Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to tell if it's December

Quiet Friday night lull in the local big bright Coles and so when the voice starts up I notice it at once. Long supermarket experience and my peripheral hearing conspire to mis-identify it at first as a small-child problem: there's a wailing, insistent, pre-hysterical note and it is going on and on and on.

No, perhaps it's an older-child problem. The rhythms are those of fully formed sentences. Whoever it is is not any kind of a happy bunny.

No, I now think it's some kind of teenage girl or very young woman fighting with her boyfriend. Whatever else it is, it certainly sounds like a fight. My shopping list says SOAP. I head for the soap aisle. The voice gets louder and is sounding more and more upset. I notice for the first time that although there are occasional pauses in the monologue, I have, from the beginning, heard only the one voice. It's now speaking sufficiently loudly that I can make out what it's saying from two aisles away.

'It's not fair! I said if we go there then we won't get to see the others at all and he said well we can go round there after lunch and I said but we're going to Jen's for tea, what, do you want to spend practically the whole day driving around and he said well it's not my fault, they just put pressure on and said it like it was a done deal and I can't ring them up now and say we're not coming after all!'

At this point I round the end of the soap aisle and there she is, long black cotton dress with spaghetti straps over plump flawlessly-skinned shoulders, black hair up and starting to come down, I'd say mid-twenties, scarlet in the face, staring ferociously at a shelf full of skin care products and yelling into her mobile. As she comes into my line of sight, her voice cracks in the middle of the word 'mum' and she begins to sob without restraint.

'But muuuummmmm! I knowww! I want us to come to your place! But Darren says he wants to see his family too and it's stupid, there's only two of them, there's only Lauren and John, it's stupid, it's not fair! They think they own Christmas!'


Anonymous said...

Tis the season for online shopping...

Every year I find myself having to explain to someone who is well and truly old enough to understand the concept that the thing about taking turns is that sometimes it's not your turn and no, we cannot just pop in or make another day, we will celebrate Christmas with you next year. Every second year we have three celebrations, every odd year we have four. Last year I was ready to kill someone by Boxing Day.

Tomorrow is the first of our Christmasses. I will be doing therapeutic gardening this afternoon to prepare.

librarygirl said...

yes, the reason (s) why I can't stand December.

Meredith said...

I have been that woman. And once she and Darren have a baby, it will be ten times worse. The horrible thing is that it's usually women who put pressure on (not to mention guilt trips) each other at Christmas.

Prudence said...

Which serves to remind one of the advantages of moving to the other side of the country. One phone call suffices and one doesn't have to share the Veuve!

Elisabeth said...

What is it about Christmas? Not the Christ part, I'm sure, more this residue for all of us from childhood that Christmas was such fun, with family and all. Why can't we keep it like that.

I say to myself: be flexible about ritual at Christmas. Don't get too tied down with the idea that this is how we do it, be flexible.

Mostly it works, but even then there's still the old hankering for something primeval, some fantasy from the past that Christmas Day was such fun and this year it will be just as good, again.


Anonymous said...

This is (only) one reason I am so glad I married a German - his sister tried the pressure on our first Christmas as a couple, and was actually MIFFED when I told her it was fine because my family's 'do' is on Christmas DAY.

Years later, when our Son's first Christmas as a married man came up his M-in-L tried the same trick, with the same result.

And the bit I used to love about celebrating on Christmas Eve? No over excited kidlets bouncing on your stomach at 4 am.

What got me was the actual let-down in each case, when they tried to set up a conflict, and were *sweetly* told there was no problem. What is it with some women?

Gae, in Callala Bay

Pavlov's Cat said...

Same as it is with some men, I think, Gae -- some women are simply always spoiling for a fight. (I have a sister a bit like this, and expect her to start a family brawl on Christmas Day with the words 'While we're all here, we should talk about ...')

Men and women pick different battles. My (extremely and visibly fit, straight, rather tall, maybe 30-35ish) hairdresser was telling me a story the other day about getting into a shoving match with a complete stranger over a minor question of plumbing supplies.

Elisabeth, trust you as a psychologist to put your finger on the real problem, which to my mind at least is the gap between our expectations and what actually happens. And by the time we actually get where we're going on Christmas Day, we've had three weeks of conversations like the one that poor young woman was having in the supermarket and you already want to kill half your famiy before you even arrive. Spare a thought for Lauren and John: how are they going to cope with a guest as resentful, bolshie and, erm, uninhibited as that one? Apart from anything else, she looked as though she could sulk for Australia.

seepi said...

