Opinion

OPINION | Gwen Rockwood: Casper was cartoon-proof that sometimes things work out for the weird kids

What was your favorite costume?


October is about restraint. It's about resisting the urge to buy those giant bags of candy until the day before trick-or-treaters show up to collect it. Years ago, I learned – the hard way – that if you buy the chocolate too early, your house will be haunted by the siren song of Snickers.

It'll call to you after dinner. Or during the mid-afternoon slump. Or after an exercise session when you think you've "earned it." Or to celebrate when you notice that your electric bill went down. Or because it's a random Tuesday. It might even lure you out of your warm bed to see if something sweet would help you fall asleep faster. In my experience, we don't need much of an excuse to undress a peanut butter cup or kill a Kit-Kat.

If it was only one tiny treat, that would be harmless. But only the Pope is good enough to stop at one. As my dad used to say, a single bite of dessert is "just enough to make you mad." That first fun-size candy bar is an on-ramp to the next one. Soon, you've littered the sofa with empty Twix wrappers and realize you're at the bottom of a not-so-fun-size shame spiral.

If you get drunk on chocolate and caramel, you may say something crazy to your spouse, like, "We've gotta get rid of this chocolate so we won't be tempted to keep eating it." And in that moment of madness, it will seem logical to get rid of the chocolate by eating it now so it can't tempt you later. But that's not logic talking. That's sugar-induced lunacy. I speak from experience.

Speaking of experience, a friend asked me recently what my favorite Halloween costume as a kid was. A mental picture of the outfit popped into my head when she asked. Around age 5 or 6, I was Casper the Friendly Ghost for Halloween. The costume was nothing fancy – just a white jumpsuit with the cartoon's picture on the front and a plastic Casper mask held on by a large rubber band. But I remember seeing it in the store in a colorful box, and I was so happy when my mom said I could have it for trick-or-treating.

But the question about your favorite costume is more compelling when you consider the "why" behind the "what." Why does that costume stick out most in your memory?

Casper captured the top spot for me because I could see myself in him. And it's not just because we had the same pasty white complexion. (It was the late 70s, and realistic-looking self-tanning lotion didn't exist yet.)

I liked Casper because he never felt "normal," and neither did I. All the other ghosts wanted to scare people, but Casper wanted a friend. He avoided conflict because he craved connection. He wanted people to see his soul, not just a spooky exterior. And he knew kindness was the key. He even battled loneliness, as so many shy or quirky kids do. Casper was cartoon-proof that sometimes things work out for the weird kids.

From one grown-up weird kid to all the others out there, here's hoping you're not haunted by that giant bag of candy you bought too soon. May it wind up in the pumpkin pails of all the friendly ghosts, goblins, superheroes, skeletons, wizards and witches who ring your bell, hoping to find a kind face.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected]. Her book is available on Amazon.