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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.

providencebannerI’m finding an odd new trend now that I’ve graduated–everyone seems to think I want to leave.  I came to Rhode Island, got my education, and now certainly must want to high-tail it back to the Midwest.  This should be an easy enough misunderstanding to rectify, but I’m having a hard time convincing people.

I’ve been job hunting all summer, and the hunting has resulted in a few interviews.  The first interviewer was a very brusque woman who looks at my application and said, “You moved here from Minnesota? What brought you out here?”

As this was a job in a cafe, I was hoping to avoid discussing my masters degree since it seems like a huge black mark against me, but as I really have no other reason for being here in Rhode Island, I had to admit, “I moved out here for grad school.”

“So do you want to move back? How much longer are you staying here?”

“I don’t want to move back.” I assured her, but she sat expectantly waiting for me to answer the second part of the question. “I don’t know for sure how much longer I’ll live here.”

“A year? Two years?”  This woman was not letting it go.  So finally I had to play the card that I really really hate playing, but seems to be the only way to convince people.

“My boyfriend is in a PhD program and has at least three years left.  If I want to keep him, which I do, I can’t really move.  Also, I love it here and have no desire to move.”

She wrote something down, “So you moved here because of your boyfriend?”

“No, I moved here for grad school, I didn’t even know him then.”

It was at this point in the interview when I realized that there was simply no pleasing this woman, and I would probably not be getting this job (also the fact that I told her that I only wanted to work part-time seemed to offend her in some way).

She followed up with asking me how much time I would potentially take off over the holidays to go visit my family, and when I told her “none,” she seemed to not believe me, and also think I was an ingrate/terrible daughter.

“I always work on Christmas,” I told her, “I worked in television for five years where there are no days off, and because my family doesn’t really do Christmas, I volunteered to take that day each year because it was more important to other people.”  I didn’t mention that traveling at holiday times is also A. way too expensive and B. my idea of hell.

“Well, we’re obviously closed on major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.” she told me, “but if you wanted to take off three weeks in December, that would be an issue.”

Needless to say, that was an interview FAIL, but in subsequent interviews I’ve also noticed a bit of the “what are you still doing here?” vibe.

Most people are more reasonable about it. When I tell them that I love it here and don’t want to leave, they seem to understand me without me having to denounce my family, and cling to my boyfriend, but they still seem vaguely suspicious.

Living in my parent’s basement and refusing to look for work anywhere that I couldn’t walk to seems like it would be more acceptable than just saying, “I know this state is in shambles and jobs are hard to come by, but I’ve made a life here and don’t want to leave, so I’m going to stick it out.”

Also, I realize that interviewing and hiring is a tedious and unpleasant process, but I don’t think I should have to promise in an interview that I will live here for the next ten years.  If I take a position and then want to leave it because I’m moving back to the Midwest, moving to India, found a box of money, hate the job etc., that’s my business.  I’m not signing any kind of contract.

No one ever asked me why I was still in Fargo after I finished grad school there, even though the only reason I moved to that town was for college. Quite the opposite, people seemed confused and horrified as to why I wanted to leave.  Even going back for a visit this past spring a former co-worker said something like, “You’ve got your degree, you might as well come back.”

Come back to what, though?  I don’t have a job there any more than I have one here.  Just because I know all the staff at Fargo Public Library doesn’t mean they have a position for me.  Most of my friends in Fargo moved away long before I did. My parents left the town I went to high school in before I even finished my undergrad degree and now live in what I call a “Stepford Village” of identical duplexes that I hate visiting in a town I’ve only seen a handful of times.  From my perspective, I actually have a full life here.

A while ago, I read the New York Times article entitled Towns They don’t want to Leave, which listed Providence and Fargo as being in the top five of US cities where college grads wind up staying–so I’m not even that strange, the New York Times has proclaimed me completely regular, why all the questions?  Also, I know that I’m not even alone among my fellow library school graduates who have come here from “somewhere else” and want to hang around a little while longer.  I’m wondering if they are getting these questions too.

  • Footless tights.

I love tights, but lately when I’ve been shopping for them, I find that all of the best ones are “footless.”  This is something that I genuinely do not understand.  Why would you want your tights to be footless?  Part of the appeal of tights is they act as both leg decorations and socks– take away the sock part, and what do you put on your feet?  Are they meant to be worn with ballet flats and looks a bit like stretch pants?  Is that what we’ve come to?  I bought a pair of these last year because I really loved the color, and thought I’d try it out.  I wear my bright red footless tights with knee socks, which I’m guessing is not what the cool kids are doing.  I’m worried that normal tights are being phased out in favor of these, and it makes me nervous.

  • Romantic comedies.

You know exactly how it’s going to end– the most attractive people who may or may not have hated each other will get together, there will be a major complication along the way, then everything will be wonderful.  Why do you want to sit through that?  I admit, I’ve been fooled plenty of times by romantic comedies that seem like they may be interesting, but they never are.  Also, lately they’ve been really long– more than two hours, that’s just unnecessary.

  • The appeal of Diane Keaton.

I love Annie Hall, everyone does, but aside from that I simply cannot stand Diane Keaton.  I think she was acting like herself in Annie Hall, and in everything else I’ve seen her in, I’m hyperaware that she’s Diane Keaton.  That’s not a good actress.  And while I’m aware that she’s Diane Keaton, I’m also aware that she seems rather abrasive and unpleasant.  Something’s Gotta Give was the worst movie I’ve seen in recent memory.

  • What people who don’t read do with their downtime.

Odds are that these people think they’re very busy all the time and will tell you about it, but this is something I’ve always wondered.  When I was growing up, I’d come home from school and just read, all night.  I had two jobs once I was in High School, and after-school stuff, and hung out with friends, but I always found more than enough time to read at least five books a week.  If you don’t read, what do you do?  There are a lot of hours in the day.

  • Why people freak out on me when I say that I plan to spend the holidays alone.

Last Christmas I had a great plan.  I had 3 James Bond movies, plenty of frozen pizza, and grandiose plans to sleep late and spend the day doing guilt-free slacking.  That all went out the window when I told people that these were my plans even though I can’t imagine in the telling I looked anything but ecstatic– certainly I wasn’t forlorn and “little match girlish.”  Eventually, after a handful of people felt so bad for me, I was told in a tone that broached no argument, “You’re coming to our house,” and I spent Christmas with The Appraiser and his family.  It was lovely, and I like them a lot, but I also had to drive 1.5 hours and put on nice clothes, which was not in the original plan.

  • Why UPS in RI seems so reluctant to do its job.

This afternoon, I have to drive to the UPS warehouse in Warwick (a place I hate so much that every time I go there, I get a bit twitchy even though that’s where the Trader Joes and Chipotle are) because my new black boots were shipped UPS and they just do not like to deliver packages.  I had them sent to Jewish Friends house since my neighbors still steal my mail, she found the slip that she had missed them, signed it, and stuck it back to the door.  Then she found another slip saying that they had made their final attempt.  In my neighborhood, where there are mail thieves and crackheads, UPS leaves packages on my steps to be secreted away by people who are not me; in Jewish Friend’s neighborhood, where there are hipsters and good bakeries, UPS will not leave anything.  I don’t want to have everything sent to work, because that exposes the fact that I buy far too many things online, but I think that’s what it will come to because I cannot specify to Amazon that I do not ever want things shipped UPS.  Do the delivery drivers just like to drive around in the truck all day and put post-its on people’s doors?  Fine if they hate their jobs, but just give me my stuff and go back to your sulking.