Sick, Sad World

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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43 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Mom and Dad always inspected our candy before they let us eat it.

    They always took some of the best ones. (Though I did not mind Mom stealing all my Mounds/Almond Joy.)

    I always assumed that the “PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOUR CHILDREN EVIL CANDY!” was a plot on the part of Moms and Dads everywhere to take the “fun size” Snickers from their kids.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Oh my gosh. I have just realized that the kids whose candy was cherry-picked by their parents in the 70’s and 80’s under the guise of safety were never told that it was merely about stealing candy.

      They honestly thought it was about safety.

      And now they’re raising their own children and they’re doing the same thing only this time they mean it.

      Holy crap. This is where religions come from.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve always wondered how the hell anyone was supposed to notice any hypothetical ‘tampering’ anyway.

        A good deal of candy, like Smarties and Kisses and Starbursts and gum, aren’t sealed *at all*. (Instead, the bag they come in is sealed.) A hypothetical poisoner could just unwrap and rewrap them.

        The things like Reeses cups and tiny M&M bags and mini candy bars are sealed, but they aren’t *vacuum* sealed, and anyone who wanted to poison them could easily pull the glue at the seam apart (It’s not hard), poison them or stick razor blades in or whatever in them, and then Krazy glue it back closed. (No one would notice the different glue, because no one *opens* them that way.)

        This is absolutely no ‘If this seal is broken, it may have been tamped with’ on *any* candy at all.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    People can get rather fearful at times. It probably has some positive sides but these weird and baseless moral panics cause a lot of problems in the long run.Report

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    Yes, and I of course connect this to the general mythology of fear and anxiety that has always been present, but seems to have spiraled upwards in my lifetime, even as the actual risk has dropped.

    I connect it to the “Urban Wilding” mythology, the open carry zealots, the “Things are going to Helena Handbasket” handwringing.
    Hell, being the liberal I am, I will throw in the “Men In Wigs Creeping Into Womens Toilets panic”.

    And the word “investment” is vey apt. I have discovered that people actually get angry when confronted by evidence that urban legends are just that. Its like they prefer to see a world in which there are snakes in the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese, than one in which there aren’t.Report

  4. DavidTC says:

    So, here’s the story of my Halloween.

    My local town does this rather dumbass local trick-or-treating thing on the town square that I wasn’t aware quite how dumb it was. They closed the roads in the town square for it, it started at 5:30, and they’ve been doing this for a few years.

    Meanwhile, the theatre I volunteer at, which is about, oh, three hundred yards from the square down one of the main streets leading to it, had a performance that night. We decided to get out in front and give out candy, because supposedly there was trick or treating ‘on the square’, and, hell, we’re *almost* on the square, right?

    Here is, as best as I could tell from my vantage point, what actually happened: Parents and children showed up as early as 4:30 to the thing, which was, uh, an hour early. They then stood in very slow moving lines while the local merchants shoveled candy into their bags.

    These ‘trick-or-treaters’ didn’t bother actually *going* anywhere else, we had maybe 30 groups of people show up, and a good third of them were theatre people, and another third just happened to be walking past. Every couple of minutes, we’d look up the street, where there were amazingly long lines, waiting for people to come down to us. Nope.

    Basically, trick-or-treating has apparently, in the modern day, turned into ‘drive to a cordoned off area, stand in line and get handed candy, then get in another line, and another, and another, then go home’.

    No. Just, no. I refuse to accept that.

    I will accept a world where trick-or-treaters are accompanied by parents. I don’t think it’s needed, but I’ll accept it, mainly for the *actual* danger of car accidents than any imagined ones. And I *might* accept a world in which trick-or-treating starts at fricking 4:30, although, really? And ends at 7:30?! Aren’t you supposed to trick or treat *near* dark, if not actually at dark? But I can live with that.

    But I refuse to accept a world where the way it works is you just get in damn lines and local businesses give you candy and that’s supposedly ‘trick-or-treating’. At best, that’s some sort of weird Halloween party taking place on the town square for children, which, okay, fine, whatever. But it’s *not* trick-or-treating.

    I mean, I thought the whole ‘drive to another neighborhood to trick or treat’ thing that people did about a decade ago was actually a bit odd, but understandable. We’ve very rural, some kids might only have three or four houses in walking distance.

    But this is inane.

    Meanwhile, another oddity. The local college did some weird thing called ‘trunk or treat’ where they parked a bunch of cars in their parking deck and kids could show up for that. At least, I *think* it was kids. (If not, it’s dumb in another way.)

    Again, no, that’s not how it works.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

      Hey that’s what we did this year! A thing in the town square with trunk or treating. Lain got to spend time in a moon castle, got to play a couple games, and got lots of candy and more than a few cards with Bible verses on them.

