For two years Miss Behaved appeared in a local paper – I know, a real paper. Now I want to periodically share some of her here in my blog.
Spoiler Alert: You will learn nothing.
Dear Miss Behaved,
In November I find myself uncomfortably straddling the holidays. One foot in a tray of back –to- school cupcakes and the other in a largish box of wrapping paper to support the Little Hearts Day Care and Self Esteem Center that I forgot I purchased and went ahead and stocked up during the August early pre-Christmas sale at Walgreen’s.
My question is this, if Martha can spray her collection of Thanksgiving gourds gold to miraculously transform the Thanksgiving centerpiece to the Christmas centerpiece, can I just purchase a tablecloth in an abstract pattern encompassing gold, green, orange and red, iron it once and make it last for three months by periodically wiping off the crumbs and calling it “seasonal”?
Looking for more holiday ideas that Demand No Effort
Dear Working Eighty Hours/Week in a Fourth Quarter Push.
Many Miss Behaved women weighed in on your question, mostly because Miss Behaved women like to complain about the holidays, but they refuse to do anything about them. A few additional questions were raised:
Can a person just plop a Santa Hat on the pumpkins that are still outside on the stoop and call the melting heads “Christmas Elves”?
Is it possible to just wrap blinking lights on the big pumpkin by the fireplace and make a festive fairy face?
Are there any holiday sanctions against keeping that freshly ironed tablecloth clean by not inviting anyone to dinner during the course of the holiday season?
Do you get holiday credit for effort if you say you planned to invite favorite couples to dinner but the schedules never worked out so no one actually shows up until February?
Is it okay to decorate the tree with the Easter eggs that still show up every time one remembers to vigorously vacuum under the furniture?
Your complete disregard for the souls of the pumpkins languishing on the front porch leads us to believe that you, like many women, hate the holidays. Hating the holidays is nothing new, women have hated the Christmas season in particular ever since the Victorian age during which upper-class women with nothing better to do with their time, as there were servants crawling all over the house, taking care of things like dinner, cleaning and the children, decided to make Christmas a full-time career. This impulse to create excessively dainty gifts, magnificently decorated indoor trees, and competitive holiday parties was quickly followed by merchants who needed a fourth-quarter sales pump and wanted carousing wassail fueled locals to stay home Christmas eve where they belonged. So the double whammy here is: we must decorate the house because everyone is at home waiting to be entertained.
Over the years women have discovered better things to do with their time – working to pay the mortgage for instance – but those storekeepers still love the idea of everyone staying home for entertainment, the entertainment being novel and expensive gifts, lavish parties, and lavishly decorated trees. And who is providing all of this? The angel in the house.
For most Miss Behaved women, the best way to celebrate the darkest night of the year is to dance naked around a circle of rocks and call it good. But often Miss Behaved women encounter other members of the planet who feel differently. For instance, the men who wrote all those cheerful holiday songs. It had to be men, who else has the time?
Who else can sit quietly in his study and compose a song with lyrics that include “even street lights are blinking red and green?” Certainly not the person in the car waiting for the damn light to turn green so she can inch forward another five car spaces before it turns red. Because she forgot to get a gift for cousin Marie who, at the last minute decided to join the family after all and we are just thrilled about it because we haven’t seen cousin Marie in over seven years and no one, during the holidays, pauses to ask why we haven’t bothered to visit with cousin Marie during the course of the last seven years. No one except the woman in the car.
But lest you think this is one of those bitching sessions where we mutually complain about the obvious, we have a few solutions for the overwrought Miss Behaved woman who is, by default, in charge of creating a memorable holiday season. As if December was the only opportunity during the year to have a good time.
Buy cookies. Time Spent – one minute to toss into the grocery cart.
Time saved – seven hours. Purchased cookies look beautiful, the kitchen stays clean, the oven stays clean, the children, who only show up for cookie baking to steal the dough, complain about the coconut or the walnuts and then want to help break the eggs, stay clean and healthy. Place the cookies carefully on a festive holiday dish decorated with a Santa Face that you don’t, for the life of you, remember purchasing. Place it on the table; no one will know the difference. Spend a few bonus minutes lamenting that you should have thought of this twelve years ago.
Purchase a smaller Christmas tree. Time saved – seven hours if you buy the tree from the Boy Scout and Committee for Diverse Lifestyle Tree Emporium in the parking lot next to Safeway on the way to purchasing the cookies.
