Well, it's official: I have been named the Bitch Who Stole Christmas. Yay me.
A family member we'll call "Snark" sent me an eVite for an Eve-Before-Christmas-Eve party - the day before the party. The eVite was to me and my mother. The party was at a locale an hour away and my mother didn't feel up to attending and I'm not exactly feeling festive and didn't want to spend two hours driving to and from a party, leaving my mother home alone. Everyone involved knows my mother is recuperating from heart surgery and that I'm unemployed and in foreclosure. So I didn't think declining the invitation was a big deal, especially since the invitation was only extended the day prior to the event. Apparently I was wrong.
"Snark" forwarded my politely worded decline to her eVite to several (pretty much all) of my family and added her comments about me. Unfavorable comments. Another family member then joined in the fun and added comments about me (mostly unfavorable) and forwarded those comments to three family members. One of those family members added more unfavorable comments about me and hit reply all. All included everyone who received any of the emails in the thread. All included me because the original email was from me to "Snark."
fucking swutting Christmas.
This year I received a very special gift, a gift that money can't buy. Insight into what my family really thinks about me.
I am The Bitch Who Stole Christmas.
I'm okay with that. I know I'm not quite myself. I try to hide the negative moods, I try to at least put on my party face around other people. When I can't snap out of a funk I avoid other people until I can fake a smile or two. I have made it my mission to not be Debbie Downer during the past two years. (Excluding the blog - which is my escape. Sorry. But you choose to be here, you know what you're in for when you come here.) And there are a few people who have valid reasons to make some unfavorable comments about me.
"Snark" is not one of them.
I would like to note a few facts about "Snark." (This is the part of the blog where I self-indulgently vent out an "after all I've done for you?!" rant. Sorry. It's been a difficult couple of days and I need to get this out of my system without, you know, making matters worse in real life. It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to. You might want to just skip ahead.
1) "Snark" is a very vocal Buddhist who berates, bashes and makes fun of Christianity and Judaism and all who follow those faiths. "Snark" does this on Facebook, in emails and especially at family functions where most in attendance are Christian or Jewish. Including my mother. (I know. I know.) "Snark's" judgmental mindset, intolerance and lack of respect for other religious and spiritual views is obviously not very Buddhist. And the hostility in "Snark's" venom-laden remarks about Christianity is bordering on an anger management issue. And yet..."Snark" eagerly accepts Christmas presents and hosts an annual large Eve Before Christmas Eve party. And "Snark" is offended when people, family members, me, politely decline the invitation to the Eve Before Christmas Eve party. Even when well-known and valid reasons for not attending are cited.
2) "Snark" was born when I was 17. I have attended: Baby showers for "Snark." Pre-school, Kindergarten, Fifth grade, eighth grade, high school and college graduations for "Snark." And all the dance recitals, scouting events, bake sales, craft fairs, choir concerts, school plays, soccer games, track meets in-between. I have bought raffle tickets, wrapping paper, baked goods, magazine subscriptions, an countless donations from or for "Snark." I gave "Snark's" class art lessons so they could make a huge mural for their class civic project. I took "Snark" and "Snark's" friends, to see Weezer, Garbage, Slipknot, Incubus, and Marilyn Manson when they were in high school and the parents didn't want to go - but didn't want the kids to attend unchaperoned. I even left them alone so they could pretend they didn't have a chaperone. Get this: I even took them to see Insane Clown Posse. Which was literally my worst nightmare come to life. Yes. I, who am horrified of clowns, took a car full of high school kids to see Insane Clown Posse because their own parents wouldn't attend or allow them to attend without an adult. I'm still not emotionally solvent from that experience. If that's not sincere love and devotion...
3) When "Snark" was prepping for the SAT some shortcomings in "Snark's" education became apparent and the test-prep class offered little tutelage in certain areas. Guess who helped raise "Snark's" verbal SAT score?
4) Once in college, there was some, um, "trouble" that included alcohol, a party and the law. Guess who "Snark" called for help?
5) Here's what really gets me, though. There were some years when "Snark" was young and "Snark's" parents were going through a very, very nasty divorce and "Snark's" mother had very little money. "Snark's" mother had a rum-soaked mini-breakdown at the family Christmas Eve party - she was upset her kids (including "Snark") wouldn't have much from Santa but she was embarrassed to ask anyone for help. I took Snark's mother and my credit card and made a mad-last-minute-dash through three stores on Christmas Eve. Santa came through for "Snark" that year (and a couple more years) when there was no way "Snark's" mother could have managed to buy many, if any, presents for "Snark" and "Snark's" siblings. I'm pretty sure "Snark" doesn't know that Santa was me (and my parents) during those years, and I don't want "Snark" to know this. But. I know this.
