As children, we counted down the days until Oct. 31. From the sheer excitement of collecting buckets of candy while trick-or-treating, to the cupcake-filled costume parties in the classroom, Halloween was always a long-anticipated, stress-free celebration.
And while some still view the holiday with the same level of excitement in college, the sentiment inevitably changes as we get older.
For little ones, the primary goal of the holiday is to scarf down as many Twix bars and pieces of candy corn as humanly possible before feeling nauseous. In college, however, “spooky season” often prompts students to restrict their eating in order to fit into the “perfect” Halloween costume(s).
Like many colleges, at Lehigh, the October celebration requires not only one costume, but several. With a seven day “Hallo-week” as opposed to the typical one-night “Halloween,” there is a certain pressure associated with the once-carefree holiday.
Several things must be put into consideration. What accessories do you need to purchase? What night will you wear each of your several costumes? Will you be pulling together a group costume or riding solo?
In elementary school, costumes were valued according to creativity. Authenticity was rewarded and imagination admired, children desperate to perfectly execute whatever costume they felt most confident in. Stakes overall felt low, as “weird” and “funny” attire was respected.
As college students, however, it feels as though the only “socially acceptable” costumes are the most revealing ones. From “slutty nurses” to “sexy nuns,” it seems like nothing — even religious figures — is off limits.
On one hand, this freedom of self-expression can be seen as a good thing.
Halloween is the one night — or seven, at college — where people can take on whatever persona they want to. Tired of a repetitive daily routine, many look forward to the opportunity to be something “different,” whether it be someone scary, funny or something in between.
For others, though, the experience of “dressing up” is often anxiety-inducing.
From skin-tight crop tops to revealing muscle tanks, many of these promiscuous costumes are inevitably revealing, and students of all genders are expected to follow suit.
Between 10% and 20% of female college students and between 4% and 10% of male college students suffer from eating disorders.
With so many students already consumed with meeting societal beauty standards year round, the pressures associated with Halloween parties seem to only exacerbate these harmful thought processes.
Social media encourages constant comparison — our feeds bombard us with a perceived “ideal image” we feel pressured to replicate. Scrolling through curated feeds of the “coolest” costumes, users often can’t help but compare their own appearances to the ones they see on their screens.
These norms give college students an unspoken ultimatum: dress comfortably, or “fit in.” It’s hard to achieve both.
And of course, no one’s explicitly telling students that they must dress a certain way or wear a certain revealing item. One can ultimately wear whatever they want to a college Halloween party.
We are instead referring to the more tacit “norms” associated with these types of events.
It’s a shame that in today’s environment, discomfort is “in style” and insecurities are compromised for trendiness.
So, as you stress about which night you will be a racecar driver and which night you will sport cat ears, take a deep breath and put it in perspective. While this week may have had a month-long high-pressure build up, it will be over before you know it.
Wear whatever makes you comfortable, and indulge in as much candy as you want. Because after all, it will be too dark for people to inspect your outfit anyway.