why leaving the “perfect” person isn’t crazy/why i hate love actually

i want to start this blog by saying one of my favorite words:

fuck!

one, because i haven’t written, let alone published a post in three months, and two, because this particular post has been the hardest i’ve ever had to write. it might be because i’m worried about offending people. when you set out to shit on such a gooey movie like love actually, you’re bound to infuriate pretty much everyone.

the idea for this post began two weeks ago while i was visiting my friend in orange county, california, a place where people actually say shit like right on and gnarly! and my pronunciation of the word water sorely sticks out.

wor-ter.

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this is me on the couch-bed sleeping with my friend’s dog.

i sat on her couch/my bed for the weekend and tapped a bunch of random notes on my phone’s notepad. they looked something like this:

movies, reaching for the same bottle of wine

jerry seinfeld dating himself (janeane garofalo)

relationship “résumés”

compatibility vs. boredom

eharmony

cracking knuckles

opposites attract?

and then we were sitting in a breakfast spot called the old vine café, talking about what we always talk about: relationships. we generally take a hacksaw to them and their origins, trying to figure out why most pairings slacken, the honeymoon phase is just that, and boredom can delicately wind itself into our lives in such a sickening, slow way that we don’t realize it’s there until we have been nearly strangled.

i remember a time not long ago when i had vivid daydreams in the aisles of grocery stores and subway cars, and between the shelves of bookstores. i’d think about what it would be like to meet someone in places like these. maybe we would both reach for the last unsweetened coconut almond milk. or we’d both be reading a young adult book no one else had ever heard of, our eyes catching as we finished the page we were on. or we’d simultaneously go to touch a book like goodnight moon, and the first moment we’d both had it read to us would play like a vhs tape in our heads.

i took to heart the compatibility ratings on match, okcupid, and e-harmony. and when i messaged men who i thought i couldn’t go wrong with—

he also likes tennis and lifting weights. he speaks spanish too! and, like you, he’s an only child with the same birth month!

—i took pains in writing first messages and responses, only to be disappointed many times over.

lots of women, and men, too, to be honest, live their lives as if love will—and should—be found and cultured within minutes in a modern fairy-tale setting (i.e., serendipitously in an a&p, the adult equivalent to a child finding a key to a magic kingdom in a clichéd chapter book). we also take common interests and the coincidences of having the same “favorites,” and mistake them for chemistry.

you like unsweetened coconut almond milk too?!

compatibility, sure. chemistry, not necessarily.

for the record, i learned how to crack my knuckles when i was ten because the guy i liked cracked his. i thought having this in common would make him like me. i am sad to admit this.

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in the changing room at urban outfitters

at the end of the day, you can have the same cultural background, religion, political ideology, and fiscal opinions, love red wine but hate white, and be obsessed with curb your enthusiasm, but it can still equal not right. and many people, when they realize this, are dumbfounded. their mate, on paper, is perfect for them. you’d be a 100-percent match in nearly every how compatible are you? relationship quiz in cosmo magazine. you guys just makes sense! your families get along really well! you both like parrots (for whatever reason)! you think ugly christmas sweater parties are stupid and passé! you both think using a word like passé isn’t at all pretentious! he’s a really great guy! he treats you like gold! he knows how to cook and you can’t scramble eggs!

relationships, my friend and i have hypothesized, successful ones, anyway, are less about compatibility and more about not getting bored.

so you’re all like, isn’t that uppity of you to think you know what’s a successful relationship and what isn’t!

probably. so i’ll let this quote from the huffington post online say it instead:

“a successful relationship is where the honeymoon period continues to snowball, not where the honeymoon is but a fond memory.”

one night when i was in college, i was in a car driven by our designated driver and a friend’s then-boyfriend/now husband, and we’d just left one of the two bars worth going to within a five-mile radius of our college. the girl and my other friend, plus another girl (i’ll call her acquaintance for accuracy’s sake) were also in the car, and acquaintance was knocking a girl whom a guy she liked had “chosen” instead of her when the lights had gone up after last call. she was spewing all kinds of nonsense that would have caused a person listening but who hadn’t met the target to think this girl had three eyes and the personality of a baby jellyfish. such ridicule included the following types of statements (types because i was a bit too drunk to remember specifics):

