Don’t get me wrong. There are some cute things about the holidays. I love babies in striped tights and dogs in Santa hats. I like how pretty the menorah looks on the eighth night and the breakfast sausage my mom makes on Christmas morning. So heart-warming… yet why on the day after Halloween do I always seem to wake up with a sore jaw. It could be from all the Bit O Honey’s I shoved in there the night before. But no. It’s more likely the increased grinding due to the anticipation of all the buying and wrapping and good memory making for my kids that I have to do over the next two months. It’s like I’m about to take a two month long shower of business, anxiety and regret that I’m not better at doing all the crap I have to do. So if you’re like me you need some coping mechanisms and strategies to make it through to Groundhog Day, well, you’re in luck. Years of experience have schooled me on a few survival tactics so I don’t get picked off by the holiday freakout sniper that lurks deep within my skin. You should follow these tips. Now, I won’t, of course, because if I did, what kind of hypocrite would I be?
1. Don’t get carried away with gift giving. One year I went a little loopy. I baked. A lot. And went to the container store and found little cookie tins and had my kids decorate labels. One snowy afternoon before the holidays we passed them out to the mail carrier, the guys at the parking garage, my kids teachers and the girls at our local coffee shop. We were met with pure unadulterated joy and gratitude which rendered my kids and me warm, fuzzy and holiday spirit possessed. Cut to the same time the following year: sinus infection, totally overcommitted and panicked about getting everything done in time for family visit to grandparents. I do not bake. Kids do not decorate labels. We do not cookie-gift the people in our lives that we appreciate. And I feel like poop. Although no one says anything, they might as well be screaming in my ear: “Where in the Hell is my cookie!?!” Lesson: If you have extra time over the holidays, resist the urge to go all Martha Stewart-y. You’ll become known as the cookie lady. It’s not a good thing.
2. This is not the time to diet. I swear to you, no one looks for love during the holidays. Singles seeking romance close up shop for four weeks as they muddle through to New Year’s. Even the recently coupled don’t log a lot of action hours in bed. The holidays are stressful times and most of us react to stress by putting large quantities and varieties of stuff in our mouth holes. Eggnog and goose. Fruitcake and stuffing. Glogg and chestnuts. These are not sexy combinations for your GI tract. You need to survive this period. Get in touch with your animal nature (minus all the hot animal sex). I hereby give you permission to stop shaving (everywhere), showering, and flossing. And ladies, forgo the Spanx. Let the flesh hang. No one’s looking—they’re too busy stuffing rum balls in their mouths. But… you gotta wear something. What!?! Next holiday tip, please!
3. Find yourself a holiday uniform. One of the biggest holiday stresses can be dressing yourself appropriately for the different events you’re required to attend. I have found that choosing one versatile outfit to wear to all parties is the way to go. How about a red jumpsuit with a red and white striped scarf? Or a blue canvas poncho with silver piping on the sides? You need festive, utilitarian and comfortable. One outfit, if chosen wisely, can be all that. Wear the same thing everyday for four weeks. Zip it up right before thanksgiving and pry it off New Year’s Eve. You could even do a striptease for Ryan Seacreast as the ball drops. What a great way to re-introduce yourself back into the dating world.
4. Give money to organizations that help people. Now, I’m no fan of people in general but I am not immune to the thought that Christmas sucks when you’re poor. I don’t mean, “Wish I could meet my friends in Mexico for New Year’s” poor. I mean Bob Crachet/Tiny Tim no-turkey poor. Give money to our local food bank and find the Toys for Tots place as soon as you can. I’m not here to make you feel bad, I’m genuinely happy about the new boots that you got half price. You deserve them. But since you had a little luck, give a little luck to people you’ll never meet. By now, you should have learned that no one deserves to be poor, especially children. Yeah, this list, particularly this number four thing, is a kind of a bummer – but think about kids, hospitals, land mines, and last wishes for just a second, write some damn checks, and move on to number five. Number five is much more fun.
5. Acquire a crush. A holiday crush is fun and inexpensive. Pick someone randomly that you see from time to time. It could be on the bus driver, the florist or the man who lies on the sidewalk with his head under the mailbox. You never have to act on it or tell a soul, the point is to let the crush thaw your frozen heart for the season so you don’t get all Scroogy. Allow it to work on your creative spirit. Write a song, construct a sculpture, choreograph a dance. Set your imagination free. Wonder where your crush is when you’re not seeing him/her. Read things that you would love to share with your crush. Go window shopping for the perfect present and then imagine how he/she would react when you gift it. Warning: Some of this imaginative play can make you Crazypants. Know the limits of your sanity. Most likely your crush does not want a shirt made out of your hair and fingernails. This is only a simple diversionary tactic to survive the holidays. January 2 your crush is rendered null and void. You can then pretend that she/he doesn’t exist and enjoy the lack of fallout.
6. Sneak naps whenever you can. Checking out during the day is a great stress eliminator. Take a short nap right after breakfast. Cereal in the teeth, the morning news and the weather report dancing around in your consciousness—a pretty great predictor of what the day has in store. Let that dirty day start without you. What’s that? You have a job and there’s no time for a morning nap? Then a tiny rest after lunch is a must. Finding a place to sleep in our busy, noisy city can be difficult. Waiting rooms in hospitals can be wonderful places for quick pick me ups. If you have some business in Red Hook, IKEA is the perfect location for a holiday blues busting siesta. At IKEA in the early afternoon a full or queen-size bed can be commandeered with little effort (read: none). Crate and Barrel on Houston and Broadway is can work but their high ratio of sales staff to customer begs you to be quick about it. I’d recommend a couch nap there.
7. Ignore the holidays completely. Though impossible for those with kids, it is an option. My friend Amy will attempt holiday denial this year so I’ll have a front row seat to gauge its effectiveness in stress reduction. It’s very salmon-upstream-y to ignore the holidays – difficult but not impossible. The poor thing spends a lot of time in Midtown so she’ll be busy crossing the streets to avoid the windows at Sak’s and Lord and Taylor’s not to mention skirting around that pretty large decorated evergreen at Rockefeller Plaza. But I predict Amy’s downfall will happen at a Christmas party after throwing back a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau. She’ll unconsciously be pulled to the piano to rescue the day by belting out the chorus of “What Child is This?” She’s a very good singer. I think she’ll be just fine if she doesn’t end up on YouTube ending her well-publicized denial experiment quite, well… publically.
Good luck with all this. I wish I could tell you it’s all going to be okay but I don’t know that and never will, because I’m not going to follow any of this advice myself. So just try to lay low. Have a very Merry whatever you celebrate. And if you’re ignoring the whole thing completely like my friend Amy, happy last month of the year. See you next time.