Twas the Day Before the Night Before Christmas
I figured I should get my rant out of the way before Christmas so I can sit back and relax, having vented about the holiday and the trauma it inflicts.
I have a feeling this is going to be a long one, so here’s a picture of the Christmas Tub Cat for those not interested in the rant.
The rest I’ll put in the extended text of the entry. Just for reference, here’s a picture of our Christmas tree. So you can see about how big the Tub Cat really is.
So. Christmas time as come again and even though I vow every year to minimize the hassle and turmoil it generates, somehow it never quite works out the way I was hoping.
Each year we try to split the “festivities” between Jenn’s family and my family. Christmas Eve is done at one family’s house; Christmas Day is at the other family’s house.
This year, having a home of our very own, we thought it would be a nice turn if people came to our place instead of us going there. Sounds great, right?
So now you’re probably thinking that the plan is just like every other Christmas, but at our place: Christmas Eve one family comes over, then Christmas Day the other family comes over.
Somehow that’s not how it worked out.
Normally it’s Jenn’s family on Christmas Day. Breakfast at her parents’ place. This year, though, Jenn’s mom is working Christmas Day, and Jenn’s niece is at her father’s house instead of with Jenn’s family. Again, it sounds pretty clear to me: Christmas Eve, then, is for Jenn’s family and Christmas Day is for mine.
Again, somehow that’s not how it worked out.
Here’s how it ended up working out (omitting the domestic dispute that led to this end decision): Christmas Eve afternoon, we’re going to Jenn’s parents’ place (or grandparents’ or something); Christmas Even night, we’re going to my parents’ house. Christmas Day morning my parents are coming over; Christmas Day night her family (grandparents et al) is coming over for a lasagna dinner.
This sounds to me like, rather than minimize the hassle, it’s been maximized.
Here’s the thing, and it’s important to remember throughout all of my rants, particularly about holidays: I am not a social person.
I hate getting together with people. I do. More specifically, I hate “mingling.” I hate small talk. I mean, I like going to parties where I know all the people (or most of the people), and once I’m there I don’t have to talk to any of them.
Yes, that’s antisocial. That’s what I’m trying to convey here.
The social obligation of holidays implicitly makes it not a holiday, but a hassle. It’s pressure I don’t need. Thanksgiving this year: Jenn went to her parents’ house, and my family didn’t get together. That left me with an entire day where I didn’t have to entertain anyone, didn’t have to eat food I didn’t like, and didn’t have to deal with people. That’s the best Thanksgiving yet!
Christmas, though… Oh, boy.
Friends you haven’t seen for months somehow crawl their way out of the woodwork and this is the time to get together. The rest of the year, they’re impossible to get in touch with. Their email box is full, deactivated, or they just don’t check it; they don’t answer voicemail messages; they work nights while you work days; they work weekends but have, like, Wednesday and Thursday off; they live several hours away and don’t have transportation to come visit but also don’t have anywhere for you to stay if you go visit them; and so on. There’s just no scheduling to get together.
The rest of the year, the only time you get to talk to them is via instant messenger, right when you’re in the middle of presenting in a meeting at work and forgot to sign out during your presentation. It usually goes something like this:
friend42: whassup? travis: i’m working right now, man. in a presentation. friend42: want to get together the third friday after next tuesday? travis: working - send me email. gotta go. friend42: i won’t be on email again ever. travis: then call me. i don’t have anything to write on right now and i’m working. friend42: okay, l8r.
Of course, three weeks later I’ll get an email asking what I’m doing the next day. I’ll have it open, so I’ll schedule a time and place to meet. The next morning I’ll get an email (and I don’t check email on weekends or holidays, generally) telling me that they’re sick and will have to reschedule.
Wait three months, rinse and repeat.
Note, of course, that if I attempt to get in contact with them, none of my communications get responded to.
