How the Crazies Steal Christmas
On the first day of Christmas…
Wait, how does the rest of the song go?
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
I still can’t remember the rest but I guess that is okay. That is okay because I don’t have a true love giving me anything. There are no gifts with my name on them, sitting under the Christmas tree from a significant other. There is no true love standing beside me, watching the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center. No one is joining me in unison, singing Christmas carols, walking door to door as we share the holiday spirit with other members of the true love society.
Sadly enough, I am twenty-seven years old. It gets worse. I still live at home.
Many people have assumed that because I am twenty-seven and living at home, I have not found Miss Right yet. Well stop making an ass out of you and me because I have done that enough already.
It isn’t that I am not successful when it comes to the opposite sex. I have had plenty of success. Unfortunately, that success has come in random, short-lived bunches.
Have I had a relationship last longer than two months? No.
How come? Um, I’d rather not go there.
I think the answer is pretty.
Am I good looking? My mother says I am.
Does anyone else agree with mommy? Off the record? No comment.
Do I enjoy being single? I did when I was twenty-three.
But enough about me already. We all already know that I am a closet Casanova and can find a sudden live interest at the snap of a finger.
Don’t worry, I laughed too.
Christmas is a big deal to those who celebrate the wonderful, red and green holiday. What other holiday stirs up as much hype and commotion, especially in areas around malls and shopping centers. Credit cards are revealed more than newlyweds on their honeymoons. Lights on houses in suburban areas shine brighter than those lighting up the big city of Manhattan. Christmas time makes it acceptable to grow large trees in your house and stick numerous goodies and delightful pleasures underneath.
More importantly, putting aside the materialism, the lights, and the trees, Christmas is a time for family. I can tell you what my family and I do on Christmas every year meticulously and reiterate the sequence of events in my sleep. Poignant memories echo through each ornament hung up on our tree and each gift I wrap or open every year takes me back to a time when nothing else seemed important but what was concealed by that green and red paper.
Oh, the simple things in life that matter. I remember the days where my biggest care in the world was whether I got a Nintendo or a Sega. Why couldn’t it still be like that now? I wish I had the answer. What I do know, though, is that along with the specific message of family unity and love that Christmas brings, the crazies emerge and madness erupts. The pressure of pleasing people builds up, tension becomes thick enough to cut with a knife, and anxiety levels rise higher than a fat man’s cholesterol.
I understand it completely. When you are in love and when you have a family, all you want to do is make them happy. I definitely spoil my family around the holidays. I just stay away from Roosevelt Field Mall. Thankfully, we have Amazon.
Unfortunately, it isn’t the shopping for my loved ones that drives me crazy. My Christmas-induced anxiety stems from the annual Christmas party that takes place at my house the day before Christmas Eve. Now, it isn’t the planning and decorating that stirs up my psyche to go towards the deep end. I enjoy that part of Christmas. It is the fact that while everyone else is sitting next to their significant other at the dinner table, I am stuck between my two grandmothers complaining about how I haven’t met a nice Greek girl yet.
My plus one has always remained non-existent. Even with the perpetual nagging from my grandmothers, I am still all alone at the table. After years of dateless parties, my mother pretty much stopped asking if I was inviting anyone. My choice of bringing a date was stripped from me and it was automatically assumed that I would fly solo.
But not this year. This year I am determined to do the unthinkable. This year I will turn heads. This year will be my year.
Tis the year I bring a date to the Christmas party.
Miracle at Best Buy Street
Every year, for the past ten years, I had this incredibly pessimistic outlook on dating and the opposite sex. I knew I wasn’t going to find a date so, I didn’t. My negative outlook weighed down on everything and casted a gloomy shadow over any possibility of ever meeting a girl. It was pretty pathetic actually. I started to feel sorry for myself, make up excuses, and create these delusional reasons in my head as to why I had permanently been characterized as single for my whole life.
I could not figure it out for ten years. But on that early, December morning, the same morning that I finally woke up, I realized it. All it took was one day. After ten years of doing the wrong thing, all it took was one day. All it took was some confidence…and a little bit of luck of course.
I met a girl.
I made my way over to Best Buy before work. I wanted to avoid the madness that Christmas brought and get my shopping done as early as possible. I knew no one in my family really wanted anything from Best Buy but I decided to start there anyway. Instead of going into the I-Pod section, which was something my sister maybe wanted, I headed towards the DVD’s. Nobody asked for any DVD’s.