      We’ll probably do it again next year (maybe with just a bit of real trick or treating afterwards?) then perhaps just the real thing when she’s five.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

        Oh, I’ve got no problem with the idea of going to a Halloween party, and of course trick-or-treating with kids under five is always an interesting problem. I don’t even have a problem with parties as an *alternative* to trick-or-treating.

        My complaint is mostly *calling* the thing trick or treating. It’s a party. Trick or treating is something else, and involves walking from door to door asking for candy.

        Of course, our version of this party didn’t appear to have any games or anything. So it’s basically just a dozen lines to wait in. Line up at merchant in front of their store, wait, get some candy, repeat. Whee.

        I mean, it could have been *somewhat* like trick-or-treating, depending on how it was done, if there were 1/20th of the children there. But that large a mass of children basically ruins the concept.

        It’s weird looking at the evolution of this. I think it really did start with parents throwing their kids in a car and driving somewhere else for candy, and letting the kid out at each house. (This is rural *and* mountainous. A bad combination for walking to the neighbors.) And then, quickly, certain neighborhoods and subdivisions became over-trick-or-treated, causing problems (Not to mention car accident dangers.), so the town is like ‘Well, why not do it on the square?’, and then *everyone* starts coming there, and pretty soon the whole thing doesn’t even *vaguely* resemble actual trick-or-treating.

        I just hadn’t really *observed* what this had turned into over the past decade, and it was a bit of a shock.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to DavidTC says:

      We got relatively few trick or treaters 10 years ago when my wife and I moved into our first apartment. We figured it was just the apartment thing.

      Now we live in a detached home in an affluent suburban neighborhood at the end of a cul de sac that has children running up and down the street all day, every day. This year, we put out decorations and our lights were on. Our doorbell rang once. I think the culture has just changed.

      Not that it’s a bad thing. Gatherings where kids in costumes can all get together and have fun are great too. It’s just a complete change from 25 years ago.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to DavidTC says:

      When our kids were quite small, we lived a few streets from a neighborhood full of young parents. On Halloween, almost every house had candy and some amount of holiday decorations, and a good third of them went all out: turned their garages into haunted houses, or their lawns into graveyards, or built scary tableaux in their driveways. It was awesome, and so much fun for everyone involved.

      So I see what David means. What he’s describing is the opposite of that.Report

    • Damon in reply to DavidTC says:

      Dude, in my area, they did the same thing, or the kids are taken to the mall. Inside so weather isn’t a problem, safe, BORING.

      Dear jeebus…..

      On the plus side, once I got through the lines in the local outdoor candyathon at one of our local historical downtowns, ALL the restaurants were open and unoccupied. Scored a nice table and had plenty service since only one employee was handing out candy.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Damon says:

        Yes. My complaint is mostly about the boringness of this.

        Halloween, as a kid, used to be interesting. You got to stay up until dark, you got to wander around in the dusk (1), there are spooky and creepy decoration, and you never know what you’re going to get. There’d sometimes be teenagers in costume running around running around doing God knows what, probably pranks.

        You could have fun, if you’re that kind of kid, of plotting out how to maximize candy intake.

        It was spectacularly weird, as a kid, a day where all the rules stopped really making sense and people did weird things, and kids could demand *adults* give them candy and, for some reason, the adult had to. (And there was some vague threat about ‘tricks’ if the candy was not given, but of course it always was. But the mere fact we were symbolically threatening adults was very odd.)

        Now it’s apparently a damn ‘get handed candy gathering’, during what is actually *daylight*. Now it’s…Christmas with candy? Well no, not even that.

        Considering how structured childhood has become, removing the weirdness of Halloween was really really not needed. There is something to be said for doing things that *don’t fit into the rules*.

        At least people still dress up. I’m sure in two decades, that will have stopped, and all the children will be wearing life preservers for some reason.

        I don’t know, maybe I’m making too much of this, maybe *after* this dumb party two thirds of the parents go out *actually* trick-or-treating with their kids. I have no idea. I just don’t understand why we need this uber-sanitized and ultra-boring mimicry of trick-or-treating.

        1) Even if your parents are with you, and, like I said, I think that should be mainly to stop the kids from running in the road so should stop as soon as they can be trusted not to do that.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC says:


      I’ve noticed this mainly happens in larger cities. This is what sort of what my neighborhoods in Brooklyn and San Francisco did. Areas were not cordoned off but trick or treating was done at businesses and by local merchants instead of at residential homes.

      As far as I can tell, this is partially to prevent a lot of door buzzers from being rung. Also in big cities it probably puts more limits on the bounty kids get.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to DavidTC says:

      That sounds awful.

