Halloween, and missing something that isn’t gone

When I was a kid I loved Halloween, and I still appreciate it today, but mostly from a nostalgic perspective. It was tough for me to let go of trick-or-treating when I became too old for it, and I’ve given a lot of thought to why that is. What is it exactly about the holiday that I enjoyed so much?

As a kid I loved all holidays, while as an adult most of them have lost their luster, but Halloween is the one I mourn the most. For children – or at least for those who come from reasonably high income families – holidays represent a lessening of responsibility. When you’re a kid, Christmas is the best time of year because you get lots of presents, you get a significant amount of time off school, you get to eat delicious food, and perhaps enjoy other fun traditions, like taking the After Eight rule seriously.

But now that I’m middle-aged and have long since left home, these traditions have faded away and a lot of the general fun of the holidays is gone. Now that I’m financially independent I can buy myself anything I want and gifts just don’t give me the same feeling they did as a kid. For children, receiving presents are the only time they can indulge in the age old instinct of acquisition. (Not to get all Ferengi on you, but it seems self-evident that all humans love accumulating wealth, whether that means money or anything else.) But as adults we can acquire whatever, whenever we want, and gifts are often too far off the mark of our actual desires to really be satisfying. For me at least, gifts are actually a burden because they make me feel indebted to the giver, even though I’ve received something I never wanted in the first place. And holidays in general are similarly burdensome.

For adults, holidays represent an increase in responsibility; the exact opposite of what they mean for kids. This is especially true for people with children of their own, but there are obligations even for those of us who are child-free. I hold no animosity towards my family, but being forced to visit their dog/cat infested houses, and endure their ideas of festivities, which are starkly different from mine, isn’t really all that fun. It’s not torturous or anything (though I know for some people it is) but it’s not something I would choose.

So while Christmas was exciting as a kid, it’s now mostly annoying. Easter meant a fun egg hunt followed by chocolate but now it means eating food I dislike while wondering why my non-Christian mother gives a damn about the resurrection of Christ. Thanksgiving never really meant much beyond a day off school but now it means a day off work to recover from interaction with my family. In many ways special occasions are now occasions I resent.

Not so with All Hallows’ Eve because there are no familial obligations that come with this spook fest. When I was a kid Halloween meant the most fun ever: eating a ton of candy and the adventure of acquiring said loot. As younglings, my brother, my best friend, and I travelled our entire neighbourhood so far into the night that houses started to angrily turn us away. Passer l’Halloween (the Québécois way to say trick-or-treating) was a ritual I looked forward to all year round. I agonised over what costume to wear and challenged myself to collect so much candy that it would last all year. Now I can simply go to the store to satisfy my candy cravings, but it’s just not the same, is it? There’s something visceral about going door to door, asking for a thing, nay demanding it, and then successfully getting it. I understand intellectually, that when I go to work, I’m doing the same thing: putting in time and effort to get something else in return. But I don’t feel it emotionally since the result is removed and feels intangible. Holding out your candy bag massive pillowcase and instantly being rewarded with kid currency feels much more immediate and substantial.

And then there’s the dressing up. Recently, I suspect as a result of watching Heroes of Cosplay, my partner decided that cosplayers are necessarily insecure. According to him, cosplayers love putting on costumes so much because they are trying to escape their real lives, trying to escape themselves. I don’t entirely agree, since I’m sure there are those who do it just for fun, but I see his point. I even relate to his point. I spent most of my life hating my reality, and in some ways hating myself, and often lived in a fantasy world. Dressing up for Halloween was a chance to disappear into the what if. Today I’m much more confident in who I am, and genuinely enjoy most of my life, so costumes just doesn’t thrill me the way they once did. I also believe that everything we wear, every day, is in some ways cosplay. I strongly believe that gender is a societal construct, so when I wear cute dresses and high heals at work, I fully indulge any need for dress-up I might have.

I know a lot of adults still enjoy Halloween, but I’d guess these are party people. I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t generally enjoy social events, so while I tried to force the issue as a young adult, and attended many disappointing Halloween parties, trying to have fun, and usually failing, I am now past that point. I just need to accept that Halloween is no longer my holiday.

Tonight I will look out my window and watch children pass Halloween. I will place a couple pumpkins outside my door and have candy ready for them, in case any are patient enough to brave my three-storey walk up. I will feel nostalgic and somewhat sad. I will remember how much joy I used to feel while trick-or-treating and I will know that I will never feel that specific joy again. I will remind myself that I now have new pleasures, like going out to eat at new restaurants, hiking in the woods, and snuggling up on the couch with my partner to watch sci-fi shows. I will wait for my partner to get home from accompanying his trick-or-treating niece and he and I will eat the candy he stole from her. I’ll know that even though I’ll never get to enjoy Halloween the way I used to, ultimately this is a good thing because now I can enjoy much higher quality sweets than the crap most people give out, and I’m secure enough not to feel the need to dress as somebody I’m not.

