A Christmas Survival Guide For The Broke, The Frazzled, And The Grossly Apathetic
As I made the rounds in my office yesterday I took an informal survey and found that many, if not most of my coworkers are not only "not ready" for Christmas, but are actually dreading it. This saddens me, given that Christmas, despite the man-made commercialism and various other originally unintended hassles, is still my utmost favorite holiday. So for the seasonal "Scrooges" among us, I made up this Christmas survival guide, based on our (actually, "your") least favorite things:
Why even bother? At least half those people we never see or hear from any more (And that's seldom coincidence!). The rest, chances are, we see more often than we prefer, and if not, we'll probably, for better or for worse, have to see them on Christmas anyway. So what's the point? Guilt! We send them cards because they send them to us, period. So the idea is to kill the problem at the root. (Sorry, but I only mean "kill" figuratively!) So here's what you do: you'll have to bite the bullet (another figurative term) for at least one year and send cards to everyone on your list, but such is part of my grand, master plan! You know how people send you photographic Christmas cards of their kids, pets, and whatever other boring collections of moving creatures roam their households? OK, the same principle applies here...sort of! Early on the Saturday morning after your late Friday night Christmas party, grab your camera and snap a picture of your hairy, sick, half awake, mostly still hung over self, just out of bed, scratching and belching in your underwear. Under it, enclose the following caption: "Just wanted to catch up, but I'm still messed up. What the hell, can't you tell, times are hard, so deal with this, your new yearly Christmas card!" Trust me, you'll never receive another Christmas card from these people ever again! And I'm sure they'll be grateful for your reciprocation in that regard.
Typically, this occurs at work, just the place you want to celebrate Christmas, right? Meanwhile the usual suspects attend, your tyrant boss and all your double talking, backstabbing, brownnosing co-workers who spent the rest of the year using you as their footstool to a promotion. Once the booze is flowing some of the pain is lessened, but after all the really good gossip has already been transferred, the two married people (and not to each other) were found in an uncompromising situation in a closet, and the office drunk has once again finished passing out Xerox copies of his bare, hairy butt off the office printer, the rubber chicken dinner, much to no surprise, just doesn't cut it. Plus that one female co-worker who insists she is a gourmet cook is still choking everybody to death on her unidentifiable little dessert treats that she makes every year and you swear are made of sawdust. And if all that isn't bad enough, everybody around you in this crowded, poorly ventilated room is hacking, coughing and sneezing all over you and around you, only to further whet your already dying appetite. Your only hope is the infamous "Secret Santa." With any luck, your gift this year will be a pink slip from Personnel and you'll finally be forced to leave this crummy job that you always hated anyway once and for all. Hey look on the bright side, in this dire current economy, 10% unemployment translates to 90% employment, and even if you're soon not included among the latter, at least now you have a good excuse to jilt all those annoying and unappreciative materialistic leaches on your Christmas shopping list this year! (Every closed door leads to another open one!) Happy New Year!
The other version of Christmas parties of course is the putridly traditional "Open House," which quickly translates to "Romper Room" if this is a family event. It's usually held for only short hours (but alas, never short enough), and despite all the furniture in the room, there are usually far too many people, so you wind up standing the whole time, and worse yet, often among strangers so that you soon become best friends with the 3rd cousin of the great grand son-in law twice removed of the best friend of the ex-wife of the neighbor four doors down, who has breath bad enough to blow a vulture off a meat wagon, and no sense of personal space whatsoever, and he won't stop trying to sell you life insurance. It's not like there is any real food to eat anyway, other than now cold, store bought appetizers, which one fat glutton took half of, somebody's running kid spilled the rest, and the dog cleaned up the mess before it even had a chance to notice the other kid, who just puked on the carpet behind you. If you're lucky (sort of), hosts Marge and Bob will interrupt that whole painful scenario to give you the grand tour of their haughty home and to brag and show you all the many boring improvements they've made throughout the year that you can't afford, as they often periodically remind you to not touch anything along the way. Look, this one isn't rocket science. Avoid these functions at all possible costs. Just RSVP Marge and Bob and tell them you're sick. It's flu season so they'll probably believe you. If not, tell them you're dead and then the problem is solved forever.
For adults, most of us don't really need anything, and what we want we often can and probably even prefer buying for ourselves. So opt out. To paraphrase the (barely still existing) military policy on gays: "Don't buy, don't receive." Hey, most of us inevitably get crap we don't like anyway, and opting out eliminates getting busted regifting. But if you insist on buying, gift cards are always a great idea, but avoid the hassle and clutter and throw away the receipt. Hey, you spent the time and the money buying the gift, if the ungrateful boob you bought it for lost the card, it's his or her problem!
And guys, whatever you do, never let your significant other ever talk you into going to New York City for Christmas "window" shopping. Women can never decide what to buy anyway (not even one of the damned windows), and by time you're done with all senseless and never ending browsing, you'll want to put your head through a window! (Assuming you even survive the subway ride!)
