVD and Netflix them, even if they get the channel the show is on and are always home when it’s on, because for some reason that’s how cool people watch TV shows now, and by the way cool people this is why the shows you like keep getting canceled), Carnival and Mardi Gras have kind of lost their connection to Lent and are just big fun parties that happen to come 40 days before Easter.

No matter how religious certain people like to claim America is, our calendar is a secular calendar and our seasons are secular seasons.  The real time that everything sucks for 40 days isn’t Lent; it’s Thanksgiving through Christmas.  That’s when we really give up everything that’s precious to us — like our rights to dress how we normally dress, tell our conservative uncle he’s full of crap, and sleep in the same damn room as the person we’ve been living with for years just because we’re not married, as if anyone actually still gives a shit.

Hallowe’en comes right before six weeks of that.  So you’re god damn right we dress like sluts.  Because soon we’ll be around our mom and we won’t even be allowed to wear red without being told to go upstairs and change, much less black ruffle panties and arm-length mesh gloves with electrical-tape Xs over our nipples.

At least, those of us who are lucky enough to be girls.  Those of us who are guys are still sorting out exactly what we’re supposed to do on Hallowe’en, aside from be appreciative of the way the girls are dressed.  Seriously, have you ever clicked on the “men's costumes” link while browsing a site full of endless, wonderful, sexy women's costumes?  It’s like, you can wear a cape and a bald cap and be vampire sperm, or stay home and eat poop and be a guy who stayed home and ate poop.  And for guys who go out with their girlfriends on Hallowe’en, things can be even worse.

Single Guy:  Hey man, you psyched for Hallowe’en?  What are you being this year?

Relationship Guy:  Um… a doctor.

Single Guy:  Oh, wow, there’s so many ways this could go!  Come on, don’t keep me in suspense:  Vampire Doctor?  Zombie Doctor?  Dr. Doom?  Dr. Zaius?  That doctor who used to play keyboards for Prince?  

Relationship Guy:  A doctor used to play keyboards for Prince?

Single Guy:  Prince and the Revolution?  Purple Rain?  Guy on keyboards is dressed like a doctor.  Surgical mask and everything.  When Prince would sometimes yell “Doctor!”, that wasn’t just some kind of funky expression — it was an address, as in “Doctor, commence playing the keyboards.”  Anyway, what kind of spooky, original, interesting-all-by-itself doctor are you being?

Relationship Guy:  I’m not.  I’m just being a normal doctor.

Single Guy:  ???

Relationship Guy:  Aren’t you going to say anything?

Single Guy:  Oh, sorry.  I meant to say “What?” or “I’m confused” or something, but thought I was typing for a second and said three question marks, forgetting that this is not actually a sound.  Anyway, why are you just being a normal doctor — what are you, five and your parents spaced on buying your costume until Hallowe’en Day at a drugstore on their way home from work and if you cry about it, Mister, you won’t have any costume at all?

Relationship Guy:  Well, my girlfriend is being a sexy nurse, and—

Single Guy:  And she needs you to stand next to her so it is even clearer that she is a sexy nurse as opposed to just a sexy person who doesn’t necessarily have a specific job.

Relationship Guy:  Exactly.

Single Guy:  Is there any way that it wouldn’t be clear that she was a sexy nurse anyway?

Relationship Guy:  Well, maybe not to someone who is unaware that nurses wear white bikinis with red crosses on them.  But everyone knows that.

Single Guy:  As long as you have to dress as what is essentially just part of your girlfriend’s costume, isn’t there a way you can have fun with it too?  I mean, you’re a decent looking guy — can’t you be a sexy doctor?

Relationship Guy:  And how am I supposed to do that?  I could take my shirt off, in which case you would have no way of knowing I was a doctor, or I could hang my wang out of my doctor pants, which is frowned upon.

Single Guy:  And also not sexy exactly.

Relationship Guy:  True.  Which is too bad, because then we could have sexy costumes too.

Single Guy:  “Hey everybody, I’m Abe Lincoln With His Balls Out!  Pay attention to me!”

Relationship Guy:  Yeah, that would be awesome.

Single Guy:  If you could see my balls?

Relationship Guy:  Yeah.  Wait, I mean no.  Anyway, it sucks that my girlfriend gets to arrange the day so that everyone pays attention to her and no-one pays attention to me, and the only real point of my presence is as a cue for people to pay attention to her.

Single Guy:  Seriously.  There’ll be plenty of time for that at your wedding.

Relationship Guy:  Anyway, what are you being?

Single Guy:  Me?  Oh, I’m being Abe Lincoln With His Balls Out.  I’m sorry if you thought I was joking before.

Relationship Guy:  You know, I may have the advantage here after all.

A girlfriend and I were going to be the Shelleys one year, but the more she talked to her friends and ascertained that every human female she knew was just going to be “unspecified naked person,” she became concerned that a Mary Shelley costume wasn't sexy enough.  And in all fairness, this is a legitimate concern.  Under normal circumstances I think a Regency dress would be sexy, but on Hallowe’en the bar is set so high that any woman who doesn’t look like an actual no-shit prostitute looks ugly by comparison.  And of course, I am not using “looks like a prostitute” pejoratively, but dispassionately in a factually descriptive sense.  Due to the demands of their job, prostitutes dress in the most sexually provocative manner possible, and hence this is the most apt phrase.  Or at least that’s what everyone says, but now that I think about it, every time I have seen an actual prostitute she is not really dressed all that outlandishly.

hooker
Seriously, look, those are basically normal clothes.

Anyway, like I said, regardless of what words we use to describe how women dress on it (of which, apparently, all are factually inaccurate), I think Sexy Hallowe’en is a positive and necessary thing for our culture.  It just has the downside of making it a pain for women who have a good idea for a costume that doesn’t necessarily involve looking as sexually arousing as is humanly possible.  I guess if we'd thought about it there would've been a way to be Sexy Mary Shelley, but at that point you are no longer even Mary Shelley, just “sexy goth girl.”  Her next plan was to be Renee Zellweger’s character from Empire Records in the part where she is naked underneath an orange apron.  But then everyone told me I had to be the asshole aging rock star guy from Empire Records, and I had no desire to be that guy.

So I not only had to think of something else, but had to think of something that could not possibly be mistaken for asshole aging rock star guy from Empire Records even when I was standing right next to a girl dressed as naked Renee Zellweger in Empire Records.  I would've just worn my koala suit, but we were ending up the night at a fetish party, and the only thing worse than being mistaken for asshole aging rock star guy from Empire Records is being mistaken for a Furry.

But despite the small problems it causes here and there, it’s culturally necessary in a repressive society like ours to have a holiday where everyone gets sexy.

And by “everyone” I mean just women.

And by “get sexy” I mean you drool over them the whole time but then the bar closes and they all leave together and you end up jerking in the lab late one night.

But don’t worry.  As soon as Hallowe’en is over, we all get two solid months of vomiting with rage at being unable to murder our families during Thanksgiving and Christmas, leaving us refreshed and ready to repeat the exact same mortifying process of stumbling, denied and/or naked and freezing, at four in the morning out of a bar where we couldn't even move much less get a drink but stayed in all night anyway on New Year’s Eve.

Happy Hallowe’en from 1585!



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