It was Halloween night, my favorite night of the year. Seriously. Most years I start thinking about Halloween costumes in June. I don’t know why I’ve always loved Halloween so much – perhaps it stems from the gluttonous orgy of sugar-gobbling glee that happened every year of my childhood. My crazed, sweaty-palmed, fierce-eyed sprint from house-to-house was daunting, but I just knew that if I didn’t fill that damn pillowcase to the very top with 200,000 varieties of corn-syrupy happiness I would surely die. In my final languishing moments I would have nothing to cling to but circus peanuts and necco wafers from the monstrous old lady across the street.
I would fill my cheeks like a rabid squirrel shooting furtive glances toward my slumbering wardens – the parents I’d dragged around the neighborhood to the point of exhausted torpor (all part of the plan, of course). I knew they would stop me if I alerted them to my subterfuge by rustling a wrapper too loudly. Slowly, meticulously, as if defusing a bomb, I would peel off the wrappers and stack my candy into little piles so that I could cram sugar into my face-hole with enough double-fisted scarfing action to rival Augustus Gloop. Then, I would lie back in buzzing fulfillment.
Sometimes I would even dump out the entire sack and make snow angels on top of the pile like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of coins:
I think, really, though, the reason I loved and still love Halloween so much is that it is the one day every year where I can wear whatever I want without judgment, looks of repugnance, cries of alarm or general weeping and gnashing of teeth. I know what you’re thinking – “Wait, wait, wait. You’re not one of those girls who uses Halloween as an excuse to dress like a Slutty McSlutterson are you?”
In the words of Michelle Tanner –
No, no, no blog people. I have never worn anything with the word ‘sexy’ in the title. No Sexy Dumpster, Sexy File Cabinet, Sexy Spongebob Squarepants
or whatever other objects girls have decided to bastardize into overly-sexualized abominations this year. Here’s a run-down of my favorite costumes from the past:
Age 6 – Steve Urkel, complete with blackface (I know, I know, but he was my hero. I knew all his catch-phrases, had the pull-string doll, the Urkel-O’s, everything! Why my parents allowed me to dress in blackface is another story…). He was my hero.
Age 9 – The year my mother was in a horrible car accident and subsequently confined to bed for a while, I decided to dress up like her – a car crash victim/patient – complete with gauze, fake casts, fake blood, a hospital gown and all the requisite limping and groaning. I remember in my dull, demented little nine-year-old head thinking, “This will be the perfect way to cheer mom up!” The look in her eyes. . .oh my. I’m pretty sure I triggered some PTSD for her instead. You’re welcome mom.
Age 11 – I was really into the OJ Trial. I mean it. I would rush home after school to watch coverage of it. I knew all the players – Nicole Brown Simpson, Goldman, Shapiro, the juice himself! The black glove! Naturally that year I dressed as the corpse of Nicole Brown Simpson. Tasteful.
Age 12 – All my friends wanted to dress in poodle skirts. I wanted to be an immortal sociopath:
In sixth grade I wrote that I would be an actress in Florida (with it’s thriving cinema industry) when I grew up. Before I found my outlet in community theater, I think Halloween was my outlet and still is. Last year I was Kenneth Parcell from 30 Rock:
Anyway, I say all this to fully emphasize how much I did NOT want to grade essays on Halloween, but I did.
No costume. No parties. Not a single piece of candy was consumed. Instead, I consumed paper after paper after paper – 40 rough drafts to be exact (and they were rough).
About halfway through I thought to myself “Why am I doing this? I could just hand these back a couple of days later. Why am I giving such detailed feedback? I could just write ‘This is bad. Fix it’ and spend half as much time working. Sure, maybe I’ll get a couple of bad course evaluations at the end of the year, but so what? I know professors who put in way less effort, and they’ve still managed to keep their jobs year after year. Why don’t I follow suit?”
That’s when I had an epiphany. I was grading on my favorite holiday so that I could return the drafts quickly and allow my students a full week for revision before turning in their final draft. I felt like that would allow them to turn in their best possible work. I was providing so much feedback because the drafts were rough and needed a lot of help. I was doing all of this because I actually wanted to help my students improve their work. Because I believe they can. Because I care.
You might be thinking that when I had this realization, I was instantly filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and love!
