Ditching The Christmas Shame
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes you have to give up the cynical, if principled, cool and give in to the gooey sentimentality. ’Tis the season!
By Michelle Tea
I wouldn’t say that my love for Christmas was stuffed in the closet, but it was close. I certainly was embarrassed about it. I’m an urban sophisticate living in a queer mecca; I’m a feminist who thinks capitalism sucks. But each winter, when the air turns cold, the urge hits me: I want a Christmas tree. I want to buy kitschy yet clever ornaments to dangle from its branches. I want to do a craft. I’m not even a crafter, but suddenly it seems like I should be futzing around with red and green pipe cleaners and old paper-towel rolls.
These urges feel shameful, something left over from my blue-collar New England childhood, something I should have acquired a distaste for, like SPAM and eggs for dinner or smoking cigarettes in the car with the windows rolled up. But when the days get cold and dark and my seasonal affective disorder kicks in, I start craving the cozy comforts that leant magic to the long winters of my youth.
Once I purchased holiday candles for all of my co-workers at the Anarchist Labor Union. They stared at me blankly.
I like the sense of something building, a crescendo of twinkling lights and pretty dresses. In my opinion there aren’t enough occasions for festive attire, and come the holiday season my calendar is full of reasons to wing on some eyeliner before leaving the house. Stripped of its Christian iconography, Christmas is a pagan holiday, honoring the darkness of the skies and the need for animal warmth. I want gatherings and closeness, food and gifts.
This has long been a puzzle to the people around me. Once I purchased holiday candles for all of my co-workers at the Anarchist Labor Union. They stared at me blankly. Dismantling capitalism was our job, and here I was spending my time off shopping. But I really liked my co-workers, and it felt rude not to embrace one of the holiday season’s more benevolent traditions: letting people know you appreciate them by buying them something useless they have no desire for.
For years I was in a relationship with a man who just hated Christmas. I could hardly blame him — his family holidays were something out of a John Waters movie. Dad was stoned, saying offensive things he was too stoned to understand were offensive. Mom was trembling and codependent. Sister would inevitably feel slighted by a Christmas gift which illustrated how no one in the family got her. Crazy aunt would drink too much and start laying guilt trips on everyone. To him, my longing to bring some Christmas cheer into the house was a betrayal, and I felt too embarrassed by my possibly cheesy urges to put up a fight.
Slowly I’m gaining the courage of my convictions. Last year I engaged in a craft undertaking involving Elmer’s Glue and a pile of cinnamon. The resulting objects d’art — inedible, cookie-like ornaments stinking gloriously of cinnamon — were gifted to my friends, who looked confused, then more confused, then laughed at me, then felt bad for laughing at me and put it on their mantle until I left. Still, I felt proud. I knew the kind of girl I was, and I was accepting her, finally. I’m that girl. The girl who likes Christmas and sort of tries to make you celebrate it against your will.
Slowly I’m gaining the courage of my convictions. I’m that girl who likes Christmas and sort of tries to make you celebrate it against your will.
This season, as we drove home with a Douglas fir lashed to the roof of the car, my wife tried to explain how she felt about our holiday decorating. “It’s kind of like having to go to the grocery store,” she said. “I don’t really want to, but it’s not that bad.” The look on my face prompted her to try a little harder. “I like doing it,” she said, “because you like doing it.” Good enough. I’ll take it. And once our home was properly infused with seasonal cheer, she had to admit that it smells really good to have a fir tree in your living room.
There’s really one important final reason to celebrate the season: Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special. Charo! KD Lang! Grace Jones! Dinah Shore! Fruitcake-hefting beefcake! I’ll be luring some friends — Jewish, anticapitalist, atheist, apathetic — over for a special holiday screening. I may even bake a buche de Noel. They’ll celebrate Christmas with me, whether they like it or not.
- Michelle Tea, OZY Author Contact Michelle Tea