There is no grimmer, more exhausting and unnecessarily stressful time of year than the holidays, during which period we all perform ceaseless obligations under the guise of joyous festivity. Decorating, cooking, buying and wrapping gifts, caroling, going toand midnight masses…all in under one month, and all despite the fact that nearly everybody would rather hold the joy and save the trouble. Whose fault is this mess? Why do we do it?
Well, everyone knows whose fault it is. It’s their fault:
And so powerful is this lobby that even those of us not directly connected with or affected by their interests are still caught up in all this hoopla.
Luckily, a long time ago, I figured out how to reduce the stress and expense of the holidays by nearly 100% – in fact, I’m SO over the stress and pressure of the holiday season that I’m getting this post up a whole week-and-a-half after it would have been relevant! – and I am going to share my secrets with you (for next year, I guess):
1. Problem: Decorating! We must get a tree and hang little bulbs from it. We must wrap tinsel around the banisters and string lights across the front of the house!
Solution: Don’t decorate! Do not buy a tree. Do not put up any tinsel or lights.
2. Problem: Shopping! We must buy gifts for friends, relatives and coworkers. We must put careful thought into what each person would like, budget accordingly even though we have little to spend, and make many exhausting trips into throngs of shoppers to wait in long lines to attain these things. Then, we must wrap and distribute them.
Solution: Do not buy gifts! Establish yourself as the person who doesn’t buy gifts and tell everyone this. The first year, people will give you gifts anyway, but STAND FIRM! Do not give a gift in return. The following year and every subsequent year, things will be as they should, and everyone will secretly adore you for forcibly removing yourself from their list of eternal obligation.
3. Problem: Holiday cards! We must write and mail holiday cards and make sure we have everyone’s up-to-date addresses and not leave anyone out.
Solution: Do not send holiday cards! (See how this is working out?)
4. Problem: Cooking! We must bake cookies. We must bring a covered dish to parties and a loaf cake to the office. We must prepare.
Solution: Don’t cook! Ever. Make sure everyone knows that you do not cook and cannot cook and will never cook, full stop. Bring an $8.99 bottle of wine to every party. On Christmas, order out. You will spend a little more money this way, but if you count time as money, the savings are infinite.
5. Problem: Too many social obligations! We must go to Jim and Carol’s party, and Bob and Lisa’s, and Gary’s, and Sue and Janet’s, and we must go to your work party and my work party and my Mom’s house and my Dad’s house and your Mom’s house and your Dad’s house and your ex-Stepdad’s house, and your boss’s special small dinner. I’d rather kill myself than go to any of these things!
Solution: Quit your job and disown your family!
Yeah, this is a tougher problem to solve. Weaseling out of social obligations successfully is a complex skill that takes many years to hone. Not many people are adept at it. At its core is the ability to be truly ok with not being very well-liked by most people. You either have that ability or you don’t, and if you have it, this is probably not a problem for you in the first place. But one thing you can do is play these obligations against each other — go to the cocktail party, have one drink, then tell everyone that you have three parties that night and run out. They’ll think you’re social, outgoing and involved in the community. Rather than feel snubbed by your early departure, they’ll be flattered you made an appearance at their shindig even when you were so busy.
Go to the family dinner, but let everyone know your wife’s lonely step-cousin’s thing is the same night. Wait exactly fifteen minutes after the plates are cleared, then make your excuses. Your goal is to become one of those genial, sober, busy people who are always everywhere, but always with one foot out the door. If you have kids, they have colds. If you have a sitter, she’s unreliable. If you have a pet, it has cancer. Use everything available to you for an excuse, and don’t worry about repeats – kids can have colds over and over and over again, and if anyone acts like your kid having a cold is not a big deal, they look like a dick. It’s the perfect excuse – I wish I had a kid, so it could be sick all the time and get me out of things.
Do all this and do it well, and you can be home by 10 to celebrate the way Jesus would have wanted: drinking $8.99 wine alone while buying yourself a bunch of stuff you actually want on Amazon, and then watching Battlestar Galactica on your laptop until you pass out. Ho ho ho!