And so, coming from "Snark," (of all people) the unfavorable comments about me are particularly hurtful.
And so, I'm left wondering if I am the Bitch Who Stole Christmas, if I am as awful as "Snark" and the other taunters said I am in their emails.
And so, this is Christmas.
I always console myself that, even as good friends dwindle and fade, no matter how craptacular my life gets, no matter what, hey, I have family who loves me and believes in me.
Now...well...apparently I can't console myself with that, either.
Oh sure, my mother loves me and believes in me. But. She's somewhat biased. Her judgment is clouded by the fact that she pushed me out of her vagina.
I'm fairly certain the Trill-bashing emails didn't stem solely because I declined a last minute party eVite. I'm pretty sure events of the past few months built up to the free-for-all Trill-bashing email hootenanny.
You how I've been unemployed for two years? And you know how I'm in foreclosure? And have about 30¢ to my name? Yeah. Well. Back in September a family member (not "Snark") brought up that buying holiday gifts was going to put a strain on the budget and that "we" should talk to other family members about cutting back on the gift-giving, maybe draw names or just forgo holiday gifts this year. I concurred and said, "Yes, 'we' should have a talk with the others..." That family member talked to another family member who also agreed that scaling back on gifts would be a welcomed financial relief. So, I talked to a few others who also agreed that money is tight and an agreement to cut back on holiday gifts, the exception being the children. The word was spreading and the Gift Reduction Plan was gaining momentum.
So, the original family member who brought up the idea in the first place suggested I draft an email and "we" would send it out to all the gift-related family members. I combined and encapsulated the accumulated suggestions and drafted an email.
It went something like this,
"We've been talking...and it seems some of us are thinking perhaps this would be a good year to scale back on the holiday gifts. Many of us don't need or want anything (except health and jobs, natch!) and others of us can't afford to spend much on gifts and feel awkward when when we receive more lavish gifts than we can afford to give. Others who live in far-flung locales are finding it increasingly difficult to know what gifts would be most appreciated. Whatever the personal reasons, most of us agree that it's time to scale back on gifts.
We also agree, though, that we all have to agree on this plan. A few ideas that have been suggested are:
1) Secret Santa! Adults will draw a name and buy only one gift for whomever they draw.
2) Price fixing! Set an agreed upon price limit on gifts for adults and children. Note: It's crucial that everyone adheres to the price limit.
3) Give of ourselves! Instead of an item, give of ourselves, a real gift of spirit, give a service, like babysitting or photography or teaching a useful skill.
4) Regift! Not a white elephant! For instance, if you know 15-year-old Billy covets your Joy Division LP, difficult as it might be to part with it, maybe it's time to pass it on to a new generation. If Margie always comments on how much she adores your pink pearl earrings and you rarely wear them, why not give them to Margie? You have two Dremels and Mike doesn't have one and you know he could really use one, voila! gift. Or, somehow, ahem, you ended up with a couple serving pieces of Great Aunt Clara's silver and cousin Sue has the rest of the silver service, how about a silver family reunion?
5) Donations! If you really want to spend money on family gifts, how about donating the money you'd spend on a gift to each person's favorite charity?
Thoughts? Ideas? Let's try to reach an agreement in the next few weeks. If you've already started your holiday shopping, perhaps we can cut back this year and fully implement a new holiday gift agreement for next year."
Okay. So, the family members who were in on the discussion thought the email sounded good, signed off on it and 'we' sent it to all the family.
As you can probably guess, the response was almost immediate and immediately split the family into two sides. Side 1) Those who were tremendously relieved that finally, someone had the guts to speak up and suggest cutting back on the holiday gifts. And Side 2) Those who were tremendously offended and/or angry at even thinking about imposing standards on holiday gifts.
The responses were almost unanimously either (verbatim), "Oh, thank God someone finally suggested this! I'm still paying off the credit card I used for gifts last year." Or. "I'll give whatever I damn well please to whomever I damn well please!"
Ultimately it was left to each person to decide what they wanted to "do" about gifts this year and we'd reconvene and revisit the issue for next year.
So, I sent an email speaking only for myself.
