Ask Athena: Halloween Edition

Covid costumes? Family hauntings? Answers from the wisest witch in the Wissahickon.

Dear Athena,

My 7 month old daughter and I are part of a neighborhood “pandemic pod” with two other families – together, we’ve got five babies (and three older children) that have been playing together basically as siblings in quarantine. Lately we’ve been talking about doing a Halloween thing and the other mothers want to dress all the babies up as the coronavirus but I feel this is absolutely in bad taste and will not hear of it. People are dying! How is this funny? What an example to set for the older kids! The other parents including my husband feel I am being overly sensitive. They offered to dress up one of the babies as Dr. Fauci (in a little lab coat) and I think that might help but I can’t explain why. What do you think about this costume idea, is it over the line or what?  — Party Pooper

Dear Pooper,

I understand your concerns but I’ll have to ask you to loosen up. Halloween is about is confronting our deepest fears. Well, that and candy.

Amidst the Harry Potters and Ballerinas trick or treating through our neighborhoods, there have always been the Grim Reapers, Skeletons, and Ghosts. Kids love to be scared and are fascinated by the idea of Death – it’s a major them of the holiday, and a big part of the fun. So is tweaking the norms of polite society. Halloween is the one day of the year we can all indulge in dark humor and whistling past the graveyard.

Is it bad taste to dress up babies as the organisms responsible for a deadly pandemic? Probably. But isn’t that the point? It’s Halloween, live a little! For what it’s worth, I agree that having one of the babies dressed as Fauci seems like a better costume – not necessarily less offensive, but definitely cuter. A baby in a lab coat?! Stop! Please send your pictures to

Dear Athena,

My brothers and I grew up very close to our grandmother, and were all very distraught when she died in the early 00’s. About a decade ago, my younger brother started talking about how Nana was “visiting” him in his dreams. We humored him – Rick has always been rather sensationalist and it seemed harmless enough, these stories about “her” messages of love for the family and encouragement for him as he dealt with several personal & professional setbacks.

But lately “Nana” has gotten judgy and negative about choices my other brothers and I have made that are, frankly, none of her (or Rick’s) business. Some of the things “she” says are just plain hurtful, but Rick doesn’t censor himself or apologize because, of course, he’s just “delivering a message from beyond.” Rick pretends to be puzzled by our grandmother’s comments and even offended for us! Enough is enough. Help, Athena — how do I call his bluff and end this charade after playing along for all these years? – Ghost Hunter

Dear Hunter,

I understand your frustration with Rick, but have you considered your Nana may actually be haunting him in his dreams?

Just kidding! Athena is open-minded but she is also no fool – and neither are you and your brothers. So why are you putting up with Rick’s abuse? Because that’s what he’s doing, verbally abusing you all to your face.

Maybe it seemed harmless when he first spun his Nana fiction but asking you to play along with his lies was an act of passive aggression. Seems to me he’s testing you now, pushing his narrative to see how far he can go. Is there a reason you and your siblings avoid confronting Rick?

Are you afraid of him? Is there family guilt about how Rick has been treated? Was he a very sick or spoiled child in your family? Is there a chance he’s having some sort of mental episode, and needs help?

You came to me for answers but I’m afraid all I have are questions. The good news is, you and your siblings can get to the bottom of this together! Next time you engage Rick, do so as a family and ask him about his Nana dreams. If his grasp of reality seems at all tenuous, get him a full medical workup immediately, of course.

But if Rick just wants to push your buttons, it’s time to make it clear the jig is up. Tell him, “Sorry, buddy, we’re done with the Nana schtick.” If he persists, hold him accountable: “You’re being hurtful, please stop.” Hold your ground! Just because you swallowed a lie once doesn’t mean you have to keep choking it down forever.

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
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Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 44 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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