As we move into these final churning weeks, Americans are faced with a difficult decision, a choice, a commitment to one set of values or another.
Do we dress the dog up for Halloween or not?
Increasingly, we dress ourselves up. We've always dressed the kids up, starting when they're too young to object to being turned into a cloth jack-o'-lantern with a stem hat.
But as an adult, you have choice and control. If you want to be a beer wench again this year, you can, and if you'd prefer to be an Angry Bird, you can do that instead. Children in the wild naturally have the instinct to dress up and pretend to be something that doesn't have to eat peas and go to bed by 9.
(I'm showing my age there. Kids don't have to eat peas anymore. Apparently we finally shipped all the peas to the children starving in China or India. Mom always said they'd be glad to have them.)
Dogs ... it's a complicated question, and I'm conflicted about it. On the one hand, dressing your dog up in a football helmet or fairy wings seems kind of mean; on the other hand, he is adorable.
On the one hand, you didn't ask her if she wanted to wear a Princess Beatrice hat. On the other, she loves you and seems pretty content to do whatever you want, as long as there are treats at some point.
On the one hand, he is descended from wolves and deserves to retain some dignity. On the other hand, he licks his personal regions in plain sight and eats things off the sidewalk -- how much dignity did he start out with?
The two dogs I'm closest to are Oggie and Buster. Oggie has made his feelings clear about Halloween costumes or, indeed, any sort of "dogwear": Hell no.
Oggie says no to hats, jackets, booties, ribbons -- anything more substantial than a bandanna, and he's not always sure one of those won't clash with his collar or make him look fat.
I once dropped him off for boarding at a kennel that was having a Halloween party, and the expression of deep pity and disdain on his face as he looked at the other dogs in their tutus and comical dragon get-ups was unmistakable.
Buster is a mystery. I don't know him long or well enough to be sure what he thinks of fashion. He's OK with his Thundershirt, so I suppose I could put him in something similar without offense. But I'm sure if I could ask him, he'd say no to a humiliating taco costume.
My God, woman (I imagine him saying), look at me: I weigh 25 pounds and can't wipe this sad-beagle look off my face. Do you really need to make me look any less imposing?
It's true. Buster is diabolically cute. If I put a little fireman outfit on him, or dressed him as a bee, passersby might be incapacitated by the onslaught of unbearable preciousness. He's a public safety hazard.
I suppose if a dog will tolerate a costume, and it doesn't interfere with his ability to walk, sit, scratch himself, drink, shake or see, it's not a crime. I spent some time online this fall looking at dog costumes, and I tried to imagine how I'd feel about wearing them if I were a dog. Most of them made me cringe a bit, like photos of the drunk girl at the party who's going to regret that balloon bikini.
But a little boy on the street gave me a good idea. He looked down at Buster's sweet, sorrowful face and wagging tail and asked, "Can I pet your wolf dog?"
I dress as Little Red Riding Hood. Buster wears his usual fur. I feel silly, but at least I suffer by choice.
I just hope Oggie doesn't see me.holidays - samanthabennett
Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.