Halloween is upon us once again as the streets fill with cute little goblins and ghouls running excitedly past jack-o’-lanterns on stoops, ringing doorbells and shouting, “Trick or Treat!” — and my teenaged daughters are dressed up like little vixens.
In the process, they have sucked the innocence out of the holiday for me. I remember fondly the years they dressed as Blue from “Blue’s Clues,” or Winnie the Pooh holding out a homemade honey pot asking for candy.
Crossing over from childhood to adolescence, their costumes and rituals morphed from sweet and adorable to risqué and racy. Once they were princesses in long, flowing gowns, sporting tiaras and wigs, perhaps with a wand or scepter. Now, even when made up as a superhero, every costume seems to include fishnets and something short and sheer that covers up very little of their bodies.
I certainly wouldn’t dress them this way, but I do understand the allure of shedding your everyday persona and trying on a different character for a night. These are the years my girls are experimenting, testing what it feels like to be nice or mean, clean-cut or grungy, even drunk or sober. To put their sexy on as they wander the neighborhood in packs doesn’t meet my ideal, but I get it.
What I’ve come to dread is the required Halloween party, always planned for the nearest weekend. Same costumes but instead of noshing candy and roaming known streets, suddenly, my kids are drinking beer and pushing through crowded rooms filled with too many energetic teens. If All Hallows Eve permits children a little room for rowdiness and mischief, then mixed with alcohol and adolescents, it can become an out-of-control concoction, inspiring wild behavior.
In this setting, trying to be a little racy or provocative could lead to unintended places, where testing the sexual waters with some strutting or flirting unexpectedly starts to involve actual bodily contact.
The evolution from little princess to seductive woman seems most perilous in these moments when my girls investigate things they may only partially understand that have consequences they cannot yet truly fathom.
I’m sure my daughters, exploring websites full of women’s costumes, notice the outfits for police officers, firefighters, witches, or devils are all clearly sexual and erotic. This is the world they want to examine, seeing what the adult landscape looks like.
I know they are playing, having fun, doing what young adults, anxious for that elusive maturity and all the freedoms it seems to hold, have done for generations.
What my teenagers may not get is that it is a lot easier to dress like an adult than to act like one.
A costume only changes the way you look, not who you are.