  • “but we both love the mets! she doesn’t even like baseball!”
  • “she’s cute but she’s not that cute”
  • “doesn’t she have kind of a funny-looking [insert arbitrary body part]?”
  • “and we’re both poly-sci majors!”

this rant went on for a mile or so, and while my two friends and i stuffed our mouths with quikchek sandwiches as both a method of distraction and to prevent ourselves from yelling, “shut the fuck up!” my friend’s then-boyfriend finally snapped. at a red light, he didn’t even bother to turn around. he simply said in a calm, rational voice: “do you ever think that maybe he just really likes her?”

acquaintance stopped mid-insult and unwrapped her quikchek sandwich, joining us in food shoveling and quiet reverie.

i was twenty-one. and at that time, my ideal mate would think dashboard confessional wasn’t just for moody high-schoolers; would believe the yankees, steroids and money-grubbing aside, were the greatest baseball team of all time; and would be italian and from new jersey—otherwise you just wouldn’t fuckin’ get it. i looked at guys i liked who chose girls who weren’t, in my opinion, as good of a “match” as i was, and thought, i don’t get it. we’d be perfect together.

which is also what people in failing relationships often say to themselves when seemingly they inexplicably want to leave their significant others.

i don’t get it. we’re perfect together. what’s wrong with me?

nothing is wrong with you.

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a california sunset

with regard to love actually, had i seen it when it came out, when i was twenty-one, i would have adored it. i’d have cried and found myself wishing i could fall in love with someone who couldn’t even speak my language. or someone who i’d never spoken to at all! (the prime minster and his housekeeper—really?) the only good part about the movie is emma thompson.

that’s it.

on christmas day i’ll be with my atheist boyfriend, plus his family and jewish videographer, watching home alone, actually.

“miracles happen on christmas, pat. everybody knows that shit.”*

i began writing this post during a terribly early, god-awful time on the morning of saturday, march 23, 2013, four days after i had returned from thailand and while suffering from severe, severe jet lag. i just found it yesterday, december 24, 2013.

when you’re born, it is probably going to be the best birthday you’ll ever have. everyone is excited you’re here (and, god, they don’t even know you yet) and they give you gifts and kisses, and they pass you around like a coveted loaf of bread as though you are (and, well, you are) the best thing ever because you were shoved out bearing all limbs, only one nose, and obviously, an already-infectious personality.

6a0120a5dc5821970b0147e364c474970bi think birthdays ride an inverted bell curve (i looked it up and it is a real thing, but to be honest, i wasn’t sure because i’m not so good with the numbers), with your actual birth surfing that high rip curl at its peak, then moving to everyone’s general enthusiasm for the anniversary of your birth decreasing exponentially as they pretend to care that you’re twenty-five or thirty or forty, and then somewhere around fifty, when they realize you’re here to stay, they give more of a shit as you pass into old age, which is a feat in this society with its cancer and smog and unicorn accidents and what have you.

but inverted birthday bell aside, in general, americans, and pretty much the rest of the world, are flat-out obsessed with holidays and the anniversary, whether it’s a positive one (like a birthday) or a sad one, like, say, memorializing 9/11 during the tenth anniversary of its occurrence.

i’m about to board the optimism train (and quickly disembark, don’t worry) as i wonder why we must concentrate so heavily on one holiday or the anniversary of any one thing or any one person. we throw all our love and affection and remembering into the pot once a year, recalling more intensely and vigorously on round years—ten, fifteen, and twenty, because celebrating a prime like seventeen, or god forbid, thirteen, of anything would just be coo-coo bananas (something my friend always says—that’s a shout-out to you, buddy)—because we want to make sure we don’t forget loved ones, whether they’re still here, kicking, or they’ve been gone for a round number of sorts.

what if, instead of saving all our energy for one day, we make it a point to remember these people every day? i rarely applaud anything about organized religion, but saying your prayers every night is a pretty good way to make sure you don’t forgot anyone, and the prayers help remind you that these people are worth mentioning. i haven’t prayed, well, in some really large non-round number, i’m sure—but i’m not keeping an anniversary for that—yet i’m wondering if could make a list of folks i want to give a little think to each night and just call it “saying-some-shit-that-may-on-the-surface-seem-like-prayers-but-is-most-certainly-not.” we put so much pressure on ourselves to make holidays and birthdays and anniversaries vastly important, but i grow curious about if this defeats the purpose of celebration. we will often go too hard or overboard on the exact day, or we panic and buy someone something ridiculous like oven mitts for a gift because we’re looking for the “perfect” present to show just how thoughtful we are and how much we care. “but you love to cook! and i don’t want you to burn your hands because i love your hands! i mean, i love you!”

