X is for x-rated

Because, after all, how many xylophones do you find crossing your path, begging to be your latest found item? It just doesn’t happen that way.

And neither, really, do prompts beginning with x – you may have to go looking for them. Or inventing them.

Turns out inventing is just fine, when it comes to the school Hallowe’en disco. I am there with other parents, helping with the fundraiser. Costumes, yes, but lots of safe, slightly-Hallowe’eny fun, like finding plastic spiders in buckets of cold pasta, and eating syrup-covered doughnuts off strings.

The x-rating is for the costumes. They’re not gross, really, but they do make me stop and notice. Which is the point, really. Some people are in bought costumes, but a lot seem to have devised their own – which I generally like.

So really, you can wear your best party frock, add in a pair of white tights that happen to have what I presume are meant to be blood stains on them, and call it done. Except that you’re 10, and (in my mind) a bit young to be channelling Frankenstein’s bride.

An easier step on some ways – and a trickier one in others – is to keep that party frock, and then add a trickle of makeup in the corner of an eye. A 6-year old lip that’s melting. An eye that’s not really smiling, but looking hollow, which is exactly what you don’t want for your
9-year old on a normal Friday night.

There is a fine line in school shirts with holes cut in them. Gelled-up hair. A certain amount of fake fur seems to be making do for werewolves and hairy ears, and other worrying creatures. Somehow this is easier to deal with than the girls’ versions.

One girl proudly shows off her blue-coloured arms with white veiny lines on – contrasting with her all-white outfit. Her dad did the makeup for her, she tells me. I commend the artistry, and the colour contrast, while trying to decide what else not to say.

I know it’s a bit of fun. They know it too. But I think back to a holiday week, and a workshop on stage-type makeup. The over 10s learn how to create fake wounds. The under 10 sister, at the same holiday week, sees her older sister, and responds by bursting into tears.

I can’t do that. I am on the apple ducking, though, so it would just go in the water, and no one would notice. Plus I am too busy trying to stop myself getting a sore throat from all the talking to the visitors to my stall, helping them see how to drop the fork from a greater height, so it’s easier to secure an apple.

And despite the ‘older’ look, there are 11-year olds here who still cheer, with no false pretence, when they win themselves an apple. They are still children, underneath the paint and pustules.

I am not yet in the camp of parents who are rehearsing their ‘What do you think you look like?’ conversations. I am not yet dealing with teenage years. And these mini vampires are more concerned on getting their fangs on the selection of sweets at the tuck shop. They are knowing, and they are thankfully not all that knowing.

It’s just the contrast that disturbs me. Have the kids been on Pinterest to work out their look? Have their mums and dads? Who agrees to their child looking like a zombie?

These looks may feel like found items. And some of them are art, really, I know. But it’s a form of art I didn’t want to see on children. I would rather the old-school versions of Hallowe’en: the green face, the misplaced wart on the nose than this.

I shift a bit. My knees dislike how long the evening is. I pick up a towel, dry off the forks, and wait for my next set of customers.

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