Flashing and Other Talents

On a mildly cool winter night 25 some-odd years ago, my family and I attended a Christmas music program at our church. I was going to be singing a few songs with my preschool class, so I arrived dressed to the nines in a pretty red dress, white pantyhose, and black patent shoes.

I was ready for action.

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Once my tiny classmates and I were neatly lined up on the sanctuary steps, the pianist took her seat and began playing the accompaniment. Under the direction of our teachers, my class and I sang the first of our Jesus-related songs. I don’t remember what song it was, but I’m sure we butchered it, because preschoolers are terrible but hilarious performers. I’m sure there was lots of fidgeting, blank staring, and nose-picking going on. Nevertheless, we made it through our first song, and then the music began for the second one.

And that’s when things got weird.

No, that’s not true. Things didn’t passively get weird. I made them weird.

Those of you who read my blog regularly might have gotten a slightly inaccurate impression of me. In my writing, particularly on a blog where I’m unidentifiable to the majority of readers, I’m free to get a little … goofy. Theatrical. Totes inapprops.  On here, I use language and make jokes that I wouldn’t typically make in person, except in the presence of my closest friends. In a way, y’all know me better than many of the people I see on a regular basis. In real life, I’m a bit more reserved and professional until I’m comfortable with you. Then I unleash the crazy.

I was just as quiet and well-mannered as a little bitty girl. I was no one’s definition of a wild child. I want to make sure you fully understand just how much of a goody-goody I was, because it makes my behavior that evening that much more bizarre.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe I zoned out and thought I was at home. Maybe I was bored and thought the music program needed a little spicing up. We will never know what was going through my warped little brain.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s get down to it.

Pop Quiz: What did Amanda do in the middle of her conservative Baptist Christmas music program, attended by her pastor and lots of impressionable children?

A. Barked at the audience
B. Punched a kid next to me
C. Lifted my dress up above my head
D. Muttered “red rum” in a demonic voice
E. Both A and C

If you chose A, B, or D, you probably didn’t pay much attention to the title of this post. The answer, my friends, is E. While my classmates sweetly sang songs about angels and mangers, I decided to take the performance in a different direction. I began by unleashing some ferocious barks at the audience, and when that didn’t seem quite “spicy” enough, I lifted the skirt of my dress right above my head, exposing my panty-hosed little tummy and bare chest to the world.

I turned every adult in that audience into accidental and unwilling pedophiles.

Here’s a photo that my parents were kind enough to snap before they hunched down in the pews and pretended not to know me. As you can see, my teachers are frantically motioning for me to put my dress down, while my pilgrim classmates stare at me with either judgment or jealousy.

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Admirably, I was undeterred by my protestors. I didn’t let their negativity hold me back. I cared not about my family’s embarrassment, and my barking noises intimidated others from trying to remove me from the stage.

Like the determined creature I am, I continued my peepshow-slash-animal-impersonation act until my class’s performance was complete.  As the audience awkwardly applauded my religious striptease, I like to think that I took a confident bow and strutted off the stage. I also like to think that I then made a full transformation into a werewolf and began climbing on the furniture.

But I probably just stood there, unblinking, until one of my teachers hurriedly pulled me away.

We all know that the Christmas season is all about peace, joy, and junk food, but I think it should probably also be about making amends with people you’ve wronged. I’m willing to be the one to get this fad started, so here are some holiday-themed apology notes I will be writing this year:

Dear preschool classmates,
I apologize for overshadowing you in the Christmas program. I’m pretty certain NO ONE in the audience, including your own parents, was watching you be adorable and well-behaved when there was a disaster to behold two feet away. If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure your moms and dads were thanking their lucky stars that they were going home with you, and not me.

Dear preschool teachers,
I apologize for my artistic, but nonetheless unauthorized, change to your fine program. Training toddlers to memorize and perform songs is a maddening task, I’m sure. I’m certain that you wish I hadn’t chosen that particular venue to unveil my new talent, and I’m sure Jesus wishes that as well. I’m also sorry if you later had to apologize to traumatized church-goers for my skanky behavior.

Dear parents,
You probably deserve an apology for the immense embarrassment I caused, but heck – you’re the ones who raised me in the first place. You should just feel lucky that I didn’t do that shit more often.

Does anyone else have a history of flashing or streaking? What other things did you do as children that embarrassed your parents?

 

 

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What’s the Opposite of Decorating?

Today, I forced myself to do something that was necessary, but completely awful. Torturous, even.

I finally put away Christmas decorations and took down my tree.

…Am I the only one who finds this task incredibly depressing?

In late November, like many others, I so look forward to dragging out the torn and tattered boxes of decorations. I listen to Christmas music and sip hot chocolate while lovingly finding homes for each little trinket. It’s a comforting ritual.

And the best part is, for over a month, I get to enjoy the sight of my lit-up tree with presents underneath, in all of their glistening and glittery glory. Nothing gets me in the holiday mood faster.

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Unfortunately, while getting the ornaments out is loads of fun, putting them away comes with no fanfare. You spend all that time and effort, neatly balling up the lights, re-wrapping ornaments in tissue paper, and what do you get?

A home that looks way less festive than it did an hour ago, and a reminder that the next Christmas is a super long time away.

And that’s just sad.

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I almost feel sorry for the process of putting away decorations, because it’s gotten a pretty bad rap and clearly no one likes it that much. What do you even call this procedure? Is there an antonym for “decorating”? Undecorating? Anti-decorating?

Since it’s such a melancholy task, I came up with some ideas for making this ritual a little less soul-crushing, and a little more interesting.

Ways to Make the Undecorating Process More Fun:

• Do everything blindfolded!
Blindly fumbling around for the ornaments is bound to be entertaining for all involved. However, you’re disqualified if you break that extremely fragile one that your grandma gave you when you were a baby. That’s not cool.

