This past two weeks I have taken the longest blog hiatus since beginning mymommybites. The reasons are simple, Otto and Christmas. The first week of the holiday madness, I came down with a rare condition known as “aching mall headache”, while Otto attended winter camp. This was a four-day party of extra school where the kids do nothing but play while the parents thank whatever Lord they believe in for the wherewithal to sign their children up and hand over a blank check.
The headache, in contrast, came from the smell of bottled perfume samplers and squealing shoe salesmen at the local L.A. shopping pits. I do not like shopping. I do not like sweat suit-wearing crowds. I do not like the smell of indoor popcorn unless it is at a first run movie theatre and I have an unobstructed view of a violent thriller starring an overpaid actor with capped teeth and a secret addition to high-class call whores. I do not like Sbarro pizza pockets. I do not like being told that 30% off is a sale. I do not like long lines, not even back in the 1980’s coke culture. I do not like consumer guilt. I do not like feeling lectured by the piles of brightly colored seasonal items that holler at me while I am wheeling down the aisle simultaneously looking for tampons and earplugs. And I never before realized that those two items could be kept in the same aisle without surprising or confusing anyone.
Despite the litany of reasons that holiday shopping twists me into a Cinnabon, this Christmas brought me a pile of peace due to an ingenious idea that popped into my head one day, a few weeks back. As Hanukkah crept through our house, bearing a new gift for Otto every night and amassing a pile of new things to clutter the ever-crowded playroom (former dining room … I rest my case), I could feel my stomach start to ache from pre-regret. Pre-regret, what I assume is one notch below pre-ejaculation, is an overwhelming feeling that comes over oneself to run the other direction when faced with something or someone who, initially, is wildly enticing but turns into extremely icky within moments.
Think of spotting a piping hot, deep fried Twinkie sitting on a buffet table at the best party you have EVER been to. Then imagine taking a huge bite, burning the roof of your mouth as the filling squirts out and plops onto your brand new, long, sinuous gold Lurex Dries Van Noten skirt you could not afford on sale while you swallow the hot mess, simply because Clive Owen and Madonna are standing next to you. And you, being the lowest member on the guest list food chain, are too horrified to spit the molten chunk of wrong into the monogrammed, linen napkin that the social climbing hostess had custom made in Malawi by Madge’s newest rent-a-child.
My clearest pre-regret experienced occurred in college when I flirted with a horrifically slick, red headed guy my roommate knew and warned me about. Ladies, when someone you love pulls you away from your 2 for 1 drink special and tells you that a slow moving train wearing puka shells and bad vibes is about to hit you, listen as if you are Helen Keller hearing the human voice for the first time. I knew better than to go back to an apartment with a guy whose idea of semi-formal revolved around an open toe sandal and a Mexican serape. For the love of Cristo! I get it! Do not swap warm beer kisses and yogic stretches with a chap that smells like a St. Vincent DePaul armchair left out in the rain. All right, already! It was a night to forget, a night in which I blew off my instincts like a clueless, chipper kitten at a dogfight and cuddled up to a three legged pit bull who hated soap, doing laundry and women. Maybe now, the world will truly understand my lifelong revulsion toward men who resemble a day old Red Velvet cupcake found in the trash.
As far as December ’09, I could not ignore this year’s Christmas pre-regret. I could not stand by as mountains of detritus piled up in closets that do not exist in my house. I did not want to sit on our sofa on Baby Jesus morning and open up boxes of sweaters and turtlenecks and gimmick books published for people who refuse to read a novel and only have enough patience to look at a few words while taking a dump in their gold accented powder rooms. I would stand up in revolt if I was given one pair of over-sized, flannel pajamas with tacky childlike designs that make any woman wearing them resemble a lobotomized patient at a mental hospital who wanders the fluorescent lit hallways with a dog-eared copy of the newest Susanna Kaysen novella while licking pudding from between nibbled, nubby fingers.
So, after my big idea raped my mind and left me for dead, I filed it in the” Best Idea of All Time” folder and proceeded to pitch Dave. While Dave sat playing with dreidel on the seventh day of Hanukkah, I coyly said, “I have a great idea. Let’s do cool gifts for Otto, but only stockings for us. Then, we can get what we really want for one another, a new flat screen television for Christmas.”
Being a good Jew all his life Dave went to temple ate bacon only on paper plates and never had a Christmas tree or a pile of gifts in which to tear open like a wild hyena. But, after meeting me and being corrupted by the consumerism and agnosticism that rages through my Unitarian and Catholic blood, he was suddenly freed from the confines of his parents house, a brightly colored Mecca of distinct religious convictions depicted in 1960’s Judaic wall art scattered throughout their two story, New Jersey ranch style house. The first Christmas we spent together he ran out and bought a tree as high as the Red Sea is wide. That night he wrapped gifts by the light of a bottle of Wild Turkey and I knew he would never be the same. Just asking him to give up gifts for one year made me feel like a traitor. But after I spoke the words “flat” and “screen” he looked at me as though I were a 1977 Atari console in its original package.
Christmas morning came and with it, a tiny, perfect Otto cuddling with his new blue bike with training wheels and his CAT bulldozer with remote control and his green #8 Thomas train. We, on the other hand, feigned surprise at stockings filled with socks, chocolate and scratch off tickets and sat back to watch our ten-year old Toshiba television, an elephant in a zoo of flamingos, for the last time. With its strange green blob sitting in the corner of the screen and the terrible sound quality, we held each other tight and knew that the next day, on the 26th of December, the biggest shopping day of the year, we would go to Best Buy and do what all great Americans do. We would support an economy is crisis by purchasing a television the size of a garage door and spend all of 2010 wondering why suddenly, everything seemed so much bigger and better and brighter and that anything was really, truly possible.