When was the last time you went trick-or-treating? For me, it was probably sometime in middle school, although that was more due to my super busy schedule as a high school drama nerd than anything else. Believe you me, though — if I’d had the time to trick-or-treat in high school, I definitely would have, trick-or-treat shaming be damned. Indeed, a viral Facebook post currently making the rounds explains exactly why we shouldn’t shame teenagers for trick-or-treating on Halloween — and although I feel like it’s something that shouldn’t need to be said at all, it’s an important reminder that a little kindness goes a long way.
The post originally appeared on Budget101’s Facebook page on Oct. 23. Budget101 began way back in 1995 as a tool to help people looking to get a handle on their finances “live within their means and get out of debt utilizing the resources that they currently had on hand,” according to the site's About page. Now over 20 years old, the site has grown into a robust online community — which, of course, includes branches on just about every social media platform you can think of, including Facebook.
Although Budget101’s Facebook post about trick-or-treat shaming is over a week old, it’s being circulated all the more fiercely today — because, well, it’s Halloween, and today is the day that its message is the most relevant. “For those passing out candy this year, can you please take into consideration giving candy to teenagers and not shaming them for trick-or-treating by saying ‘Aren’t you too old to be doing this?’”, the post asks before pointing out a number of reasons that trick-or-treat shaming is unhelpful at best and could possibly have disastrous consequences at worst. It finally draws the important conclusion that “just because they’re 16 doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to have a little safe, legal fun” — and encouragingly, with over 3,000 shares and more than 5,000 reactions as of this writing, it’s a message that many seem to be taking to heart.
There are, of course, many reasons that trick-or-treat shaming is the pits, including the following:
Trick-Or-Treating Is Safer Than A Lot Of Alternatives
This point makes up the main crux of Budget101’s argument against trick-or-treat shaming: When it comes to Halloween activities, trick-or-treating is one of the safer ones teens could engage in — both for their own safety, and for that of other people. I don’t think it’s necessarily as simple as “If teens don’t go trick-or-treating, they’ll be drinking and driving instead!”; nor is it out of the question for teens to engage in illicit activities while trick-or-treating. But that’s where good parenting comes in: Set some boundaries before the kids go out, check in with them every so often, and make sure that they’ve got a ride home if they need one. (Remember that viral story from a little while ago about “TheX Plan?” That might be useful to remember here.)
You Can Have A Job AND Trick-Or-Treat
The comment thread on Budget101’s post does have a lot of people noting that they’re in agreement with it — but there are also rather a lot of replies saying things like, “You want candy? Get a job, lazy teenagers!!!!” This response kind of baffles me, though, because… well, you can both have a job AND still like dressing up on Halloween and going trick-or-treating. It’s not an either/or situation.
And besides, trick-or-treating isn’t even necessarily about the candy — it’s the whole thing: Making a costume, dressing up, hanging out with your friends, enjoying the decorations your neighbors have put up, and everything else that goes with the candy. In a lot of ways, the candy is incidental — an added bonus. As one commenter put it, “For people commenting about getting a job, you missed the point of the activity. Some teens aren't ready to give up their youth. They want to enjoy it for another year or two.” Ayyyyy-men.
Teenagers Are Still Kids
16-year-olds are not adults — not legally, and definitely not in terms of life experience. Yes, teenagers are at a point in their lives where they’re starting to learn about adult responsibilities — having an after-school job is part of that — but they’re not fully-fledged grownups yet. You’re only a kid once, so why not let everyone enjoy it?
Judging Age By Looks Is Bogus
And here is where I point out our culture’s strange and bizarre obsession with judging people based on how they look, and why it’s such a problem: Just because someone looks like an adult doesn’t necessarily mean they are an adult.
Women and people of color in particular are often on receiving end of his kind of this kind of judgment: Consider that, in the United States, 85 percent of women report having experienced street harassment before they turned 17, according to Hollaback! — and “Well, she looked older” is often trotted out by perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault as an excuse for it. (Hi there, victim blaming.) And consider that Tamir Rice was only 12, not 18, as the police who shot him said they thought he was — part of a pattern of racial bias research confirms is real: One study found that police officers tend both to overestimate the age of black felony-suspected children by five years and to underestimate the age of white felony-suspected children by a year.
All of which is to say that just because someone might look “too old” for trick-or-treating doesn’t mean that they are. There’s just no way to tell based on looks alone.
You’re Never Too Old To Have Fun
The older I get, the more I believe that one of the great joys of adulthood is having the freedom to be a kid every now and again. Sometimes I will spend a lazy Saturday watching cartoons. Sometimes I will have cake for dinner. Sometimes I will read books that are definitely not intended for the 30-something demographic to which I currently belong. And you know what? It’s fun. I do not regret engaging in silly things I find fun in the slightest. I am both capable of making sure I take care of all my actual adult responsibilities and of setting aside some time to goof off periodically, because again, this isn't an either/or situation.
Yes, there are many behaviors in which grown-ass adults shouldn’t be engaging — think name-calling, having temper tantrums when things don’t go your way, that kind of thing. (So, basically the kinds of behaviors that we try to teach kids not to make a habit of in the first place.) But by teaching kids when they’re still, y’know, kids that they’re “too old” for harmless activities like trick-or-treating, we’re just perpetuating ageism. And that’s how we end up with a society full of adults who make a big deal out of someone being “too old” to wear certain types of clothing (wear what you want; if an outfit makes you feel awesome, you're never "too old" for it) and think these common comments are compliments (they’re not. They're really, really not).
A lot of commenters on Budget101’s post have some excellent ideas for how to handle trick-or-treaters of any age: According to one person, if someone is in costume and knocks on their door, they get candy; according to another, if someone doesn’t have a costume, they can sing a song — any song at all — and get candy in return; according to yet another, if an older teen is taking some younger kids around, everyone gets candy, not just the kids; and so on and so forth. The holiday is meant to be fun for all, not just fun for some— so why not be as inclusive as possible? After all, we were all kids once — and, hopefully, we’ve all still got at least a little bit of an “inner child”somewhere, too, no matter how deep it might be buried.
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