Now, these friends, these are the people who show up at your house on Christmas Day, in the middle of while your whole family is there opening presents and doing the whole “celebration” thing, and they do two things. First, they hand you a gift. You, not planning on seeing them, don’t have anything for them so you find the Blockbuster gift card you won at the company holiday party and quickly write their name on it so you don’t look bad. Second, they come right in, sit down, and proceed to “hang out,” as if your whole family isn’t there and it’s okay to just stop everything to chat while the rest of the family sits politely waiting.
Then there’s the family aspect of it.
I see my family almost weekly. They live half an hour away from me. I go over there, they come over here. We have a good relationship. When we get together we play games and watch movies. When we’re tired of each other, we leave. It works well for everyone.
I don’t see Jenn’s family weekly, but, while I really like them (they’re all very nice people), the truth of the matter is that I don’t have anything to say to them. Again, I like them all very much - we just don’t have anything in common. I can’t explain my work to them because they won’t get it (not many folks do get it; people I work with don’t get it). I don’t know everyone in their extended family, so I don’t understand most of the conversation that goes on (there’s a lot of talking about second cousin twelve times removed Bobo and such - basically family gossip about family members I don’t know… either way, I’m not much for family gossip, so even if I did know them, I don’t have anything to contribute). I don’t plan on joining any Masonic organizations (her dad’s big in the Masons) nor do I have anything to say regarding the goings-on in the local chapter. There’s just not a lot to talk about but small talk, and, as previously mentioned, I’m not too big on small talk.
(At times I really hope my aversion to small talk doesn’t come off as disdain for Jenn’s family; I like seeing them and hanging out, I just don’t have anything to say. “It’s not you, it’s me!”)
My family, though, is not altogether social. For example, at my grandfather’s birthday party recently, the extended family got together to celebrate. If you step back from it, though, it was a high school dance: All of the immediate families hung out around their own tables talking to the people they see all the time anyway. That’s just how it is.
Jenn’s family, on the other hand, is very social. They love large gatherings and whenever we end up at Jenn’s grandma’s house for a holiday it’s a lot like My Big Fat Greek Wedding with tons of people talking and eating and chaos ensuing.
The family dynamics between my family and hers aren’t quite the same. That makes the co-mingling of the families an interesting experience. Sort of like two different types of swimmer - one dips their toe in and slowly comes around to getting in the water, the other dives in immediately. My family members are toe-dippers. We gotta get to know you slowly, then, maybe, we’ll be down with the party. Jenn’s family will get together with anyone and everyone, for any occasion, the more social, the better.
All that adds up to a pain-in-the-ass Christmas. Trying to make sure every family gets their due time in their appropriate environment is, to borrow a phrase from my father, a “goat fuck.”
Let me tell you, I’m looking forward to it.
This… is going… to rock. Or something.
Anyway, needless to say, I’m enjoying the first few days of my vacation here at home immensely. I’m not having to get together with family, Jenn’s not home complaining about how bored she is while I play San Andreas, I can eat what I want when I want… the vacation debauchery has overtaken.
Which is, of course, not to say that Jenn stops me from having fun, just that once she’s off I also have to think about what she wants to do, which usually works into a productive conversation like this:
Jenn: I’m bored. Travis: What do you want to do? J: I dunno. T: We have games, movies, On Demand cable, projects, crafts, and, as always, housework. Discounting the housework option, there are still loads of things to do. Pick one. J: Nothing sounds fun. What do you want to do? T: Well, I was having fun playing my game, and I’d like to continue. J: But I’m bored.
I think you see where that goes.
It’ll all end tomorrow, when Jenn starts her vacation, and, more importantly, the family obligations begin. Until then, I’ll live it up.
Now, slightly off-topic, I was going to put up pictures of the magnificent Taffy Brick I made a couple of weeks back. It’s eight slabs of Laffy Taffy microwaved together into a diabetic plastique. It doesn’t get much better than this.
I’m still eating this bad boy.