"Hi, me again. Okay, now that we've sort of figured out this year's gift plan and will continue the discussion in early 2012, I'm requesting that you all keep me off your gift shopping lists this year. As you know, the past couple years have been difficult for me and most of my possessions are packed and in storage - in a storage unit that is stuffed to capacity. There's truly nothing I need or want (other than a job, har har!) and I would honestly love for you to spend the money on the children or yourselves instead. I can't afford to shop for gifts and I'll be embarrassed if I can't reciprocate your (albeit well-intentioned) gifts.
Also, as you know, my mother has been going through a lot of health issues and she has not been feeling well enough to shop for gifts. She also asks that you scale back on gifts for her this year."
Okay, so, it's not exactly the cheeriest pre-holiday greeting, but I kind of had to say something, right?
Well, as you probably also guessed, "Snark" and the other Trillian-bashers were the ones who a) fell into the "offended by the mere suggestion of a gift reduction plan" side, and b) assumed there wasn't actually a group of us who who wanted to cut back, that it was only me behind the gift reduction plan.
So, that's been brewing since September. And apparently my eVite decline was the carte blanche to bash they were waiting for and they wasted no time bashing me like an ugly Piñata.
I was already feeling low about a lot of holiday issues.
No money for gifts.
No job = no office parties or colleague holiday get-together. Which sounds like a good thing, but oddly enough, I miss those professional obligations. They speak to a level of professionalism. Job = professionalism. Professionalism = career. Career = obligations. Obligations = sense of security.
Last year I got creative with gift-giving. I offered my services to family and friends. I taught digital photography basics, PhotoShop basics, gave babysitting services and offered to archive and organize digital photos and music. It seemed to be appreciated. I know some people were just being polite, but, I know others have put what I taught them to good use and appreciate what I gave them. And they also mentioned that they liked "having an excuse" to get together after the holidays.
Unfortunately I've kind of exhausted my skills-set and recipients who would appreciate my skills.
So, when a family member made the "not a White-elephant regift" idea, I thought it might be a good idea. And let's face it, my remaining possessions are all I have to offer. So, as I packed up my condo I kept out items that thought family members would like. Instead of selling LPs, jewelry and books, I set some aside for family and friends who I knew would enjoy and appreciate them. And, in the case of a few family heirlooms, I decided it's time to pass them along to a younger generation. I'm obviously not going to have children, these things need to stay in the family, so, instead of storing them or hanging onto them, I decided to give them to other people in family.
That aforementioned Joy Division LP? Yeah. I have an ultra-rare edition. When I sold some CDs and LPs to a local record dealer he offered me a handsome price for that LP (and a few others). I opted to hang onto it and few others, and in the back of my mind I thought, "I know a couple people who would really enjoy these, I'd rather give them the albums than sell them..." "Snark's" spouse is one of the people I had in mind when I thought that thought. I had "Snark" in mind for my grandmother's crystal. A pair of sapphire in platinum earrings that were my aunts' were wrapped for a family member whom I know thought was going to inherit them. Some of my best-loved (and in good shape) childhood books were wrapped and given to four-year-old twins who have exhausted the supply of four-year-old kid books at their local library.
It did cross my mind that it might seem kind of, you know, macabre for the recipients to receive "gifts" of my possessions. It might feel like pillaging through a dead person's belongings...before they die. And I was struggling with that. I didn't want to make anyone feel weird or awkward or embarrassed.
And of course I know that, technically, it's tacky. It is a really tacky thing to do. These are not new gifts. They are used personal possessions or heirlooms that I didn't pay for in the first place. I know this.
But, I can't buy gifts and since "we" couldn't agree to discontinue the family gift-giving tradition, I was left with no choices.
So, I wrapped up my possessions for family and friends. If I knew someone really liked a particular item of mine, I wrapped it up with a note that said, "You have mentioned how much you like this, I've had it a while, it's time for someone else to enjoy it, so, enjoy!"
The people who I thought might be the most sensitive about my situation and would be upset about me giving away my possessions as gifts received something else: Air miles. I have an insane amount of air miles. Enough domestic round-trip tickets to give a lot of people a trip anywhere they'd like to go in the continental United States. (I also used some of those miles as donations to charities that I normally support with money. You do know you can donate your air miles to charity, right?)
I wasn't exactly "happy" about my gift choices, I'd rather have a job and a home and money to buy presents for family and friends. But. Life + Lemons = Lemonade.
