Twas the week before Christmas and all through the halls
I yelléd at people, “Come on, grow some balls!”
Okay, I can’t actually rhyme shit. Let’s try a song then…
Snowy hell, snowy hell,
Icy all the way,
Oh what fun it is to slide
Your feet in disarray – hey!
No? Well, it would be fun if it was actually snowing but it looks like we’ll be getting one of the warmest winters ever again. In fact, we’re expecting 10-12°C on the weekend. That’s basically spring. I have a hypothesis for this (beside the Persephone one): Shortly before Christmas people get hella stressed. Because they are stressed, their heart rate accelerates like whoa and they breathe faster. That means of course they exhale a lot more. Humans exhale CO2. Greenhouse effect!
Is that even the right term? Eh, who cares.
I did part of my Christmas shopping the other day (only part because I want to put off getting the perishables for a few more days, and also because I did a lot of it online) and oh, was I glad to be done. I threw myself into the shopping street and instantly regretted the entirety of human evolution. People. People everywhere. I’m pretty sure ‘crowd’ is an ancient Irish word for “lumbering organic mass that’s in your way forever”. Apparently the entire city noticed that it’s Christmas in little more than a week and reacted in typical panic, storming the shops with the fury of three premenstrual attacks. Amoebas don’t have to deal with that shit.
I myself was uncharacteristically mellow throughout the whole thing. Actually, I’m kinda feeling the holiday spirit this year. I got some cheap lights and set them up around the house. I even made a Christmas collage. Maybe you do become a lot more tranquil with age. Maybe that’s because the part of your brain that’s responsible for anger and impatience slowly rots off, just like your face.
Thankfully my family is pretty low-maintenance in the gift-department. My mother has loooong ago given up on the drop-hints-all-year-and-let-me-surprise-you-for-Christmas schtick and joined my father in “Just bloody say what you want”. So around the end of November or early December at least one phone call like this will happen:
Me: Hey, how are you? By the way, what do you want for Christmas?
Mom: Oh, I saw X thing on the internet.
Or like this year: I don’t know, maybe a gift card for [insert store]? Around [X amount]?
Or like last year, end of November: “Guess what you’re getting me for Christmas! I already ordered it!”
My dad is less materialistic… for lack of a better word.
Me: Hey, how are you? By the way, what do you want for Christmas?
Dad: A long holiday, a new back, and a functioning brain for [co-worker and/or boss].
So then it’s another call to Mom and she sends me for shirts or expensive alcohol because she knows what Dad wants even if he doesn’t. Actually, Mom knows what everyone in this rather small family wants or needs and allocates the present-distribution among the other members. “You’re getting your grandma [this] and Aunt would like [that].” It’s also a clever covert way of hers to control how much I’m spending because my parents are always and forever worried that I’ll starve to death in a debtor’s prison or something (perks of being an only child with semi-helicoptering parents, I guess).
And when I get asked what I want, it might go a little something like this:
Mom [on the phone]: What do you want for Christmas?
Me [on the phone]: Well, I could use a new hard drive, the one I have apparently isn’t compatible with…
Dad [somewhere in the background]: What did she say?
Mom: She says she needs a new hard drive!
Dad: Ah, alright.
Mom: What is that again?
Dad: Never mind, I’ll get it.
Everything is so nice and easy and relatively stress-free. Boyfriend assimilated quickly into this system, at least where my family is concerned. He has absolutely no problem letting me do all the Christmas shopping and then splitting the bill, and no one is surprised when the card says “From Grad Student and Boyfriend”. It’s kind of a family tradition for the women to do all the nitty-gritty social-process present-obtaining stuff.
However… Boyfriend still believes that you should surprise people on Christmas! That you should get them what they want instead of what they need! That you should get them something they wouldn’t get for themselves! And that you can’t just ask because that ruins the surprise! (Total coincidence, he’s also fatally allergic to spoilers.) Who likes surprises anyway? I hate surprises. Surprises are suspicious. You never know if you get a crock pot, cancer, or the bloody end of all life in the universe.
Yeah, no, ain’t nobody got time for that. We’re just a bit too practical for that sentimental nonsense. What we need is usually what we want. And if we don’t have to shell out the cash ourselves, hey, all the better. The mentality runs a little like this: “I’m not actually expecting you to get me anything, because that’d be rude, like, you don’t just expect that, but since you asked and since it’s kind of tradition because Christmas and all, the coffee machine’s broken and we’ve been meaning to get a new one anyway, so maybe you could take this off our hands, we had our eyes on this one?”
So Boyfriend is the odd one out with his deep-seated wish to be surprised and that I should just know what he wants. At which I usually throw up my hands and proclaim like an old English governess: “Know indeed! You think I have nought else to do!” Because seriously, with all my lists, schedules and various other things I think about all day I can’t always keep track of all your subtle hints. I’m not good with subtle. I’m about as subtle as a demolition ball that has “Guess what! I’m a demolition ball!” written on it in glitter glue and I expect the world to do the same. But no, not good enough, so every year I have to guess what to get him and then it’s not the right thing anyway, like, I missed it by this much. And then my parents call and ask what to get for him. And then I have to guess again and despite my best efforts I’m still not a telepath. It’s like a neverending game show, “Will the Grad Student get the right thing this time?” Ugh, daytime TV is the worst.
Knowledge is power! Not-knowledge is not-power! If you want that, I’ll get you a Schrödinger. It’s the best gift of all, basically you just put a cat in a box, wrap it nicely and what happens when the other person opens it is a complete and utter surprise, because shit, how long has that been in there?!, or alternatively, AAAhhh, claws!!!, because the cat is either dead, alive, or bloody mad.
I mean, we like a win-win situation. You ask what I want. I tell you what I want. You don’t have to wrack your brain about what to get me. I get something I actually want. Everybody wins!
I mean, except for the part where you have to go out and actually buy it, everybody loses there because people. So many of them. Where do they all come from? And why don’t they go back there?
Urgh, holidays! I’d say bah, humbug, but I got something better. So I’m just going to leave this here: