Monday, December 25, 2017

Santa Freaks Me the Heck Out

I'm pretty sure I held on to the notion of Santa Claus about a year longer than any of the other kids around me -- though in my case it was for the romanticism of it. Ever since I'd found a "Made in China" sticker on a doll's foot one Christmas morning, the idea was there that the whole situation was pretty window dressing for the tradition of gift-giving. I just sort of cheerfully ignored it.

My uncle gave me the "Santa Talk," and his version of it is one I've sort of open-sourced for friends who now have children. I'd come to the conclusion on my own that the concept of "Santa Claus" might only be a concept, rather than an actual individual who dropped down our chimney and took a careful bite out of a cookie to show he'd been there.

My uncle's response: "So what?" The concept of Santa exists. People enjoy it. The things he does happen, regardless of whether there's an actual low-latitude stranger at the wheel. The result of Santa is a fact -- therefore, how we get there isn't all that important.

It was a "Yes, Virginia" that worked quite well for an engineer's granddaughter who couldn't handle the logic side of things, and it's one that I keep with me because it's quite nice.

But even with that warm memory, there's one particular "Santa's helper" who freaks me out to this day and I will probably never be over it, largely out of stubbornness.

He was outside the Met and he can go to hell.

Be me, seven years old and going to visit my dad in Jersey over the holidays. There's already a lot wrong with this. First off, don't take seven-year-olds to Jersey.

My grandparents (my dad's parents, the ones who raised me) took me up for the holidays. It was Nana's idea that somewhere in there we'd do Very Christmasy Things, which honestly I'm all about. And we did, to be fair. We saw The Nutcracker, which was amazing. We saw all the buildings wrapped up like enormous presents. We did more, but come on, this was almost thirty years ago and I can't even remember where my keys are.

I was going through my Egypt Phase at the time. You know the one. We all had it. Some of us still have it. I wanted so badly to be an Egyptologist. I studied hieroglyphics from a tattered old book in the living room bookcase. I made pyramid entrance shafts out of refrigerator boxes and explored them with a flashlight. And I watched the freaking hell out of Don't Eat the Pictures (a Sesame Street TV movie that, among other things, featured James Mason as a demonic Egyptian quizmaster) -- which took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's big Ancient Egypt exhibit.

So be me, seven years old, doing absolutely nothing with her time except looking at old Egypt stuff. Eventually seeing her first mummy in person (albeit in a case) and deciding then and there that maybe I'd rather be an astronaut. I was mostly having the time of my life.

Then it's time to go, and I realized for the first time that any trip to any museum means picking one or two exhibits and seeing only those. Lesson learned for future (I still haven't learned it).

Be me, happy to have seen some neato stuff, and... oh right, I'm seven so I've lost some teeth.

My two.





Be me, seven years old and a walking Christmas meme. And extremely self-conscious about it. Also bear in mind that when I was younger, I was a very different person, and I was terrified of all strangers. This was probably to my benefit back then, but I digress.

We're walking down the stairs of the Met, and my grandfather has gone ahead and hailed us a taxi. I'm nearly to the bottom of the steps, and there's a Santa. A Santa's helper, rather. I know there are actual Santa Schools out there and I'm hazarding a guess that he'd never been to one.

I can already tell at a distance that I will not want to deal with this man. And I'm not giving myself any special prizes for hazarding that guess; something tells me anyone would've felt the same. It's just a few feet between me and the taxi. I'm shielding myself behind Nana.

Oh God. The Santa has seen me. He's been told to Interact With Kids, so Interact he shall.

He's tall to me, but he's probably not actually tall from an objective standpoint. His beard is party store. His whole costume is party store. He's making a bee-line for me. He is way too excited.

I can't remember his first approach words. I only remember speaking to him slowly and calmly because he'd seen a child and was clearly agitated.

Shit. I'd opened my mouth.

Now he knew.

Be me, seven years old, in front of the Met, surrounded by strangers as a Dollar Store Santa belts out "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" for all to hear. My tone is now sharper. I'm sorry, sir, but my taxi is here. Sir, excuse me, I really do have to be going now.

(For the uninitiated, I was never really seven years old. I was four and then I was 30. This is just a fact.)

I am well aware this is not the worst holiday anyone could have. I could be starving. I could be poor. I could lose a family member. I could be alone. I could be openly persecuted for my beliefs. I could be a pregnant teenager in the Middle East who can't find a room for the night.

But seriously, with all awareness present in me that I am fortunate to be warm, fed, self-sufficient, loved, and preparing to spend a nice day with my family: fuck you, New York Santa. That was embarrassing as hell.

I hope everyone has a warm and wonderful day, and I look forward to you all joining me through the end of the year and into 2018 for more hot takes on overblown childhood embarrassments.


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