Have We Forgotten How to Do Halloween?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

As soon as we hit mid-October this year, the frantic text messages started pouring in. “What are you doing for Halloween???” they read. I pride myself on always having a plan, specifically around Halloween, which is obviously the best holiday. But this year, I’m coming up short. “Idk!!!” I say back. “What are YOU doing???”

The question seems to be more fraught than it has been years past. (Or since the last time I really celebrated Halloween, which was in 2019.) First of all, when I try to think of culturally relevant costume ideas, I can’t even recall what happened yesterday. What did I watch? Did anything cool or funny happen? No idea. Couldn’t tell you. Everything is a blur in my mushy pandemic brain.

The bits that I do remember are perhaps too niche to be a good costume. For example, I recently asked someone if it would be funny for me to dress up as Ella Emhoff (same hair), to which they replied: “Who?” I guess we have different algorithms or read different newsletters.

All the other ideas I have are almost too dark, even for Halloween, which is also not surprising given the times in which we are living. Like, will I have any fun being a zombie girl boss? Probably not.

Lastly — and this is not particularly new to this year — a lot of people don’t seem to know what to do with themselves, event-wise. Personally, I have no idea where to party on Halloween night, or even when Halloween night is. (Friday? Saturday? Sunday? All three?) Or whether it’s safe to go out at all.

This week, I expressed all my Halloween anxieties at a dinner party and received some helpful insight, which I hope others in a similar position will find useful as well. I was talking to an editor who has a 2-year-old son, and he said that what his kid really, really wants to dress up as, more than anything else this year, is … a watch! Isn’t that brilliant? And timely. (Pun intended.)

So I asked this editor, “How did your son come up with that costume idea?” Maybe this genius 2-year-old’s thought process could inform my own. “Well, he’s a toddler,” he said. “So he didn’t really think about it too much.” His dad said something like, “Hey, what do you want to be for Halloween?” And he looked down, saw a watch, and said, “Watch!”

The moral of this Halloween tale is don’t overthink it. Just tap into your inner 2-year old and follow your gut. And maybe steal this kid’s idea.

Have We Forgotten How to Do Halloween?