Time saved is obvious, a whole afternoon of family fun traveling to the special tree farm during which no one can agree on the kind of tree best for this particular holiday. An hour of aggravation will be avoided because last year the oldest child carrying the tree-saw decided to enact the final scene in Jason versus Freddy, designating his little brother to represent every hapless teenager to cross the maniac’s path. Another hour will be saved in space and height discussions with the spouse because one member of the marriage is not as skilled at estimating the height of the tree while the other one, who has to get the tree inside and upright, is. Plus there will be time saved by not searching for the turpentine in the garage to clean off the sap from the dog (no one could figure it out either).
Simplify the tree decorations. Time Saved – five hours. Give up the impossible quest for perfect symmetry and artistry in tree decorations and just cover a small tree with seven large plastic balls, a string of chili lights and a handful of gold tinsel hurled from across the room. The irony here is that everyone in the extended family will ooh and ahh over the tree in the exact tones they used last year to admire the tree (after you spent the better part of Thanksgiving break to decorate it) because it’s Christmas and everyone must be polite. Miss Behaved tree decorators have used this little-known fact to their advantage.
Gifts for the neighbors. Time saved – nine hours because you will eliminate it all – the shopping, the agonizing over the perfect- under-ten-dollar- gift for Mrs. Smith across the street with whom you exchange pleasantries over the mail or weather, but little more than that during the course of the year. Save an hour per neighbor and simply send out the children each clutching a bottle of Two Buck Chuck to deliver to each neighbor they can see from the front yard. Stop agonizing over gifts, wrapping the gifts, fretting over the cost of the gifts. Bribe the children to deliver the gifts while you untangle the chili lights.
Ditch the long informative Christmas letter. Drop the carefully considered Christmas card that needs to demonstrate not only the sentiment of the season but also the religious affiliation of the family and – if the envelopes are lined – the current economic state of the sender. Instead, purchase the first set of cards you see as you stroll through Costco looking for samples for the children’s lunch. Purchase a stamp that reads “Everything’s Fine”. Mail the cards.
Total time saved trying to remember just exactly what the family did the first half of the year – 13 hours.
Time saved not signing the cards – 45 minutes a night for five nights.
Time saved not tracking down the children to sign the Christmas letter because everyone else does it and it proves, if nothing else, they are still alive, but their development is problematic – 8 hours.
Don’t include a family picture in the Christmas cards. The time saved by forgetting to take a family portrait, organizing the matching outfits, staging the family in some kind of congenial pose, wondering if the dog should be included because bright lighting tends to make her want to poop, choosing the proofs, arguing about how everyone looks, arguing about the cost, is estimated to be about 73 hours.
Watch the Grinch. Both versions. No time saved.
Watch National Lampoon Christmas Vacation. Time spent being grateful your relatives live in an obscure and often war-torn country making it impossible to travel but adding pathos to dinner on Christmas eve – 8 weeks.
For the single holiday party, you host because your husband, filled with Christmas spirit, and not an inconsiderable amount of spiked eggnog, insisted. Eschew making the hors-d’oeuvres. Order three trays of meats and vegetables from Safeway. One Miss Behaved woman, while picking up her holiday meal from the store, had a brief moment of Victorian Guilt over the vegetables. She thought to herself, “I could save money if I buy the whole vegetables and chop them myself. Then the song about holiday traffic came on, she remembered how far she had to park, that it was raining and bought the damn vegetable tray.
Time saved, two hours arranging the vegetables on a Santa tray you don’t remember buying.
But lest you think that these Miss Behaved suggestions means that the participants have no Christmas spirit at all, doesn’t enter into the fun of the season, is hopelessly pessimistic and probably smokes, we have news from many Miss Behaved contributors that they do, in fact, have a part of the holiday season they love: January.
Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach and author. She has published over 300 newspaper and magazine articles in publications like Modern Maturity (AARP), SF Chronicle and Santa Rosa Magazine. She was a contributor to two Chicken Soup Books and has published anthologies of her work, non-fiction works and novels. Her work has also appeared in a number of poetry and fiction anthologies. She has experimented with the self-publishing world since 2001. She has published and self-published seven books through companies like Author House, author assist companies like 3L Publishing and through traditional publishers like Write Life. Her poetry collection, Ammonia Sunrise, will be released in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press and her mystery novel, In Good Faith will be released by Write Life in 2011.
Catharine holds a BA in English from UCSB and a MA in English from Sonoma State University. She is a 25 year member of California Writer’s Club. She is an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix. She works with authors of both fiction and non-fiction to make their dream of producing a book come true. For more information on that, visit her at www.YourBookStartsHere.com
Catharine has lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and considers wine a food group. She is married to an adorable and very patient man who complains he’s never featured in any of her books. Her grown children who are featured in a few of her books have fled the county.