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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

3 Holiday Humbugs

On its face, I suspect this topic will be about as popular as a second William Hung album, but I have strong suspicion that I’m not as alone as you might think.  And in interests of just putting it out there without further delay: I hate the holidays.  It feels like every year we’re expected to amp up the good tidings and holiday cheer to even more asinine and inhuman levels as some sort of panacea to an ever-more-depressing “real world” (otherwise known as the other eleven months) which appears to be on the brink of crashing down around us at any moment.  Doomsday clocks are counting down, international economies are failing more rapidly than kids being videotaped skateboarding and there are so many currently-occurring global pandemics (medical and social) that you have to Google them to keep track.  Makes you long for the good old days when there was only one plague at a time.  And because we seem to have universally decided that we’ll use December to forget all this horribleness, the holidays have grown much larger than their humble religious roots - they are a pandemic all their own.  So, for my fellow Scrooges out there, those out in the open, and even more so for those who suffer in silence, here are 3 things I hate about the holidays:

1. The Loneliest Number.  For single people, the entire month of December is a crescendo of loneliness, worthlessness and self-loathing that culminates in a globally-celebrated reminder that you’re going to die alone.  If it didn’t know any better, I would swear that they actually truck happy-looking couples into the cities, just to walk around the shopping haunts I normally frequent looking like an endless collection of Eharmony testimonials.  Seriously.  Because under normal circumstances, Wal-Mart is the most reliable sign of the coming social and intellectual Apocalypse since the Jersey Shore made it to a second season, but during December, there’s more hand-holding and smiling than the couples‘ skate song down at the local Roll-o-Rama.  I swear I actually saw a couple holding hands at a gas station this week. C’mon, man!  Even the commercial time during my normal televisions programs, usually devoted to beer, erectile dysfunction and hand tools has suddenly got more diamonds than a Joan Rivers jewelry box, and enough sappy love scenes to officially qualify as a Lifetime Original Movie.  For eleven months out of the year, I’ve got daily reminders of the terrifically bad idea that it must be to get married or have children (e.g. the skyrocketing divorce rate, the “Real Housewives of Wherever-the-hell“ and the feral children at the aforementioned Wal-Mart), and then, all of a sudden, the calendar turns its final page, and everything looks like a Normal Rockwell Christmas card.  I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be happy during the holidays on account of me.  I’d just rather we all decide whether we’re happy or not, and do it that way all year ‘round.

2.   Not In The Cards.  To honest, if it wasn’t for, I don’t think I would have sent a greeting card to anyone in the last ten years.  And even then, it’s really only been for kids and close friends on their birthdays.  But Christmas cards are a beast all their own - a universal mass-mailing which we have apparently all unwittingly subscribed to as a kind of penance for not keeping in better touch with friends and family during the rest of the year.  What’s worse, the entire process has become so corporate that even corporations are expected to send out cards to customers, clients, and other businesses.  And so, as I dismiss this practice every year, with the promise that if I ever get married it will have to be to someone who will gladly assume this responsibility on our behalf, I collect these cards in my mailbox like Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons and Val-Paks.  Once I do finally get around to opening them, no matter who they are from or the utter absence of any personalized sentiment within them, I post them in my office like some kind of obligatory guilt totem, reminding me every day of what a selfish bastard I am for not wishing people I hardly know a happy holidays with a similarly trite token.  Look, it’s never been easier to keep in touch with people, and we’ve never been any worse at it than we are currently.  Time is a precious commodity, and I’m often told that it’s the time it takes to send these cards that makes them mean something.  For me, I’d rather take that same time and send someone a quick personal note, or (as antiquated as it may seem) actually call them to catch up.  Sure, you can’t hang those on your wall, but they also won’t be worthless on December 26.

