One word, if you would, that describes a certain feeling. Directed inward, the feeling of fighting off an icepick lobotomy that’s already half an inch in and scratching the bone, one sharp motion away from excising your ability to care about what you’ve just lost; outwards, the feeling that comes from watching an old girlfriend stagger out of a crack house and proposition a stranger, sad and helpless and seeing something you loved polluted and too far gone to help.
I don’t think it has a name, but bear with me here.
We’re well into December, so the radio stations of the world are taking their annual break from the nonstop rotation of crappy music about how great love is to spend a month playing even crappier music about how great Christmas is.
I hate Christmas.
I’m late to the game here, of course; the spirit of rabid, unfettered consumerism was let off the chain a month ago, to wander the psychological detritus of a week-long sugar binge and prey on the weak, unsuspecting or merely kind. Today, Halloween is frightening only for the mental onslaught that dawns the very next morning, remorseless economics declaring it cheaper to take the plastic bats out of the rafters and install the plastic elves all at once. The storefronts change colors before the last leaves and the spirit of Christmas is once again slapped around and sent out to the walk the street corners and make some money.
You grow up, and your parents stop putting change under your pillow for your old teeth or hiding Easter eggs, but for some reason Christmas never seems to go away. I don’t really wonder why that is, but I wish I did.
I can remember a time when Christmas made me happy, giddy even, but I can also remember why it made me happy, and it’s not something I’m proud of. Not because of family or friends, because (of extraordinary fortune, I know) I already had all that. Just because I was getting a bunch of stuff. Nowadays I have the luxury of not really needing stuff, and I’ll be the first to admit that this is no small luxury, but having the sense to know what I don’t need is something I’m even happier with.
The friends and family, though, that used to be background noise; excusable, I suppose, in a too-smart middle-class white kid who’d never gone without either, but what do you fit into the the gap between excusable and forgivable? Contrition, possibly? These days, all I want for Christmas is to sit around a table or three with friends and family, eat some good food and drink some good drink. Maybe get something small for the smaller members of the various clans, just ’cause. But what I’d really love is to be left the hell alone for the two-month run-up, to make my decisions in peace without the annual commerce-orgy harbinger-bells piped out of every speaker, flashing on every screen and plastered on every flat surface available, because all that does is bring back my feeling without a name.
What I want, I guess, is what Christmas is supposed to be; I just hate what it actually is.