Monday, October 29, 2007
Personal Asides: Chicago Media Watch Today in the Daily Observer Do You Get the Idea Much of the Halloween Front Yard Decorations Evokes Adult Immaturity? Youre Right.
Media Watch II.
Chicago Media Watch II is up front and center this morning in The Chicago Daily Observercdobs.com.
Halloween Adult Immaturity, the Peter Pan Syndrome.
Affluent societies abound in immaturityas does ours. The reason is as old as the human species. When poverty erodes and ease and comfort abound, the psyche is not tested severely. It goes flabby and decadent. Nor is this a puritanical view. It is as old as the human race. All you have to do is to drive through upper economic strata neighborhoods to see it. Garish ghouls and hangmens nooses along with plastic make-believe tombstones are done not for the kids but mostly by adults who havent grown up yet and want to play kid.
To anyone with a long memory as mine which runs over seventy years of kid Halloween semi-misbehavior, the distinction between the Peter Pan syndrome afflicting many adults today and the semi-disapproving grouches that were old-fashioned adults of, say, the 1930s and `40s is like a chasm. In the 1930s the Depression was still upon us. Men worked for the most part six days a week (occasionally five and a halfmornings on Saturdays). Worries and strains of losing their jobs or their homes were ever-present. Men and women grew up serious. At the age of 40 they were fulltime workers without much money to spend aside from necessities. Halloween, which began as the eve of All Hallows Day or All Saints, was a festival for the kids. We kids began raising modified forms of hell usually in the evenings of the second week of October. Our tricks were definitely unauthorized by our parents who somewhat closed their eyes to our tomfoolery but allowed it because winter was coming and that meant long hours indoors with our books.
Our antics were conducted with peashooterseach kid had one (no girls allowed). We each had a bag of dried green peas which we tucked in our jacket pockets. We would pop a small handful of peas in our mouths, roll them around and lift the peashooter to our lips and blow the dried peas against the windows after which we would run and hide in the bushes, scale trees or climb up trellises to garage roofs, vouchsafing to return and do the same thing until angry fathers would rush out of doors and shout: Hey you kids! Get out of here! We see you! Get off that garage roof! We know who you are and were calling your folks right now, hear me? Youre goin to break your darn fool necks ya crazy kids, ya!
Soaping windows would have to be done fast zip!...and wed run down the alleys breathless. It was called waxing but only a boor would use candle wax because it was the devil to wash off. An unwritten rule but important: nobody but nobody would wax a car body. Dirty pool. Yes we would tip over garbage cans in the alleys. Then by 8 p.m. wed go inside where our mothers and fathers would say, what you been doin? To which wed say nothin. Nothin. Occasionally the phone would ring and our mothers would get a call from a neighbor complaining about us.
In case youre wondering what girls would do the answer is nothing. They were all A students in grade school anyhow and would be doing their homework. But the next day at school their eyes would grow big and round as we male types would display our bravado. They would ooh and ah and say, really? Did you do that? The beginning of the epoch-old male strutting to impress the sensitive sex with our derring-do. That was Halloween without the adults messing it up.
When we would hit the magic year of 12 sixth grade it was all over. Never to return. That was the magic year: 12. Then you put away the toys of a child. You turned in your peashooters to either your little brothers or ditched them. Anyone who kept on after 12, running through alleys with peashooters and mouths full of dried green peas, pausing to blow these peas at windows, were judged as either hopelessly immature or somewhat retarded. We then moved to the period which has never left some of usbeing interested in girls and trying to act mature.
During World War II it all ended. With a good many fathers away in the service, organizations like civic clubs, churches and community chambers of commerce invented the ritual of kids dressing up and making home visits to collect candy. That was never done in the `30s. Nobody who ran down alleys with peashooters would countenance dressing up like spooks. It waswellsissy. And youd rather die and spend an eon in Purgatory rather than be called a sissy.
Now in our age of affluent decadence, parents are Peter Pans, always looking for tie-ins to fun supposedly to share with their kids but the kids know its to relive their childhood. Thus the banal and Ill use the hateful word sissy adult competitions that are waged for the most innovative scenes on the front lawns. With TV stations showing the garish immature scenes on the 10 p.m. news. Decadence is what it is. No better word.
Usurping kids Halloween is just like Little League which usurped kids playing sandlot ball by themselves because Dad wanted to manage a team, intrude, relive some of the old days and lord it over kids. Little League is an invention for adult kids. Halloween front porch and lawn decorations is the same thing. Mom and Dad who never grew up want to relive a bit as kids. Actually, its disgusting. And it has only caught on in the last two decades when leisure has become rife.
Call me old-fashioned and youre right but Halloween now is endemic of juvenilia for parents. There, Ive said it.
What do you think? Write your views in Readers Comments.