Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

I have exactly one rule when it comes to Halloween.

Rule #1: Everyone who comes to my door on Halloween gets candy.

I have these rules because I had a racist Southern Grandma. The worst Halloween horror story I ever heard was about that grandma. My mother once told me how her mother would keep two bowls of candy by the door on Halloween. One bowl was filled with Hershey Bars. That bowl was for the neighborhood kids.

The other bowl was filled with candy corns and cheap lollipops. When truckloads of “poor kids” came in from “more rural areas,” to trick-or-treat, they got the crap candy.

When I first heard the story, I was outraged because I thought the poorer kids should have gotten the Hershey bars. I figured they would have appreciated it more than the wealthier kids. How happy would that have made a hungry child? (I was a hungry child, I could empathize.) And what was Halloween for, other than making your chocolate dreams reality?

It took me years to realize that “poor/ more rural” probably also meant “not white.” Even on Halloween, even with children, Grandma went to great lengths not to share with those she felt didn’t belong in “her” neighborhood. I suspect the woman probably congratulated herself on being progressive enough to give those Halloween invaders any candy at all.

Decades later, in Southern California, I have white neighbors with ridiculous rules for trick-or-treating. I’ve heard them berate any child they think they’ve seen before and refuse to give them candy. (How ludicrous is that, in an age of mass-produced costumes?) I’ve heard them tell the teenagers in jeans and masks that they can’t have candy because of their half-assed costumes.

These are not poor neighbors with a limited candy budget, either. They’ve put additions on their houses. They get new cars every two years. They even complain about their giant bowl of leftover candy on November 1st.

They just want an excuse to enforce White People Rules. Like my grandma, those rules are “I must keep someone from getting something I don’t think they should.”

Our neighborhood has gotten very popular with trick-or-treaters in recent years. We have sidewalks and less hills than surrounding areas. We also have a few original owners from the 50s and 60s who give out full-sized candy bars. Plenty of people will drive in with families, park at the nearby school, and go through the neighborhood.

There are kids in strollers, adults in costumes, and masked teenaged boys sprinting from house to house. Undoubtedly some boys hit my house more than once. I still give them candy every time they come up my steps.

Because it’s Halloween. We’re giving out candy, for chrissakes. Regulations have no place in an orgy of free sugar.

Last year, a family came by with a five-year-old ninja and a toddler fairy. A woman in her sixties or seventies, dressed as a witch, followed the children carefully up my steps. A set of Latinx, thirty-something parents watched anxiously from the sidewalk as I let the children pick their favorite candy. The old woman held out a bag also. I put some candy in it and wished her a happy Halloween.

She smiled and followed the kids down the steps.

The mother on the sidewalk called out, “Thank you!” and beamed at me.

I must have looked confused.

“Thanks for giving her candy,” the mom explained. “A lot of people won’t. They say she’s too old. And she doesn’t understand.”

It took ME a minute to understand. The elderly woman had some form of dementia. She thought she was a little girl again. She wanted to go trick-or-treating because what little girl wouldn’t?

And my asshole neighbors refused to give her candy. Because the rule about White People Rules is ultimately that Rules trump compassion.

I wanted to run after that seventy-year-old little girl in the witch hat and give her ALL the candy. But I had other little witches waiting. I waved good-bye to the anxious mother/daughter shepherding her family down the block.

I hope the rest of my neighbors gave her candy instead of judgment.

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

Wretch (#218)

My mother loved being pregnant. When I was 10 and she was pregnant with Baby Brother, she gave up alcohol and cigarettes without complaint. Same thing when I was 11 and she had Baby Singing Sister. She rarely threw up and was always cheerful.

My older sister, the Judgmental Genius Doctor, had miserable pregnancies. Continue reading Wretch (#218)

Not Your Ordinary Magic Wand (#217)

Finding out I was pregnant was anticlimactic. Because here’s the rule: you can’t tell anyone until you know it’s a viable pregnancy.

Actually, you can tell people, sure, but since 1 out of every 3 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you run the risk of having to un-tell them later. Possibly while sobbing incoherently.

So I was stuck in this no-man’s-land of being pregnant – maybe – for two weeks while I waited for my obstetrician to officially confirm that a) my pregnancy tests weren’t liars and b) the embryo had a heartbeat. Continue reading Not Your Ordinary Magic Wand (#217)

The Brilliance of the Teen Brain (#216)

I feel old. Yes, I did just have a birthday. No, I’m not going to tell you which one.

My knees started making noises. The orthopedist assured me that I’m young for creaky knees; it’s probably an unfortunate combination of too much dancing and volleyball. I feel decrepit anyway.

Even so, it’s not my knees that made me realize I’m old.

It’s my brain. Continue reading The Brilliance of the Teen Brain (#216)

Orange You Glad You Live in California (#209)

When I was a little girl, I always got an orange in my Christmas stocking. I would have preferred chocolate, but oranges were traditional. My parents got oranges in their Christmas stockings, and so did their parents, because back in the day, oranges were an amazing, exotic treat in northern locales.

Also, perhaps, because citrus crops are harvested in the winter.

Today, oranges are less special, thanks to big growers and modern transit. In fact, most of America’s seven million tons of oranges are now processed and turned into juice. When I shipped some belongings to college, a crate of oranges leaked all over my stuff — some of which wasn’t washable. One of my Florida classmates loved to come into my dorm room and sniff. “It reminds me of the orange processing plant back home,” she told me. Continue reading Orange You Glad You Live in California (#209)

Thanksgiving Smorgasbord

If you’re traveling today, or just need to read something turkey-related, I’m serving up hot holiday helpings right here.

Are you far away from your family this Thanksgiving? Do you miss them even though they are dysfunctional as fuck? Here’s a post for you: Sunny, with a Chance of Thanksgiving.

Are you bringing a significant other home for Thanksgiving? Are you worried that they won’t fit in? Try this post: Hearts & Turkeys.

If you’re gonna play it sane and do a leisurely little 5K Turkey Trot, I’ve got a post about people who chase turkeys for 2 miles.

If you’ve been training hard to kick someone’s ass in a 10K Turkey Trot, you can read about my one — and only — 10K attempt.

If you lost hours slaving over a Thanksgiving dish that a) got eaten by the dog, b) got burned when your husband accidentally set the oven to “broil”, or c) got dropped on the floor, here’s a post from last year’s baking disaster.

Wishing all my U.S. readers safe travels and loose pants this week!

Top 10 Reasons To Have Babies…Refuted (#204)

My husband wanted a baby.

Meanwhile, I literally had a whole list of reasons NOT to have a baby.

But in the interests of fairness, I interviewed and studied various parents. I came up a list of reasons why (other) people want children…along with reasons why those reasons are screwed up. Continue reading Top 10 Reasons To Have Babies…Refuted (#204)