3. Grown Up Gifting.  If there is any demographic that gets a raw deal during the holidays, it’s grown men.  Because as a grown man, the only way you’re getting what you really want for Christmas is to buy it yourself - and let’s be honest, that kinda sucks.  And please spare me the it’s better to give-than-receive nonsense.  First off, getting something you don’t want for Christmas is infinitely more awkward and painful than getting nothing at all; especially if you have to unwrap that something in front of the person who gave it to you.  Second, if there’s any group of people who shoulder the “giving” burden, it’s that same group of grown men who definitely aren’t getting that one thing they secretly covet - dads, big brothers, uncles, etc.  And while the joy on the faces of those to whom you are fortunate enough to give to is irreplaceable, just try to understand that Christmas is still only half a holiday for us.  The problem with grown men and their gifts is that we don’t ever outgrow our toys, our love for toys just outgrows our budget.  Trust me, the folks that sell expensive toys know exactly where to find us, and they know full well that we’re not making that purchase until after the new year - but we’ll damn sure be in to get it as soon as the holiday dust settles.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten some great gifts over the years - from people who knew me so well that I didn’t even know I wanted what they gave me until I unwrapped it.  But take it from one very serious grown-up toy lover, unless you’ve got that kind of gift in mind - stick to cash and gift cards.  You’ll save us both an awkward moment, and ensure that you keep your spot on the “giving” list.

* * *

At 37, I’m keenly aware that I may have fewer holidays in my past than in my future.  After all, if the beating I’ve given to my mind and body don’t shut it down before 70, I may be part cockroach.  And with that in mind, I’m remiss to want to time to pass as quickly as I did when I was sixteen and in a big hurry to grow up.  But all it takes is the horror of the holidays to have me wishing for the weeks to pass by like so much summer vacation.  Every year, as soon as the calendar flips over to December (or Brooklyn Decker, if you mark the months like I do) I’m instantly ready January 2nd, and the sweet sting of starting the year with a wicked hangover and a head start on a year’s worth of regret.  But if this merriless season of false mirth is good for nothing else, even with the cold, the darkness and the pending return to work, it makes the start of a new year look a whole lot better.  Here’s to January! 


Anonymous said...

I think that you are telling your readers that you will happily accept a life size Karaoke Machine as a gift!!!...A life size chopper with a remote, or maybe some vintage guitars signed by the actual Band?...If anyone really knows Glenn...he loves his toys!!! One day he will have a man cave dedicated to his precious valuables, while the rest of the house is scattered with toys and family portraits, all while "his better half" signs, seals and mails the sweet xmas cards!!! Glenn and his future children will be busy playing the latest games!!! Cheers to the holidays- and more so to Jan 1 st,
Great article!!!!

Eric said...

"Look, it’s never been easier to keep in touch with people, and we’ve never been any worse at it than we are currently."

Au contraire, mon frere. If there's anything that e-mail, social media and Skype have given us, it's the ability to assuage the guilt of not having called our mothers in two months with the knowledge that we at least tagged her in our "Happy Thanksgiving" status update.

Someone once waxed philosophical at me about letter writing, how it's a disappearing art, how important a social and biographical function it used to be, and generally about how much less "then" sucked than "now" because of, apparently, this one change in social habit.

Years from now when the last generation to have received a personal letter gazes whimsically into the past and begins to reminisce, I hope I'm there to remind them about Val-paks and credit card offers.

The truth is that we have never corresponded with so many others, so frequently, from near and dear to "That dude I drink with during the game (...Mike? Mick? M-something...)" and regarding such a diverse spectrum of minutiae.

You share a bit of yourself every week(*) with thousands of people whom in the pre-Internet age would never have even heard of you...let alone corresponded with you, some of whom are probably actual blood relations and ALL of whom now know that they still have time to take your gift back and get something with a V12.

You're waaaaay too young to start getting all nostalgic. It is nice to know, though, that you'll be available for football watching on Christmas Eve!


Jen and Tonic said...

Wait, so you're saying that snuggie I got you last year was a shitty gift? MY BAD!

I think coupled people can have it rough too. It's one thing to have to deal with your own family during the holidays, but you've also got this new set of dysfunction to handle.

I must confess that I am super annoying card sending person during the holidays. I don't know what it is (the penance you speak of probably) but I wait all year long for this. Again, my bad! ;)

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