PSA: Please Don't Be A Smug Jerk About Teenagers Trick-Or-Treating This Year. At Least They're Not Shooting Heroin!
Being an "xennial" or member of "Generation Catalano" or the "Oregon Trail Generation" —whatever you want to call it— I was part of the last age cohort that got to go trick-or-treating well through high school. In fact, while most other kids stopped after sophomore year, I persisted, and continued on through my Junior and Senior years, largely so I could take exchange students who had never been trick or treating, as I felt this was a very important part of the American experience. Also because I like costumes.
My sister and her friends mostly stopped after middle school, and then, by the time I went away from college, I was getting the "Halloween is WEIRD now" reports from my mom, who told me that trick-or-treat-ing now started at like, 3:30pm and consisted entirely of kids under the age of seven being escorted by their parents until the sun started going down.
This was, of course, very different from the way we did things. We didn't start until dark, and the year Halloween started getting good was fifth grade, because that's when we were allowed to go out by ourselves in groups. By sixth grade, we had our shit down. We had tactical maps of where all the houses with the big candy bars were, which houses were owned by dentists, Jesus freaks with Chick tracts (which were actually coveted because they were hilarious), or jerks who gave out boxes of raisins, and the streets that stayed "open" the latest. It was glorious. It was always the absolute best time I had all year, every year.
It wasn't just a trend that died, naturally, and on its own, because kids started growing up too fast or something like that. Adults started "taking a stand" about not giving candy to "older kids," and "older kids" got younger and younger each year. Then there were the op-eds. The brags about how they turned away teenagers who "didn't even bother to dress up" but still showed up at their houses with pillowcases, "looking for a handout." The desperate pleas from Edna Kravitz's across the land, begging parents to keep their "older kids" in at night and let Halloween be "just for the little ones." They were always the kind of people who said cringy shit like "little ones."
I hated them. I wasn't even trick-or-treating anymore and I hated them. It just seemed like such a mean-spirited thing to say and do. The kind of thing people say that they think makes them look like principled, rule-abiding folks but in fact makes them look small and petty.
I don't see groups of teenagers just hanging out anymore. Ever. And not just when I'm in Chicago, because sure, it would be understandable here. But I don't see them when I'm back at home in Rochester visiting my parents, either. They're not at the malls, they're not at the parks we used to hang out at, or the diners or the coffee shops.
And sure! A whole lot of that is the internet and smartphones, but there are other reasons, too. People just started being jerks about teenagers being anywhere, particularly places that didn't cost said kids a whole bunch of money. Heck! There are places now where being a mall goth is basically illegal because they don't let teenagers in the mall without their parents after 4pm or whatever. And all the non-free stuff we used to do as teenagers is now absurdly expensive. Going to the movies is ridiculous, even if you bring your own snacks.
Halloween is something fun that kids and teenagers can do that does not cost them a stupid amount of money, where they can just hang out and be silly with their friends, in person, and have a time. It's also super wholesome. They could be off shooting heroin, but they're not. They are simply dressing in silly costumes and going door-to-door asking their neighbors for candy.
So don't be the jerk who looks at a bunch of tall kids in costumes (or not in costumes, because they think they are "too cool" but still want to have fun) and sneers "Aren't you a little old for this?," acting as if you're taking a principled stand of some kind. You're not. You're literally just being a smug jerk to kids who maybe don't feel like growing up so fast, over some candy that probably cost you ten cents at MOST. Give them some damn candy! But not boxes of raisins, toothbrushes or bags of pennies, because that is messed up.
Anyway, I just needed to get that off of my chest! This is now your open thread!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse