I wrote this in 2010. But as I was bitching the other night, at my husband, of course, about how I had done all the figuring out of the presents, all the shopping and all the wrapping, while teaching a course, rehearsing for a play, preparing a huge talk and teaching yoga ON TOP OF MY DAY JOB, I thought it might be fun to revisit it. And I’m just not ready to write about another school shooting where the majority of the dead are girls and women and the killer is a young white male. (It will come, I promise).
I watched a re-run of Family Guy last night. In this episode, Lois freaks out because she is exhausted from Christmas preparations. She sets fire to their tree and goes on a rampage through the town of Quahog. This episode really resonated with me, even though I don’t have children. I have done the majority of the shopping for the approximately 40 people on our list, many of whom are nieces and nephews on my husband’s side of the family. It’s now up to 50. How the hell did that happen? Last Saturday I spent hours wrapping all of those presents. And I’m still not done. I have to pick up something for my Dad, find the perfect book about trains for my Godson, get something for my neighbors who were overly generous last year, a gift certificate for my brother in law and his wife, go to Target and get dog toys for nine dogs, and maybe something else for my mother. I’m way ahead of the curve this year. I did most of this last weekend as we are leaving today for New Hampshire to do my family’s Christmases so I had to be ready. I did spend Saturday baking shortbread cookies and Sunday grading papers, making two lasagnes for a Christmas party, and wrapping most of the gifts. And there are still three more things to buy, which coincidentally have been on my husband’s To Do list for a week–pick up two gift cards and a bottle of white wine. Guess who will probably be doing that?
Then I have to buy the ingredients to make a Christmas Eve dessert, develop a shopping list for Christmas dinner, which will include making another dessert, and finish wrapping the gifts I haven’t finished wrapping, including some I need to wrap when my husband is elsewhere. This part is easier this year as we tried NOT to buy anything for each other so I just have a couple of things to throw in his stocking for Christmas morning. And I won’t wrap them. I’ll make my pie tomorrow am when I am in New Hampshire and we’ll come up with something to bring to Christmas Eve that morning after we’re back.
Christmas has become a race to exhaustion. And while I love to buy Christmas presents, I wonder if we have stepped too far afield of its meaning. While we hear all the time that we have to “get back to the real meaning of Christmas,” like a new group on Facebook called “Let’s keep the Christ in Christmas,” none of this addresses the pressure that, in most cases, women face during this time of year.
And why does the holiday pressure fall on women? I know I am the one who nagged my husband about decorating the house. This year our tree was up without lights for a WEEK. And when he finally got motivated to put them on, while I was out at an event one night, he couldn’t find the lights. he spent most of Saturday looking all over town for white lights and we ended up with colored ones. There is one fake stupid looking wreath hanging on our garage. Our house really looks blah. But I am really over it. I was the one who wanted our house to look “pretty” in my neighborhood. I was the one who went to get a tree and then decorated the whole thing while he cooked dinner one night. I did manage to get him to come shopping with me for some of our nieces and nephews, but I couldn’t get him to move at the pace I needed. Am I the one who puts this pressure on me? Do women bring this on themselves? Or are men happy to let us take charge?
I often get a good cold this time of year. Women run themselves into exhaustion, staying up late wrapping presents or baking cookies or decorating. I wonder if next year, instead of getting back to the real meaning of Christmas, maybe we could begin to think of an equality of Christmas, where no one person in the home takes full responsibility for the increased chores that come with this beautiful season of lights.
So yes, I wrote that paragraph two years ago. Did it happen? Clearly not. I think the best Christmas I had, so far, was the year we went away to New York to have Christmas with my birth family. I think it was fun because I wasn’t worried about pleasing my family in anyway. Maybe we need to start spending Christmas in the Caribbean. Now there’s an idea. Merry Christmas!