      We still get a ton of trick and treaters every year. And almost all of them are actual kids; we get very few of the high schoolers wearing their football jerseys as costumes. (lame)

      It really makes Halloween one of my favorite evenings of the year.Report

  5. Glyph says:

    I finally read the text in the header image. That’s pretty funny.

    “Dose unsuspecting children? Whaddya think, money grows on TREES?!”Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    The fear is one thing. It’s problematic. But it is only part of the equation. The other part is the guilt.

    Think about it… what are the odds your kids’ candy is poison? Painfully low, right? But how much effort does it take to check? Not much, right? So even if the odds are painfully low, are you REALLY not going to put in this TINY amount of effort to reduce them to zero? What kind of monster says, “I ain’t checking the candy… Law&Order is on”? A monster. That’s who.

    For a number of reasons, I think parents are more susceptible to guilt in this day and age. I just read a headline (note: headline) that parents make up for having less time with their kids by more deeply getting involved with the time they do have. This would seem to fit in with that pattern.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      Reminds me a bit of my feelings when it came time for vaccinations. Everything I know – and more importantly, that my wife knows – says that the worst fears are baseless. But, somewhere in the back of my mind… what if they’re not? And what, if I as a parent, line my child up for something horrible? No, no, it’s not horrible that’s stupid. But what if it is? No, no.

      Obviously Lain was vaccinated. My wife wouldn’t have it any other way and if it were left to me I still would have done it. But… I did understand the fear just a little bit.Report

    • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m pretty sure the numbers show that time with kids has been going up. (this may be as a result of kids staying in the house more than the Boomers did, mind.). Not that that stops guilt, of course.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

        What numbers, Kim?

        With more families having both parents working and kids increasingly involved in structured extra curricular, they have less direct face time with parents. As a result, parents hold tighter to that time. It seems to be a quality-over-quantity mindset. Which is well-intentioned. However, I think the tendency is to focus on assuaging adult guilt as opposed to meeting the needs of kids. Which is an understandable response to a culture that seemingly goes out of its way to make parents feel guilty about every damn thing they do.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

          Kim beat me to it, but I actually used the following excerpt from Jonathan Last’s “What To Expect When No One Is Expecting” in a Hit Coffee post:

          How much time did parents [in 1965] spend taking care of their kids? You might be surprised. The average married mother spent 10.6 hours per week on the kids. The average married father spent 2.6 hours per week.

          These numbers may sound fishy, but they’re actually fairly reliable because they’re not theoretical, socio-economic constructs. No, they were composed by actual parents recording their activities contemporaneously in time diaries. you might be thinking ‘That’s crazy, even a mother with a nanny spends more than 10.6 hours per week with the kids.’ But remember that these numbers are the averages for all families – so mothers and fathers with toddlers were putting in lots of hours were balanced out by parents with kids in high school.

          Here’s where it gets interesting: From 1965 to 1985, mothers actually spent less time taking care of the kids (just 8.8 hours per week in 1975 and 9.3 hours per week in 1985) while fathers inched their numbers up a tiny bit, to 3 hours per week. After 1985, both moms and dads started doing more-lots more. By 2000, married fathersmore than doubled their time with the kids, clocking 6.5 hours a week.

          Overall, American fathers have become more involved in raising their children. So much so that, as economist Bryan Caplan jokes, they could almost pass for ’60s-era mothers. But what’s really astounding is what mothers have done. By 2000, more than 60 percent of married mothers worked outside the home. In doing so, they increased their paid work hours per week from 6.0 in 1965 to 23.8. Yet even as they moved out of the house to pursue careers, they also increased the amount of time they spend with their children, cranking it up to a bracing 12.6 hours per week.

          Now, on the one hand, this is a happy development. It’s a good thing to have parents taking a more active role in their kids’ lives. But on the other hand, these numbers explain why parents are so frayed and stressed these days: Because however nice it is to be spending more time with your children, it’s also a rising cost. There are only 24 hours a day and if people are spending more time on kids, those hours have to come from somewhere.

          If you really want to be blown away by mothers, consider this: A working mom today spends almost as much time with her kids as a stay-at-home mom in prelapsarian 1965. And if we were to construct a new statistic-something like “parental hours per week per child-it would really go off the charts. Because of the big drop in fertility, parents are spending more time looking after fewer children.


          • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

            Thanks, Will. I’d be curious to see how “time” is defined. Is standing on the sidelines at a soccer game considered “parenting time”? How does that compare to prepping dinner in the kitchen while the children play in the other room? If you asked me, I’d consider the latter to be more “parenting” than the former, but I would venture to guess the research would disagree.

            Plus “parenting” doesn’t necessarily require the children being present. At least as far as I’m concerned. Shopping for groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry, maintaining the house… those are all a form of parenting, whether the child is present or not.

