It's that time of the year again...
First published in The London Word http://www.thelondonword.com/2012/12/five-questions-i-asked-santa/
Christmas is around the corner and my anxiety is at its peak. I’ve promised – yet again – to spend Christmas with the family. It’ll be super-duper to see them. Really, it will. For a few days, I won’t have to do any cooking or cleaning. I will shlep around in my PJs. I will eat as much as I want, and add a dollop or two of double cream to everything. (If everyone else is doing it, the calories cancel each other out.)
Is it heaven on earth? It might be – if it weren’t for all the talking. The one-on-one questions from relatives – How’s that book coming along? Have you got a proper job yet? Does it pay? – I can just about handle. From years of experience, I’ve realized that smiling, nodding and praising said relative’s Labradoodle, Christmas tofurky, exfoliated chin, and general outlook on life will win me points and get the attention away from me.
No, it’s the general barrage of noise that I’m scared of. The onslaught, an incessant nattering, that starts at 5.30am on Christmas Eve and then continues all day and well into and beyond Boxing Day. I just know that Auntie B will tell that ginseng story again that will include a series of racial slurs cunningly disguised as worldly wisdom. Cousin J will show me his boils. And Uncle T will make me a spread-sheet on all the ways I’m going wrong in my life. And they will do it all at the same time. All in the same ear.
So, when I bumped into Santa the other day in TGI Friday, a little red faced and frost-bitten from all his toy-shop appearances and global warming respectively, I asked him – Why do I put myself through this every year?
Me: Santa, why must I shop till I drop at Christmas?
Santa (with a saucy smile): Because it is the sexy thing to do! Do you know my favourite author, my dear? It is Sophia Kinsella! The woman has made living on a permanent over-draft – and unpaid bills and mounting credit card debt – sexy! If before the Shopaholic series you felt guilty and a little dirty to do all that shopping, now you feel helplessly feminine, charmingly kooky and flighty – but in an endearing way. [he leans closer and whispers...] Let me tell you a little secret. You’ve asked your mum to tell all the relatives not to buy you presents, because you’re broke (yes, again) and you can’t afford to reciprocate, haven't you? But, you know, everyone will get you a present. They will say that it doesn’t matter that you didn’t get them anything, but it will! If I were you, cupcake, I’d pop in at Lush on the way out and get everyone some soap. It’s good for the economy.
Me: Is it good for the economy?
Santa (taking a few sips of his appletini): Of course! We have to maintain the status quo! Imagine for a minute that Mr. Bank Manager didn’t earn five hundred thousand pounds this year, and you, doll – a writer, did you say? (Spiffing! Really, top notch! Here, have a free mince pie, you look a little hungry.) Where was I? If Mr. Bank Manager didn’t live in a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, where would we all be? He has to keep on earning, he has to have a penthouse in New York and a holiday house in the Algave. The economy has taken a beating lately, and the government wants us to spend so we can get back on track! So we can get back to being in denial. It is natural to be in denial. Clarity would only bring us down! So, spend, spend, spend!
Me: Err, right. Okay, so why must I eat till I pop?
Santa: It beats me how you’re supposed to know when to stop! Once you start with the turkey and the roast potatoes, move on through the extra stuffing to the pudding and the cream, why, you have to come back to the potatoes!
Me: Why must I put cucumber in my wine and egg in my nog?
Santa (now a little woozy): Perfection is boring, my little lollipop. Excess, excess! Celebrate excess!
Me: Gotcha. Then, why must I drink till I – Oh, never mind, I already know the answer to that one…