This column was originally published Sunday, October 22, 2000
Halloween is coming, and you parents know what that means! It means it's time for you to make fun and creative costumes for your kids! Otherwise you are not as good as the other parents.
Even as you read these words, competing parents - the kind of people whose homes have candles burning in front of statues of Martha Stewart - are hunched over their workbenches, creating costumes that require more time and effort than you spent planning your wedding. These are the parents you see on the "home and family" segments of morning TV shows just before Halloween:
HOST: Our next parent is Mrs. Shirley Hamperwinkle, who has dressed her daughter, Tiffany, as an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower! What an amazing costume! However did you do it, Shirley?
PARENT: Well, Sue, first I forged 12,000 miniature steel girders in my home blast furnace, using ore I dug out of my garden. I assembled these girders using 2.5 million tiny hand-made rivets with the help of my husband, Ed, before he ran off. Then I attached the tower to Tiffany using 147 surgical screws.
HOST: But how does she take the costume off?
PARENT (becoming agitated): Take it off? Take it OFF?? WHY WOULD SHE TAKE IT OFF???
This is the kind of parent you're up against. So you can't just throw some half-baked costume together at the last minute, the way we did in my childhood, when 80 to 90 percent of us kids stumbled around blindly on Halloween night wearing bed sheets with poorly aligned eye holes. We were supposed to look like ghosts, although this never made a ton of sense to me. I mean, ghosts are the spirits of dead people, right? Why would dead people wear bed sheets? Did they all die in an explosion at a hotel laundry?
I preferred to trick-or-treat as a vampire, which I felt was much scarier. The problem was the plastic vampire teeth. I have a powerful gag reflex, so when people opened their doors, instead of being terrified by the awesome bone-chilling specter of the Prince of Darkness, they'd see this short, caped person, retching. Their only terror was that I might throw up on their shoes.
But getting back to my point: As a modern parent, you need to get to work on your children's costumes RIGHT NOW. Don't worry if you're not the "artsy" type! Because I have a really original and creative costume idea for you. Start by gathering together the following arts-and-crafts materials:
1. Car keys.
OK! Now drive to the mall and buy your child a creative and original costume that was originally created in a factory in Taiwan. You'll have lots of choices! For little boys, you may choose from the following: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, Licensed Character Man, Buzz Lightyear, Darth Maul, Rex Kilometer, Commander Strafe, Buck Gouge, Sergeant Groin, The Violence Squadron, the Legion of Compound Fractures, the Masters of Really Hard Face Punching and Al Gore. For little girls you may choose among the following: Ballerina Barbie, Princess Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, Presidential Intern Barbie, Bride Barbie, Severe Hangover Barbie, Minority Group Barbie, Joint Chiefs of Staff Barbie, Chest-Cavity-Dwelling Alien Fetus Barbie, The Barbie Formerly Known As Barbie and Al Gore.
Now your kids are all set for some real "trick-or-treat" fun! But before you let them leave the house, the U.S. Department of Consumer Nervousness reminds you to follow these important:
HALLOWEEN SAFETY RULES
* Be aware that many municipalities have established special dates for trick-or-treating. For safety reasons, these dates are never on Halloween. Some of them are closer to Easter.
* Make sure each child is carrying a fire extinguisher and wearing a head-mounted smoke detector.
* Trick-or-treat candy may have been tampered with, so you should take it away from your children, check it carefully, then eat it.
* Never allow your children to trick-or-treat at night, or in dangerous areas such as outdoors.
Remember: The important thing is to have fun in a safe and federal manner. Even you adults can join in the Halloween fun! Why not think of a clever and topical costume? For example, if you're a fat hairy man, you can walk around naked; if the police stop you, simply explain that you're trick-or-treating as the guy who won the million dollars on Survivor. I'm sure the police will applaud your cleverness! Then they'll take you to a place where you can make your one phone call. To Defense Attorney Barbie.