Day #3 Music and Movies
I have not had a holiday where I could escape the overwhelming sights and sounds of the holiday season. I was walking through a store shortly before Halloween and WHAM! They were playing Christmas music. My wife loves everything Christmas so she was excited, but I almost lost my lunch.
Now it is not that I hate all of these things. I really don’t. I just hate what they have become and how frequent Christmas movies, TV shows, and music are everywhere and the false hope and lies they spread. You cannot escape them even if you wanted to. In my town the day after Thanksgiving (I am glad they wait at least this long) one of the radio stations begins playing Holiday music 24-7. There is only so many times I can listen to variations of Jingle Bell Rock before my head wants to explode. I can remember when I was a kid and one of the radio stations (my favorite of course) decided to change the type of music it played. It was playing modern rock and top 40 music. It was very popular in the younger crowd, but I guess they don’t spend enough money to sell advertising. So the station wanted to switch to country music. They came up with a plan to get us to stop listening to the station and that was to play Louie-Louie nonstop for 2 weeks. They played every version out there but it was so painful. This is how I feel about Christmas music. It is all just different variations of the same songs over and over.
Then you have all the classic Christmas movies. Home alone, Miracle on 34th street, Die hard (it is a Christmas movie, right?), Grinch, Elf,… They will be played over and over on different networks. My kids will watch them. They will be playing at the dentist’s office, the waiting room at the doctors office, in stores as you shop, anywhere there is a TV. You cannot get away from them even if you wanted to. And what do these movies really teach? Is there some great principle that is past along? Only if you want to believe that magically in the end everything will work out. All you have to do is believe. How about we make a movie showing all the homeless families who won’t have anything on Christmas and show that even if they believe their situation is not going to change. All it fosters is a sense of false hope. What is the quickest way to destroy people’s faith in humanity? Dangle hope in front of them through the media; books, songs, TV shows, and movies over and over and each time shatter those images with real life. Pretty quickly you end up with a cynical faithless person like myself.
I can remember growing up and in my early years just knowing that somehow things would get better. Some magical person, entity, experience was going to come and make everything alright during the holiday season. I would get the things I needed; clothes, coats, and maybe even a good toy or two. We were not homeless and my parents worked to provide somethings for Christmas. However, can you imagine having to write an paragraph on what you got for Christmas when you went back to school and you had to write that you got your brothers pants that he outgrew that your mom just ironed on a patch. It can be tough on a kid because the whole time you believe that just like in the movies and songs it was somehow going to work out.
Maybe I am bitter and scroogish. Okay, there is no maybe, but would I feel the same if I was not pounded with the messages from the media? Can also imagine the pressure that may put on some parents? What do you do when your 5 year old writes a letter to Santa asking for a bike or a new coat and you are just hoping you can make it through the month being able to keep food on the table. I do not know many feelings that are worse than when you disappoint your kids. Seeing them look a little hurt and broken, while not really understanding what happened. You try to reassure them that it wasn’t them, but how can you when they are taught that if they are bad Santa skips them. I don’t know about you but I don’t know a kid that is 5 or younger that is bad. The only thing you can really teach them is that this is just real life.
So instead of all this holiday cheer, why not keep things as they are the rest of the year. Play normal music. Watch normal movies. Stop playing all the TV specials and having holiday moments on your normal TV programs. Just keep it normal. Keep it simple. One of the things I have done since I was able to make my own money (about 10ish) was going to the movies on Christmas. I did not go watch any Christmas movies, just regular old movies. They helped me escape the outside world. I knew going in it was not real but with that knowledge I could also just relax and enjoy the creativity. I could escape into the fantasy world but always knowing it was a fantasy. I would spend all day there just going from one movie to another. It was my Christmas gift to myself. I could watch whatever I wanted and I knew that it would not change my reality. It did not try and give me hope by filling me with the lies of Christmas miracles. It just gave me a little bit of time to escape the holidays all together.
Do you have difficulty accepting gifts? My friend does. I gave him a lot of very small gifts, mostly stuff to make him laugh, little souvenirs from trips I took, etc., and he almost never said thank you. A source of stress for us. He could never quite explain, but I think he grew up receiving the kind of stuff you did and didn’t know how to react to thoughtful things being done and given.
He did talk about the consequences of not eating everything on his plate when he was a kid. I noticed early in our relationship he ate every last bit even when it was way too much, and would eat what I left on mine. He is not overweight. Ok he has a middle-age-guy beer belly.
I had the same experience. I had to stay at the table until I was done. Some nights I would sleep all night at the table, literally. And I don’t know how to react to gifts. It always makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I would love to understand the thing about gifts. Do you feel unworthy? Or do you think you have some sort of Aspergers like issue in that it is a social cue you don’t understand? I always thought the stuff I gave would make him happy, even small stuff like bags of M&Ms (which he loves) on his desk while he was out of his office. I assumed he didn’t get gifts as a child and not much from his wife, it would be his money she was spending. It was all very very weird.
I often feel like I don’t deserve them. I don’t really ever know how to respond. I am smart enough to know I should say thank you but anything else is beyond me. It just makes me uncomfortable.
I also wondered if he thought reciprocation was “expected” and he didn’t know how to do that…maybe he thought he would get it wrong.
Funny because just today I suggested he send bottles of wine (well within his means!) or something to some people who are helping him look for a job. He did not even acknowledge what I said let alone say it was a good idea. Then later I suggested a charitable donation in their names and again got no acknowledgment. Not a word.
I get the whole expected reciprocating. I would feel that way but I would most likely do nothing about it. I will say I am better at giving than receiving. I would easily give things to people who help me out. I would feel extremely awkward if they opened it around me. Enough so I rather not give a gift if they open it in front of me. My kids are the only exception to that.
I just don’t like gift giving in general. I understand the idea of when to give gifts but I see it as a social expectation that I am fulfilling rather than something I really want to do, unless of course they really helped me out. But that is also why I do not ask for help from anyone. I would rather fail trying to do it alone than ask for help most of the time.
I thought of you and this exchange today. My friend and I had lunch. We both had birthdays recently, his a couple of weeks before mine. I planned to pay; on balance we have both probably paid 50% of the time, sometimes just splitting a check. Today he insisted on paying and said “I would rather not be the one owing, this way you owe me”. I have never ever said he owed me anything in exchange for the gifts I talked about above, or for meals, etc. So that comment made me think of what you said.
At some point in the conversation (where it was appropriate) I asked a question about his childhood and he said he wore different clothes than the other kids (not his choice). Thought of you then too. Sad.
It is sad to think that such simple things can affect us now. I am just hoping it ends sometime soon.
Ah, my favorite four letter word H-o-p-e