the reason i’m thinking about this is because i met someone recently who could not seem to muster any ounce of concern or enthusiasm about his birthday. i don’t know him very well yet, so i didn’t, then, know his birthday, but when we were talking casually about other things, he said, completely deadpan:

“well, i’m almost thirty-one. . . . actually. i am thirty-one. today is my birthday.”

if i had been the animated version of myself (there isn’t one, for the record, though come to think of it, why isn’t there one?), i would have fallen down (unscathed, obviously, because i’m fictional), outraged, steam coming out of my ears, at the thought that someone could barely even recall his birthday and, more important, why the hell he wouldn’t have told me about it, like, maybe the day before? when he asked me why it mattered and what i would have done had i known, i said something like:

“birthdays are a big deal to me. my own and those of everyone i love. and i don’t know, i would have gotten you . . . a card?” (oven mitts?)

as the words bumbled out over my lips like a drunk freshman girl stumbling into a dark dorm room, i felt as though i were about five years old and possessed by a twisted combination of veruca salt, augustus gloop, and violet beauregarde, demanding cake and streamers and pony rides—now!

thirty is more important or significant than twenty-nine. being married for fifty years trumps forty-nine (or even, somehow, seems better than fifty-one). but . . . why? while it may seem odd for me, the girl who’s planning to take a trip solely because it’s her birthday, to hate on this whole thing, i think i’m really going because i want any excuse to travel.

christmasend march 23, 2013. begin christmas day, 2013.

for the record, yes, it was just an excuse to travel. and yes, being in costa rica on my birthday with one of my best friends was—but i hazard a guess that spending any time there would be—amazing.

i was thinking yesterday that i wanted to write a post about how holidays are overrated, and a little elf on my mind’s shelf told me i may have already started one on this subject. lo and behold, when i checked my draft posts, there it was, a deliriously crafted blog about just that. the person who forgot his birthday was my now boyfriend, and that conversation took place in a cab the morning after our second date, if you count meeting in the airport and having an adult sleepover and ordering food at two a.m. after not seeing each other for three weeks a date. he’d call it a rendezvous.

anyway, we aren’t spending the day of christmas together, though i will see him on friday, and at first this was hard for me. “you’re an atheist,” he said when i pouted about it, and i answered with, “i know, but . . .” and then couldn’t finish the sentence because there was nothing to put at the end of it. why did i care so much?

i still care a little. and by the way, if you think this post is cynical, in last year’s holiday blog i fantasized about lighting my presents on fire. but as i sit here, my bronchitis-laced mom at the stove cooking and coughing on the green beans she’s making (just kidding—she’s coughing on her hands and then touching the green beans) and my dad playing ray charles in the other room, it feels like just another day. and really, it is. i plan to love and make fun of them as much today as i will tomorrow.

so it is on christmas, but also on every day, that i love my holiday-hating boyfriend, and i’m more than a tad excited to meet him in chicago on friday. i just hope he likes the gift i didn’t get him.

*matthew quick in the silver linings playbook

 

“sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

this post was written on july 14 at eleven a.m.

i am now on my sixth day of ramadan, at the one-fifth mark, and about nine and half hours away from consuming food and drinking water. i haven’t had coffee in a week, and i’m running on three hours of sleep. so, keep in mind, this post may be riddled with more errors than usual (although i’m fairly confident that most of my posts, having been at least quadruple-checked, are nearly free of mistakes).

a few months ago a friend of mine, who is a muslim convert, and i were talking about her journey toward converting to islam and about the upcoming holiday of ramadan, something with which, at the time, i was only loosely familiar. i have few muslim friends—and, in fact, the majority consists of acquaintances, if anything—and when i thought of the muslim holiday, i knew fasting was involved, but i wasn’t well versed in the specifics. and, actually, when i suggested that i follow ramadan along with my friend, i didn’t quite know what i was getting into.