Kids are a whole other issue. They expect stuff, but who says they have to compete with little Johnny or Mary next door for the most trendy and expensive electronic widget? Their parents make more money than you anyway, but try explaining that to a kid! For that matter, do kids even have "allowances" any more in exchange for chores done around the house, or did that old dinosaur die with the gold standard? Here's a thought for at least one year: no gifts! Take the wee ones to the local homeless shelter and give back as a teaching lesson to what Christmas is really all about. If they whine and still don't get it, the next day, wake up early and make them all a huge, succulent breakfast. Then tell them after they've eaten it, that they are forbidden to eat anything else until tomorrow. Missing two meals won't kill them, you'll get a respite, and they'll figure out the message real quick! And just think how humbly grateful they'll be next year with whatever gifts you give them! Or, if they still believe in Santa Claus, tell them that the economy's in the tank, the North Pole is downsizing, and St. Nick, his freaky looking little elves, and his smelly rein varmints all got laid off. If they ask what you mean, tell them to get the hell off of Facebook and pick up a newspaper once in a while.
And stop whining yourself! So you think you have someone tough to buy for? Hey, during the Civil War, General Sherman gave President Lincoln the city of Savannah for Christmas one year. Talk about pressure! Try reciprocating to top that one!
For those of us in the frigid northeast and Midwest, flying in December sounds about as tempting as multiple teeth extractions without anesthesia. Hey, let's face it, after about an hour, many of your relatives get on your nerves anyway. Put them off until the summer to fulfill your dreaded visiting obligation, especially if they have a pool. Plus your local, friendly airport TSA agent will be glad you did, too. Less layers mean easier molesting. (And you thought only Santa was jolly!) If you're driving, chances are the weather conditions are still lousy, and even if they're not, there are predominantly two types of other drivers on the highways around the holidays: drunks and cops, and your best off avoiding both groups.
Like cooking, decorating is a "two for one," in that it involves both set-up and clean-up, and both are a huge and time consuming hassle.
If you like decorating, just do the inside. What is this, a contest or what? Face it, how often do you really even talk to those jerks next door or across the street unless their lawn clippings (or worse yet, their dog's piles) again wind up on your lawn? You don't like those people anyway, so who are you trying to impress?
If you don't like decorating, then don't bother with the inside either. Hey, who's got to live there?
Didn't everybody have enough turkey and the trimmings on Thanksgiving? Why do we, scarcely a month later, suddenly need a re-run of enduring the runs? Having guests over? Who are they and how many of them are coming? Unlike Santa, you shouldn't have to check this list twice. Give everybody an assignment, one brings appetizers, one brings booze, one brings snacks, and then delegate a couple or so people each for entrees, sides and desserts. Last but not least, for those who claim they can't cook, or "don't have the time," great! Now you know who your set-up and clean-up crew will be! And then hosting won't cost you a dime, nor should it. After all, you are providing the location right? Not to mention the heat, lights, running water for the bathroom, etc..? (Hey, when was the last time one of those bums ever picked up a mortgage payment for you?)
Or here's another thought, Just after everybody arrives, order Chinese take-out! There are 365 days in (our) calendar year, and Chinese restaurateurs work 366 of them! Plus it's quick for hungry guests. Have you ever noticed that no matter how little or how much Chinese take-out you order, you are always given the same pick-up time? "Ten minny!" Plus Chinese is the perfect Christmas food in that it's the gift that keeps on giving. What else could you eat that so engorges you after ten minutes (or "minny") and yet still makes you hungry an hour later? No problem, just order extra. But grab all the car keys from your guests as they enter for their safety driving home. Chinese food also makes people thirsty, and on December 25th, I can guarantee you that your guests will be far more interested in diving into "The Christmas Spirit(s)" then water from the tap! Lest your guests object to my very novel, practical (and if I dare say, ingenious) idea of Chinese take-out on Christmas Day, keep the boob tube tuned to College football games (Hey, some of those people really don't want to talk to you, either!) and tell them it's an "indoor tailgate party"! After a few rounds, those drunks won't know the difference! (Just don't let Uncle Mel offer to help by trying to fire up the grill in your living room!)
As for the kids, once the sun goes down, they'll all want to go off to the movies with their friends anyway, so they'll be out of your hair. To make it easier, strike up a deal with one of their friend's parents: if they drive the rug rats to and fro, you'll pick up the tab. Then send them off with a couple C-notes, which nowadays, should barely cover the popcorn, but at least they'll be out of the house for a while, and make no mistake about it, they don't want to be around adults any more than we want them underfoot! The peace will be worth the expense!
Given my druthers, come Christmas Day, I just assume be on a couch in front of a warm, roaring fire (In the fireplace, and not because of crazy, drunken old Uncle Mel!), in a dimly lit room, with a member of the fairer sex snuggled up under one arm, a spiked eggnog in my opposite hand, and soft Christmas carols playing on the radio. And if I can find a restaurant open on Christmas and run by an atheist Italian (especially if he delivers), a pizza for Christmas dinner is good enough for me! As for the snuggling, if a member of the fairer sex isn't immediately available, a big, lazy, loveable, sleeping dog on my lap works just fine for me, too. Give me a dog any day! (Hey, what can I say? I'm easy!) People, after all, are often grossly overrated, even during this warm, sentimental season so noted for loving tenderness, joy, and charity.
And as for the whole lot of people that you need to interact with this year, as well as their tireless demands and lofty expectations, be it on Christmas, or any other day, remember: "Scrooge them!"
OK, so there's your survival guide.
Now shut up already, and Merry Frigging Christmas!
"When we were children, we were satisfied to those who filed our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?" - (G. K. Chesterton)