Welcome to Halloween Season, folks.

Around my house, Halloween means everyone gets dressed up in something absolutely freaking adorable and runs around like little hooligans, trying to scam candy.  (Yes, this includes me and my husband.  I may even be reduced to putting up a picture later this week…we’ll see.)

But then, my kids are 4 and 7, and haven’t yet realized that Halloween is really a contest to see who can look like the bigger slut.  Or whore.  Or kitty-cat who’s single and ready to mingle (meow!)  I was out dancing this weekend, and saw some truly dreadful costumes that the wearer was clearly quite proud of because they showed as much skin as possible.  (I also saw a truly adorable 20’s gay boy in a sailor’s outfit that actually covered him, so in all fairness, not everyone is completely trashy.)  So welcome to Halloween, one week early!  Putting aside the irritation of drawing out holidays as long as humanly possible (see Christmas trees much, yet?), I’ll roll my eyes at the 19 year-olds and 20-somethings who like to strut their stuff half-nude for Halloween.

But what of the middle school girls who are trying to convince their parents to let them go as prostitutes?  (Because yes, I know at least a few of them.)  If I were asked (and I haven’t been), the answer should be no.  Does this mean I’m anti-sex-worker?  Does it mean I’m trying to pretend middle school students don’t have hormones?  No.  It has more to do with middle school students (particularly the girls) learning how to appreciate, understand, and use their sexuality in appropriate ways.  And dressing up like a streetwalker doesn’t fall into that category.  Oh, and middle school girls are generally still young enough that just saying no is still appropriate.

Now what about a high school student?  Well, it gets a lot trickier there.  If they really want to dress up like a prostitute, I would want to know why.  I would want to go into some detail about their reasoning.  Is it because they want to make a public statement in favor of Proposition K in San Fransisco?  Is it because their friends are going as prostitutes and they feel pressured – or excited – to join in on the group dynamics?  Is it because they recently picked up a pair of shorts at a garage sale and really want an excuse to wear them and all they can think of that’s in line with the shorts is a prostitute?

And then what about the more subtle slut costume – the pirate or the fairy or the super hero costume that bares far-too-much?

Well, simply putting your foot down with high school students just isn’t a good strategy.  Your teenager is just as likely to make a costume to wear in front of you, and then take whatever it is they really want to in their backpacks and change into it at school.  Your level of control is waning, and you will find yourself in a much stronger position if you look to conversation and a trusting relationship as influences on your child’s Halloween costume choices rather than your ability to put your foot down and demand something that covers their entire ass.

And you’ll have to accept that, even if you do bring the full force of your conversation, and even if you feel like you’re finally understanding each other, your child may still choose to dress like a slut for Halloween.  This is the way of the world, that teenagers are testing boundaries (their own, other people’s, anywhere they can find them!).  Putting your foot down and ensuring that they are doing as you want rather than what they want will force them underground, or force them to wait a few years and do it at college – where there is far more alcohol, drugs, and more serious long-term legal ramifications of their choices.

It’s not a bad thing for teenagers to do a bit of rebelling and testing and learning during high school.  It teaches them lessons to take with them through life, while they still have the luxury of living at home with a caring adult who will take the time to talk them through their choices before they make them, and then analyze the results afterwards.  Not to mention coming and picking them up and getting them out of hot water when need be.

Choose your battles, I guess is what I’m saying.  Yeah, that costume may be really trashy and inappropriate for a 16 or 17 year old.  It may, in fact, be really trashy and inappropriate for anyone of any age.  So talk about that, but don’t fight the tide too much.  It’s going to come in sometime, and better that you’re there to help clear the wreckage or throw the life preserver when they go in over their heads than that they’re alone because they’ve lied to you and feel they can’t call for help.