but as she spoke to me about her journey, me keeping in mind that it is difficult to convert from any religion to another, i realized just how many muslim converts have trouble finding a community after they convert. they experience convert isolation, and they go through it more so during ramadan, the most social of the muslim holidays, in which family and friends often break fast together. a week or so before the holiday was to begin, i had second thoughts about going through with my offer, but then i imagined my friend, alone, chomping on dates before her evening prayers, after seventeen hours of not eating, not drinking water, not brushing her teeth, not smoking, and i realized that, even if i couldn’t physically be there with her, i wanted to share in her experience by abstaining from the same things on my own. after all the advice she’s given me, after what’s she’s contributed to my life as a friend, i felt indebted to her (in a positive way) and, at the very least, that she deserved my support. (by the way, here is a good way to bolster your muslim buddies if you don’t want to do the fasting, no water thing.)

like any good atheist, i strongly dislike being told what to do and what to believe, but instead of seeing my proposal to go through ramadan with my friend as a religious or moral obligation, i saw it as an ultimate act of friendship, as well as a mental challenge. i’ve since had many responses from family and friends about my decision to follow the muslim practices of fasting, among other things, for thirty days. the variety is almost comical, from my mom telling me not to tell my dad because he’ll worry, to some of my friends saying that they don’t “approve” or that i’m “crazy,” to the guy i’m dating telling me it’s “sweet” and that there’s value in doing this (and he didn’t say that just because he likes me; he has no problem expressing his disapproval of some of my other decisions or opinions).

a lot of people said, “oh, i could never do that; i love food too much.” funny, i positively despise food!

ramadananyway . . . often to deprive yourself of something is to better recognize its value. for the next three plus weeks, i have but two times to consume food each day and, because of the fasting, when i do eat, my stomach isn’t accustomed to the amount of calories i used to intake, so i eat far fewer. plus, i need water, so i drink glass upon glass of it when i break fast, which satiates me. my body then knows that it has to make do with a small quantity of food without sacrificing quality. i end up craving, and then eating, healthful, fuel-packed dishes. otherwise, i’d fall down, which would have been especially likely last week, when there was a heat wave (thanks, weather, for your impeccable timing).

are there caveats? of course. have i been running? nope. (would you if you had to run twelve miles without drinking any water during or after?) am i still set to run the marathon in november? yup. am i worried that i’m going to get behind in my training because i’m doing this? sure. do i think i can still run 26.2 miles in november? of course! (but i’m also a little crazy.)

per wikipedia, ramadan “is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities,” and teaches how to “better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate.” whether you are muslim or christian or a nonbeliever, à la moi, these effects of following the traditions of ramadan can only make our character more robust, our nature more giving, and our appreciation for life, and friends, family, far greater (at least, that’s how i see the process working).

later today, as i was walking to a friend’s apartment a few blocks away from where i’m currently cat-sitting, i saw a man, who had clearly just finished a run, wearing a shirt that read: running is mental. (on a side note, what’s a girl gotta do to have wordpress give her a small caps option here?)

i thought about the obvious double entendre:

  • running is mental, as in how british people mean it (i.e. insane, crazy, batty, loony, etc.).
  • running is mental, as in running requires toughness of character, concentration and focus, and determination.

my old roommate told me, after i admitted to her that ultramarathons intrigue me and i’d love to try to run one (or maybe several) before i croak, that people who are very into long-distance running are a bit . . . well, mental. chemically imbalanced. she backed this up with “science” (whatever that is; it wasn’t taught in my early twentieth-century american lit class) and, as though to drive the point home, i took her assessment as a compliment and felt honored to be lumped in with a very unique, very exciting, albeit wacky, group. as i’ve said, i’ve heard similar sentiments from folks about my willingness to take part in the holiday of a religion in which i don’t believe, but i’m not too concerned. i know why i’m doing it, and i know why my friend is. i also know why i love running and why, despite the fact that my body isn’t sure, at the moment, how to handle a long-distance run on my current caloric intake, ramadan-ing (as some other friends have dubbed it) has helped and can only continue to help me. going without food for nearly an entire day has made me realize what other things i can do without and how adaptable, and amazing, the human body is. i’m also pretty certain that my friend and i have become closer as a result of this experience. in nine minutes, i’m going to text her to say that i’m breaking fast and that i hope she is eating something gosh darn tasty and healthful.