So, what was I doing in the DVD section, you may ask? Shopping — for myself of course. Come on, who actually goes to Best Buy and doesn’t buy anything for themselves?
Whatever. Stop judging me.
As I turned the corner of the comedy aisle, my phone started to ring and my pursuit to find more movies, for myself, was put on hold. But I didn’t even bother picking up my phone. It was my mother. I already knew what she wanted to talk to me about or bother me about for that matter. So, I let it ring. I would call back and submit to her requests later.
This time, as I really turned the corner of the comedy aisle, I still could not make my way fully around the aisle and into the action aisle.
My movies were all over the floor. My shoulder stung slightly and I did a pretty good job of maintaining my balance and avoided suffering the same fate as Hall Pass, The Dilemma, Horrible Bosses, and No Strings Attached.
Yes, I like romantic comedies also. Stop judging me.
All of this happened because I bumped into someone. I bumped into a girl; a very pretty one, actually. Regaining composure from the near catastrophe, I ignored my movies, left them to rest a little and regain their own composure, and helped the girl pick up her movies.
I never understood how girls carried so many useless things in their purses or bags. But in this situation, it proved to be helpful. Since I wasn’t holding a purse, only my movies fell to the floor. Since she was holding a purse, it fell to the floor along with all of its contents.
The first movie I picked up was Hall Pass. Great, one of mine.
The second movie I picked up was The Dilemma. Was I really helping her out?
The third movie I picked up was Horrible Bosses. Really? Another one of mine?
The fourth movie I picked up was…go ahead and say it…No Strings Attached.
How chivalrous of me.
She was already done putting everything back in her bag. How would I explain to her that I was trying to help her but I accidentally picked up all my movies first? You know what? It is time for that confidence that I was talking about to finally come out and play. I’ll just pick up her movies for her; simple as that.
The first movie I picked up was Hall Pass. She’s got good taste.
The second movie I picked up was The Dilemma. Vince Vaughn fan, huh? Smart girl.
The third movie I picked up was Horrible Bosses. Man, that movie was funny.
The fourth movie I picked up was No Strings Attached. Alright, good. I’m not the only one who enjoys romantic comedies. But she’s a girl. She’s allowed to…
Wait, did I just pick up my movies all over again? Am I that big of a dope? Did I just knock over my stack again? Do I become a complete incompetent when I am around women? Am I that incapable of doing anything right with the opposite sex?
But before I beat the crap out of myself, I looked to my right and there was my stack, with all my movies; all the same movies I had just picked up for this girl. By some remarkable coincidence, she was holding the same four movies I had been holding. She was going to buy the same four movies I was going to buy. And if my phone didn’t ring or if I picked it up and listened to my mother talk to me about Christmas decorations, I would not have bumped into her. I would not have been the knight in shining denim. Was it fate?
Alright, I sounded like the fakest Casanova ever but at the same time, all these coincidences or this sudden dose of fate I had been hit with, gave me all the courage and strength I needed to finally make something happen. And I did. We talked for nearly an hour. Even though she was the one that pointed out that we were holding the same movies and she initially thought I was stealing hers, I still continued to initiate conversation and I still asked her out.
Guess what. She said yes.
A Manhattan Story
Manhattan smelt like Christmas. The lights on each block and especially in Rockefeller Center shined brighter than the sun and lit up the cool, crisp night. Ornaments covered store windows. Reefs found their place on each and every door. Hopeless romantics were out, holding hands, keeping each other warm. People were even dressed up like Santa Clause and elves. The festivities had begun and the spirits of Christmas were definitely in the air, providing that special feeling to everyone.
For once, I had someone to share that special feeling with. For once, I was on a date. For once, I could share my favorite time of year with someone else other than my family.
We fought through the cold and made our way to Rockefeller Center. We fought through the crowd and tried to get a better view. I either became MacGyver and Casanova together all in one night or I had it in my repertoire all along. I motioned her to follow me as we climbed up onto a ledge, giving us a perfect view of the enormous, lit up Christmas tree.
I looked over at my date and smiled. As she looked back at me, she also smiled, grabbed my hand and the rest as they say was history.
After dropping her off, I met up with a friend at the local bar down the block from my house. He was obviously surprised that I met a girl and went on a date so his eagerness to hear how it went was practically through the roof.
“I still can’t believe you went on a date.”
“Yeah…I guess I’m not that big of a loser after all.”
“I guess not. So what else happened?”
“Well, I already told you about the slick, taking her up on the ledge move.”
