(Courtesy Photo / Ralph (Ravi) Kayden, Unsplash)

Gimme a Smile: Trick or treat, anyone?

Gotta love a Halloween party.

By Peggy McKee Barnhill

Gotta love a Halloween party. You get to dress up in an outrageous costume and eat sweets that never appear in any other context. Gorge yourself on candy corn, which is specially designed to insert into your eyeteeth for that chic vampire look. Chow down on chocolate spiders and steaming cider ladled from a witch’s cauldron. What could be better?

What if it was a political party?

At the political Halloween party, partygoers reveal their political leanings when the doorbell rings for trick-or-treating. Liberals distribute candy by the double handfuls. Conservatives carefully drop one or two pieces of candy into each little bucket. Green Party members hand out candy without any wrappers, to avoid the inevitable litter. Libertarians leave the bowl out on the front stoop, inviting kids to help themselves. Independents reserve the right to give out candy in any of the above fashions depending on how they’re feeling at the moment. On the fringes you’ve got the progressives who hand out toothbrushes with a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, not to be confused with the far-right folks who hand out Bible verses decrying the sin of ringing doorbells after 7 p.m. Kids don’t like the fringes.

Then there’s the subject of masks.

Halloween masks are a time-honored source of joy for kids and frustration for adults. I remember as a child wearing a molded plastic Sleeping Beauty mask that covered my entire face from chin to forehead and beyond. The miniscule oval eyeholes did not align well with my glasses, so I was dealing with 20/20,000 vision, at best. Think blinders on a horse, but blinders that came with lovely curly hair and a crown, all part of the mask. Maybe I needed to be led to the door and couldn’t tell if people were dropping candy bars or rocks into my bucket, but I was a beauty that Halloween.

But the days of plastic full-facial Halloween masks were numbered. Time went on and societal norms shifted away from allowing kids to do whatever hazardous thing they wanted (yes, I used to dangle my feet in the pond where I knew an alligator lurked) in favor of watching out for their safety at all costs (“No, honey, you can’t roller skate down the street unless you wear a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads and carry a phone in your pocket to call me if you fall over.”) Halloween masks went the way of typewriters and eight-track tapes, relegated to dusty piles in the attic or hopeful eBay postings. The risk of bumping into things or tripping over someone else’s front steps, not to mention asphyxiation from a stiff piece of plastic covering one’s nose and mouth, was just too great. Masks were out, and face paint was in.

Face paint satisfies the primal desire of the child to play with mom’s makeup and color on the walls at the same time. Any combination of vibrant colors and untutored brushstrokes can produce a masterpiece, with your face as the canvas. While it wouldn’t have accomplished my cherished Sleeping Beauty look, face paint can create some spooky Halloween effects. You can design a zombie’s rotting flesh or a werewolf’s stiff fur, as well as adorable tiger stripes or unicorn sparkles for the younger Trick-or-Treaters. You could even use it to paint a mask on your face if you wanted. When it comes to face paint, anything goes!

Once the burning question, mask or face paint, is settled, there’s still the matter of your costume. Unless you live in Florida like I did, you’ll probably have to deal with cold or wet weather on Halloween. Smart Trick-or-Treaters plan a costume that can either fit over or incorporate a bulky winter coat, or even better, a cloak. Why do you think witches and vampires are such popular Halloween costumes? Problem is, it’s dark on Halloween night, and those warm black cloaks double as invisibility cloaks. Strips of reflective tape might brighten things up, but they do detract from the menacing aura of a young Dracula.

So, you’ve got the face paint, you’ve got the costume, you’ve got the candy and you’re off to the party.

All that’s left is to have a spooky good time. Happy Halloween!

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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