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Crappy Holidaze

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A survival guide for heathens and other seasonal misanthropes

By Michelle Goldberg

SKYROCKETING SUICIDE rates during the holiday season are just an urban legend, but it's an oft-repeated one during the winter months, given the way the holidays magnify loneliness, money problems, religious differences and familial dysfunction. All year long, one's low-grade neurosis and mild misanthropy can be shoved to the back of the mind. Then suddenly, come November, every viciously grinning elf and department-store-window shrine to consumption magnifies our social failings, our emotional estrangements and the woeful inadequacy of our shitty paychecks. And Christmas is just a trial run for New Year's, when party invitations (or lack thereof) serve as a cold, empirical ranking of one's entire persona.

Happily, there are as many ways to survive the holiday season as there are peculiar December miseries. Depending on one's situation, the solution can range from serving up a tofu turkey to hanging with your friends instead of your family. The answer may lie in gifts purchased for pennies at thrift stores or in a ticket out of town.

Maybe travel's an option. Maybe it isn't. And while most of our wintry woes won't reach crisis proportions, the ever-sensitive Metro staff figured that people might need a little help working through that Christmas-New Year's angst. So we've cobbled together 25 more ways to help people live through the holiday hell.

  1. Make eggnog. And we're not talking mocktails. Fill a flask or thermos (preferably the kind with an attachable strap so you can sling it around your back), and swig until numb. Keep a fresh supply of this potent potable handy.
    • Beat until stiff 12 egg whites.
    • Beat in 1/2 cup sugar.
    • Beat until very light 12 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt.
    • Combine the egg mixtures and stir until thoroughly blended.
    • Add 1 quart heavy, beaten cream, 1 quart milk, 1 quart bourbon whiskey.
    • Beat well.
    • Add 1 cup rum (or 2 ... what the hell).
    • Pour into a gallon jug (put extra in a quart jar).
    • Store in a cool place.
    • Shake or stir thoroughly before serving.
    • Sprinkle with nutmeg.
    • Serves 30 (or less).

  2. Ignore it. Every time you see green and/or red, avert your eyes. Don't watch TV, turn on the radio, read the newspaper or get the mail. Don't go to the supermarket, talk to the neighbors or speak with anyone you haven't had contact with in the last week and a half. It's difficult, but if you put your mind to it, you too can avoid this holiday season.

  3. Play strip-dreidel. Why not?

  4. Discover a new religion. Become a Buddhist; go on a silent retreat; hum "Silent Night" quietly to yourself. Dip into Kabalah--apparently that Jewish mysticism thing is all the rage with supermodels.

  5. Wear red crotchless underwear throughout the month of December. If you don't catch a cold, you will at the very least end up in bed in some way, shape or form.

  6. Get honest. A confession to your most tawdry relative helps clear stifled pretensions at holiday family functions. Tell your Aunt Trudy once and for all that you never did like her blue Christmas tree, and while you're at it, tell her that you cringe at the thought of eating her annual candied-marshmallow-sweet-potato casserole for the 15th year in a row. Ahhh ... now doesn't that feel better?

  7. Drug yourself. Give yourself an organic psychogenic fugue for Christmas! And wake up afterward blissfully unaware of what happened. Consider Thorazine. Consult a licensed physician for dosage information and contraindications.

  8. Knit a long muffler. Read Underworld. Embark on some long project that will keep you healthily busy until it's safe to go out again.

  9. Give private showings. Instead of suffering through mind-numbing seasonal TV specials and their excruciating Kodak commercials, rent movies having nothing to do with Christmas. Suggested genres: war films, Japanese anime, monster movies.

  10. OK, watch those TV specials. Granted, It's a Wonderful Life loses some of its charm after the sixth viewing, but you simply can't miss The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Charlie Brown or Rudolf and still call yourself an American.

  11. It doesn't have to be another "White Christmas." Someone is bound to try to torture you with Xmas music. Minimize the pain by giving them music that you want to listen to.

  12. Wear earplugs. Drone out the "Little Drummer Boy" and other noxious holiday rants that accompany food shopping, burrito eating and, of course, gift shopping. And if you are buying gifts this year, just add earplugs for yourself to the list. Foam is fine, but the silicon version is superior. You shouldn't pay more than a buck at most drugstores.

  13. Take bubble baths. Hit the holiday sales, and soak your way through the season of stress. Note: Avoid pine-scented bubble bath.

  14. Create a sanctuary. Designate at least one room which will remain decoration- and festivity-free (works both at home and at work).

  15. Pace yourself. No more than two encounters with relatives and one holiday party per week. Encounters with relatives at holiday parties should be avoided at all costs.

  16. Don't draw out the torture. The day after Christmas, chuck everything back into the basement/attic/garage where it belongs. Start planning for Valentine's Day.

  17. Buy a tree. It's a $30 fire hazard that will inevitably be a part of your living room until spring, but the smell alone is worth it. Bonus tip: decorate with celebrity cutouts from People magazine as ornaments!

  18. Burn the tree; it's cathartic. Be sure to toss any fruitcakes still lying around into the flame (excluding Uncle Joe, of course).

  19. Give hand-crafted gifts. Cheap, effective and nonreturnable. Maybe more effort than a selection of bath soaps, but nothing says love like macramé.

  20. Enjoy a second childhood. Return to your familial home, where stuff like careers and relationships sure seem petty when your brother took the station wagon again without asking. Travel back to a time when life was simple and hitting was OK.

  21. Find God. Whatever your deity of choice may be, there's no better time to cleanse the previous months of sinning and blasphemy. One midnight service and your soul's free-and-clear until Easter.

  22. Make the most of the office holiday party. Make out with the mailroom guy, grind with your boss, buy Jagermeister shots for upper management--statistically, tolerance levels are never higher.

  23. Be a couch potato peeler. Buy all of your gifts while enjoying the comforts of the couch. Be the "As-Seen-on-TV" gift-giver, the bearer of gadgets. A banana holder, motorized coin bank, personal paper shredder or Leatherman Tool Adapter are all surefire hits. And for that someone special with the problem hair--consider a Flo-Bee™.

  24. Embrace it. Maybe, just maybe, this Xmas, Chanukah, holiday hoohah isn't so bad. Maybe you've become a little hardened by reading all of those alternative publications. Why not give the wholesome holiday thing a whirl? Decorate. Bake. Sing. Louder. Give. Receive. Shop. Return. Donate. Smile. Smile. Smile. And if you hate it, the bah humbugs for years to come will feel all the more justified.

  25. Enjoy some alone time. Sure, it's tempting to join someone else's family gathering, but what looks like a warm familial bosom through frosted December windows can morph into a steamy purgatory of resentments and miscommunication once you're at the center of it. Relish your independence and estrangement. Appreciate the sweet pathos of being alone on the most family-oriented day of the year.

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From the Dec. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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