Sunday, December 12, 2004

Today's the most depressing day of the year: it's the day when I buy all my Christmas cards. I was over this territory once before when I was buying my parents a card for their anniversary back in September: Hallmark doesn't make a card that honestly captures the complicated co-dependant dynamic between my parents and me. They're all these maudlin Stepford cards about how much I treasure Christmas memories with my family or how a mother's love makes our family strong or something like that. What really confuses me is that, on the dysfunctionality spectrum, our family falls neatly within the modern alienated American bell curve. What kinds of cards do they make for people with spouses in jail or alcoholic, abusive parents? Maybe other people care more about sentiment and less about truth than I do.

Anyway, what makes today particularly depressing is that I not only have Hallmark reminding me how little real love there is holding my immediate family together, but I also get to examine my less-than-fertile relationship with my "Special Grandmother." I empathize with her, when I'm thinking about it, because she's pretty much confined to her home alone, but I can also forget all about her for weeks on end. Of course, when I do see her, she retaliates by telling me what a louse I am for not easing the daily housework burden on her daughter (my mother) and comparing me to my insouciant, extroverted grandfather. Which starts a whole new cycle of antipathy. For her, I picked out a "Simply Stated" card, featuring the most tepid, thoughtless sentiments that can be on something that actually qualifies as a Christmas card. It's like the World's Greatest Grandma mug of Christmas cards.

So now I feel shitty.

I've also got to pick up a card for Anne, which is infinitely easier, primarily because if I give her a Shoebox card with a joke on it, she'll realize that it's a joke. The old'uns, their minds are fading and they get confused pretty easily. The only thing I've gotta be cautious about is our past history; if a card is too suggestive, she might think (read: worry) I'm coming onto her, which I'm not. I just liked the card. Like, for her birthday — or, to be honest, for anyone's birthday — Hallmark makes this card with a picture of an old woman in a bathing suit on the front. It reads:

Front: You and Nadine Simpleton of Boca Raton, Florida both share the same birthday!

Inside: But you're cuter.
Well, it's not like it isn't true (I mean, the part about her being cuter, not the part about sharing a birthday with Nadine). And it's not like the card is saying "Happy Birthday, and for your present: cunnilingus!"

Or anything like that.

But I'm still not sure (read: worried) how she'll interpret Nadine and her card, so I go for something more prosaic. This year, I stood in the Hallmark store considering whether Anne and I were close enough friends for me to give her a "great friends" card, or whether I should tone it down and go with "good friends." Are we even "good friends," card-wise? I mean, I haven't seen her all that much over the past year; she's at college and probably has "much better friends" than me there. Does "good friends" imply that I should be making some commitment that I haven't been making? Finally, my neurosis and I negotiated a compromise where I'd give her the "good friends" card and then feel guilty about it.
Now, in good news, the People Who Ruin Christmas won't be coming and ruining Christmas this year.