I’ve been going to the same pumpkin patch, Bengtson’s, since it was socially acceptable for me to wear a pumpkin onesie in public. If you live in the south suburbs of Chicago, you’ve probably been to Bengtson’s at least once. You’d be hard pressed to find another pumpkin patch in the state of Illinois that has mastered all the moneymaking aspects of Halloween as efficiently as Bengtson’s. This pumpkin farm gets more and more crowded every year, which confirms that theory that if you build it (a place where there are pumpkins in an open field, a hay ride, potbelly pig races, and a haunted house that hasn’t changed in over a decade), they will come.

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Don’t get me wrong; I love it. I certainly don’t keep coming back every year because the purchase of three pumpkins costs $34. Bengtson’s may be the one thing from my childhood that truly hasn’t changed. They have the same witch/fog machine hybrid that used to scare me when I was kid. The Moulin Rouge display with animatronic chickens is still functional somehow. The pig races even run at the same times. It’s like a perfectly preserved living memory I pay to relive every fall, and it’s kind of wonderful.

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…But all these newcomers with their kids making memories within my memory need to find another patch and stop judging me.

I went to the pumpkin patch with my boyfriend Mike last weekend. We’re a childless couple. I’d somehow forgotten in the year that passed since our last patch visit that our empty nest would put us at odds with 90% of the other pumpkin patch visitors. You see, at some point between 1998 and 2014, it was unanimously decided that the only people that should be allowed to partake in the fall delights of the pumpkin farm are people with munchkins.

In the admission line, when it was finally our turn to pay, I noticed the cashier peering over the counter to see if there was a small child clinging to my knee in her blind spot. “Two,” I said firmly. The entire room fell silent. Moms stopped fidgeting with their strollers and dads stood frozen with their arms outstretched, reluctantly offering the credit card that would fund this autumn investment in their child’s happiness. Some worried parents huddled close together under blankets, shivering from witnessing such an appalling tragedy. “Two adults at the Bengtson’s? With no child? It’s terrible… Unthinkable. The world we live in today.”

I’ll admit it. Maybe I am clinging to my childhood. Maybe I am “too old” to be there, but I’m going to admit something else that most of adults go around ignoring this time of year: Adult Halloween sucks. Is it so wrong that I’d prefer to wear some DIY McCall’s costume and go out trick or treating instead of paying $50 for some skimpy beer wench costume with my boobs pushed up to my chin and attend some dumb party where I’ll be expected to drink hard cider? Am I the only person who suspects there was a meeting of the minds where it was unanimously decided that Halloween should become the holiday that embodies the two most clichéd aspects of adulthood: sex and booze?

I just want to pick a pumpkin! I want to select a carving design that’s way beyond my skill level. I want to wear punny costumes that cover my all my body parts. I want to eat candy that was paid for my strangers. Yet, just as carved pumpkins turn into a pile of disgusting mush, I understand that there’s a time for everything. I’ve (nearly) accepted that I’ve passed the pillowcase onto the next generation of trick-or-treaters, but I’m not giving up my pumpkin patch. This is my autumn Alamo.

I do not know that little girl.
I do not know that little girl.

No matter where Mike and I went, we were in the way of parents using DSLR cameras with the “I don’t know how to use this” lens attached to capture their toddlers walking, standing, crying outside the haunted house, and sleeping in their stroller with pumpkins nearby. What’s more, there was an alarming number of parents with children so small they may have actually been born on site that morning, and therefore wouldn’t get any more out of the pumpkin patch experience then a gourd.

As important as all those pictures are for family photo albums, it’s also important that I, as a millennial, photograph every significant moment of my existence. If you didn’t grow up in the MySpace age, you probably don’t understand that the pumpkin patch is the ultimate setting for a new profile picture. The days of MySpace are over, but there’s still Instagram and the unyielding sense of urgency that someday I won’t be able to take pictures like a wannabe J. Crew model because someday I’ll have to more selfless—in every way—but most significantly with my camera habits. Do you understand how difficult that transition is going to be? I’ve been taking mirror pictures of myself in fitting rooms since junior high, and someday I’ll actually have to take pictures of someone else whose entire existence is a Kodak moment. No trick-or-treating and no pumpkin patch selfies? It’ll be the end of an era. As a childless 24-year-old, I’m in my pumpkin patch prime right now!

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In the beginning, I let them get to me. I felt embarrassed to be there, embarrassed in the way that you show up to a Halloween party in full costume when it wasn’t meant to be that kind of shindig. I dove out of the background of people’s pictures. I reluctantly elbowed small children out of my way so I could feed a slice of carrot to the llama at the petting zoo. Then I realized something: Maybe these parents are secretly jealous of our freedom.

We can leave the petting zoo whenever we want without the risk of a tantrum! We can decide to only watch the pig races only once. We can slip between crowds of people because we don’t have a stroller, a tote bag full of snacks and juice boxes, a teddy bear that couldn’t be left in the car, or a jacket that should be insulating the heat of a stubborn, tiny body! We’re free to enjoy the pumpkin patch on our terms, and that’s something those parents can’t do anymore.

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I’d prefer we establish an adults only pumpkin patch that empowers fall-loving adults to enjoy all the seasons best without feeling like a barren nuisance, but until that day you can find us at Bengtson’s. (And when we do have a little sprout to bring to the patch, I think it’s pretty clear I’m going to be coolest, most fashionable mom there.)

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9 thoughts on “Semi-Shunned At The Pumpkin Patch

  1. Yeah, I’m bitterly jealous too. I had to take my son and his two friends to an amusement park this weekend and all I wanted to do was ride all the rides with my son, but instead I had to babysit to other people’s kids for 4 hours. Having the kid is okay, but the problem is they have friends and I don’t like them.

  2. I’m with you. Having a child with you should never be a requirement to do fall things with your man. In fact having a kid at a pumpkin patch would be a pain in the ass! I too make sure I go apple picking/pumpkin picking every year no matter what. If I didn’t I’d feel a hole in my heart for a year.

  3. Reading this makes me feel lucky that I can fit in at a pumpkin patch without people giving me looks from the corner of their eyes, and them secretly saying to people with them “Stay away from that man, he looks dangerous.”

  4. I kind of like how Halloween makes it socially acceptable to wear a lustful beer maiden costume. Sure as a hairy German American male it might be a little too forward for some but I have nice legs so I think I can pull it off quite well. Anyway, you can enjoy the pumpkin patch for years to come! It is like visiting Disneyland without kids… Now that is a whole new experience…DL without kids is wonderful.

  5. We live in northern Illinois. Fall is one of the most amazing times of the year. It’s not blisteringly hot or polar vortex. Enjoy it!

    Also, that cow’s udder is disturbingly veiny.

  6. See, I’m like you about things like this. I don’t have children, but I enjoy holiday traditions. I still like coloring eggs, going to haunted houses and pumpkin patches, and all the other things that go with all those random holidays. It’s not really fair that people look at you funny or you should feel like you have to borrow a friend’s children just to have a good time. Boo!

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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