For some kids, Halloween is about costumes, scary movies, and the rare opportunity to scare unsuspecting loved ones without social repercussions. For me, it was all about candy. From the ages of five to older-than-I’d-like-to-admit, nothing filled me with joy quite like an orange plastic pumpkin filled to the brim with Twix, Twizzlers and the odd full-size Hershey bar; I persisted in trick-or-treating long after my neighbors were happy to see me on their doorsteps, and I happily gorged on my hard-won saccharine spoils well into November.
Somewhere in my teens, my Halloween priorities shifted from “obtain and consume candy” to “obtain and consume alcohol,” and my costumes started being chosen not for their ability to terrify, but for their potential to allure. (Did I actually succeed in alluring anyone while awkwardly clad in a furtively purchased “sexy nurse” costume, pouring Mike’s Hard Lemonade down my throat like so much life-giving water? Hard no, but that’s not the point.) By the time my twenties rolled around, I’d retired the skimpy costumes, but Halloween remained a night when I felt free to go as wild as I wanted.
When COVID-19 hit, I—and many other young people—had to say goodbye to nights spent in crowded bars and clubs. Even with a potential return to normalcy on the horizon in the next year, it’s unclear when, or if, it will be safe to congregate in large groups of strangers again; in other words, the prototypical packed Halloween house party full of friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, crushes, enemies, hot mystery guests, and party-crashers might be a thing of the past.
Obviously, COVID-19 carries far worse consequences than potentially having to say goodbye to Halloween parties, and it feels silly to be crafting a fond goodbye to…literal parties in our current moment. Still, it’s hard not to look back at Halloweens past—the year I went as Amy Dunne from Gone Girl, the year I drank so many pumpkin ales that I fell asleep on my friend’s bed mid-party, the year I got rejected by an ex and sulked over my Domino’s pizza for an hour straight—and wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to be that dumb, costumed, uninhibited mess again.
It’s totally possible to celebrate Halloween safely during the COVID-19 pandemic—I already have an outdoor costume contest planned—but, as in all things, time is a factor. I’m twenty-seven years old, which is objectively pretty young, but approaching the outer reaches of the age where it’s okay to go absolutely hog-wild on Halloween. By the time safety measures can accommodate full-on, debauched Halloween parties, will I be too old? Will all my friends be happily settled down with spouses and babies and Le Creuset cookware, and will I be the aging weirdo trying to persuade them to come with me to an all-night rave in Greenpoint?
There’s no law that says you can’t get super-drunk and party your spooky guts out at any age, of course, but I live in fear of being Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused; comic relief at best, and a total creep at worst. I don’t want future 20-somethings gossiping about “this weird older lady who’s trying to party with us”; I just want to spend the tail-end of my 20s Halloweens celebrating as hard as possible, so I can look back at the photos when I’m 50 with a mix of humiliation and pride at my younger self’s shamelessness.
Unfortunately, the sweaty 200-person dance-fest of my dreams just doesn’t seem to be in the cards this Halloween, but at least I have scary movies and decent red wine to console myself. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be the mom hiring a sitter to go out and get messy on All Hallow’s Eve with her similarly party-inclined mom friends. To that future incarnation of myself, I say: Be safe, go with God, and don’t forget to leave water and Advil out on the bedside table.