By E Scrooge
The Holiday Conscience happens every year. Come December, the annual yuletide spirit rears its ugly, condescending head and shakes a virtuous finger. Don’t you feel guilty about the prick you’ve become, it asks? It’s true; the past eleven months have not seen you at your best. You haven’t given up any subway seats to old ladies, you continue to pretend the hobo on the corner is invisible, and while walking out of Saks with an armful of bags, insist to the charities that you’re dead broke. And let’s face it, you kind of are – that shit cost a fortune.
Forget the faceless masses, in terms of family relations you’re not much better off, either. Grandma called five times this week to invite you over for coffee but the answering machine does such a good job of listening to her, you’re able to find out what happened at her book club meeting without actually having a conversation. Now that it’s the holidays, you must redeem yourself with some epic, newsworthy deed of righteousness, change your ways, correct? Wrong. Tell St. Nick to stuff it; this is simply how you operate.
Guilty minds at holiday time mean one thing – gift inflation. You haven’t seen your mother in ages or babysat your sister’s kids in well over a year. (But come on, the little monsters are literally uncontrollable – when she puts them through reform school, you’ll think about it.) So, in order to make up for your convenient absence, you spend big bucks on extravagant gifts. No one can complain about how you didn’t call them back when a cashmere sweater is in their lap. Essentially, we are paying to maintain our relationships. And what’s wrong with that? If that’s all it takes to make them happy then that’s fine by me – here’s another perfume set. If you didn’t want to see them during the year, chances are they probably didn’t want to see you either. We all sleep a little better come the night before (insert your holiday here) knowing that underneath that half-assed wrapping job is the pricey back massager from Brookstone that
dad’s been ranting about, or more accurately, what you think he might like from what you hear on your voicemail. He mentioned something about the chiropractor recently, that’s got to be a hint – the greedy bastard.
Let’s say you’re strapped for cash this year. These December penances are beginning to take a toll on your finances. Instead of buying nice gifts for everybody, you reward your family by letting them see you absolutely obliterated. For most of America, family gatherings mean one thing – getting shit-housed to pass the time. How many times can one really listen their uncle tell, without fail, the same jokes every single year. So instead, you throw back enough mind numbingly strong eggnogs (that you politely offered to make) that you’ve completely lost your ability to hear – problem solved. What? I can’t hear you; my glass is empty.
Forcing some form of goodness out of ourselves every year in order to maintain a semblance of karma is ultimately useless; I realize this. But why change now? It in itself has become our holiday ritual, a tradition of sorts. Running out last minute to buy some ridiculous gift becomes a kind of comfort to us of the morally bereft community. Being somewhat human after all, we are creatures of habit. Screening phone calls is like a holiday
countdown. If our routine just happens to be ignoring our family members 364 days out of the year and then systematically buying their forgiveness, so be it – to each their own, I say.
In regards to public displays of intoxication, you’re once again just keeping the legacy alive. Your family has come to expect your stupor and you certainly wouldn’t want to disappoint. There are only a few more years until the little ones catch on that you’re the alcoholic aunt and not the fun, if not slightly eccentric aunt, so might as well go out with a bang. And if you’re lucky, you’ll leave such a lasting impression that they’ll stop asking you to baby-sit. The festive bow atop the handle of vodka you’ve bought for yourself is your holiday spirit, you exclaim while wondering if wine as a chaser is over-doing it.
Here’s to the movement that we scrap all the ridiculous pretenses of heartwarming traditions, mistletoe bullcrap and pomp. If that were the case, maybe the materialistic and alcoholic nature of the holidays would be a notion of the past. If the holidays were really about what we claim them to be, we wouldn’t have to go into bankruptcy or liver failure. But until then, it looks like we just have to create our own goddamn holiday traditions, one bank-busting gift and empty glass at a time.