Hairy Christmas to All

Holiday Stress and Our Great Expectations

When did this happen?

Sometime between donning my grade school uniform and slapping on my work uniform, toting up another day on the Advent calendar became not a cause for celebration but a very good reason to wince. Another day closer. Another day of failing to get it all done.

The Christmas cards are complete, all right: completely in the box, unwritten, unaddressed, unrelentingly guilt-inducing. I have been in this apartment since July and am still stepping around boxes. Your card will arrive sometime around the end of the Bush administration. I’m the only person in America whose poinsettia rests on the stove’s left front burner.

The cookies are in elemental form. Flour. Eggs. Sugar. I forget what else goes in them. I forget where the recipe is too.

And somewhere in this mess is the collection of Christmas tapes I’ve mixed over the years, and who can fold the corners correctly on the wrapping paper without Perry Como in the background? You are a stronger person than I if that’s within your reach.

This is why advertisers flash perfectly decorated living rooms and snow-covered fields at us during this time of year, even if they’re hawking deodorant. They know we’re reaching for six-foot firs that never lean, one light not causing all of the other lights to go out, and once-a-year glitter pants that still fit perfectly. Ain’t no such animal, at least in my little corner of the solar system.

Try as I might, the media expectations ensnare me every time, and it’s worse this year. Right now I’m looking at my crate-strewn apartment and chastising myself for not whipping it into shape earlier. Way to go, Lady McHousekeeping. What are you going to do to decorate this dump – wrap tinsel around the box containing the not-yet-assembled bookshelves? If I re-close the little doors on the Advent calendar, does that mean the day never existed and I get a do-over?

When did this happen? Remarkably, it was right around the time I started enjoying giving presents more that I liked getting them. The liability of maturity, I’m afraid, is a certain loss of good old fashioned glee.

But, stressed as I am, the person the next cubicle over is probably just as disorganized, if not more so. I just got off the phone with my best friend, who not only also does not have her Christmas cards written or mailed, but she hasn’t even picked them out yet. Hah! Slacker!

But if you think you’re stressed figuring out how to decorate a house, try not having one at all. In the middle of the night. In a strange city. With a baby on the way�very on the way. In this season of overdo, consider the origin of all the hysteria .

Now if you will excuse me, Rudolph is on, and I need to hang jingle bells on the crates.