By: Heather Fawn
Across the Holidays rolls on, with a reminder that not all Christmas’s are created equal….
I will be alone on Christmas. Alone with the choices I have made. And though there is still a vibrancy to the holidays, it is not without a certain bitterness that I avoid the questions about how I will choose to spend this week. I almost want it to be my business. Maybe the only thing I will get for Christmas this year is the affection of my roommate’s cat (in the form of a hairball, probably), and a package of glitter glue from yours truly.
While you complain about how you have to fly or drive interstate, at least you have someone to drive to. I remember those days. Piled in the car, coats covered in snow that quickly turned to water and soaked everything they touched. Presents of questionable taste that Mom neurotically spent hours wrapping overflowed the backseat. Whether the general atmosphere was light-hearted or silent or odious, the destination was a shared space of extended family and a distinct lack of vegetarian options. At the end, when we pulled away, a dozen people would crowded the porch or the street to wave in unison, shrieking, “Bye!” A prolonged, excessively cheerful but wholly heartfelt tradition.
Nevertheless, if you freeze up with fear and find beads of sweat form whenever you think about visiting Aunty Gretchen or your step-mother or your grandfather, for fuck’s sake – pay attention to that fear. Maybe that pretty package you carry your family around in is a way to keep tidy the things that you haven’t faced. That’s not to say this time of year doesn’t do wonders for one’s sense of denial, but maybe tuck that thought in your back pocket for January 2nd. Or 3rd, depending on the severity of your hangover.
In general, people love their families, and get excited about the holidays. I respect that. I envy that. I would never take that away from anyone. The thing you need to understand about me, wretched family-less urchin that I am, is that I would love to have someone to be thankful for when the weather outside is frightful. But there is a consequence that I face each lonely December, and I face it with the dignity of knowing that this ostracism from my blood relatives is the healthiest thing I can do for myself. I miss them, the good ones, but it’s the only choice I have.
I woke up to frosty air wafting at me from the shoddily insulated windows next to my bed. Nothing my dead grandmother’s hand-knitted afghan couldn’t solve. I rolled over a quarter-turn, grabbed my laptop, and started the day with an eyeful of faux-lesbians creatively using sex toys and screaming in unconvincing ecstasy. Nevertheless, in five minutes, I had bridged the gap between the serotonin gifted to me from the crystal blue light that singed me through the blinds, and the endorphins needed to put my bare feet on the cold floor. I washed away the residue of the unfamiliar guilt of being a porn consumer on Jesus’ birthday with an unnecessarily long shower, while trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the day. It came to involve a strict regimen of lying around, a menu consisting mostly of cookies, and feeling weird about wearing socks my ex-boyfriend’s mother gave me. I was not allowed to attend his family gathering because his grandparents didn’t approve me…
That was my Christmas last year. There is nothing romantic, or cute, about this kind of isolation. It’s just kind of sad. Yes, I have friends. And all of them have families. I’m getting too old to play tag-along, and the day my last bachelorette buddy gets married off, I will officially be sealed into a void. I remember trying to joke before the holidays last year, “Oh, you have to shove your little ones in the car and drive 300 miles? I’m so glad I don’t have…(a family)…(or a husband/kids)…”
The joke fell flat, and the listener, eying me skeptically, was not impressed.
Maybe that’s when it really stopped being cute.
I look at holidays as times to embrace the ones you love. What could Christmas look like if I had someone? I run out of words. I don’t want to be mistaken for a curmudgeon, though! You’ve got to believe me. I am, deep down, a romantic at heart. Or perhaps you can tell without me spelling it out. What I want is not a stand-in for my family. Oh, no. What I want is someone who redefines the meaning of family. I am open to this possibility. I hope I don’t have to spend a lot more Christmases with Frosted Flakes and Youtube, but, maybe it’s worth the wait. Christmas to me, really, it’s not the time of year – it’s the feeling.
So kiss the Christmas morning beside you, whomever that may be, with as much gusto as the holiday necessitates. Wear that ugly sweater Nana gave you. Hug all of your blood-strangers and hold the smelly progeny of second cousins. Splash around in your gene pool and enjoy it for what it is – a mind-boggling smorgasbord, the result of unbridled passions, wars survived, second marriages and too much Jesus, failed artists, rich uncles, ugly lip-gloss and terrible jokes, all gathered together in one room with the noble idea that love really does make the world go ‘round. Let the mess seep in, and smile for the camera. All of these people make this moment possible, and without them, who would you be?