“Yeah you’re a good, old fashion Romeo. She held your hand, blah blah…what else?”
He didn’t realize how big of a moment that was for me but I let his sarcasm slide. I was used to it anyway.
“We checked out the tree for about half an hour and then made our way over to the ice skating rink where we watched people fall for another half hour. I don’t think I have ever talked to a girl as much as I talked to her. I was even making her laugh…a lot. Walking to the restaurant, she continued to hold my hand and wouldn’t let go. I don’t know if it was keeping her warm or she genuinely wanted to be close to me but all I know is that it felt good to be wanted for once. Dinner was good…more conversation. Crazy enough, she actually cared about my life and what I was doing and the direction I was headed in. She asked question after question and I gladly gave answer after answer.
“Turns out we have a lot in common which I find surprising considering how much of a nerd I am. I already told you about the movie coincidence, right?”
“Yes, yes…the movie coincidence! Of course. You guys were meant to be…”
Laugh all you want, my friend. I will have the last laugh when she is next to me at the party. I’m going to be the one to turn heads and invite the whispers and gossiping.
Ignoring his witty remarks, I continued.
“We grabbed a drink after dinner where we talked some more. When we were sitting on the bar stools, our legs kept touching and our bodies moved closer and closer to each other as if there was some gravitational pull between us. On the train ride home, we held hands and she rested her head on my shoulder. Walking her to her door, yes I walked her to her door, I was pretty nervous but I went for it and I succeeded. We kissed.”
As he continued to bust my chops about the situation, I tuned out his voice and simply thought about her. I never thought about girls, mainly because I never had one to think about. Now that I did, kind of, she would probably be on my mind all day and all night. I just had to keep my cool and play my cards right.
So far, so good. We kissed on the first date. I’ve made more progress in a day than I have in twenty-seven years.
The Ghost of Christmas Change
The next couple of weeks consisted of dating and decorating. The days I did not spend helping my mother hang up lights and ornaments, I was spending more and more time with my sudden love interest. I found myself listening to Christmas music more than any other past December and my mother and everyone else noticed the immediate difference in my mood and personality. As new as this whole thing was me for, it was just as fresh for everyone else.
I was a new person completely. I was new and improved. I was altered, changed, and redesigned. It wasn’t that I was an unhappy person before I met her. I loved life as much as the next person considering I had my dream job, an amazing family, and the friends that I needed. But in the colorful picture my life has painted for me, I have noticed the one grey spot more than the red and green. The grey spot has darkened the blue and trimmed the spark of yellow. It has put a damper on all my joys of life.
But now, that same grey spot that has sometimes consumed my happiness and hid it in a place where things aren’t found, has begun to be filled with red and green. The blue is back to being blue and the yellow is back to sparking.
It was so much easier to look under the tree and see gifts that could potentially be mine. Every year I opened up plenty of gifts but never from a significant other. As everything else had already begun to change, that would change also. Two weeks into our relationship, we already agreed to exchange gifts.
What would I get her? We talked all the time and I was still having a hard time figuring out what she liked. What would I get her? It had to be perfect. Otherwise I could pretty much kiss this short relationship good bye. The relationship would hit the sidelines and became another ephemeral joy in my life. What would I get her? I had no idea.
All I knew is that the gift had to speak volumes and all I knew, pulling up to the mall, is that I was about to enter the madness I had stayed away from my entire life.
I guess I was not only in the holiday spirit but in a new spirit of doing things I had never done before.
Jingle Hell at Roosevelt Field
I definitely was not the only person shopping for Christmas gifts. Each store, even the ones no one ever goes in, was packed with people. Lines ran all the way out of the store and were at least twenty to thirty people deep on each. There are very few words in the English dictionary to describe the insanity I was witnessing. People turned into animals. Workers turned into machines. The word crazy did not exist anymore. Crazy would not do it justice.
I looked in Express and shook my head. I was too scared to walk into Victoria’s Secret because of a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t want to get her anything too scandalous or promiscuous which would ultimately give her the wrong idea of why I got her what I got her. Two, what the hell did I know about shopping for lingerie or anything like that. Three, hell hath no fury like a woman scorn.
I think the third reason scared me the most.
I pretty much walked past every single store that might be of interest to her. I wasn’t really thinking in a commercial and materialistic aspect like everyone else. I wanted her eyes to light up when she opened my gift. I wanted her heart to be beating fast from the sheer anticipation she was feeling. I wanted to get her a gift that would rock her world.
Two hours later, still nothing.