“the philosophy of fasting calls upon us to know ourselves, to master ourselves, and to discipline ourselves the better to free ourselves. to fast is to identify our dependencies, and free ourselves from them.”—tariq ramadan

*eckhart tolle

“all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”*

disclaimer: this is long. i’d read it in segments. warned ya. oh, and i wrote this yesterday.

greetings and happy new year from tens of thousands of feet in the air—i am on a plane from houston to la guardia. at 6:28 this morning, i shot out of bed in my hotel room, realizing that i had not set an alarm and my previously nearly fool-proof internal clock had done me wrong for only the second time in my life (the last was in 2002 before my eight a.m. statistics final): my flight had left five minutes before i woke up.

i had started this post last night with the intention of saying that this year i am not going to make a resolution, because for the last however many years i have rarely kept any of the ones i have made. i’ve given up on ceasing to bite my nails and cuticles, a highly unattractive habit that i picked up at age nine and haven’t kicked since. they (“who,” right? i always think that when i use that phrase) say that you can form a habit in two weeks. chewing on my fingers has been twenty years in the making and i have far many other more detrimental issues to tackle first, although when one of your male coworkers remarks that “your nails look like hell” and “you need a manicure,” you should probably think about painting them with cyanide or large doses of potassium to keep yourself from gnawing. better yet, i think i should get one of those electrified collars with which pet owners torture their dogs, the idea being that i’d get a little shock every time i put my fingers near my mouth. eating would become quite an adventure.

anyway, when i had started this post last night, my friend and i were in austin, texas, sitting on our hotel beds, wearing hyatt robes, drinking vodka and club soda, and listening to late-90s and early 2000s rap and r&b (think dmx sprinkled with some 112, ludacris, and ja rule, the last at the insistence of my friend, so please don’t judge). to be honest, if we hadn’t gone out after that, i would have been perfectly content with our evening, which i suppose can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. oh, and the fireworks over the river were nice too.

if i absolutely needed to make a resolution, i guess i’d say i’d want to be a better, more responsible person overall, a better friend, a better daughter, a better colleague. a better human, in general. unfortunately, i think we can throw increasing my level of responsibility, along with keeping my nails pretty, overboard, being that mere hours into 2013 i missed a six a.m. flight on new year’s day that i probably shouldn’t have booked in the first place.

when my mom got pregnant with me, everyone said, jokingly of course, that they were worried she’d leave me on top of the car and drive away. i’m starting to wonder if, when or if i ever decide to venture into parenthood, my family and friends will say the same about me. despite all the haters, my mom ended up being the world’s finest mom, and this christmas i told her and my dad that no one can say that they have parents like mine, but i know that everyone would say that they wish they did. i mean that with every ounce of my being. i can only hope that people will be as wrong about me as they were about my mom.

a few weeks ago a friend and i were talking about his upcoming oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth, something that i know he has been quite nervous about. he asked me about my experience, knowing that i didn’t go under general anesthesia, and i said that i had had a good one, if getting three of your teeth yanked out in under ten minutes while you’re awake can ever be described as such. when he asked me why i opted for a local anesthetic, i told him that i don’t like general anesthesia, and i have a goal of ultimately never having to go under. when he pressed further as to my reasoning, instead of just leaving it at a general distrust of being knocked unconscious, i said that i knew someone my age who had had complications with general anesthesia and, well . . . i pride myself on honesty, and i have a lot of trouble lying convincingly, but sometimes, i think, i don’t take others’ feelings into consideration enough, or, maybe, i do so after i’ve already opened my big mouth. case in point. i definitely didn’t help my friend feel any less nervous, but i’m pretty sure i made him more so. i feel horribly about it and would even if he were a stranger, but it’s a hell of a lot worse when it’s someone you really care about. (if you’re reading this, i’m sorry, for the umpteenth time.) be a better friend. ugh. trying.

i have never written or typed umpteenth before. what a truly odd word.

i’m pretty sure that every year for the past seven years or so, when i’ve made my annual new year’s facebook status update (obviously a real critical item on the checklist of life), i’ve included the lyrics below from my favorite guster song, “come downstairs and say hello”:

to tell you the truth, i’ve said it before.

tomorrow i start in a new direction.

one last time these words from me—

i’m never  sayin’ them again.

i look straight at what’s coming ahead,

and soon it’s gonna change in a new direction.