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Me and my siblings, Halloween 1990.

Yellow

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Yellow is a complicated colour. It is bright, luminous, and evokes thoughts of sunshine and flowers. It stands out as the lightest colour in the spectrum, which is why it’s used in pedestrian crossings, but this lightness also makes it weak. In terms of pigment, it is the colour you must put down on the canvas first. You can’t paint yellow over other colours because the other colours will show through (unless you spackle it on incredibly thick).

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While yellow is vibrant and enthusiastic, and almost every culture associates it with sunshine and happiness, in the western world it is nevertheless the colour of cowardice. Yellow is also an indicator of sickness. As someone with anemia, my skin, and the whites of my eyes, are slightly jaundiced, and as such I cannot wear yellow without the risk of looking increasingly sickly. But while I cannot pull off an entirely yellow ensemble I can still accessorise with yellow, such as with this yellow purse. I’ve even started wearing gold jewelry in my old age, whereas as a youngster I only wore silver. (I used to associate gold jewelry with old ladies and gangsters but I guess now I am an old lady so there you go). In this pic I’m wearing my Fluttershy outfit. Like me, Fluttershy at first appears meek and gentle, but when pushed she becomes a force to be reckoned with.

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May 19, 1991

Yesterday, at supper, Crystal was telling us (the family – oh yeah, Keith wasn’t there and he didn’t even get in trouble when Crystal would have)…

                                                           This is interesting to me. Crystal, my older sister, was much more mainstream than my younger brother, Keith, and I. We were big nerds and rarely left the house. We were very self-sufficient so our parents mostly ignored us. My sister did normal teenage things like party with her friends, so my parents actually monitored her activities. But what I find interesting is that I noticed the disparity in the ways my siblings were treated, and seemed to find it unfair. I don’t remember noticing or caring.

…that she wanted to use the video camera to do a show for her French class. She was saying the names of the characters in the show and couldn’t remember her character’s name, so I go “was it Johanne?” and she goes “yes, how did you know?” Pretty neat, huh? My mom thinks I have ESP. I hope I do that would be cool.

                                                        *Eye roll* I was obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation at this age. I was a huge fan of Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi, who had telepathic powers. I really wanted to be able to read other people’s minds, because social situations were very difficult for me. (I realize now that this was due to social anxiety). I was always worried that others were judging me so the ability to know what they were thinking would have been helpful. How disappointed I would have been to listen in on their thoughts and realize they were only thinking about themselves, as do we all.

Look at back of this diary.

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                                                          On the last page of the diary, I literally wrote “back of this diary”, and drew a half-assed fairy. ???

We just took the carpet out of my room (me and mom) and we put in a small one, and we put up my drawing table. It looks good. And the table is a handy thing, I like it. I hope Keith comes home soon because I’m bored and I want him to see my room. I think I’ll do some drawing now. Bye.  NY Art-Rejel <— rule in German, meaning art rules and with the NY in front it means Nicole Yager’s art rules and Nicole Yager is the ruler of art. It’s my new logo and I think it’s pretty cool, don’t you?!?!?

No, Nicole. No it’s not cool. It’s deeply embarrassing and ridiculous, and a bit random and weird. I mean, why German? I guess because my last name is German I took some mild interest in Deutschland. Thankfully I never revealed this silly “logo” to anyone else and promptly forgot all about it until now. And now, it shall be buried once again.

Orange

 

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Orange is the colour of joy, optimism, and cheerfulness. It is youthful without being infantilizing and warm without being hot. Apparently orange also stimulates the appetite which is no doubt why it’s often used in decor within fast food restaurants. I imagine many children have asked themselves why oranges, the fruit, are named after the colour, while strawberries are not called reds, and bananas are not called yellows. But in fact, the colour orange is named after the fruit. In the before times, the colour was called yellow-red, and the word orange as we now know it came into use in the 16th century. It was derived from the Sanskirt naranga, which literally means “orange tree”.

Orange is also the colour of autumn, and of the 1970s, so even though an autumnal palette simultaneously evokes warmth and the crispness of fall, it can also cause traumatic flashbacks to shag carpeting, brutalist architecture, and questionable fashions.