I wanted to rock her world and all that nonsense but when I actually thought about it, I put some logic into this whole searching for a great gift process. I always hope to get things that I actually could use. I preferred things I actually needed, not whatever was trending at that time of year. What could she use? What does she need?
As I fought through the herd of wild animals and the stampede of loose cannons, it came to me. Man, was I on fire these past few weeks. Confident and perceptive; let’s go!
Since she was a nurse and since she worked such long hours and shifts, she was constantly on her feet. Her back and feet were always in pain because of it. I called my sister and poof, in mere seconds I figured out what I would get her. I was stressing night and day for nothing.
I would get her an all-day pass to the spa where she could kick back; get massages, facials, manicures, pedicures; the works; the whole nine yards.
This dating stuff is a piece of cake.
My Big Fat Greek Christmas Party
News traveled fast around my neck of the woods. My mother told my grandmother about my sudden romantic status which entailed the whole family finding out within minutes – no, seconds. I reassured everyone that it was no big deal and that I wasn’t planning on tying the knot anytime soon but to everyone, it was a huge deal and they already begun to talk about wedding plans and what not.
My family was Greek and proud of it. Everybody knew it. No one hid it. And a couple of days before the party, my sudden love interest experienced it firsthand.
She stormed out of the house. She couldn’t take it anymore. My family was rather overwhelming but I don’t know if that is what set her off. Looks like I wouldn’t have a date for the part after all. I knew it was too good to be true.
“Can you wait just a minute!?”
“Now I understand why all you have talked about lately is the Christmas party. Is it that important for you to show up with a date?”
“Obviously not since I have…never…shown…up…with…a…date.”
“So you’re just using me to finally shut your family up and prove a point to everyone?”
“No. I care about you.”
“Well, I care about you too but now that isn’t important anymore especially since the only reason you asked me out in the first place was to ensure your chances of having a date.”
She wasn’t making any sense to me and I had no idea where she was getting at. Maybe there’s another reason why I have stayed away from the opposite sex other than I am utterly irresistible to the point where women cannot handle it. Whatever it was, I was done caring about the whole dating situation.
My family was overwhelming. They were definitely making her feel uncomfortable. My mother and grandmother constantly brought up my past and the fact that I would always be searching for girls to bring to the party. They even went the lengths to say how important it was to me to have a date for this party since everyone else around me always was accompanied by a significant other.
I guess I understand it a little better now. They definitely belittled her quite a bit and made her feel like the party and having a plus one was more important than her and just being with her. Was I beginning to understand the opposite sex? Did I solve the impossible equation? Probably not. Men will be trying to understand women for years and years to come.
Regardless, I guess I couldn’t blame her. I could sit here and go on and on about what my family exposed to her but it would all sound the same. I was over it. Christmas and old St. Nick were knocking on the doorstep.
All I Want(ed) For Christmas Is(Was)…
So another year alone and another year stuck between both my grandmothers at the dinner table. I ate as much as I normally did every year. In my house, we didn’t drink eggnog. Instead, we substituted it with Godiva Liquor. So, I had my normal three, four shots of that and the party went off without a hitch as usual. Everything was the same. We completed our annual Secret Santa and I received a sweater from my aunt. That might have been the most interesting part of my night.
Other than my grandmother’s bickering, my full belly, my alcohol level bordering the legal limit, and the attractive sweater I could now wear because of my Secret Santa, everything was the same. I hyped it up this year and it turned out it was all for nothing. I was feeling a bit Grinch-like but I guess at the same time I wasn’t letting the whole situation with my sudden love interest rain on my parade. Christmas was here; my favorite holiday. But even though Christmas was here, I could not stop thinking about her and how my relationship with her really did become another ephemeral joy in my life to look back on and shake my head.
I walked over to our fancy Christmas tree, studied the gifts and checked out every ornament we had hung up. I really wanted her to be here with me, not just for the sole purpose to say that I was bringing a date. I wanted her to be here because I really did care about her and for once I wanted to share all that made me happy with someone else. I guess, for another year, I wouldn’t get what I wanted for Christmas.
As I studied the tree and all of its wonderful components, a figure outside of my house caught my eye. Santa Clause came a little early this year. Carolers prematurely knocked on door after door and serenaded people with their holiday spirit. Wrapping paper was already ripped and torn. Gifts had already begun to get opened. December 23rd was the new December 25th…for me at least.
I looked past the tree and at the figure standing outside in the crisp, December winter weather.
There she was.
My sudden love interest.