Our Halloween frocks of froth

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Have you checked out some of those Halloween costumes? They're pretty scary, all right

By Steve Doyle

Lesson No. 666,666 that I am becoming a curmudgeon: Halloween costumes.

Have you been to a costume store this fall looking for the best way to deck out your little ones for the annual Halloween sugarfest?

Some of these places should change their names to Sluts R Us. At least that’s what you might derive from some of the outfits they market to little girls. Frankly, I don’t think it’s appropriate for children (no gender discrimination) to dress up to look like, say, some rock star trying to outgrow her legacy on the Disney Channel. Wonder Woman was racy enough, don’t you think?

Yet, there these costumes were, marketing to children the short, short skirts and other, uh, accessories that probably aren’t OK for a 16-year-old (or anyone, some of you would suggest), much less a precious person of 6.

And have you gotten past the horror of the costumes themselves and checked the price tags? Some say $60 and more. For a Halloween costume? We know who is getting tricked and who is getting the treats, don’t we?

Now, I know that Halloween is as much a marketing ploy for brand licensing companies as Valentine’s Day is for greeting-card companies. They’re selling the same old product with a new target audience or a different occasion.

If we profess love, don’t we speak loving words on birthdays, at Christmas and even Mother’s Day? Does there need to be a special day to make sure we say the right words to the right people?

And now we have Halloween, which takes the Happy Meal approach to licensing by creating an appetite that far exceeds the value on what you might be purchasing. A child is a fan of Iron Man or Batman or Superman or any superhero du jour and must have that boxed and premade outfit to carry the persona forward with that bag extended for candy, as if there were candy-attracting superpowers in the threads of those nylon frocks of froth.

Please don’t color me naïve. I realize there would be no supplies without the demand, that our children are hard to refuse when we think the concepts are cute – although I simply can’t embrace someone allowing an elementary girl to don the gay apparel of the “Bratz” line of, uh, “fashion dolls.” Right, and Lady Gaga is a “fashion model.”

That’s even scarier than Halloween is supposed to be.

From my haunted view, Halloween was about ghosts, witches, black cats, vampires, Frankenstein’s monster and other staples of the dark. Yes, Zombies are cool these days,  and the masks created for the living dead are truly scary on many levels.

But they are not as scary as the image concepts our youngsters might have implanted from some of these creations on the market. They simply go too far, are too indulgent and are a waste of money.

Those of us of a certain vintage always were  geared to work with what we had and not what we wanted. We would go through our parents’ or even grandparents’ old clothes to fit all sorts of motifs, turn our cowboy stuff into a full-fledged costume or, like my kids, really just build on our medical and musical avocations. Superman had his moments, but space aliens hadn’t taken shape in our mind’s eye. And we certainly didn’t know the meaning of the word “slut.”

How many times have you cut up an old sheet to be a ghost? Sometimes I think I looked like Charlie Brown’s version in the seasonal TV special. I had this nightmare phobia for the Headless Horseman of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but that was a hard one to pull off. Musicians, clowns, hoboes, princesses and ballerinas were characters you could design at home or at least outside the box. Some parents still do. I’ve seen amazing stuff made of old clothes, grocery bags and cardboard cartons.

In our day, though, the basics worked. We were just as cute or scary to those who answered the doors and proffered candy. Our grandparents doted on us, sometimes snapping a photograph, and we had plenty of “loot” to divvy up at the end of the evening. Our rags brought the riches we desired.

But one costume – probably my scariest ever – sticks out from after my post-trick-or-treating days, when I was about 14 and going to a Halloween gathering at church.

I asked a girl from school to go with me, and to make a truly lasting impression, I donned an old sailor suit cobbled from somewhere, put a fake pipe in my mouth and proceeded to be Popeye – albeit not bothering to pad up my 120 pounds into at least fake muscles.

My mom drove me over to her house to pick her up, and when I went to the door, there was little doubt I was the scariest thing she ever had seen. Terror seemed to overcome her. She couldn’t speak and barely could move. She was The Screamer, all wide-mouthed and overwhelmed.

At least that’s how I interpreted her reaction.

Or maybe I got that wrong.