Warning

A teen I greatly respect sent a warning today about Halloween costumes.  He urged his friends to be careful in their choice of holiday dress, lest their selection offend someone.

Sadly, I fear many will have to be naked- Wait, no, that too will offend someone.

Look, I understand that we should be sensitive to the feelings of others.  Causing deliberate harm is always wrong.  My question is this:  why must we be offended?  When did we forget how to laugh at ourselves?

I am of Irish descent and my husband is Colombian.  We often jokingly refer to our offspring as Irish Coffee.  I cannot tell you how often I have heard jokes about drunken Irishmen or Colombian drug dealers.  They did not make me curl into a corner and die of embarrassment.  They were funny.

Why do we take everything so personally these days?  Humor is based in the outrageous. Costuming is playing dress-up, a form of pretend.  Sure, we can make a statement through how we dress, but on Halloween most are dressing for fun.  Yes, someone might mock the current political agenda but so what?  Laughing is sometimes more effective therapy than crying.  It helps us keep perspective.

Outrage is currently fashionable.  Breathing can offend someone.  To stop breathing however would not be in your best interest.

Know who you are and what you believe in.  As long as you know yourself you are not threatened by the expressions of others.  They are allowed to think as they like. Their viewpoint is opposed to yours. So? It doesn’t mean that you need to explode in a cloud of angst.  There have always been jerks in the community.  Choose not to associate with those you find hurtful. Accept difference and move on.

Choose not to be offended.  Welcome a moment of humor.  As humans there are so many qualities and situations that we can make light of.  Costumes, if taken in the spirit of fun intended by Halloween, are nothing to get our knickers in a twist over.  It is not as if someone has entered your workplace with a picket sign – these are people dancing, at a party, and collecting candy.  If they are enjoying a moment of revelry, let them!

“I would simply never wear such a thing.  The message they are sending is inappropriate.”  Could be.  The good news?  You never have to wear that or send that message, so how is their choice directly impacting you?  You disagree with their choice?  Walk away.

It is highly unlikely that someone chose their dress with you specifically in mind.  “Ooh, wonder what I could wear that would really get Karen’s goat?  Aha!  I know how to offend her.”  Few are truly that diabolical.  Understand that this moment, their choice, is not intended to be about you.  It is an opportunity for someone else to dress as they wish in that moment, a free pass to enjoy creative expression.  The rest of the year is restricted by social boundary. On this night it is acceptable to stroll outside of the expected.

As a kid I loved Halloween because it let me be someone else for a few hours.  Oh, that freedom, excitedly exploring a different way of dress, inhabiting a character, showing off a different side of yourself.  It was such fun!

No one is perfect. Perhaps you are overweight, have buck teeth or did poorly in school. Perhaps your ancestry is different from most of your friends.  Your religion might be unique or you hate macaroni and cheese.  You loathe birthdays.  There is always some quality we undervalue in ourselves, something we wish we could change, a vulnerability. We all have weaknesses. Some of yours may be exploited through another’s choice of dress.

Don’t take it to heart. Choose to accept it in the spirit of fun. Share a laugh. An understanding of who we are and a solid sense of humor are among our greatest strengths.  Halloween is not about judging.  It is a holiday.  Dress up, be free and celebrate!

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