I don’t like holidays.
I’m supposed to like them, I know. But the truth is, I don’t. The truth is…I NEVER have.
I used to try and convince myself to like Christmas when I was younger. Kids are supposed to like Christmas, but I just didn’t. With Christmas, I’m very Charlie Brown. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest.
All the happiness around me felt phony and forced, or driven by greed, which felt wrong to participate in, and then when I didn’t participate, it was another opportunity for my family to point out how weird I was. I have a very large, extended family that gets together on every holiday…EVERY ONE…to ‘celebrate.’ So obviously, Christmas is a big deal. We always go because of the Social Contract, but we never stay long. A few years back, my mom told me after we left, one of my cousins brought out a DVD he had made from old VHS home movies from the early 80s. It was when a family friend had dressed as Santa and come to the big family party. There are about fifteen of us who are now in our 30s to early 40s who were ‘believers’ back then, and all of the other kids ran right for ‘Santa,’ squealing with excitement and delight. Not me. I stayed back, alone and quiet, trying my best to avoid the crowd, ‘Santa,’ and the camera.
Mom: You’ve *always* been like that. <frustrated, confused voice>
I have. I knew that wasn’t ‘Santa,’ and I didn’t like the noise and the pushiness. And I definitely didn’t want any attention or the camera on me. And no Linus with an adorable blue blanket is around to peel back all the avarice and consumption and sugar smiles and tell me all of it’s real.
Birthdays when I was a kid always felt that way too. ‘Everyone sing to <me>!’ All my cousins would get invited to a party to sing around a cake and I just really wasn’t into it. There’s this picture of me that is Classic Me on My Birthday from when I was 7. I had my 1984 USA Olympics short sleeved sweatshirt on (weren’t the 80s great?!) and I’m holding up a new Barbie with no hint of a smile on my face. (Photo Caption: Oh Look. A Barbie. Can these people leave now so I can go read in my room?) In later elementary school, I’d have two or three friends sleep over instead, which I liked a lot better, but I couldn’t enjoy a party OR a sleepover fully, because my mom always complained about what a pain it was to prepare, watch other people’s kids, etc. Birthdays never felt like celebrations, which is what I’m told they’re supposed to be. They felt like my mom planning something out of duty so we’d look like a normal, loving family to the people we know. By the time I was twelve, I just avoided celebration. Without that annoying social media reminder (which I hate and have removed), most people in my life don’t even know my birthday, and I like it that way. I don’t like a bunch of obligatory, canned and insincere, ‘Happy Birthday!’s’ popping up on my phone notifications to let me know which of my family and friends checked Facebook that morning.
And with gifts, there’s that inevitable question, ‘What do you want?’ I hate that question. I don’t ever really have an answer for it. This past Christmas, my brother’s girlfriend (her first Christmas as Part of the Family) asked me if I made a wish list for holiday presents. Um…no. So she asked me what I wanted, and I (honestly) told her to donate to her favorite charity for me. She looked at me as if I’d grown a second head before her eyes, and then responded with a halting, biting-back-disgust, ‘Oh…okay.’ I like her. I really do. And I get it. She thought I was being judgmental and pretentious about her perfectly normal excitement about fun, whimsical gift exchange by laying a guilt trip on her. That’s not what I was doing. I appreciate gifts, and maybe it’s selfish of me, but to me, if I’ve told you what to get me, then a gift loses its significance, and I’d just rather not receive one. And I tried the ‘make a list’ thing once in high school with my mom. I asked her for They Might Be Giants’ album Apollo 18. I wrote this out on paper in plain, printed (not even cursive) English. She got me the Apollo 13 soundtrack. Plus, I just don’t like telling people what to do.
What I always want, no one can really wrap up in a box and give me anyway. I want to feel happy and calm. I get ‘happy and calm’ when other people are genuinely happy, and when I’m generally left alone. So what I truly always want is for everyone else to be happy and leave me alone. But I’m an antisocial misanthrope if I actually tell people that. I know I’m supposed to want to celebrate on days of historic and nearly universal celebration. But I just…don’t.
I prefer to celebrate Ordinary Days. Ordinary Days are happier and calmer than holidays. And really…I have J. I have our son. I have security and love. What more COULD I want? Those are the times I want to celebrate.