Friday, December 20, 2013

Theory 26: In the Christmas season, men just need to do what they are told.

Last week, in Theory25:Dang you Tupperware ladies, dang you! But I do love your products, I confessed that I’ve purchased only two Christmas gifts—thanks to a guilt-shopping experience at a friend’s direct marketing “party”. Today is December 20, 2013. I am in the red zone and totally stressed out about Christmas. I do love holidays, just like I love Pampered Chef products, but boy do all the preparations and expenses take a toll on me. Plus, holidays bring intense thoughts that further scatter my brain. Tall Child and I miss our fathers. I feel so sorry for the paper inhabitants of the Angel trees. I feel guilty for being absent so often at church this year. I grieve for the grieving. I look at my beautiful Gnome and wonder how his birth family feels this holiday. My heart breaks for men and women still waiting to become parents through adoption. Women connect it all: left brain lists, obligations, and responsibilities and right brain emotions, attitudes, and energy. I have too much to think about and do and it’s making me sad and mad. My anger seems to be directed toward men, and from what I hear in the teachers' lounge, I’m not the only Mrs. Claus with claws this time of year.

Yes, I am the Grinch of Glen Cove subdivision, (Though I wish I were as skinny as grinch. I’m up 4 lbs., which ain’t helpin’ my mood!) Worn out women should be focused on the birth of Christ, not hypocritically singing “You’d better not pout, you’d better not cry, you’d better not shout I’m telling you why….” Christmas is a musical time. Here’s a medley for ya:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling” 42 and
“I work hard for the money” but
“[I] load 16 tons, and what do [I] get, another day older and deeper in debt”
I’m warning, “Whoa oh here she comes, watch out boy she’ll chew you up. 
Whoa oh here she comes, she’s a maneater.”
So, Tall Child, please “get physical, physical, I wanna [you to] get physical,
Let's get into physical,
Let me hear your body talk, your body talk,
Let me hear your body talk” as it strings these LED lights, finds the extension cord, digs that big wreath out of  basement, and assembles this plastic version of the Alamo. Now.

Hey, at least I can say “Mama tried.”

We women can’t just toss out some red and green Dollar Tree objecto de` artos. Oh, noooooo. We must create magical, mystical, battery and electronically powered worlds. Actually, we must create experiences that awaken and entertain all the senses, at once, every moment of every day, for at least thirty straight days. Our homes should look and feel like the inside of a snow globe.

The Christmas to-do list is monumental, complex, and IMPORTANT and women who “have it all” also have to “do it all.”

Honestly, have you ever heard anyone say, “I can’t believe [insert man’s name] didn’t put up a Christmas tree yet” or “[Man’s name], have you bought any Christmas presents” or “Hey, [man’s name], which Christmas Eve service are ya’ll attending?”

To illustrate, listen to the conversation I had last week with Fancy (university professor and mother of three boys):

 Time: 9:30 a.m.

Location: Elementary School Gym, back row so we can lean our aching bodies against the cinderblock wall and not lose our pocketbooks through the bleacher gaps

Bug: We drove by your house last night and booed you because your tree wasn’t on.
Fancy: I don’t have a tree.
Bug: What! It’s the middle of December. Better get with it, Fancy.
Fancy: [Expletive], I have not had one minute to get a tree.
Bug: Can you get one today?
Fancy: [Expletive], my three boys have 6 basketball games today.

It never occurred to me to ask her husband, The Gentleman, who was sitting right beside me, if HE had bought a tree. He just sat there, looking handsome, eating popcorn, watching the ballgame, dreaming of a white Christmas.

I’m not bashing Tall Child and friends. They care. Tall Child, as his nickname should imply, LOVES holidays. Last Halloween, I hit five stores to assemble Sharky’s zombie fighting Rick Grimes Walking Dead costume, fought Gnome into his football player costume, bought candy, took treats to Gnome’s daycare party, and made trick-or-treating plans. Tall Child did escort Sharky and friends through a neighborhood. He also rolled a yard. Well, actually, he panicked and rolled a tree. I love that guy!

I did create Christmas jobs for Sharky and Gnome as follows:
Sharky: water tree, get mail (Christmas cards)
Gnome: push the red button on the white box to turn on the pretty tree lights

*Cute note: When we brought the tree in and set it upright, Gnome said, “Yay! Now turn it on!”*

Like any man, proud of his hard work.

Let’s break this Theory down by the senses, then further break it down by traditional gender responsibilities. This may reek of Southern female submissive wives. But, hey ya’ll, we love our big ol’ strappin’ men.

We hear screaming hyper children and wrangle them. We tolerate Santas and rocking Rudolph’s on our counters, which means we also have to unplug and replug the toys to open Spaghettios. We carol and force our children to carol. When carolers come to the door, we listen and force our children to listen, while men hide in their recliners. What happens if the Domino's guy comes to the door while the carolers are singing? Should he join in? Should we tip everybody? We hear glass ornaments hit hardwood. Then we hear ourselves sweeping said glass into dust pans.
Men: Men hear themselves crack walnuts that women left in a festive dish on the coffee table.  Men hear ESPN Gameday.

Guys, get up! 

Shaking his Christmas booty

Women: We light evergreen and apple spice candles. We lean cinnamon-infused brooms from Kroger against entry walls.

