There are many worries in midlife. They may even add up to a crisis. Disappointment can lead to growing desperation about career, kids, money, lifestyle, marriage, legacy and even hair management.
The reaction can range from getting a tattoo to running off to open a cruelty-free organic llama-yogurt business with your tai-chi instructor.
Some of this, you can see coming. If you got a degree in, say, English or art history, and your chosen career was, say, philosopher or journalist, you knew that unless you wrote a book about a wise and spiritual but ultimately doomed dog, you were never going to summer in the Hamptons.
But there is one question I never expected to agonize over in the land of 401(k) rollovers and reading glasses:
What are you going to be for Halloween?
I thought I was done with that one when the most awkward questions became, "What are you doing New Year's Eve?" and then, "Have you talked about marriage?"
(Answers: Eating an entire white clam and garlic pizza while watching tourists get hypothermia in Times Square; yes, albeit in a conversation that also covered euthanasia, slavery and loan sharking.)
What am I going to be for Halloween? Seriously? "Worried about my triglycerides" doesn't seem like much of a costume.
Oh, wait -- I've got it. Slutty worried about my triglycerides. Much better.
I remember when Halloween was for kids, and kids were actually allowed to participate fully for pretty much as long as they wanted to and could still feel their extremities, instead of being incarcerated with their parents at a shoe store with bowls of popcorn and Fruit Roll-ups and a car salesman in a vampire cape from 5:30 to 6:15.
Every year, my brilliant mother sewed me a custom-made costume. (Yeah, there are perks to being an only child.) They ranged from traditional standards (angel, devil, witch) to storybook whims (Egyptian queen, pilgrim, Scheherazade -- all with about four sweaters underneath the dresses). My parents took turns escorting me. They were way ahead of their time in terms of being pretty sure the neighbors, given half a chance, were going to lock me in a shed or make me join a cult.
Still, they did hang back when I approached a door. Now, I notice the parents are standing on the porch with the little goblins and Optimus Primes and Hermione Grangers or standing guard on the sidewalk. Even when the kids are about 17, dressed as "hobos" (with real five o'clock shadow) or in a bathrobe and curlers, and just thrust a pillowcase at you to shake you down for the last of the Fun-Size Snickers.
But Halloween is only barely about the kids anymore. The National Retail Federation, which projects we're going to spend $6.86 billion on Halloween this year (twice what we spent in 2005, when we had money), also projects that while 43.9 percent of adults older than 18 will put on a costume and 34.3 percent will throw or attend a party, only 32.9 percent of us are planning to take kids trick-or-treating.
And we'll be spending $1 billion on kids costumes, but $1.21 billion on adult ones. That's a LOT of pirates and beer-garden wenches.
Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy wearing something cardboard or drafty to a party and spilling drinks on it. Last year, I was a stink bug. This year ... I don't know. Angry Birds are too expensive, and Smurfette and Casey Anthony are equally unpalatable, though for different reasons.
Maybe I'll just dress in red from head to toe and go as a stock quote.
Or is that too gory?
Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: email@example.com .