It would be nice of me to say there isn’t one. Sadly, this is not the case.
In many ways, I am extremely immature, and being young at heart is what I consider a noble virtue (he said, typing the umpteenth Halloween entry for his blog about being a middle child).
And yet I believe there is a world for children, and a world for adults. This is not to say that adults cannot enjoy children’s things, nor that children cannot take something from adult aspects of life (like Mel Brooks movies, you creep), but I believe the central aspects of these worlds should be kept somewhat separate. There are ways that children enjoy life, and ways that adults enjoy lfie, and often the line between them is an unmovable one.
Many of these distinctions occur around Halloween. Like the membrane between the living and the dead, social rules are often porous on Halloween—kids flirt with adulthood, braving haunted houses and R-rated horror movies; and adults remember what it is to be young by dressing up as Batman and eating too much candy. But there are also rules to Halloween, spoken or not.
Don’t trust someone you don’t know in a mask. Always check your candy.
Grown-ups don’t trick-or-treat.
Why not, you fun-loving adults ask? Why let the kids have all the fun? To which I reply, because the kids don’t get all the fun. Guess what, pal, you can go buy candy, right now. You can also buy alcohol, a gun, and a Kia hatchback. You are bigger and stronger than any child, and can move faster than them. As a grown-up, the world is at your fingertips. You have an unfair advantage. Kids have Halloween as the one night a year they can behave this way. You want to wear a bizarre outfit and give yourself a stomachache? It’s called an 80’s Party.
For kids, trick-or-treating is a rite of passage. It’s a very specific form of good time with a faint element of danger to it. Most of the year, while we’re out drinking and trying hot yoga, they’re toiling away at school. But on Halloween, they get to knock a stranger’s doorbell, ask for food they’re rarely allowed to eat, and, if they’re old-school and don’t get toothbrushes, they get to soap windows and toss stink bombs and all that ridiculous shit. That’s an important ritual for a kid.
So, this begs the question, when is a kid really too old to trick-or-treat? Can you really put down a distinct number of years where they have to be done?
Yup. Fourteen. Thirteen’s pushing it, but fourteen’s the line.
Woah, okay, pipe down. I get it, We take innocence too soon, we impose foolish rules on our precious children, blah blah blah. I’m not saying you should beat your kid if he’s fourteen and still wants to trick-or-treat. But I’m saying it’s time. You know I’m right.
High school is a rite of passage too. It means making new friends, having new experiences. Teenage Halloween is a whole new world, full of strange and wonderful rituals. Wanna crash a party, dabble in devil worship, or find an art theater showing Rocky Horror? Enjoy that! You’ve earned it! Same with Adult Halloween—decorate like a crazy person, wear a revealing outfit, and get hammered on October Tenderloin drinks at a work party. These opportunities are open to you as you mature into various stages of your life. And hey, nothing beats Old Person Halloween, when you can turn your house into a terrifying butcher’s shop and wait in the bushed with a chainsaw like a psychopath.
Kids don’t have those opportunities. They see the world as this awesome place where you, teens and grown-ups, get to do whatever they want. Trick-or-treating is their chance to do their thing. At fourteen, you’re officially horning in on kids’ territory. So let the little ones have it. It can be sad to leave childish things behind, sure, but for kids, it’s all they got.
If a crew of costumed adults shows up at my front door on Halloween asking for candy, will I scream, “TOO OLD!” and slam the door? No, of course not (well, now I might, because it’s funny the more I think about it). I’ll probably even make some childish jokes asking what they’re supposed to be, and maybe give them an airplane bottle of rum or something. That’s if they’re alone, though. If they’re with kids, the kids get to go first, and they get the good candy. Trick-or-treating grown-ups can deal with the Smarties and candy corn.