Doree Shafrir | Longreads | October 2018 | 12 minutes (3,123 words)
It never fully dawned on me that Halloween was really a holiday for kids until I was trying, and failing, to have a child myself. But really, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me in my 20s and much of my 30s, when Halloween seems like the ultimate party for adults — an excuse to prove, via costume, just how clever and/or how sexy you are. Then one day, bam, it hits you: you’ve outgrown sexy adult party Halloween, and all your friends are doing daytime kid-party Halloween and taking their baby pirates and toddler dinosaurs trick-or-treating while it’s still light out, and since you’ve been trying to have a baby for two-and-a-half years it’s a little much to be bombarded with all these photos on Instagram for, like, three days straight. So instead you’re at home watching The Crown because it’s basically the chamomile tea of television and that’s about all you can handle right now.
Since Halloween is now a several-day spectacle, it’s hard to escape, and last year, Halloween fell on a Tuesday, so naturally the weekend before was filled with festivities. Compounding my misery at seeing everyone’s kids looking even cuter than usual for days on end was that the week before, we’d found out the IVF embryo we’d transferred “wasn’t viable,” as they say in the biz. I’d been pregnant for about 4.5 seconds — my blood tests had shown me to be barely pregnant, and from the beginning the doctor had told me there was only a very slim chance it was going to make it. But I’d been in an agonizing limbo for a week-and-a-half while the embryo — a girl, which we knew because it had been biopsied and tested for chromosomal abnormalities before we had our doctor insert it, via a catheter, in my uterus — took its sweet-ass time deciding whether or not it was going to stick around. It probably heard me talking about the wage gap and how we were all going to die in natural disasters because of climate change and was like, nah, I’m good.
So I was already deep into self-pity mode when Halloween came around. I hadn’t been asked to go to a single Halloween party, except for a kids’ party that I had been invited to because the host clearly felt sorry for me after it came up in a gathering where I was the only one without kids. “You should totally come!” she said, in the bright, cheery, please-don’t-actually-come-it-will-just-be-awkward-for-everyone way that people who have kids and are currently pregnant invite people who have been trying to have kids for two years to their kid-oriented gatherings. So of course, I didn’t go. My husband Matt was away for Halloween weekend, because he’d taken an eight-week job hosting a TV show that required him to be in New York every weekend. This was week four, so we were deep into long-distance marriage territory, and I was starting, a little bit, to lose it. I was alone with our dog Beau, who, thanks to his behavior issues (namely, his predilection for lunging aggressively at strangers and acting like he was going to bite their heads off), couldn’t dress up like a carton of French fries and participate in any kind of dog costume festivities. My social media feeds were filled with pictures of parties, literal and figurative, that I hadn’t been invited to.