Looking at Halloween across the span of our lifetimes, we see an oscillating parabola of hedonism: Babies, being stupid, don't understand the day and find it worrying, kids get their first taste of true euphoric excess, teenagers think they're too cool for it, young adults use it like a nation-wide masked orgy, and adults are just inconvenienced. But at each stage of our lives, different techniques, costumes, and behaviors may be called for to optimize our Halloween experiences. They are as follows:
I won't sugar-coat this, kid: This is going to be rough for you. The day will start normal, but come about dusk, daddy's going to start drinking that funny apple juice that makes him mad sometimes, and a bunch of what you understand to be monsters might come over to party at night. Occasionally, some of them will gather around your crib and start talking to you with your family's voices. But worst all: Mom's going to dress you up as a giant felt pumpkin. You're just going to have to roll with that. Everybody's going to talk about how cute and fat you are. Try not to take it personally. One dickhead, drunk on cheap wine and fancying himself erudite, will call you "rotund;" you're going to need to pee on that guy.
"No, I'm not Military-era Colonel Sanders. I'm James Joyce. Yeah, you wouldn't have recognized it offhand."
Trust me, that's the only safe to guy to pee on: If you pee on that guy, everybody will laugh and whisper secret congratulations to you. If you pee on anybody else, your family will probably just apologize to the victim, clean you up a little bit, and then tell you it's beddy-times. That's right: Beddy-times...with fucking monsters crashing around in your hallway all night. The next morning, mommy and daddy will have a fight that lasts all day because there were two grown-ups dressed like the same monster, and mommy gave a head to the wrong one.
This is no time to fuck around: I know you want to go as a Ninja Turtle or a Power Ranger or whatever the modern equivalent of that is (is that a Naruto? Is that what Narutos are?) or if you're a girl, it's probably some kind of princess. It has and will always be that way: Every kid either wants to be the guy in some sort of full-body suit that kicks people, or the girl that gets rescued by that kid that won't stop kicking people.
That's an excellent impulse, and I completely understand it. But you should be thinking strategy right now: It's not about what you want, it's about what's going to get you the most candy. Sure, you'll get something no matter what you dress up as, but if you want the good stuff -- the double-handful, the Reese's Peanut Butter Big Cup, or the holy grail of Halloween: The normal size candy bar -- you're going to have to make some sacrifices. So how do you best maximize your candy-earning potential? Well, your first impulse is going to be to wow the marks with the amazing creativity and work put into your costume. And you'll get a lot of compliments that way, but look in that bag, kid, what do you see? Fucking Smarties.
Oh, holy shit: Is that an apple?
God is dead!
This is going to go against every instinct you have, but please trust me: You need to be a ghost. And not just any ghost...you need to be the shittiest ghost this neighborhood has ever seen.
I know, I know, that's lame and embarrassing and dull. But you know what else it is? Pitiful. And pity is money, son! The good news: All you need is a sheet. The bad news: It's going to have to be filthy. Take it outside, rub it in the dirt, throw it in the street, maybe pee on it a little; the fouler the better. You can cut a guide for the eye holes, but you have to use your fingers to tear it open the rest of the way. Try to struggle with it, too, as though your malnourished hands were too weak to make clean rips.
Remember: All that white space is but a canvas for you to paint your tragedy.
And most importantly, you've got to sell it: When you get up to the door and the mark answers, they're going to do that thing where they try to identify all of the cute little costumes: "Oh, what do we have here? A little pirate, a fairy, three Narutos," and then when they get to you they'll pause. There will be a quaver to their voice when they finally continue: "And...a little ghost? Is that right? Is that what you are?" But you're not going to answer. You're not going to say anything. You just look over at your friends with their nice, expensive costumes, and then you look down a little; like you're ashamed. Then you drop your bag, as though all of the strength has gone from your arms, and you slowly turn and walk away.
You're going to make bank. If you don't leave that house with the entire fucking candy bowl, a tear-soaked hug, some twenty-dollar bills and possibly an iPod, you run home and get your whole family in the basement, because those were cold-hearted robots in there, and now they know you're on to them.
Advice for Boys: You're not dressing up or going anywhere, because you've been tricked by asshole hormones into thinking that "cool" is the avoidance of looking foolish. It's not. But hell, you're not gonna listen: You're just going to stay in and play video games instead. Probably as some kind of Space Marine, because they're all Space Marines these days. There's going to be one female character in logistically unsound body-hugging latex instead of gargantuan steel armor. You're going to want to masturbate to her, because hey - she's there.
Master Chief: Considering it.
The only piece of advice I have for you is this: Don't do it. There's real porn on the internet, and you know that! Your dick is lying to you. He sees virtually rendered ass, and that's good enough for him. You hold out for better. Oh, and remember to pull the shades: If you get caught mid-wank by some trick-or-treaters dressed like Pokemon, it's going to lead to some pretty fucked up fetishes somewhere down the road.
Advice For girls: Shit, I don't know. Though we never need or want them more desperately, all girls mysteriously vanish from the lives of all boys age 12-15. To this day, none of us have the slightest idea where you went, or what you were doing; I assumed pillow-fights.
I still assume Princess Leia bikinis.
For a young adult doing life even halfway right, Halloween is the one night a year officially set aside for the kind of anonymous sex, binge-drinking and drug-use that would certainly get you arrested (if not burned in effigy) on any other day. Now, for legal purposes, I have to first say that you should never do drugs. And also that this wisdom did not technically come from me in the first place; it came from a Native American Shaman, only it was about a young warrior's name day instead of a Halloween party. But the advice is still sound: Get yourself some psychedelic mushrooms, and for the love of God do not get over-excited and leave before the next sentence, because it is the single most important sentence of your life.
You're going to take about 1/5th as many as everybody says you should.
This is way too many, no matter how funny your buddies insist it's going to be.
You're going to feel like a pussy, mostly because your friends will be incessantly calling you a pussy, but about four hours from now you're not going to be the guy standing in the middle of an empty dog-park asking the open sky how you stop your arms from spinning. If you're going to do it, take just enough so that you kind of forget that everybody's wearing costumes and it's hilarious when you try to stop smiling.
Now, on to the costume. Advice for men:
1. Grow half a moustache.
2. Go to any cheap-ass Halloween store; buy a plastic sword and that generic black vinyl "Cat Woman" mask they all have in stock.
3. Cut the ears off of the mask and flip it inside out. Trim any tags or odd threads.
4. Go to a thrift store and buy a loose-fitting black silk woman's blouse; leave it unbuttoned to the chest. Now find some baggy black pants and black knee-high boots.
5. You're now the Dread Pirate Roberts, from The Princess Bride.
6. If a girl asks anything of you, reply with simply: "As you wish."
7. Drown in pussy.
*Note: Should a female not "get" your costume, just move on: If her favorite movie is not The Princess Bride, she is terrible in the sack and that probably also makes her a bad person. I do not know why this is so; I only know for a fact that it is so.
Advice for Women: Do not run off with that guy ironically dressed as The Situation. The Dread Pirate Roberts is coming to rescue you.
Maybe you should get a few practice swoons in now, so you can really sell it when the time comes.
1. While at the store on the way home from work, suddenly remember that it's Halloween already.
2. Buy the cheapest mask and candy you can find; whatever's closest to your aisle will do.
3. Stay at home and hand out candy to the kids.
4. If you have to weep over better days long since passed, try to find a reason to excuse yourself to the bathroom instead of answering the door: The kids may find your bitter tears unsettling.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook or you can refuse to accept the loss of your youth and continue to attend those parties, where you explain to everybody that your costume is actually Dr. House, and not just "the creepy old guy."