The holidays can suck at the best of times, let me count the ways. Credit card debt, over eating, dysfunctional family get togethers, box store shopping, the sacrilege that is the remake of “The Grinch”… Throw infidelity into the mix, and you get a very toxic wassail indeed.
It all slops out around the holidays. DDays usually hit because the cheater has an extra hard time juggling the demands of family and fuckbuddy. The holidays are often anniversaries of DDays in the past. Or it’s the first holiday post-separation or divorce. Or it’s the umpteenth holiday as a single parent while the kids go open presents with the cheater and their affair partner, and you spike your eggnog alone and hope to God the kids still love you more. (Not that you’re competing, because you aren’t, because you’re cooler than that… but then Johnny got an iPad? No! Fuck… you aren’t cooler than that. Fuck them. Fuck them all!)
I get it. I had sucky holidays. Oh, sure they were punctuated by good times spent with friends and family, and the delights of my son enjoying Christmas, but I did a lot of time in the trenches as the single mother attending the holiday concert alone. Or the single mom driving 500 miles with kid to see family. Or the married, but soon to be single mom again divorcing a cheater, oh shit it’s my fourth DDay, attending the holiday concert alone and then driving 500 miles with kid to see family.
All of which sucked, but did not suck as epically as spending an actual holiday with a cheater. My first DDay was November 29, 2006, a few days after Thanksgiving. Then DDay #2 hit immediately after Christmas. I spent that first holiday season at my lawyer’s office, where she told me my best bet in a no fault state was his guilty conscience and a post-nup, so I did reconciliation, and threw myself into therapy and Amazon chumpery, and online support forums. The cheater, meanwhile, just kept cheating. For Christmas he gave me a tie-dyed license plate cover (because I’m a “hippy chick.”) Worst. Gift. Ever. And a plastic necklace he said that was from my son, which was dreadful — like a bad, abusive joke, which he then returned and spent the $15 on HIMSELF for socks. (I am not making this up. You cannot make this up.)
That holiday, I started a thread online called “The Virtual Bonfire” — inviting all the other betrayed spouses out there to throw all their shitty Christmas presents on it and anything else they wanted to. The submissions were hysterical. Duck decoys. Bad lingerie. A can opener. Sweat pants. My contribution was the tie-dye license plate cover and elf literature (my creepy ex liked fantasy literature. A grown man with three graduate degrees enjoyed reading crap like Kwareg the Dwarf Swordsman and Part-time Metallurgist of the Fairy Forest…) One online friend threw all her ex’s comic books on there, and I said, wait! Another fellow I knew there might want them, and so an introduction was made. Those two eventually met and married, and have been happily married for several years now — I’d like to think all thanks to that bonfire…
So that was a happy outcome (as yet unrealized), but at the time, other than some gallows humor here and there, it sucked.
There is no shame in acknowledging that some times, especially in those early days, it’s HARD. So be kind to yourselves, chumps! Do whatever it takes to reclaim your holiday and build your own traditions for you. Buy yourself something splendid. Spend time with good people who get you and appreciate you. Ignore everyone and see movies and eat Chinese food, if that works for you (it works for Jews, Muslims, and everyone else who has to endure the exclusion of the Christmas season). Just know that it gets better. Really, it does.
My own personal happy postscript?
I love vintage pine cone elves. They make me deliriously happy for reasons I cannot fully express. They were made after the Second World War in occupied Japan and Germany, so really, pine cone elves, probably have a very grim story somewhere of postwar deprivation and Marshall Plan austerity… but they just look so earnest and goofy and happy. Kind of factory made, but with a sort of slip-shod homemade quality as well. Not a lot is known about vintage pine cone elves (trust me, I’ve looked). But some weird sort of people like me collect them on eBay.
My husband thinks I’m deranged. He loves Christmas and has more Christmas decorations than anyone has a right to (even after having lost half of them in a divorce), but he allows an infestation of pine cone elves that he’s dubbed “Elfadelphia” to colonize the top of the piano at the holidays. Although he gives me a hard time about it. “More elves? Has Elfadelphia grown?” (Maybe.) Then he chides me, that at some point we need to downsize and he doubts very much I will part with my elves, and we Have Too Much Stuff. Etc. Etc.
So imagine my surprise on Christmas morning to open a giant box FULL OF PINE CONE ELVES bought on eBay! Really fantastic ones! Santa elves and abominable snow men with top hats! And even a bag of spare elf parts that the seller threw in there! Enough elves to fill TWO piano tops! Elfadelphia will need a sister city! A satellite colony!
This is love, chumps. When someone will indulge your idiocy just because it delights you. Even when they don’t get it themselves. Even when they are diametrically opposed to sharing their living quarters with one more pipe-cleaner bearded elfin thing.
Hold out for love. Don’t settle. And throw the shit you don’t want for Christmas on the virtual bonfire.
Happy holidays, chumps!