Halloween – the amuse bouche of the holiday season is upon us. Shop windows have been transformed (Orange and black is the new black). Funny things are appearing on restaurant menus… well, just the same things with silly names… skeleton bones, bat wings, creepy crawly pasta.
Spiders and cobwebs have become THE THING, suddenly adorning the reception desks of dentists and building societies across the land. (I think this is how business has interpreted ‘becoming relevant’.)
At least I no longer have to be embarrassed about my lack of attention on the domestic front – my living room is no longer shabby, it’s just appropriately themed. Brilliant!
Of course, just like Christmas, Halloween has its roots in the traditional and sacred. It was the Day of the Dead. Back in the day we would paint our faces, make altars and pray for the souls of the departed. We wanted to make sure our ancestors secured a place in heaven, rather than walking the earth as zombies.
Now that we’ve evolved from superstitious to civilized beings (LOL) our rituals are more sophisticated…
There’s the mass consumption of chemical laden sweets (ensuring children become crazed zombies just in time for the run up to Christmas – yay!).
And then there’s the all important Halloween costume. On the surface, this is ‘just a choice’, but under the surface there’s much more going on.
The outfit says things we’re not able to say about ourselves – I’m clever, witty, ironic. I’m a sex kitten. I’m game for a laugh and don’t mind making a fool of myself.
The fact that we have no idea how to represent ourselves any more has become a bit of a problem. You can feel the stress at any gathering of people. We don’t know how to answer the “Who are you?” question.
In the old days this was easy. Who we were was a THING – a job. “I’m a baker, a poet, a mother.” And when the average life span was 45, this was in fact a life sentence
In the ‘energy’ age we don’t want to be defined by THINGS – because that says nothing about who we really are – courageous, loyal, funny, intelligent, compassionate, vulnerable. But on the other hand we live in the age of global ADHD so we are encouraged to distil down “who we are” in some pithy attention grabbing way. What was a mission statement is now a strap line.
We need a NEW life sentence
I went to a gathering of people recently and heard a couple of responses to the “who are you” question.
1. How SHE responded to the question.
“I’m an actress”
“Oh what are you in?”
“Well I’m currently not IN anything at the moment but erm…”
What the ENERGY said.
Fuck, shall I make something up? Why aren’t I in something at the moment? Shall I say what I used to be in or what I’m probably going to be in? I wonder if that bottle of gin could fit in my handbag without anybody noticing.
2. How HE responded to the question.
“I’m a writer”
“Oh what have you written?”
What the ENERGY said.
There was no energy! This guy repeated the same paragraph 17 times over the course of the weekend. Everywhere I turned I could hear the same paragraph being repeated like a mantra… a broken record of self-belief. He’d honed his paragraph, it came out the same way again and again and again.
It’s really tricky living in a world made of energy. Either we feel it and we become tongue tied and anxious or we disconnect from it and become a talking head.
No wonder we love an excuse to dress up and let the costume speak for us. I personally think we should have Halloween all year round. Forget about the ‘capsule wardrobe’ – strategically bought “classic” clothes that are multi functional and monochrome.
We should have a wardrobe full of theatrical clothes to suit every mood, rather than clothes to suit every occasion.
I know I don’t need permission to go to Waitrose dressed as Oscar Wilde, Joan of Arc or Janice Joplin but it would be more interesting if everyone else joined in. No need for superficial conversations, you could just smile at each other and say “No-one understands your genius? Time to kick ass? Broken heart and one too many Tequilas?”
Forget small talk, this is instant bonding. And better still it doesn’t involve writing and re-writing your life sentence. After all, is there anyone else on earth who is the same person every day? Oh yeah… I forgot that guy at the seminar.
I was going to say something more thoughtful about Halloween, but I’ve already done that here. So I’m just going to make a plea for more creativity and humour, less candy and self-consciousness.
Once we get that under way, we can make 5th November more Burning Man, less Bonfire Night.
Instead of hoards of kettled people gawping at ‘Health and Safety’ approved firework displays, follow Katy Perry’s advice and BE the firework. (Or was that Gandhi?).
Remember, remember… this is the one time of the year you CAN get away with Helena Bonham Carter’s hair do.
Put on a pink tutu and some body paint and drive a Pirate ship down Pall Mall.
Honour the souls of the CREATIVE dear departed… Salvador Dali, Noel Coward, Lou Reed.
Happy Halloween… and for God’s sake DON’T be safe out there.