On December 5th, midmorning, in the middle of the canned goods aisle I threw up my hands and shouted “I’ve had it with Christmas music!” This was not a good sign of the month to come, but was an accurate one.
The incendiary moment for my outburst was hearing two versions of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” within ten minutes of one another, one of them featuring a treacly child vocalist lisping the part of Rudolph over genial adult narration. I’ve planned since last year a post thoughtfully detailing the different means by which Christmas songs offend me, but all the notes and outlines and TextEdit files saved to my desktop can’t substitute the passion of a really frustrating retail job in the middle of the holiday season with that goddamn hippopotamus song playing at least twice, sometimes thrice per shift.
Last year at this time I was just starting a part-time job at Borders, and was happy to be employed finally, maybe. Frankly I don’t feel like rereading old posts to determine a past state of mind when this one is burning so brightly. This year I’m glad to be employed, and also am about ready to kill myself over it. I’m working six days a week and under forty hours agreeing ad nauseam with customer platitudes about the new doors we had installed over two months ago, dodging credit cards and cash flipped callously across the counter at me, and smiling cheerfully at people who don’t bother to say a single word to me throughout a transaction. I’ve been cast in a graduate school … graduate’s nightmare, and the soundtrack is just awful. If it’s not insipid pop synth tones it’s tired old classics being strangled in the false cheer of an easy album sale to avid fans who’d buy anything from Such A Great Artist, mangled up over someone hitting “Samba” on a Casio keyboard and programming Track One on Standard Drum Machine and don’t forget sleigh bells and ground out of the airwaves like sausage filling. I have lost this metaphor, but I work in a meat market/deli so I might have originally been heading somewhere with that.
The point is it’s December 11th and I want to give up and hide for Christmas. I haven’t accomplished a single gift; all my grandiose plans to paint things have been smothered by an uncomfortable hairy sweater of frustrated rage layered with a blanket depression that makes me want to stay in bed every minute I’m not at work, and I cannot justify just buying “stuff” for the sake of having something to hand out over the course of the last week in December. I love my friends and my family too much to say “here are thirteen Snuggies from last-minute Job Lot; well, I’m done.” It’s also looking pretty dark for a Christmas card this year. I’ve thrown some scratches down on scrap paper and have a vague idea for a Christmas-y scene in my head, but every time I crack an actual sketchbook or think about clearing off my neglected work space something inside me breaks and all the ambition and goodwill bleeds out and leaves me cold.
The thing that kills me about this ouroboros of holiday guilt and misery is, I’m actually not always miserable. I’ve done some great things this month. I went to the Mystic Seaport with the eldest of my younger cousins for the Christmas Lantern Light tour; I’ve provided marshmallows and homemade Irish cream at an early Christmas celebration campfire; I’ve sat in my car at the local Christmas House and watched the light show synched to the very songs I yell about. But I go home alone, and I think of absent friends in the intermittent colors of the lights in the darkness, and I find myself feeling bad over feeling bad, and then I go to work and try not to eat my own arm off to escape dentist drill vocals and abusive-dad bluster of the Chipmumks Christmas song while straightening the pile of thirteen crumpled one dollar bills dropped on the counter and flicked at me like dead fish by the sour old man who asked me the purchase total four times because No. One. Listens. To. Me.
So, guess what, kid? Hippopotamuses are not charming; they’re the number-one mankiller of the animal kingdom and your fanciful notions are setting you up for the colossal disappointment that is life outside of seventh grade. Everyone singing to Santa about finding a loved one under the tree is trying to convince a good and kindly old man to commit multiple counts of kidnapping. Gloria Estefan, make up your mind about singing to Santa or your kid or something before recording and then try to use some real musical instruments next time. Celine Dion, you’re just terrible. You’re a Canadian shout-singing a Spanish song like it’s a live Vegas show for retarded children. The Little Drummer Boy is not canon. I want to punch every rendition of “Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in its stupid face.
I have got to hate Christmas songs, because they are saving me from imploding on this time of year entirely.