This is the story of what happened last year, when I’d finally had enough and decided not to hand out candy anymore:
When I was a child, there was a universal Trick-or-Treating sign of participation known as the “front porch light.” If you were participating in handing out Halloween treats, you turned your porch light ON.
If you were not participating, or were not going to be at home – even if you normally left your front porch light on when not at home, the rules reversed on Halloween – then your porch light was OFF.
Dear Lord, could it be any simpler? The timeless signal of a light. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out. Yet somehow, in 2014 Montgomery, Alabama, there is a breakdown of this basic societal contract.
For the past four Halloweens that I have lived in this city, I have given out candy to children… and to teenage mothers holding a baby on their hip, silently thrusting a Walmart bag at me. And to teenage boys in plain clothes also silently thrusting a Walmart bag at me. This is not trick-or-treating; this is panhandling.
I don’t know when you are too old to trick-or-treat, but it hovers somewhere around when you feel you are too old to “dress up” and are simultaneously able to procreate. Let’s just say “puberty.” That is the cut-off point regardless of your age. If you have a baby and/or have participated in any acts that could, in theory, create one, then you are too old to “trick or treat.”
So, I’d finally decided enough was enough. The joy of handing out candy to princesses and superheroes toddling down my porch steps after shyly uttering “twik or tweet” was not to be mine in this city and I was no longer going to hand out free candy bars to sullen teenagers.
I brought all my outdoor decorations and pumpkins inside the house – this wasn’t my first rodeo, you know – and turned off the porch light. My husband stayed home while I took Queen Elsa out for her Halloween stroll to what few neighbors had not become embittered with the whole tradition.
While we were gone, a couple of teenage boys, in street clothes, carrying backpacks, came to our door – with the porch lights off, mind you – and not only rang the buzzer… repeatedly… but also banged on the door for several minutes.
After Elsa and I returned, I witnessed this phenomenon for myself. An entire “gang” – eight or ten people in their teens, not only came to our door, laying on the doorbell and banging on the door with their fists, but actually shouted, “Open the door.”
It was 9:30 p.m.
Now, I can’t figure out the purpose of this urban porch assault. The last thing I am going to do is open my door to angry candy tweekers. What do they expect? “Oh hey, let me open my door and give you a candy bar for shattering my glass door and waking my child?”
I felt like I was in the movie “The Purge” where for one night nothing was illegal and violence reigned with impunity. My family and our guests were sitting in the living room, clearly visible through the windows to the hordes demanding candy on our doorstep. I kept saying, “Don’t look up. Don’t move. Keep talking normally.”
I have the right to sit in my home on Halloween without having to huddle in the dark on the floor of my closet. Handing out candy is an activity that I am not required to participate in, but a choice, indicated by whether my porch light is on or off.
Any attempt at bullying or threatening me into giving you candy is more likely to be met with a 911 call than a Snickers.
My guess is no one is opening their door and throwing Tootsie Rolls at them. So at what point do they say, “Hey, this isn’t paying off, do you think that porch light over there is some kind of clue?”
It saddens me that the relative civility of Trick or Treating in my youth has become more like an episode of the Walking Dead as we rush home to avoid the angry mob threatening us for our candy.
This year, I think we’ll also turn off the living room lights and sit in the back of the house.
Cheaper Than Therapy is a blog and live storytelling show in Montgomery, AL. FOLLOW the blog, LIKE the show on FB, FOLLOW me on Twitter @ReneaDijab or come check out the show!