It is October. Fall has arrived in earnest. The telltale signs are everywhere: the collective female population of Georgetown received the usual autumn memo that it is once again boots-and-sweater season, my coffee is now spiked with pumpkin (as is my Blue Moon) and I am tempted to send bouquets of newly sharpened pencils to friends and family (thanks, “You’ve Got Mail”). My mom’s annual shipment of gourds grown on my uncle’s farm even arrived this week. And, of course, with October comes the frenzied search for the year’s Halloween costume(s).
I love Halloween. Which is laughable, really, seeing as I am a huge wuss when it comes to anything even remotely scary. Some context: When I was four, my mom said in the weeks leading up to Christmas that she often spotted elves popping up in and around our house, undoubtedly to check up on my behavior to report back to Santa Claus. Normal kids would have loved this. How fun, to try and lay eyes on one of these elves! I, unfortunately, became paranoid and hallucinated elves everywhere, convinced that these allegedly friendly ambassadors from the North Pole were actually sent to terrorize me. It got so bad that I began to follow my mom from room to room around the house, afraid to be alone with these knee-high home invaders. The legend of the elves quickly disappeared from Delaney family lore.
In third grade this same time of year, we went to a local haunted house in the church basement of a Catholic high school for a friend’s birthday. Halfway through, I started reciting my times tables to myself to distract from how frightened I was. When faced with a particularly ominous-looking hooded figure, I began shouting said times tables. The poor kid took off his mask and tried his best to calm me down before escorting me out of the maze himself. He was fifteen. He had braces. I was embarrassed — but mostly I was just relieved to be out of there.
I’d love to say that this kind of fear was a phase that I eventually grew out of, but that would be patently untrue. My life is riddled with stories like these. To this day the only scary movie I can watch (and by “watch,” I mean manage to actually keep my eyes open through more than 75 percent of the running time) is Shia LaBeouf’s remake of “Disturbia.” And that hardly counts because the first half of that movie is not even of the horror film genre. It is a glorified teen romance.
And so I learned at a young age that I would have to adapt traditional Halloween rituals to accommodate my absurd fears — defang them, so to speak. I put googly eyes on pumpkins; I dressed as decidedly friendly things for Halloween and gave the kids in “Scream” masks a wide berth. (This tradition continues: I went as Big Bird and Gretchen from the cartoon “Recess” last year, for God’s sake.) I trick-or-treated with my friends until dark, ran home to change and grab cans of Edge for the neighborhood-wide shaving cream fight, and when everyone reconvened at a friend’s to watch “Halloween” — I walked home. To some, this may sound like a poor man’s Halloween, but for me, it works.
This is not to say I’ve found kindred spirits in college — nor would I expect to. Most of my friends are scary movie junkies and have on more than one occasion locked me in a dark room and blasted the theme music from “The Exorcist.” Just last week they planned to sneak up on me while wearing masks purchased at CVS — and capture the whole thing on film. The plan backfired, but I know they’ll inevitably try again (and likely succeed the next time).
But these tormentors are the very same people who dressed as the rest of Sesame Street and the cast of “Recess” with me. And while the verdict is still out on this year’s costumes (we take this stuff seriously) I know that they’ll be game for anything. And that, I think, is what I really love most about Halloween. It is the only holiday that we celebrate entirely with our peers. As a kid, the whole world was your candy store on Halloween. And in college, little has changed. It is an extravaganza: multiple nights, multiple costumes and weeks of anticipation. And I’m so ready for what this year has to bring.
Margaret Delaney is a senior in the College. I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE appears every other Friday.