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Last Halloween, while all my friends dressed up and went to Halloween parties, I stayed home under the old-fashioned belief that Halloween is supposed to be a children’s holiday.    I have so many fond childhood memories of going door to door with my friend, Rob, and collecting all our loot, as well as the pennies for UNICEF, back when the United Nations was a reputable institution.  Rob and I still talk about our famous “old-men” Halloween costumes, with the gray beards and old hats borrowed from my father, which has become less funny as we have started to get actual gray beards.

I bought tons of candy (at the 99-cent store, of course) and waited for the cheerful smiles of the local children.   I even bought this scary Frankenstein mask that lit up, hoping to give the kids some thrills and chills.  I waited and waited.  Not one child came knocking on my door.  Not one.  I still have some of the candy from last Halloween.

My only conclusion is that in Los Angeles, most parents do not want their kids knocking on strangers’ doors, even if the kids are accompanied by an adult.  Now, I didn’t live in a “bad” neighborhood.  I lived in what they call Beverly Hills-adjacent.  (Hah!)   I think parents are scared for their children, thinking that every stranger is a potential pedophile.

Now I know this is a serious issue, so parents, please don’t throw tomatoes at the monitor just yet.    Every day, I read about some young boy or girl who is being lured somewhere by some crackpot on MySpace.  But a red flag goes up in my mind when every “Inside Edition” and “Dateline” is about the same issue.  I know how much these TV shows love selling danger to a scared public.  “Eat spinach and risk death… or worse!” a squeaky-voiced female newscaster recently said on Eyewitness News.

From doing a little reading tonight, I’ve learned the obvious — MOST problems with children are with extended family members.  Going around for Halloween might be less dangerous than leaving your kids with Uncle Joe.  While I understand the fear of strangers, I think it is bad for kids to grow up feeling afraid of ALL strangers.   How are they ever going to empathize with others if they are only taught to trust their own family?

Today, I was at my local Starbucks.  It is situated next to one of those Gymboree’s.  As I was drinking my coffee, some little girl came running over to my table.  I smiled and said hello.  The mother, at the next table, gave me a glare, as if I SHOULDN’T be talking to her daughter.  

I just thought that was a little weird.   Should I not talk to children anymore? 

Well… I was unshaven…

But, I’m not giving up yet.  Not everyone can be so fearful.  After I left Starbucks, I did go and buy some more Halloween candy, just in case someone shows up.

A Year Ago On Citizen of the MonthJohny Kops, Remember That Name