In less than a month, Christmas will be here. I know you know that, and I know you think I’m a dick for mentioning it, but I needed an intro for this post, so get over it. Anyway, if you’re like me, you generally don’t like groups of people, and this time of year seriously tests your ability to blend in and avoid assault and/or homicide. Christmas parties, dinners, shopping; it all requires us to do shit with other people and sometimes these people are strangers who appear to have lost their damn minds.
But I have good news. You can limit the amount of holiday bullshit you have to deal with. Seriously, it’s really easy. Here’s what I did this year, and I’ve only considered dipping into my murder file once…okay, maybe twice.
Buy whatever you can online, because shopping in your PJs is always right. I did 90% of my shopping online, and I actually saved money, which is always a plus, right? Save the items you can’t buy on the Internet for the very last minute. Sure, you can go early, but no one offers any deals in October or November. It’s always December. Also, don’t do that Black Friday crap. The stores offer the same kickass deals on December 23rd. Trust me. I’ve been shopping on the 23rd for years
Anyway, when you do go out into the insanity, hit the mall instead of trying to drive and park at individual stores. Seriously, holiday traffic is a homicide waiting to happen. When you arrive at the mall, get the shopping over with as quickly as possible. Christmas music kills brain cells, so get away from that shit fast. It helps to have a list. Don’t wait to be inspired. Decide what you’re buying and where you’re buying it beforehand.
There are a few places I always go that never fail to have easy, cheap gifts. My first choice is to hit the book store and buy everyone books. Sure, not everyone on my lists reads, but fuck them. They should. Books are the best. Liquor stores are also awesome. Unless the recipient is an alcoholic. It’s just mean to buy booze for a booze hound. And don’t buy booze for kids. Kids drinking booze on Christmas is frowned upon almost everywhere.
Speaking of drunken fools, while you’re wandering through the mall, KEEP TO THE RIGHT! Don’t upset the flow of traffic by being the asshole walking all willy-nilly through the aisles. Also, respect personal space and NEVER stop in the middle of an aisle or in front of the entrance to the bathroom to chat with your friends. People who do that are assholes. Do you want to be an asshole?
You should try to respect personal space too. Don’t be all up in people’s shit at the checkout or in the aisles. If someone gets in your space, clear them out. Elbows are useful for this, but a more subtle approach is to keep your cart between you and them. They get all gropey-handsy, breathing-in-your-facey, give your cart a good shove. Then you say, “Oh, sorry.” I’m Canadian, so I can tell you from experience, you can be as aggressive as you want as long as you apologize right away. Who is going to be all “You bitch!” when you apologize? Then they look like a dick. Right? I know I am.
People will bump your cart or jam theirs into the back of your legs, or get assholey in general, because they’re desperate and they think no one’s going to beat them down during the Christmas season. You don’t have to get arrested, but a well-placed cart corner really adjusts an attitude.
So you’ve got the space situation handled, let’s move on to your budget. I think the most important thing to remember is that stores are out to get your money. Period. So beware of tricky pricing. You’re a writer. You can barely afford to eat so don’t be suckered in. Stores use several psychological triggers to lure you in, such as placing limits on items, offering bonus shit when you buy (BOGO anyone?), and slow, happy music and tasty, dessert-like aromas. This all gets you in the buying “I’m a sucker” mood. Don’t let them get to you.
Okay, by now you’ve got your gifts and you’re ready to go home. When you leave the mall, don’t go back. Not for anything. One return trip turns into another and then another, and by the 25th you’re a slobbering idiot locked in a jail cell. If you’ve forgotten anyone: Gift cards and cash. Yep. I don’t care if it’s your mom. She’ll probably enjoy buying something she actually wants this year anyway.
When you get home, make yourself something toasty and congratulate yourself. You done good. Don’t waste time trying to wrap the junk you just bought. Buy a bunch of gift bags and you’re done. No tape, no fussing with flaps and folds. Ugh. Shove it in the bag, add a piece of tissue paper, and voila! Pretty.
Shopping’s done, but what about the parties and dinners? Of course I haven’t forgotten about that insanity. I’ve compiled a few quick tips for surviving the party-go-round:
I’d say blend in, but I have trouble with such things. I’m a tall girl, so blending isn’t exactly easy. But look at this picture of a family dinner. We’ve got a big-ass family, and we gather every year for dinner. I enjoy my family, because they’re funny and don’t get all up in my face, but it’s still a challenge. I have become an expert at blending in even when I tower over everyone around me. Look, I circled me in red.
What am I doing? First, I play with my camera. No one bothers me when I’m fussing with electronics, because I tend to get cranky. Also, I’m leaning back, just hiding in plain sight. Don’t say much, and don’t make any sudden, noticeable movements, just kind of relax and paste a smile on your face. People usually pass by without a word. Also, notice the two I circled in blue. That’s my mother and my daughter, who are doing exactly the same thing.
Another option is to just drink, and drink a lot. If you aren’t a drinker, you’re going to have to survive completely sober. Sorry for that.
Sober isn’t much fun, but you can make it through. First, avoid making eye contact. You look someone in the eye; they think it’s an invitation to talk to you. Unless you want to talk to that person. That’s different. By all means, go ahead and stare them into submission.
Second, remember that kids are jerks and they like to push buttons. I know this because I have kids. They piss me off on purpose all the time, and I’ve seen them put the screws to family members and friends as well. I let them, because they’re not bothering me for a change. Don’t yell at other people’s kids. Even the nicest, most easy-going parent will cut you for that shit. Not even your brother’s kids. If someone’s mini-me’s are getting on your last nerve, quietly take them aside and scare the bejesus out of them. Writers have all kinds of horrors to share, so tell them what happens to screaming/running/annoying kids. Sure they might rat you out, but it’s their word against yours, and everyone knows kids are notorious for lying.
When you feel like you’re about to blow, go to the bathroom. No one bothers you in there. Once inside, you’re alone, and no one is all up in your shit. Take a breath, take a shit; whatever you have to do to lower your blood pressure. Then, when you’re ready, wash your hands and go back to the revelry. Note: If you stay in there too long, they may send a search party, so keep it to a quick 5 or 10 minutes.
I almost forgot the number one way to avoid conversation: Pick up a book. Books are nice. Books are our friend. And books also keep folks from bothering you. I don’t care if it’s a recipe book or a manual, just pick it up and pretend you’re reading. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a novel and it’ll be good and you can lose yourself in the story until it’s time to go home.
When you’re ready to go, just go. Don’t make a production out of it. Tell the hosts you’re leaving for whatever reason you’ve cooked up (headaches, diarrhea, other commitments, early mornings, and heart attacks are usually the best excuses), and just go. The other guests will try to convince you you’re leaving the best party ever or that your leaving will ruin everyone’s night. They’re full of shit. Once you’re gone, they’ll keep partying, so just leave. Smile at everyone, wave and close the door. Breathe. You survived. Now take out that bottle you stashed in your coat and go home to write.