By the time the week before Christmas rolled around and I trekked off to UPS to send gifts to far-flung relatives and to my mother's house for the holiday parties, I was feeling okay it. I even convinced myself that they were heartfelt gifts and therefore would be well-received. I had faith in my family. Because, I have a family who loves me and believes in me.
"Think about it, Trill" I told myself schlepping back from UPS in an icy December downpour, "[a close family member] buys the same thing for everyone for Christmas. No thought, no personalized sentiment, just a generic one-gift-fits-all gift."
Yes. A teenaged snowboarding, punk loving boy gets the same gift as a middle-aged mom whose passion is crocheting toys that look like food with googly eyes. "Where's the heartfelt thought in that?" I reasoned, "why bother giving a gift just for the sake of giving a gift? If you can't spend 10 minutes thinking about the recipient and what they're like and what they enjoy and a figure out a gift that speaks to their personality and likes, should you even be giving them a gift?!"
Really getting on a roll, I further delved into my self-consolation and gift-puffery. "And what about [another family member] who gives cash or VISA gift cards? I mean, seriously! Sheesh! Talk about inconsiderate and putting zero effort into the holiday spirit. 'Here's $15, go buy yourself something. I couldn't be bothered to spend any time or effort to buy you a gift, so you do it.'" Yeah!! My gifts, my possessions shared and thoughtfully meted out among my family and friends say, "I remember how much you liked this" or "I know how much you enjoy this" and "I'm selflessly giving you something of mine, something I know you like, too." I talked myself into believing that I would be a living example of how we could move forward, as a family, with our holiday gift-giving traditions.
Or so I thought until I got that fateful email chain with all the mocking and bashing.
And all my self-pep talk evaporated into the dark recesses of my psyche from whence they came.
By the time I received the email many of the gifts were already sent and either opened or under trees in far-flung locales waiting to be opened. There was nothing I could do except hope that one day I'll get a job that offers limitless psychotherapy as part of their healthcare plan.
I don't have regrets. I really don't. Regrets are useless. Hindsight can be helpful. But regrets are useless wastes of emotional energy.
After I read the insults, jokes and nasty comments my family wrote about me I was (am): Angry. Embarrassed. Hurt. And regretful.
I could have sold that Joy Division LP for a lot of money. I could have sold those sapphire in platinum earrings for almost a month of mortgage and utility payments. I could have used those air miles to fly a lot of places. I could have given my grandmother's crystal to a friend who, ironically, inherited a very similar set but with far fewer pieces and spends weekends haunting flea markets trying to find more pieces. Those books were my childhood friends, I loved them, I learned how to read with those books and consequently they opened up the world and my imagination. But no. I opted to give these things, my things, to family members who didn't want to give up the family gift-giving tradition. And now there they were making fun of me and insulting me.
It was like some sick mean girls version of the Gift of the Magi.
After that accidental reply-all email no one said or emailed or texted anything. My family members' Facebook walls became eerily silent.
I allowed myself a good pout and a few tears and made myself get over it then and there. Some of the presents hadn't been opened, and some of them were still in my control. I could withhold them.
Or, I could just continue as planned, give the gifts, say nothing about the email, and paste the warmest, charmingest smile on my face at the holiday get-together.
Which was, of course, the "best" plan of action. Kill 'em with kindness. Let them think and say whatever they want about me. Rise above. Lead by example, not react by insult. Eventually I'll devolve into the eccentric old spinster of the family and this year will serve as a benchmark, the year they first started noticing "odd" things about Trillian.
Regardless of what the rest of my family decides to "do" about holiday gifts next year, the only person who will receive a gift from me is my mother. And not just because she pushed me out of her vagina. She's the one who taught me that grace, dignity and emotional maturity matter and that spite never feels as good as you think it will.
However, as far as gifts for next year are concerned, if I'm to be given the title Bitch Who Stole Christmas, then I might as well live up to it. And, it feels kind of liberating. Or, at least I'm choosing to feel liberated. Insight into your relatives' opinions is hurtful and upsetting, but, it can also be helpful. The blind devotion and respect we often give our family members, simply because they're family, isn't always deserved. That doesn't mean a tit-for-tat game is appropriate. My mother's right, spite never feels as good as you think it will. Retaliation rarely satisfies. But knowing your family doesn't respect or care about you or your feelings means you don't have to do all the things, give all the gifts or attend all the events.
Meanwhile, I hope you have a nice holiday and wish you well for 2012.
Labels: Christmas, Unemployment