I don’t know about you, but in my home, this is the most misogynistic time of the year. I mean, really. I was already busy in September and October — dealing with childcare and food prep and trying not to get fired from my job even though my kid needs braces, which will require three preparatory appointments just to get them on her teeth, followed by an appointment every two to four weeks for tightening. This year, as an extra bonus, my sitter quit in mid-November so it’s been extra fun to add “solve childcare crisis” to my to-do list.
Then, the holiday season hit. Now, there are presents to buy and wrap. There are parties to RSVP to, calendars to sync, and recitals that require new tights for one kid and a freshly pressed shirt for another.
So, how many of these details has my husband considered? Hold up your hand, make a circle with your fingers, and repeat after me: “Zero.”
And those presents “we” have to buy, even though we are scaling back on the materialism in light of the goddamned end of the world come January 20, 2017? I’m not talking about the gifts for our children, the grandparents, and our close friends. Those create mild stress that I can easily absorb. The ones that push me over the edge are the ones you give so you don’t look like a selfish asshole, like the kids’ teachers (both kids have two), the piano teacher, the dry cleaner, the staff at work, the sweet young man at the gym who lets me in when I forget my card.
On the plus side, I don’t have a yard or doorman, so I don’t have to worry about obligations owed to the men and women who keep my home safe and beautiful.
Even if I opt out of most of these giving opportunities — because my resources, both financial and emotional, are dwindling — I’ve already spent time worrying about where to draw the line on holiday giving.
How much time have the men in my life spent worrying about dilemmas like where to draw the line between the piano teacher (who has taught our kids for almost a year) and the karate teacher (we just started karate six weeks ago), and what to get our recently widowed great-aunt? What’s your guess? Should we hold up our hands and make a circle to represent zero?
No, we didn’t have to do a holiday card, but I like picking out the pictures and finding a template that doesn’t obliterate my husband’s Jewish background or misrepresent our negligible faith lives. I like to compare our cards through the years, and I can’t bring myself to skip a year.
The holiday card panic doesn’t start, however, until the box arrives. I never have stamps, and I don’t know anyone’s address. And no, I don’t know Excel, and have no idea what this “mail merge” is you speak of. How this shit gets done at my house is I pull up our wedding list and start handwriting holiday cards, knowing full well that more than half the people have moved in the eight years since we got married. And forget about holiday stamps. These fuckers go out with American Flag stamps or they don’t go out at all.
In the midst of all this extra shit, like the Girl Scouts trip to The Nutcracker and the work holiday party, I have to field invitations to cookie parties. These parties require me to come up with a dozen homemade cookies, which makes my internal organs want to collapse. I don’t have a “go-to” cookie recipe. My signature dessert idea is ice cream, which I hide in the freezer so I don’t have to share it.
Do you know how many cookie parties my husband has been invited to? Hold up your hand — you know the drill.
He’s also skipped the special hell that is the cookie-decorating party, where you bring your children to someone’s house and watch them cry when the dough sticks to their cookie cutters and their snowman cookie comes out looking like a lopsided amoeba. All that while making small talk with other mothers who are just as tired and fried as you are, but are compelled by some force — Culture? History? Insanity? El Niño? — to perpetuate these insane get-togethers that jack up our kids on sugar and leave everyone desperate for the hardest of alcohol.
My husband is confused about why I have a migraine and haven’t slept since Thanksgiving. He laughs when I tell him that January is my favorite month because it means I survived, though January 2017 will bring its own unique and fresh hell. He looks at the calendar and sees a few extra things to do in December. What’s the big deal? I have no energy to explain. I just hold up my hand, making a circle with my fingers and whisper, “zero.”