That’s what we said as children as we held open our bag (or pillowcase) to the people who answered their doors on Halloween. We never said, “Trick or Treat?” Maybe it was a Jersey thing.
Truth is, I never cared much for Halloween. When I was very, very young I wore store-bought costumes. I still see them for sale in toy stores and large drug store chains. Typically, they were made of cheap material and were slit up the back permitting them to be worn over clothing. They tied in the back much like a hospital gown and invariably came with a cheap, plastic full-face mask.
Even at a young age, I felt like a bit of an ass walking about dressed up like a devil, or a ghost, or Peter Pan. Also, I found wearing the mask to be annoying as hell. My breath would blow noisily back onto my face, as I schlepped from house to house with my cronies and my pillowcase.
As I got older and grew out of the store-bought variety of costumes, we “made our own” costumes. The default “make-it-yourself” costume was that of a bum. All one needed was some raggedy jeans (they were called “dungarees” back then), an old torn shirt (one with patches was the best), and a raggedy hat of some kind. Put a little burnt cork on your face so you would look like you were dirty and needed a shave, and you were good to go.
I really felt like an ass walking around like that.
Not only did I feel like an ass because of the way I was dressed, but I also never much cared for the actual process of “trick or treating.” It felt too much like begging. “Anything for Halloweeeeeen?” was right up there with “Alms for the poor?” in my book.
I also did not like all the frantic walking to try to “hit as many houses as possible” during the five or six available hours after school, with the goal being to have to make a couple swings by home to empty the pillowcase. The hell of it is that I never really cared that much for the candy either.
To make matters worse, some of the people from whom we begged felt that it was appropriate and fun to make the “Trick or Treaters” earn their candy. One neighbor made each of chew on crackers, and the first person who could whistle got an extra piece of candy. I remember thinking, “Why the hell am I doing this silly shit? For an extra goddamned Tootsie Roll? I’d like to shove the Tootsie Roll up your ass, lady!”
Like I said. I never much liked Halloween.
So, why did I do it? I suppose I did it because all my friends liked Halloween. They liked dressing up, they were not uncomfortable with begging, and they relished the idea of having three or four bowls of candy at home.
However, it wasn’t simply peer pressure that had me on the street dressed up like an ass and begging for candy. My mother and my aunt (who lived upstairs from us) really liked Halloween, and I suppose I did the annual Halloween begging schlep so as not to disappoint them.
I did, however, disappoint them big-time in one respect. Every year they tried to get me to give up the bum costume and let them dress me up like a girl. The answer was always an emphatic “NO.” I think I would have rather been set afire than leave the house dressed up like a girrrrrrrlllllll, not to mention that walking around in my neighborhood dressed like a girl may have gotten me a pretty good ass-kicking from a few of the local shitheads.
So, tomorrow when the kiddies come to the door dressed in their costumes, some store-bought, and some not, I’ll smile and dutifully drop candy into their sacks, and I won’t make them whistle.
But secretly I’ll be wondering if any of them thinks that the whole Halloween dress-up-and-beg thing stinks.