You might be thinking that I was filled with enough peace and good will toward men to hoist Tiny Tim upon my once miserly shoulder and shower him with a glimpse into a life of wealth he’ll never have.
(Sidenote – I was so obsessed with the Mickey Mouse version of A Christmas Carol when I was five that I watched it over and over all year. I’d play that tape, watch it, rewind it and watch it again. Why? To psychologically maim my parents, of course. I even had this pair of purple Mickey Mouse underwear that I refused to take off, battling my parents with righteous indignation and preternatural, squirmy child-strength. Who did they think they were? King and Queen of the panties? If I ever have children they will be tiny archfiends from hell, I just know it. That will be my repayment. They’ll be the type of children who smear poop on everything, refuse to eat anything but bowls of mayonnaise, shove legos in their ears, and pull over displays of wine bottles in the grocery store while flailing and screaming “I hate you!” at the top of their tiny lungs. God help me.)
Anyway – back to my epiphany. If you thought I was suddenly struck by the beauty of the universe and a newfound sense of philanthropy for my students and a desire to donate my bone marrow, you are incorrect. This more closely resembles my reaction.
Why? Because all these years I’ve been slaving away grading papers, planning, answering stupid e-mails, repeating shit I’ve already explained 3,235 times in class, trying to decipher incomprehensible sentences that shouldn’t have made it into a college classroom (Why, God? Why did they?), drawing a line through the phrase ‘in today’s society’ for the 3 millionth time, explaining to a student for the billionth time that it’s ‘based on’ not ‘based off of’ – all these years I’ve been doing that, glimmering before me like an elusive chimera was the notion that eventually I would get to the point of apathy. Perhaps one day I could will apathy into reality.
That was my hope.
My students would succeed in crushing my spirit, and I would stop caring. I know that sounds unpleasant, and it wasn’t something I fully realized that I hoped for until I realized I could never have it (so it goes). The reason I wanted to stop caring is that my job would then require so much less from me, and I might actually have time for leisure. Then I could actually rest. Then I would no longer feel like a crusty, dried-up sponge moldering under the sink.
But I do care, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring, so I am doomed to grade papers on Halloween or Thanksgiving or my birthday until I die, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
In a way I suppose I am glad to know that I do care about my students, little shits that they are. God help me, I care about them.
I’ll just try to keep this in mind:
So when Emotional Problems girl started sobbing in my class YET AGAIN, my initial reactions were still the same as the last time she pulled this shit.
First, I wanted to scream in her face:
Than I wanted to slap her.
I wanted to shout in her face – “For the love of God, where are your coping mechanisms? Where? You’re an adult! This is not a daycare. Dealing with crybabies should not be one of my work responsibilities! Are you going to ask me to wipe your nose and tie your shoes next? I’ve seen single-cell organisms through a microscopes that could cope with life better than you!”
But don’t worry,
As I looked at her sobbing, I eventually found myself pitying her instead of hating her. No matter how debilitating my anxiety can be at times, no matter how much stress I’ve been under, no matter how much I sometimes struggle to just get out of bed in the morning and do my life, I always manage to make myself do it. I’ve never gotten to the point where sobbing in the middle of class/work seemed like my only option. I’m sure she didn’t enjoy it any more than I did.
Anyway, this week was a weird week. First a student made me feel incredibly old by writing, “I had never heard of the shootings at Columbine High School before.”
Then another student made me feel incredibly young by referring to herself as a ’90’s kid.’ (You were born in 1995! Which part of those remaining five years of the 90’s did you enjoy? The part where you were eating your own mucus or that part where you were sitting in your own excrement? Do you even know who Jordan Catalano is? Did you ever scrawl ‘Tupac Lives!’ on a bathroom stall at school? Did you ever wear a hypercolor windbreaker and fanny pack at the same time? Do you even know what Pogs are? No? Then STFU.)
Then I heard a man on the bus tell someone on the other end to “suck my poo.” Coupled with past evidence from the woman who screamed “snort the shit off my ass” into her phone at the bus stop, I am lead to believe that bus riders are gifted in crafting fecal insults.
In case you were wondering, I managed to salvage what was left of my Halloween with a glass of chianti and some Silence of the Lamb. Don’t worry – I had my wine sans liver.