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.

Spun (#206)

You may have noticed some outrage on my page these days. And those are only the public messages, not the private ones. Some people are seriously pissed at me for writing posts that do not laud childbearing.

To which I say, why? Why is it so important that we revere pregnancy and procreation?

I’m gonna go with the marketing of Big Religion. Continue reading Spun (#206)

The Matter with Kids (#201)

I’m convinced that most American parents didn’t realize how much work raising a kid was when they decided to have one.

 If they did, we’d have a negative birthrate.

Having a child changes your life irrevocably, in that you will have at least eighteen years with no life. A good parent prioritizes their child’s needs, especially during infancy. They endure a constant state of deprivation: sleep deprivation, cleanliness deprivation, time deprivation, and quiet deprivation.

If you think I know this because my parents were such awesome role models, you must be a new reader. Continue reading The Matter with Kids (#201)

Color Me What? (#199)

My mother was blonde when I was a little girl – courtesy of Clairol. She had been white-blonde as a child, but her hair darkened as she aged. I don’t know whether she was dirty blonde or chestnut, though, underneath her cheap, brassy dye. Everyone assumed blonde was her natural color, however, since she was always surrounded by a horde of screaming towheaded children. We were the perfect camouflage for her unnatural hair.

I hated her dye job. I harangued her about being a natural brunette incessantly. She ignored me. I swore I would never, ever color my own hair, even though my own locks were brown by Junior High.

You know what’s coming, right?

Hellloooo, irony. Continue reading Color Me What? (#199)

White Silence (#196)

White Supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, courtesy of Molly Ruth

The first time I ever heard the n-word, I was in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was nine, walking with my mother and stepfather. Two kids ran past. One called the other a word I’d never heard growing up in Washington, D.C., despite having classmates and friends of multiple races.

My mother pressed her lips into a thin line, then said, “I hate that word.”

My stepfather agreed.

I asked, “What word?” Continue reading White Silence (#196)

From the Veterans Day Archives

Today, we salute the Veterans of the United States of America. Your service and sacrifice are and were extraordinary. A personal thank you to my father, my brother, my ex-stepbrother, my neighbors, and a whole slew of ex-boyfriends.

But thanks most of all to my grandfather, who was part of the greatest generation. In case you haven’t seen it, this is a little of his story.

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I didn’t see my father’s parents much when I was growing up. They lived in Colorado, then Hawaii, then Colorado again. I sent them letters when I was young, and perhaps they visited us once every year. When Big Brother hit high school, they flew him out to Hawaii for several weeks in the summer. The next year Future Doctor Sister got to go, and finally it was my turn… Click to keep reading.

 

Thanksgiving with Jay (#97)

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The Treaty of the Religious Wedding Ceremony ended our War Over the Wedding Location with Andy’s parents. One of the conditions was that we would spend the Thanksgiving after our wedding with Jay and Sunny. During the week we were there, they would host a Chinese-style wedding banquet, mainly for Jay’s family members.

Andy’s parents called once before we left to get our flight information. Sunny asked Andy if there was anything we wanted to eat. He told her no, anything was fine. Which it was – FOR HIM. Andy can – and will – eat anything from animal brains (inaccurately, but oh-so innocently labeled “sweetbreads”) to Rocky Mountain Oysters (bulls’ balls). Continue reading Thanksgiving with Jay (#97)

No Thank You (#65)

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My Southern grandmother drilled old-fashioned etiquette into my mother’s head. My mother drilled that same etiquette into mine. Which is weird, really. My mother turned her back on much of her upbringing when she became a liberated woman. She reclaimed her maiden name. She mortified my grandmother by embracing their Cherokee heritage and getting suntans so dark my racist grandmother would insist – in the most DIRE tones — that “her daughter was turning black.” My mother discarded “Mrs.,” bras, hats, gloves, and the idea that all ladies should be competent with a stove or a vacuum. Continue reading No Thank You (#65)

Granddad’s Gift (#51)

Hanalei Bay In Hawaii, my Granddad's favorite view.
Hanalei Bay in Hawaii, my Granddad’s favorite view.

I didn’t see my father’s parents much when I was growing up. They lived in Colorado, then Hawaii, then Colorado again. I sent them letters when I was young, and perhaps they visited us once every year. When Big Brother hit high school, they flew him out to Hawaii for several weeks in the summer. The next year Future Doctor Sister got to go, and finally it was my turn. Continue reading Granddad’s Gift (#51)