Thursday, October 30, 2008

Love, Sex, and Halloween

By Carl F.H. Henry @

As Linus Van Pelt waits for the Great Pumpkin (if you don't know what I'm talking about; good for you. Your parents more closely monitored television intake than did mine), two current articles seek to point out what Halloween reveals about contemporary attitudes toward sex and parenting.

The Los Angeles Times features the lament of a busy Mom who worries that the elaborate costumes of her neighbors' children just reminds her how inadequate she is as a parent. Brett Paesel, author of Mommies Who Drink: Sex, Drugs, and Other Distant Memories of an Ordinary Mom (On second thought, never mind the television. My Mom was just fine), writes this:

I suggested that my 6-year-old wear a shirt and a tie and go as a politician, but he wants to be a Komodo dragon. I told my 3-year-old that I could paint bruises on his arms and legs and he could go as a kid who falls down a lot. But he wants to be a red cat because a friend of ours works at the REDCAT Theater downtown, and he's been obsessed with the image ever since he heard of it. I'm figuring that we'll do red sweats and a few whiskers drawn on with a lip liner. The Komodo dragon is going to require some re-imagining of last year's T. rex costume.Things used to be a whole lot easier for underachieving moms. In addition to being one, I'm the daughter of one -- and she seemed to have more like-minded company in the '60s. One year, she and my dad couldn't be bothered to take us trick-or-treating. They gave my brother and me some crepe paper and newspapers to take upstairs and told us to make a different costume for each time we came back down into the living room. My parents then kicked back to discuss the day over martinis; every time we emerged in a new paper creation, they threw candy at us.The next day my mother told a neighbor about our evening. She was impressed and passed on her own timesaving tip: "I threw a black wig on Grace and told her to go as her evil twin." I long for those days when a mom could throw a sheet over a kid to make him a ghost without worrying that she's falling short of everyone's expectations. Or simply her own.

The Albany Times Union points out that the daughters of high-achieving parents have a growing theme in Halloween costume trends: sexiness. Reporter Kelly Smith writes:

The idea of sexy Halloween is not necessarily a new one. For years, Halloween parties have had their share of hot nurses and seductive pirates. But these are parties for adults, right? Not anymore. With names like "Transylvania Temptress,"..."Major Flirt," and "Red Velvet Devil Bride," there is no doubt that costumes marketed to children and teens have become more suggestive. Such costumes, which typically feature plunging necklines, fishnet stockings, knee-high boots and very short skirts, dominate the display at most costume shops and party supply stores, and parents are having a hard time avoiding them.

Thankfully there are "experts" who can help parents cope with whether or not their daughter should dress up as a sex huntress for Halloween. These tips include:

Use this as an opportunity to talk to your daughter about sexuality and appropriate ways of exploring and expressing it. Talk to girls about what they fear as well as hope for in terms of intimacy and teach them that there is more to sexuality than looking sexy for a guy. She said dressing up in sexy costumes is a way of presenting oneself as sexy, not of expressing oneself sexually.


Add an element of power to the character she chooses. If she wants to be a fairy, let her imagine she's a fairy in charge of her whole kingdom. If she wants to express her sexuality, suggest that she be a toga-wearing goddess of wisdom. It's not that wanting to look pretty or sexy is bad, it's just that it's the only option girls are being presented with.

Whatever one's views on Halloween, the haze of confusion couldn't be more evident than it is in contemporary parenting, at Halloween or at any other time of the year. Why can't we see our poverty when we can afford to dress our children up in elaborate costumes, and our daughters wish to disguise themselves as sexual playthings for men?

It will take more than Linus's Great Pumpkin to get us out from this one. Thankfully, the young man also knows how to turn that blanket into a shepherd's gear just in time to speak of good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.

If you don't know about Linus's shepherd speech or what that has to do with a blanket, again, thank your Mom and Dad. If you don't know what the good tidings of great joy are, give me a call.

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