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Where I live, in Montreal, there is a metro station called Lionel-Groulx, which opened in 1978. This explains why the floor is patterned in circles of varying shades of orange. It is extremely trippy to look at and can even cause vertigo if you stare at it for too long, which you will because it is so mesmerizing. For my orangespiration board I brought Casimir, the French dinosaur from the ’70s, to Lionel-Groulx for a photo shoot and no pairing has ever felt more natural. But let’s not assume orange must remain in the ’70s, where it was deployed for evil. Orange is undeniably fun but can also be modern and edgy when done right. I won’t claim that I’ve successfully made orange edgy, but I’ve made it cute, and for me that’ll have to be close enough.

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I made this maxi dress because I wanted something to cover my legs in the summer so as to avoid wearing sunblock. As someone who is both anemic and Scandinavian, I cannot be out in the sun for more than two minutes without bursting into flames, but sunblock is gross, and I’m lazy. Turns out though that maxi dresses are kind of difficult to walk in. They’re great for standing still while the fabric sways in the breeze but when you’ve got somewhere to be a long skirt can trip you up, quite literally, especially if you’ve not hemmed it properly. How did women do it back in the day? I guess they were so busy being considered the property of men that getting their legs wrapped up in their skirts was the least of their problems.

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Red

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Red is bright and bold, dynamic and sexy. There’s even something called the red dress effect, wherein people wearing red are perceived as more sexually attractive than when wearing other colours. Plenty of theories about why that is but red is undeniably a powerful colour. Interestingly, different cultures perceive red in various ways. In the West, it’s very much about sex and warning (like stop lights). In China, red is the colour of celebration and good luck, which makes sense because it’s so vibrant, but in South Africa red is apparently the colour of mourning, and in other African countries, red is the colour of death. I guess that’s because red is the colour of blood? Or because death is powerful? Certainly red is an aggressive colour. No wilting wallflower is going to wear red.  Red demands attention and so will you when wearing it.

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For my redspiration board I photographed things under a red umbrella with natural light shining through it to give already red objects an even redder glow. This dress was purchased at Modcloth, (this is not a sponsored post) and while it’s very comfortable I find it too fancy for work so I’ve only worn it a few times, on the very rare occasions that I have somewhere to go out in the real world. I do own red shoes but I prefer this look with these royal blue booties. These two jewel tones together really pop, in my opinion.

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I actually don’t have much red in my wardrobe, which is interesting because whenever I paint self-portraits I tend to choose a red colour palette. Not sure why. Perhaps in public I’m too shy to demand attention but I see my internal self as bold.

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May 17, 1991

May 17, 1991

It’s just a lazy Friday afternoon (no school today). My period is almost over (Thank god) but I still have a stomach ache.

                                                     Seriously? I couldn’t put together that the “stomach ache” was cramps? At this age I’d only been menstruating less than a year so I still didn’t have it all figured out. I shudder to remember how bad it was before I started taking the pill. I also shudder to think how useless the medical field is in this regard. No doctor ever had any suggestions for me. Nor did my mother for that matter. I had to figure out all on my own how to treat myself during this monthly bout of torture, which for me, has always been comparable to gastro.

I don’t know why. Maybe the cookies and salmon sandwich I just ate. Anyway I am totally bored with nothing to do but think and sleep. Which is what I should be doing anyway since I have a cold and have lost my voice. Maybe I’ll find it from a good rest. So good night.

                                                     Wow, I remember that now. I had a history of laryngitis when I was a teenager. Among other minor ailments. I was a fucking wreck as a kid. I’m so glad I’m over most of that shit now. Mostly.

Only moments later from my last entry and I have something to say. I hope I have a boyfriend and lots of friends at BHS next year. I’ve got to be less shy. I know, I know, easier said than done but I’ll try. I’ve got to. If anything I just hope I meet Mike soon if indeed he is real. I do believe the Ouija board but I still have doubts. I can’t wait to end this eye infection, get contacts (even if they are gas permeable) so I can wear makeup, look good, and get a boyfriend. I hope, I hope, I wish, I wish.

                                                     Agony. I feel sick reading this for so many reasons. I mean, obviously this trust in the Ouija board is hilarious so I’ll give you a second to go laugh your ass off, but this obsession with getting a boyfriend is so upsetting. I can still remember the crushing ache of my loneliness at this age. And also, the horror of all those eye infections. It was brutal. I dealt with them for years. YEARS! But you gotta love that teenage girl’s yearning to wear makeup. I actually still deal with that today. Every once in a while, I feel the desire to pretty myself up but I’m always cautious about it due to my history of truly disgusting, painful, puss filled, eye infections. At least now though, when I think about makeup it’s just for the fun of it, rather than the desire to lure in a boy. Wouldn’t 15-year-old me be surprised to know she would eventually lure in many boys and most of them wouldn’t be worth the effort?