every night as i’m falling asleep,

these words repeated in my head. . . .

expecting to become better at things overnight is a tall order, and just like i think that you don’t instantly feel more in love on the day of your wedding (not that i’d know, but . . . ) or closer to god on the day of your confirmation or more grown-up when you graduate from any level of school, i don’t think you can improve yourself once the clock dings midnight. i don’t think you should expect to, either, or else you’re severely setting yourself up for failure. the classic example that everyone points to is the overcrowding of gyms on january 1 and the stark emptiness of them on january 2. today i plan on not running and most likely eating msg-infused thai food that i had delivered instead of walking to a restaurant for. (side note: i ended up eating an eggplant parm sandwich. not much better.)

i think that most people are generally too hard on themselves. i also think that most people are genuinely good, even as i internally yell at some of them for being so god-awful stupid sometimes. though i do like to think i’ve worked on my tolerance of other humans a bit. but as one of my old bosses might say if he were to see a tourist in times square taking a picture with a lopsided and demented sponge bob squarepants: “humans.”

so resolutions . . . i’m so over them (#shitgirlssay). making fake hashtags is here to stay, though, so if you don’t like them, well . . . i don’t really care. but let’s not say resolutions. let’s say goals. i like goals. goals are good. i will now attempt to give my resolutions a goal makeover.

  1. lose weight. every damn year i make this resolution. what about, instead, drink more water? sign up for another half marathon? run three times a week without getting hung up on distances? even a mile is something. i forget this far too often.
  2. be a better friend, daughter, colleague. “better” seems to imply that i’m not doing so hot in these three roles (i almost wrote rolls. fuck, i’m tired), and maybe that’s the case, but i’m going to say that i want to do something every day to let the people in my life who i care about know how much i value them. it can be anything from a text message to a gift to skywriting my love for them in the air. if you want to increase the odds of getting that last one, i wear a size-seven ring and my favorite color is purple. and i really like pizza. and falafel.
  3. stop biting my nails/cuticles. hm. eh. i’m allowed a vice.
  4. be less angry. be more positive. happiness takes work.
  5. write a novel and read all the classics i never read in high school and college. oh yeah, easy peasy. how about just “write  more”? read more? not all my blog posts have to be marathons like this one. and the scarlet letter isn’t going anywhere.
  6. write down your goals. this one can stay. but i’m going to add an amendment of learning to be realistic and not include more than . . . six. five? does this count as the sixth?

i have deposits upon deposits of guilt that have crystallized in my heart and are taking up valuable real estate inside me. there are many, many things i am not proud of and will probably never forgive myself for, but holding on to this negativity is eating away at the person i am and the person who i envision myself becoming. my goal is to leave most of this baggage in austin, some of it in houston, and the rest in effing la guardia. i think tackling items one through six will become much easier if i can do this.

taking the trip to austin with one of my best friends was like a tonic. late afternoon yesterday, after having spent a solid three hours lying in bed watching reruns of daytime talk shows with practically zero motivation to get up, she made me go downstairs, be around humans (!), and have a festive drink at the bar (pumpkin vodka is amazing, by the way). she told me that when we went back upstairs, under no circumstances was i allowed to go back under the comforter. so i guess i can accomplish goal number two right now. i dedicate this post and my willingness to accomplish my 2013 goals to her. i think that, because of her, i can meet them. last year, 2012, was a bizarre and awful, yet wonderful, 365 days, but without her, the good would have been far less common. i don’t believe in god and i only loosely believe in fate, but i do think you are meant to meet some people, for they will change your life in ways you never thought possible.

so thank you. and happy new year.

*j. r. r. tolkien

“i think there must be something wrong with me, linus. christmas is coming, but i’m not happy. i don’t feel the way i’m supposed to feel.”*

IMG_2817i went to the movies with a friend last week, and at one point, i don’t know why—maybe we had started talking about how soon christmas was—he said that he didn’t really feel “in the christmas spirit.” of course, i said something cynical to the effect of “i can’t remember the last time that i did.”

