Hopefully you didn’t see it: the graphic going around on Denver social media, claiming that anyone caught trick-or-treating over the age of twelve could be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed for up to six months.
The Denver Police sent out their own tweet to refute that misinformation, but the fact that someone made that graphic in the first place, and others shared it, says a lot about how much some people hate finding teenagers on their porch on Halloween.
To which I say: I hope squirrels destroy your jack-o’-lanterns
The last time I went trick-or-treating it was with a dozen of my best friends. We were nerds, so that meant lots of Star Trek uniforms, along with a monster or two, and one friend whose costume was just a trench coat with a cardboard sign around her neck that read ‘boo’! I am somewhat embarrassed to confess that I was dressed up as a belly dancer (and embarrassed enough back then that I kept a bodysuit on underneath).
We were seniors in high school.
If we got any dirty looks at the doors that night, I don’t remember them. What I do remember is the camaraderie of roaming around the dark streets, hopped up on sugar and horsing around. The subversively innocent joy of it.
So yes, I am fully in the ‘let the teens trick or treat’ camp.
I think we can all agree that adolescence is tough. You’re peering down the rough slope into adulthood, trying to figure out all these big scary things like sex and relationships and drugs and drinking and responsibility. And that was just what it was like back in the ’90s when I had to go through it. Now there’s social media and active shooter drills and global ecological devastation for teens to wrap their still-developing brains around too.
Behind you lies the magic of childhood. Santa is long dismissed. You probably don’t even remember when you believed in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. But you still remember the glitter of waking up to eggs hidden in the yard and money nestled under your pillow. Halloween is the final magic; it doesn’t require believing in any mythical creatures to still get a thrill out of knocking on a stranger’s door in the darkness and being rewarded with candy.
Life loses some of its magic as you get older. And too often teens, in the urge to show their maturity, rush to kill off their sense of wonder too soon. But there’s always something awesome about the joy of Halloween night. It’s pretty hard to stay ironic and too-cool-for-school when you’re carousing around with a plastic pumpkin and a pack of friends.
One final point: The world isn’t always so nice to teenagers. At best they get treated as nuisances, at worst, menaces. Trick or treating is a subtly vulnerable act of saying, please, be nice to me like you were when I was a kid. Smile at me this time, instead of grimacing. Give me something for free because I’m getting older and that doesn’t happen much anymore but I’m not quite ready to let it end yet.
That’s what I’ll be thinking about when I open the door on Thursday to find kids taller than me slouching there. I always try to smile extra wide for them and share a bigger handful of candy. Even if the costume is just a half-hearted mask or some facepaint, I want them to know I’m glad to see them. I want them to know it’s okay to enjoy the fast-receding feelings of childhood, even as they hurdle ahead into the inevitable. I’m here to dole out Snickers bars, not to judge.