Men: Say, “Oooh, something smells gooood.”

 Boys, light a fire under it!

Women: Buy, wrap, lift, hide, and deliver gifts in a thousand directions: daycare, school, church, coaches, hostess gifts, secret Santa office parties, God-forbid cookie exchange, friends who say they won’t buy one and do (so confusing),  and family. Then you have the gift matrix: Gnome to Sharky, Sharky to Gnome, Tall Child to Gnome and Sharky, Gnome and Sharky to Tall Child, Bug to Gnome and Sharky, Sharky and Gnome to Bug, Bug to Tall Child, Tall Child to Bug (we hope), then exponentialize all this to Delicious and Bop and cousins and exchange names? I am so confused. The Recession actually helped me out. Did anyone else out there start drawing names during the economic downturn? Don’t go back to the matrix. Please. Then I may have to.

Men: Ripping paper. No bags for my guy. Tall Child prefers presents wrapped in tissue, encased in boxes, wrapped in pretty paper, tied with ribbons that require scissors. It’s an experience, remember? He’s okay with a t-shirt or socks or his annual one-a-day devotional calendar as long as they are wrapped this way.

I took a break from Christmas cards for a few years. But, after we brought home Gnome, understandably, Tall Child begged me to send Christmas cards. I pitched a hissy fit and demanded he at least stamp and mail the envelopes. He stamped them alright, on the top left corner of all 200 envelopes. I pitched a hissy fit sequel and said, “People are going to think I don’t know how to put a stamp on an envelope and I teach business education!” Tall Child argued, “I did it.” I argued back, “Nobody will believe that.” (He IS too good to be true sometimes.) Tall Child went to the post office and asked a clerk for clarification, called me, and said “No problem. Stamps work anywhere. Cards are going out today. No delays. That’s right. Who’s your daddy?”

Christmas cards from better people than I am

Women: We hit the grocery store one thousand and one times. We bake cookies and simmer fragrant dishes for our families, other families, our office parties, our husbands’ office parties, for our mothers, our mother-in-laws, potlucks, you get it. And we figure out ways to carry it all without ruining our work and doling out food poison.

Men: Eat.

Teacher Treats

At least bring your plates to the kitchen!

Women: We create and foster the experience. Then, we create miniature experiences within the experience, a.k.a. the Christmas Village and Nativity sets. We also design the system. Glass ornaments up high. Stuffed animals down low. Lights in front of windows. Something shiny for each neighbor. Appropriately spaced candy dishes, nutcrackers, Santa collections….  And, of course, we monitor and protect all the above. I’m losing my grip. Joseph went for a Jeep ride, wrecked, and did not recover. Jesus is flat out missing. The last I saw him he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and hiding under a bedspread with some banana bread crumbs.

Men: Say, “This looks awesome! I love Christmas! Thanks for doing all this Bug.”

An aerial view of an experience within an experience
Thanks for the thumbs up, S.C.!

Tall Child, please find Joseph. Mary shouldn't have to do this all alone.

Let us "recall, the most famous [sense] of all" - the Sixth Sense - one of Spirits:

I have to confess. I am terrified I’ll forget about Santa Claus. Not only do I have to ensure that the original legend is protected, but I also—dad gum it—created my own mythical tasks (back when I was a relatively stress-free housewife hopped up on happy juice and holiday spirit).

Now I have to be you-know-who AND make sure you-know-who eats cookies, drinks milk, and wipes his dirty boots on the rug I place in front of the fireplace. Then I have to make sure Sharky and Gnome leave a Christmas card for you-know-who and later write him a thank-you note. Shoot. We haven’t even written him a Dear Santa letter yet. At least I can get Tall Child to stamp and mail it.

Don’t even get me started on Elf on a Shelf. Ca-ching and congrats to the mother who thought up that tale! Gnome named his elf Blarg. Huh? At least he bought the story hook, line, and sinker. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at leveraging legends. Yesterday I said, “Gnome, you are acting ugly. You’d better straight up because Blarg can see you.”

Gnome said, “No he can’t. He’s in the other room.”

Male readers, don’t be haters. I get tired, but I love doing all this work to see Gnome, Sharky, and Tall Child happy. I know that many of you help create magic for your families. I work with great men and am married to my dream come true. So, take this post in stride. And, answer this question: Why do scissors always disappear on December 24?

The moral of this diatribe is that if I ask my 6-foot-3-inch tall elf to carry a box, or set up a manger scene, or put lights on a bush, he should just do as he's told. Tall Child and friends, if it helps, think of it as a competition, pretend you are on a basketball clock, and, as we used to chant at Pigeon Forge Tiger ballgames, "h-u-s t-l-e, hustle, hustle, totally!" If your lady asks you to help, don't argue with the coach. Be all Nike and Just Do It.

Wake up, men, we need you!

And please ask your wife/mother/girlfriend how you can help her. If your best buddy is a Christmas dud, help a brother out. Go hang lights and haul stuff at his house and keep the po-po at bay this Christmas. Don’t leave the tree stand on the tree when you throw it down the hill January 1. Which brings me to Theory 27: The epic, memorablemarital arguments have titles.

Oh, and Tall Child, “What are you doing New Yeeeeaaaaar’s, Neeeeew Yeeeeaaaaar’s Eve?” 

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...