we were both being honest, though, which is just plain sad, but after that i tried to access the deep recesses of my brain for a memory in which christmas was still alive for me. i couldn’t remember the last specific moment that i did feel it, but i could remember when i sure as hell didn’t feel it anymore. it was the year my mom got me things you start to need when you become a woman (good lord), like emory boards and makeup and tweezers (that was a clear “please, for the love of god, start plucking your eyebrows” gift if i ever saw one), and there was definitely a moment, when i pulled those items out of my stocking, that i knew i would never again receive new furniture for my dollhouse or yet another cat stuffed animal for my ever-growing fluff-filled menagerie. i didn’t even get that echo the dolphin video game cartridge i wanted despite the fact that i had rented it from the video store every week that year.

my dad told me once that you get in the holiday spirit again when you have children. he has also said the same thing about believing in god again when that happens. we’ll see.

lucy: i know how you feel about all this christmas business, getting depressed and all that. it happens to me every year. i never get what i really want. i always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.

charlie: what is it you want?

lucy: real estate.**

so christmas has no doubt become a ridiculous holiday, and i don’t need to go on a rant about how commercialized it is and all that other nonsense because it’s widely known and, frankly, it wasn’t all that sacred when i was a kid either. my peers and i were just too young to have the wherewithal to notice that everyone had lost sight of the true meaning of the holiday.

this year’s christmas is going to be different for me in a number of ways, namely that last year and the five years prior i spent it with the same significant other and we had our own tree and decorations and gift exchange and traditions, and we spent equal time celebrating the holiday with both of our families. i may not have had much holiday cheer then, either, but i certainly had more. on christmas eve 2012 my dad will be playing the piano at a fancy local restaurant, and my mom and i will walk over there and have a glass of wine, or maybe in my case, three, and listen. then, for the first time in six years, i’ll be spending christmas day with my immediate and extended family.

i was at my grandmother’s house on saturday, and she and my aunt had already laid out a number of wrapped gifts on the dining room table, no doubt to be carted to my parents’ house on december 25. i saw one with my name on it, wrapped prettily in metallic paper and glossy bows, and i realized that whatever was in that package was something i probably don’t really need, and i had this sudden, violent urge to just knock all those presents off the table. even i was surprised at my own humbug-ness, and i thought oookay, just calm down. you’re kind of scary. i did calm down, but there was still part of my brain that was saying, yeah, but that still happened. get a grip.

last week random house gave each of its employees $5,000 as a thanks and pat on the back for the success of its new york times–bestseller fifty shades of grey (i still think there is a production editor over there who is livid about having to spell grey with an e, but that’s okay). clearly, judging by the tone of this post, i do not work at random house.

my parents and i are not exchanging gifts this year, and save for a gift for and from my secret santa coworker and apparently that lovely present at my grandmother’s, i’m not receiving or giving anything else.

i am not ungrateful for any unexpected gifts i might happen to get, but dare i say that, (and ironically, i’m experiencing a bit of cheer right now as i’m trying not to cry a little in my office), i finally feel satisfied with the notion that i’ll probably never again have that inexplicable christmas feeling. i’ll never again feel what i felt when i was four years old and i found out my parents had given me a kitten for christmas. i’ll never again be able to make a poorly constructed ornament out of Popsicle sticks in middle-school art class for my parents. that anticipation and excitement isn’t likely to come back, but i’m okay with that. this year i’m giving myself the gift of the maturity to know the difference between “things” and what really matters.

like a potluck with my hoboken friends. a macaroni-and-cheese-and-rockefeller-center-tree date with one of my best friends. another potluck with my friends from college. going to a soup kitchen in asbury park with my mom on christmas eve day. giving my best friend from home a haul of books for her kids. having a drink with a friend i haven’t seen in a year and a half who now lives on the west coast. having a good time with my coworkers at our onsite holiday party. spending santacon with two people i met halfway around the world who i know i will be friends with at least until someone throws that eightieth birthday party for me or i throw the damn thing for myself. spending an entire weekend with my parents, putting up a tree, stringing popcorn and cranberries, and watching movies. sitting by the fire and visiting my uncle who broke his foot. stopping to take pictures of lights and trees and snow and ornaments. refraining from knocking christmas presents onto the floor . . .

to put it eloquently, these sorts of non-“things” may include “things” but are not really about “things.” and none of this stuff includes $5,000. or real estate. but maybe, just maybe, there is a glimmer of christmas spirit in there. even for this agnostic charlie brown-esque idiot who wishes evil on her own gifts.

* from a charlie brown christmas

** from a charlie brown christmas