            So, perhaps it is better to say that parents FEELING as if they are less involved and engaged in their children’s lives BECAUSE they have so many other things on their plate tends to lead to overcompensation of various stripes, including but not limited to this tendency toward overprotection and helicoptering. I feel it — the pressure and stress that is — but generally allow it to manifest in other ways.

            I also think we simply put parenting under a much larger magnifying glass than ever before. Thirty years ago, if you asked a parent where their child was, people probably wouldn’t have batted an eye to say, “Outside playing somewhere.” Now, if you don’t check your child’s candy for poison, you risk being torn to shreds behind your back on the neighborhood list serve.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

              What Kazzy said. My Mom didn’t work outside the home when I was young, so she was around almost all the time. Does the time we were both at home but not actively interacting (say, we were both reading, or I was doing homework while she was crocheting) count as parenting time? If not, and my being at daycare would have counted the same, something important isn’t being captured.Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                No. I haven’t read the book Will’s citing, but I’m pretty sure it’s referring to the well-known Bryant and Zick analyses of several decades (dating back to the 20s) of diary studies. I can’t find any ungated versions online, but the abstract of one of their papers should give you enough to ease at least some of your concerns (relevant section emphasized by moi):

                Historical and current data sets are used to trace the time married women and men spend caring for their own children on a daily basis. The data are also used to estimate the total time parents spend in raising two children to the age of 18. The analysis is restricted to primary child care time; i.e., the actual, direct administration of personal care, including physical care (feeding, bathing, dressing, putting to bed) and such other direct personal care as teaching, chauffering, supervising, counseling, managing, training, amusing, and entertaining. Secondary parental child care time is not studied. Although white married women spent about. 56 hours per day per child in primary child care in the 1924–1931 period, by 1981, the time had decreased to about 1.00 hour per day per child. Married men spent 0.25 hours per day per child in 1975, the first year for which national data exists. By 1981, this figure had increased to 0.33 hours per day per child. Raising two children to age 18 required about 5,789 hours of a white, employed, married woman’s time and 14,053 hours of a white, unemployed, married woman’s time in 1981. Husbands of white, employed married women spent about 1,500 more hours in raising two children to age 18 than the husbands of white, unemployed married women.

                Note that the diary studies are pretty limited in their scope and their samples, so Bryant and Zick’s estimates are… tentative.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                The analysis is restricted to primary child care time; i.e., the actual, direct administration of personal care, including physical care (feeding, bathing, dressing, putting to bed) and such other direct personal care as teaching, chauffering, supervising, counseling, managing, training, amusing, and entertaining. Secondary parental child care time is not studied.

                (emphasis mine.)

                That makes it sounds like my concern is entirely justified: just being there (because that’s what parents do, or used to do) doesn’t count as parenting.

                Which makes it small wonder that parents who aren’t around as much in general try to make up for it with concentrated “parenting” while they are.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                This is what I was getting at. “Concentrated” is the right word.Report

          • And woman nowadays can vote and own property, which, to Bryan Caplan, makes them men.Report

  7. Kim says:

    Ours technically went from 5:30-7:30, though kids were still trick-or-treating clear through till 8:30.
    We walked 12 miles during trick-or-treating, got to see tons of cool decorations (smoke machines, jack-o-lanterns (we have food artists here that will do a custom lantern for people), fire pits, crashed witches, spooky flapping ravens).
    Our neighborhood got MOBBED this year (triple the kids of the last three years, all of which have been rainy). Someone sent out their 4 year old to tell kids “sowwy, we don’t have any more candy.”
    At 5:30, it’s pretty much eensie little kids, and some of the teenagers who have miles to cover.
    By 7:00, it’s pretty much only older kids.

    We get tons of people from some of the poorer neighborhoods around, probably because ours is considered a bit safer (no open drug deals on the streets), and also because there’s probably more people giving out candy. This is a BIG tradition, and it’s kinda cool, in my opinion. People abide by the code, which basically says be on your best manners and get out after Halloween’s over (cops show up at around 8:30, probably more to show the homeowners that they’re doing something, than to actually stop anything…)Report

  8. Chip Daniels says:

    And by the way, whatever happened to that ominous warning from the FBI of a Halloween attack on the cops by an anarchist group founded by the Black Panthers?

    I was all prepped and jazzed for some the ol’ ultraviolence and anarchy, but got nuthin but a couple kids at the door dressed as Anna and Elsa.

    But its always this, isn’t it? We make fun of the apocalyptic cults, but we do our own version of it time and again, then when the doomsday comes and goes without incident, the whole thing gets flushed down the memory hole.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    This is kind of like those fake hate crimes that people stage to get attention “raise awareness of the problem of hate crimes.”Report

  10. Miss Mary says:

    I half expected there to be at least one Daria reference with a post title like that!