My Mum can sulk for Australia too. And she starts with the Christmas invite to her place every year in about November.

I might try the line 'Mum we're all old enough to take turns' on her and see how it goes. Then again after one Xmas debacle she wrote me a letter saying perhaps it would be best if we had no further contact, so I will probably wimp out on actual confrontation.

Add divorce into the mix and things become ridiculous. We have four competing options for Xmas day
. But yes - it is the women who push the hardest and refuse any forms of

Xmas - Family fark indeed.

Henry said...

I am working on Christmas Day. Hoorah!

M L Jassy said...

Again, Jewishness is weighing in heavier as blessing rather than curse: we weigh the where-to-go for shabbas every Friday night/saturday, and then come the eating festivals of Passover, New Year and post-Yom Kippur feast. Having the pressure placed on Christmas alone would be unbearable for me. Spreading the mixed guilt and loyalties over a year full of partially achievable family obligations makes things manageable. I wonder if other non-Anglo multi-festivaled cultures feel the same?

Fantastic post, SLWC, it reads like an 'ear2ground' in The Big Issue or similar.

BwcaBrownie said...

Thank you everybody for affirming for me.
My lack of religious affiliation has me insist to one and all that Christit'sMasochism is about the birth of Jesus Christ and not my concern at all.
I do less than 10 gifts where they absolutely must go; and I ignore 3 children and 6 grandchildren completely because they have wretched excess all year.
I will be 6 kms from anybody on the day, as I am now. Blissful.

This comment from Seepi -
"Add divorce into the mix and things become ridiculous. We have four competing options for Xmas day." is the too-common case for most people clogging the roads on 25/12.
The cult of St.Commerce on The Feast Of St.Retail.

Anonymous said...

Word verification here is actually 'nations' - is that even legal. My family is blissfully divided by oceans, not just Prudence's handy continent, so you're in one country or the other, and if there are some ring-ins from the other country, they get the same treatment. However, this year partner from across the ocean thought we might take his visiting mother and flee to the beach, possibly to visit my sister who might invite us as she's never hosted christmas because she's 'too far away'. But alas for him, my whole family is following us to the beach, and the non-host sister has offered to bring a ham to the barbecue which I am now magically hosting in an unseen house unlikely to hold 13.
Nevertheless, it is actually always fun, and I expect to have fun. Partner can always flee to the actual beach...

TimT said...

It's just an incidental point raised in this post, but it's interesting how modern technology - mobile phones and the like - make seemingly ordinary people behave in ways that would, a decade ago, have been viewed as a sure sign of insanity. Shouting in a supermarket at no visible presence? Bizarre.

JahTeh said...

I always felt that Christmas was for children and they got to say where they wanted to go, everyone else got before or after or fell in with the kids.

Now after 9 blissful years of doing my own thing, I will be down at the nursing home having lunch with Mum which I will enjoy not having to cook it myself. I will then tiptoe out when they all fall asleep in the pudding.

Anonymous said...

On divorce: my family felt sorry for me the first Christmas I spent without my ex. I *loved* it. I spent as much time as I wanted with my family, including beloved Grandma, without Mr hovering around my elbow saying, "Can we go now? Can we go now?"

FDB said...

I'm staying in Melbourne this year. Family will be 80% in Perth, and 20% in San Francisco, so if my calculations are correct, this is bound to please everybody.

Karen Andrews said...

Dear Kerryn

I'm currently compiling an Australian Blog Writing anthology, and submissions close tonight (31/12). I'm writing to ask if you would consider submitting some of your posts from this year? Yours is a blog I would love to have represented, with many posts to choose from, such as this one, or the 'Where's Bruce Sprinsteen when you need him?' - and many others. It's hard for me to narrow down.

I apologise for contacting you here via the comments section, but I was unaware of your email address.

If this doesn't interest you, then I do understand. Thank you for your attention, and sorry to have bothered, if I have.

Best Regards, Karen Andrews

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Hi Karen -- wow, that's a pretty small window there -- I'm flat out this morning meeting deadlines and making new year preparations, but I'm very flattered and will try to find half an hour today to search out something suitable for you. Is it an online anthology, or a book? This would affect what choices I made, since if it's online it can include graphics and links, but obviously not otherwise. Let me know (and send me your email address) and I'll try to find something -- KG

PS re email, send to