Every year when the holidays roll around, I brace for the inevitable wave of emotions the season brings -- emotions that I know are supposed to resemble peace and joy, but instead feel suspiciously like irritation and resentment.
I have nothing against Christmas itself. I love evergreen trees, carols and wassailing as much as the next person. But I'm a single, 35-year-old working professional with no dependents and no pets. I don't even own a houseplant (though I did keep a miniature rosebush alive for 19 days last year, which is a personal best.)
The reason I cringe around Christmastime is because the simple, sacred holiday I used to love has been hijacked by romance and domesticity. Here are the top 5 things I, and every single person I know, hate about the holidays.
1. Christmas Postcards
Let's just call them what they are, okay? Those Christmas postcards are not about holiday greetings; they're about subtle bragging rights for couples and families.
Please note the huge diamond on my left hand, which is accidentally-on-purpose held stiffly against my fiance's chest. Also, please note that it is a 2.3 carat cushion-cut diamond in a platinum (not white gold, platinum) setting.
We hope you'll realize from this family photo how clever we were to have all of us wearing white t-shirts and blue jeans. (We match, okay? We all match. AND we're at the beach AND we're barefoot. It's winter, and we are not wearing shoes. So there.) Just ignore the fact that we're using our children as human shields to conceal the fact that mom and dad have forgotten how to count calories and have basically given up on themselves.
I'd like to have an annual portrait taken of myself, too, okay? But if I sent you a picture of just me, you'd think I was self-absorbed for sending everyone I know what amounts to a professional headshot of myself. And if I posed with the things I'm proud of, like my CPR certificate or the rosebush that took me 19 days to kill or my 2006 dinged-but-paid-off Scion xA, it would be weird.
2. Christmas Letters
Often included with the family photo is a lengthy family newsletter. This includes details of the family vacation (we went into massive credit card debt for a 5-day Caribbean cruise and dad got a blistering sunburn in Montego Bay and then the twins caught the Norovirus but you should be jealous of us because we took a family vacation, gosh darn it.)
The newsletter also includes details about each child. The one who played a flawless tuba solo in the marching band's halftime show, the one who made the T-ball team (though there weren't actually any tryouts, so any kid who walked onto the field "made the team"), the one who's attending college preview weekends at five private universities this spring (though mom and dad haven't saved a dime for the kid's college fund and he'll probably owe a six-figure debt by the time he completes his Bachelor of Arts in Puppetry seven years from now.)
Don't misunderstand me. I hope your kids are happy and well-adjusted and successful. I really do. It's just that every parent who sends me a Christmas letter also has kids that are angelic geniuses, so I'm a little suspicious. I'd be way more impressed if you wrote that Susie didn't do well on the SAT's and didn't really want to go to college anyway, so she's going to pursue her dream job of managing the local supermarket's deli department. She'll never make a million dollars, but she's content, and that's all that matters.
3. The Office Christmas Party
I love to get dressed up and hang out with co-workers and enjoy free appetizers and drinks as much as anyone. But the party always poses a dilemma for me because I have three less-than-ideal options.
First, I can go alone. But that's lame because it seems like either I didn't have enough charm to get a date, or I don't earn enough money to hire a professional escort.
Second, I can take a family member as my date. The less said about that option the better.
Third, I can take a date I barely know to an event where he will meet colleagues I'll see day in and day out for the next five years. And, even though I'm likely to break up with him the following day because I discovered he has no people skills or he's a bad dresser or he chews with his mouth open, for the next few years every conversation I have with you at the coffee pot will begin with you asking, "So, how's so-and-so doing? Are you two getting serious?"
If I get a confused look on my face, it will be because I'll have been on so many bad first dates since that office party, I won't even remember who you're talking about.
4. D-I-Y Christmas Ideas
Contrary to what many seem to believe, Christmas is neither a contest nor a chore. If you want to make cookies from scratch for your kid's school party, do it. If you want to risk bodily harm by climbing on an icy roof while stringing up blinking lights, I'm not going to stop you. If you want to trek into the frozen tundra, saw down an evergreen tree and drag it home with your bare hands, be my guest.
If those things are not meaningful to you, or if you don't have the time or energy or money to do them, then don't. I will not think any less of you if you buy confections or decorations from the store, and I will not think any more of you if you make them all yourself. It's completely up to you.
Just know that if you whine to me about how stressed and tired and poor you are after spending a month doing things no one asked you to do, things that no one else notices or appreciates, I won't have much sympathy for you. It's called a D-I-Y project for a reason. It means you Did-It-to-Yourself.
I knew that no one would notice or appreciate it if I spent days tripping out my place for the holidays. So you know what I did? I spent 30 minutes stringing up white lights over the windows and hanging a wreath on the door of my 200-square-foot studio apartment, and then I drew myself a bubble bath and poured myself a glass of wine and I called it good.
I won't win the Getting Into The Holiday Spirit medal, but then again, no matter how much effort you put into your holiday preparations, you won't win it either, because that medal does not exist.
No, I don't think it's funny when you to trick me into standing under a sprig that sounds like it was named by someone who had an affinity for projectiles and/or feet. Not only do I not want to stand under it, I also don't want to watch you standing under it, kissing your "soulmate" and the "love of your life."
Christmas is not a prelude to Valentine's Day. There's nothing about romance, diamond rings or Santa-themed lingerie in the story of the Nativity.
I don't need lip action from a stranger to help me celebrate the season. I'm perfectly content to sit alone in my under-decorated studio apartment, skipping my office Christmas party because I had no one to go with, eating stale cookies out of a tin while looking at the glowing Christmas letters and professional family photos my organized, married friends thoughtfully sent to me.
If holiday cheer was heightened by having a romantic partner to share peace, love and joy with, baby Jesus would've named his birthday Kissmas, not Christmas.