Where to begin? Should I lead with my morning commute during which, while waiting to cross the street, I saw a grown-ass man in a full-body Gumby costume with no immediately apparent breathing holes but with his Cole Haans still visible saunter casually out of an office building? Or the party invitations stipulating that a costume is “mandatory”? Or the requisite “I don’t hate Halloween, but...” because, in this city, you have to say you don’t hate Halloween, when in fact, that gnawing feeling that can only be relieved with a hearty eye-roll can only be described as hate, pure and hot?
You know what? I hate Halloween. I hate it. And if I didn’t hate it before, you, good people of Washington, have forced me to hate it.
I did not used to hate Halloween—though I do hate that I have to stipulate my feelings toward a minor but ridiculous children’s holiday—and I certainly do not hate fun—though I do hate the fact that I’m about to marshal evidence for that claim. Suffice it to say that I’ve had my fair share of good Halloween costumes (Nelly, a silent film star, what I imagined Ali G’s girlfriend would have looked like), and I still, at 31, have my fair share of fun, including the kind that most people my age have stopped having years ago. (That evidence all stays in Moscow, sorry.)
Halloween is a fine, mildly annoying but generally inoffensive holiday in most other cities: There is a segment of the city that celebrates and dresses up, but leaves everyone else who may not be as enthusiastic in peace to go about our regular lives in our regular jeans and our regular sweaters. In New York, where I lived for a number of years, there are streets where there are sexy angels and guys in horrifying tights walking around and screaming, but you can easily avoid them. On whichever Saturday night happens to fall closest to Halloween, you can find a normal party to go to, or you can go to someone’s Halloween party without a costume and expect not to be shamed extensively for it. In Moscow, where I also lived for a number of years, the segment of the population going whole-hog on Halloween is even smaller and is generally holed up in those “face control” clubs you weren’t going to anyway.
Not so in Washington.
In Washington, Halloween is all up in your business. The place is too small to escape the part of the city that is celebrating because the entire goddam city is celebrating. In Washington, you are left to face down the fun Nazis, forced to explain why this year, you just weren’t in the mood.
And yet, what is less fun and less creative than mandatory fun? Yes, I saw plenty of great Halloween costumes this year, but do they all have to be about politics? (I’m lookin’ at you, Sexy John Boehner.) Costume parties were a seminal part of my collegiate experience and, you know, honestly, Halloween in Washington just gives costume parties a bad name.
It’s just that there is something so forced about Halloween in Washington, something so conformist. It is the holiday that feels like the holiday of a city that is so controlled and tense and unboozy and so wary of that confirmation hearing two decades down the line that it can only go nuts in this one, very controlled way—and behind a mask. If someone isn’t part of the fun, there’s almost a feeling of betrayal, like you could be the one sober-minded observer recording and judging and possibly scuttling their confirmation hearing.
There’s also something so repressed about it. It’s not me going nuts, guzzling Patron, you see, it’s Sexy John Boehner. I submit that this kind of forced, collective, tonight-only fun is the anti-fun. It’s the kind of fun that is shameful and weak, the kind that is afraid of actual, uncontrolled, spontaneous fun, the kind of fun you have without spending weeks thinking about what you will wear in order to have that fun, the kind of fun where you show up and see what happens. That’s the kind of fun that DC rarely has, or has squirreled away in discrete and unthreatening corners that it calls “fun”—the way a holiday sweater is fun.
I hate you, Washington Halloween. You are lame and cheesy and contrived and, worst of all, you’ve driven me to write this post.