On how to get into the spirit, what to tell kids about Santa, buying for people who already have everything, and coping with the aftermath
(In a new book of 3-D erotic photographs I am currently reviewing, at the very edge of one of the photographs you can see part of a Christmas tree, an unusual instance of temporal particularity in the normally timeless world of pornotopia. That somehow prompted this not-entirely-playful column.)
Dear Christmas Adviser: How can I get into the Christmas spirit?
Answer: You wouldn’t think most people needed to be told how to enjoy Christmas. But they do.
Find a quiet moment sometime each evening, turn out all the lights except those on your Christmas tree, put your feet up, have a glass of wine or cup of eggnog, and contemplate “the true meaning of Christmas.” Which is: boosting the economy. Proof? Who is the most conspicuous symbol of Christmas? Santa Claus. What does he do? Gives gifts, that’s all. Q.E.D.
Christmas is the time of year many merchants count on to boost them into the financial black. It separates otherwise prudent people from their savings or induces them to mortgage their future via credit card, spending money for things they or their children or spouses don’t really need but that advertising and peer pressure persuade them they cannot live without. Take deep satisfaction in doing your part for the economy by assuaging these totally artificial “needs.”
Dear Christmas Adviser: What can I get the man (or woman) who has everything?
Answer: Get real! Most people don’t have everything. Discreetly coded inquiries about his (her) interest in music, literature, travel, sport, handicrafts, hobbies, favorite historical period can usually give you a lead. Absent that information, give something that compliments his taste or intelligence, whether he uses the gift or not. The point of the gift is the compliment, not the usefulness of the gift itself.
An alternative approach is a gift card for services such as a massage or spa treatment, tickets to a play or other production, a catered meal at home for a few friends, etc. Assuming the man involved is gay, a coffee table book of erotic photographs is usually welcome. There are hundreds on the market.
For lesbians, as a man I hesitate to give advice. The best thing is to ask.
Dear Christmas Adviser: How can I cope with the post-Christmas letdown?
Answer: What? You mean the good times don’t just keep on rolling? No, of course they don’t.
So remember that for every artificial up, there is a corresponding and very real down as the body (and mind) readjusts. The trick is not to set your expectations too high, not to let your emotional involvement run wild.
Beyond that, remember that post-Christmas can be a time of taking care of your own needs. Be self-indulgent: Eat your favorite foods, take long baths, get one of those massages or spa treatments for yourself.
Another trick is to buy for yourself before Christmas something you really want but no one is likely to give you. It needn’t be big or expensive; it just has to be right for you. Set it aside to open along about the 28th. This will give you something post-Christmas to look forward to with pleasure to moderate the letdown.
Dear Christmas Adviser: But isn’t Christmas mainly for children?
Answer: Who told you that nonsense? That’s just a heterosexist myth promoted by the children’s lobby. Christmas is for adults, too, as any man who gets a new power saw or set of golf clubs can tell you.
More than that, consider the adults mostly men who spend untold hours setting up elaborate outdoor Christmas displays of thousands of colored lights, animatronic animals, and a brightly lit Santa on the roof shouting “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
They don’t set up those decorations for children, they do it for themselves. It is a kind of male display behavior a human analogue of gorilla chest-beating.
The final result is obviously a source of deep satisfaction for them one on which they are willing to spend hundreds of dollars for electricity.
Traditionally many women demonstrated display behavior by giving as gifts homemade handicraft, elaborate gift wrapping and preparing elaborate Christmas Day meals. But they have moved away from those things and I am not sure what has replaced them. I notice a few are reverting to those handcrafts as a protest against the depersonalization of Christmas gifts.
Dear Christmas Adviser: Should children be taught to believe in Santa Claus?
Answer: The fewer lies children are told, the better. They can certainly be told that Santa Claus is a symbol of the Christmas season. But the world is tough enough for young minds to grasp accurately without our filling their heads with imaginary entities such as angels, spirits, devils, jinns (genies), gods, miracles, ectoplasms and afterlifes.
Some of Paul Varnell’s previous columns are posted at www.indegayforum.org. His e-mail address is Pvarnell@aol.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 21, 2007.