Mama Madison: Halloween resolutions

It's not a holiday to get uptight about

The leaves are falling. Every latte in town is pumpkin infused. The seasonal section of Target is overflowing with styrofoam gravestones.

Yes, it's that time of year when I pen my annual diatribe against Halloween -- historically, my least-favorite holiday.

I can't stand the pop-up stores that take over empty retail space in order to sell faux sawed-off arms and bloody leg stumps. I worry that one of these days I will lose a real limb, or at least a finger, while attempting to carve a jack-o-lantern that only the squirrels will enjoy. And I certainly don't relish being the loser who, year in and year out, shows up to the neighborhood adult costume party sans disguise. But I relish the idea of dressing up as a sexy public servant or feline -- the only costumes that seem available to female grown ups -- even less.

The costume stress I harbor, though, is nothing compared to the angst kids feel when deciding on what to go as on Halloween. My 11-year-old is fairly set on being a Pink Lady from Grease, but she's vacillating between Rizzo and Frenchy. Which, of course, she reminds me, require vastly different wig choices.

I haven't had the heart to tell her that hair color is just the beginning of her "try to look like a gal from the Eisenhower era" issues. We have no pink jackets or anything even vaguely resembling a poodle skirt in the house. And I'm pretty sure no one manufactures saddle shoes anymore. Unfortunately, when it comes to retro dressing, I think the '80s are the new '50s.

But instead of complaining, this year I'm going to attempt to channel my inner Norman Vincent Peale and embrace the "Power of Positive Thinking." Because when it comes right down to it, this holiday really does have quite a lot going for it.

For example, in my spiritual circles at least, Halloween doesn't require a religious service. And when you live in an interfaith home like mine, this is a very big celebration selling point. No special prayers to learn beyond the chant of "trick or treat." No fasting, giving up of anything or sermons involved. Yes, I think I could learn to really appreciate a "holiday" that is light on the "holy" day.

Next up, it's not a day that requires I do much in the cooking department. Probably no one has ever been asked to go to a Halloween cookie exchange. Or rustle up a menu for a gourmet Halloween dinner. As a matter of fact, the only Halloween food anyone really cares about is candy. STOREBOUGHT CANDY. You can't burn, char or leave a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup half raw. Hallelujah.

And there's really no need, if you're me, to spend money on expensive decorations. I've got all the cobwebs and insect infestations any macabre Martha Stewart could desire going all year long at my place.

This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.

But come on, if my daughter ends up trick or treating as Rizzo -- a high school student who drinks, smokes and thinks she's she might be pregnant -- it's unlikely that any of it would rub off in real life. I don't think costume choices are a particularly good barometer of future behavior. Embarrassing but true, I was a stereotypical "sexy" French maid for Halloween more than once in college. But I still can't speak French. Or clean the house very well (see above). /

Yes, this year I will try to get in the spirit of Halloween. Maybe I'll even go in costume to the neighborhood party. But I have no idea where I put that French maid costume. I'll need to check under the cobwebs. Or maybe I should come up with some way to be a "sexy" Norman Vincent Peale.

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