By Betty Wang
Northwest Asian Weekly
I still have no idea what Halloween is all about. And it’s not because this holiday has no Asian roots. My family is made up of fast learners and, so far, has had little trouble adapting to American holidays and traditions.
We’re not religious, but we totally get Christmas, and it’s cool. We have absolutely no ties to those who came off the Mayflower, but Thanksgiving is awesome. We hold the same feast each year.
I personally love those two holidays, but I am beginning to resent the fact that I have to obligingly push Halloween out of the way before I can tackle my turkey and mash.
When I was 4, someone in a red dress and a ghoulish mask that looked like a mangled dead person rang our doorbell. I remember huddling up behind my mom’s waist, peeking out from behind her legs, thinking we were going to be robbed by this 4’11” demon. While I was silently panicking, my dad was quizzically looking at my mom, who had bolted from the front door, no doubt saving herself first from the little robber.
She returned from the kitchen with a couple of Kit-Kat bars, the ones I was given as a treat only twice a week. The monster disappeared into the night. My mom had saved us all.
A year later, I started school as an eager kindergartner. Along with a couple of other Asians and a handful of Mexican kids, I was one of the few who came to school on Halloween without a costume on. I ate all the candy and then went to the bathroom to cry.
The subsequent years were better. I started wearing costumes and remember being a witch, a princess, and Strawberry Shortcake. I went trick-or-treating at night with my friends and picked at my loot for weeks afterward. The Kit-Kat bars were always the first to go. The Tootsie rolls and the generic disc-like lollipops (the kind that cartoon doctors gave out to their patients) never were eaten. I carved pumpkins, I tried apple bobbing one year (it was disgusting), and trick-or-treating slowly became my favorite thing to do on Halloween.
Around this time, my brother, who is five years younger, began to partake in the yearly festivities as well. He was Ronald Reagan the first time he went trick-or-treating. He was 4’5″ and wore a little blue suit with an oversized rubber mask that resembled a horrifically dramatized version of our 40th president.
My parents were not and are not Republicans, so nobody was really sure why they chose such an outfit for him.
When I started college, I failed to read the memo that stated that Halloween in college meant dressing up as whatever you wanted if you were a male and dressing up in skimpy underwear if you were a female.
Comfort and body issues be damned, I was apparently supposed to be a provocative [insert figure/animal/character] here — or I wouldn’t fit in. I hated beer and apparently nobody passed out Kit-Kat bars at the Halloween parties that college kids threw.
I was confused again — at 9, it was OK to troll the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, collecting candy. But at 19, it wasn’t socially acceptable anymore.
Instead, trick-or-treating at 19 consisted of wearing the lingerie or bikini version of a panda or Power Ranger and going out to drink beer at some stranger’s house.
The way I saw it, if I wasn’t going to be at the beach, there was no point in wearing a bikini when it was brisk outside.
Also, every Asian bone in my body was confused by this behavior — we’re not people who parade around, drawing attention to ourselves for fun. I think we — or I, at least — would much rather have our diligent work speak for itself.
I felt like only Lindsay Lohan’s character in “Mean Girls,” when she dressed up as that creepy dead bride, could understand me. But she’s fictional, and Lindsay Lohan, the actress, probably loves Halloween.
For me, it felt like a waste of a day. I was in college, and I felt like I was 4 again — I felt robbed.
Luckily, now, I’m no longer in college, surrounded by creatures that smell of beer and societal pressure. I’m also unfortunately no longer a part of the picturesque small-New-
England-suburb scene, where miniature pumpkins and sheeted ghosts wander the town, collecting delicious candy.
Now, Halloween is whatever I choose for it to be — except I still don’t understand it.
My name is Betty, I’m 26, and I don’t know what Halloween is all about. But, it’s OK. I’m going to curl up on my couch with a bag of Kit-Kat bars now.
Happy Halloween! Remember, turkey and mash is just around the corner.
Betty Wang is a Chinese American law student at the University of California, Davis, School of Law.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.