I am not a big holiday fan. My family is not very good at celebrating christmas, too many years of working retail at christmas time have made me hate christmas music and people who don’t embody the spirit of the season when dealing with retail staff; and it always feels like forced gaity. When I tell people that I don’t care for christmas–they yell at me, demand to know what’s wrong with me, and tell me that I need to change–hardly the spirit of loving your neighbor. It’s not that I hate christmas, I’m just indifferent to it, but apparently that is just not okay with people.
When I first moved to Rhode Island, I was incredibly excited to spend christmas by myself. I had the day off for the first time in five years (when I worked in television, I volunteered to work christmas every year because it was important to other people to have the day off), and had plans to lounge, eat frozen pizza, watch James Bond movies, read, and have a completely guilt-free no-agenda-of-any-kind day. I was looking forward to this with tremendous intensity, and made the mistake bragging about my plans when people asked. The typical reaction was dismay, followed by disappointment, followed by an emphatic disavowal of my plans, sometimes followed by an insistent invitation to spend christmas with whoever I was talking to. No one was happy for me, even though I was clearly happy for myself.
Eventually, I accepted an invitation from the people I call my Rhode Island parents because they would not let me say no, and and the end of the parental haranguing, I was almost convinced that I would wake up the morning after christmas weeping and regretting missing a family meal and “togetherness.” It was a lovely time, and a delicious meal, but I also had to drive 90 minutes in quasi-bad weather, and put on nice pants–not what I had planned for my lazy day.
This year, I have planted my feet firmly in “My christmas/my rules” territory much to the dismay of Gentleman Scholar. Being a native Rhode Islander, he has scads of extended family within driving distance, and holiday traditions that include a ravioli eating contest. I spent Thanksgiving with them, which was lovely, and made lovelier by the fact that his family actually drinks (unlike mine). As I was getting to know his mom’s cousins, they asked where I was from followed with the, “You’ll be going back there for christmas, I assume.”
“I’m not, actually,” I told them, “I like to spend christmas by myself,and I have a wonderful day planned…”
“Oh no! Don’t your parents want you to come back and visit? Are they coming here?”
“No, we aren’t a big christmas family…” I watched their faces fall in the familiar pose of pity, and sadness, and tried to regroup by being flippant, assuring them that it wasn’t a big deal, somehow I managed to mention my dead grandparents. It was about as awkward as it could have been, and only made them feel sorrier for me.
I cannot figure out a way to sell my type of christmas in a way that makes people really realize that I’m really, really happy with it. I moved 1,800 miles to escape familial obligations, and I want to celebrate that, but it’s still seen as tragic. The only way I think I can deal with it in a way that makes everyone feel good is by lying, but that seems like a lot of backstory–not worth it.
This year, my Jewish Friend and I are having what I have dubbed “Jenna and Andria’s low-key xmas of fun!” We will watch Anthony Bourdain, read, snack, and have a grand old time. I’m very excited about it, please believe me.