• Put things away without using your hands!
Pretend that you lost your hands to a rare flesh-eating bacteria, or some other horrific event, and you’re now forced to use other body parts for tasks. Imagine reaching for a delicate ornament with your toes, or removing a string of lights with your elbows. Hilarity ensues.

• Turn it into a drinking game!

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• Leave the tree out, and decorate it with non-Christmas items!
Personally, I like the idea of finding old pictures of past presidents and sticking them all over the tree. Voila! Early President’s Day décor! Bonus points if you sing “O President’s Tree” while doing this.

Maybe one of these suggestions will become the next big holiday tradition! (Much like the Santa Gremlin.) Or perhaps you and your family will come up with your very own little ritual. Either way, It’s about time that we make “undecorating” just as fun as decorating!

Okay, maybe not as fun, but at least not as terrible.

Side Note: Out of curiosity, I googled, “Antonyms of decoration” and one of the results was “Eyesore.” Seems fitting.

 

Dickhole, the Santa Gremlin

A couple days after Christmas, my friend Amanda and I were traveling in my car, warm drinks in hand. It was cold and rainy out, so we had bravely ventured out to get Starbucks. And then a thing happened.

As we were driving across the bridge to get home, a truck heading straight toward us suddenly made an illegal U-turn and raced back the way it came.

We had nearly been killed.

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Actually, the truck had been pretty far ahead and in no way endangered us, but I became really annoyed at this flagrant disregard of logical bridge rules. It was anti-Christmas-season behavior. I found myself shaking my fist at him and shouting, “SANTA’S WATCHING, YOU IDIOT!”

Accustomed to my outbursts, Amanda hesitated only briefly before adding, “It’s a little late for this year, BUT HE’LL REMEMBER NEXT YEAR!”

It was that moment when we decided there should be some sort of punishment or consequence for people who start misbehaving so soon after Christmas. It just doesn’t make sense for all of us to amp up our kindness and generosity in the last couple months of the year, only to begin acting like total twits as soon as the presents have been opened.

And that’s how we came up with the idea of a Santa “gremlin.”

Let’s face it, there’s no way the real Santa truly watches us all year long. After he finishes delivering all of the presents, he most likely heads for the nearest beach and collapses into a cookies-and-milk coma for awhile. It’s understandable that he needs a little break. And that’s where Santa Gremlin, if he really existed, would come in.

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He’s kinda cute, if you close both eyes when looking at him

For an entire month following Christmas, the gremlin would be the one to watch our words and behaviors. If we follow the rules and treat others with respect for the whole month, then we get to keep all of the video games, sweaters, and fuzzy slippers that we received. But if we turn into jerkfaces and cut in line at the grocery store, Santa Gremlin will hunt you down and take all of your glorious new gifts away.

Brother and sister won’t stop fighting over toys? So long, toys!

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Bratty teenager mean to nice old lady? Sayonara, designer jeans!

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Dude in a new truck makes crappy bridge-driving decision? Adios, truck!

We soon decided that our gremlin deserved his own unique name – something that would truly set him apart from the jolly fat guy. Naturally, we settled on “Dickhole.” A bit vulgar perhaps, but I like that it’s short and to the point. (Cough, cough.) Besides, I think we can all agree that it’s the best and most accurate name for a creature that steals presents.

I haven’t quite worked out the fine details of Dickhole’s “story” yet. Maybe instead of riding in a sleigh pulled by eight magic reindeer, he rides on a trash-can lid dragged by thirteen pissed-off possum. Maybe instead of gliding gracefully down the chimney, Dickhole barges through the front door and tracks mud onto your clean carpet.

However, Dickhole really shouldn’t be thought of as a “bad guy,” per se. After all, he doesn’t take things away from honest, well-mannered people. If you remember anything from your Intro to Psych class in college, you might think of Santa Claus as being a symbol of positive reinforcement, while Dickhole represents negative punishment. In other words, while Santa Claus gives rewards in order to increase good behavior, the gremlin takes away things in order to decrease bad behavior.

Dickhole’s just misunderstood, is all. He really is a stand-up guy. (Ahem.)

But you still better watch out, because:

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He’ll know if you’ve been a big asswipe, and then he’ll take your stuff away.

 

In-Laws and Mace

As an unmarried person, I’m lucky to be spared the horror of in-laws visiting my cozy little home and making life uncomfortable.

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However, one of my friends recently faced this unfortunate circumstance. I watched her stress about getting her house cleaned, cooking meals her in-laws would like, and holding her tongue during controversial conversations.

As an attempt to cheer her – and the rest of you married folk – up, I wrote (and semi-plagiarized) this little ditty.

Sing to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”

First I was afraid,
I was petrified.
About my in-laws coming to stay for four long nights.
But then I spent so many hours
Knocking back bottles of booze,
I put down my noose.
‘Cause I had nothing left to lose!

And so I schmoozed
With my in-laws.
We talked religion and politics,
And I had to hold back my claws.
I had to set a good example,
So I kept a smile on my face.
But what I really wanted to do
Was spray everyone with mace!

“Go on now, go – walk out the door!
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore!”
Oh, how I’d love to say these things to them,
But I’ll keep them to myself,
…and have another glass of gin!

Somehow I will,
I will survive.
If I have to hide in the bathroom,
At least I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got no fucks left to give
I will survive!
I will survive!

‘Twas the Best of Lies, ‘Twas the Worst of Lies

When I was little, Christmas Day usually involved opening presents with my parents and brother at home, before making the long journey to my grandparents’ house. And by long journey, I mean two streets over from my house.

Every year, my family followed roughly the same routine. My cousin Lauren and I were elected to pass out everyone’s gifts like little servants elves, and then we all opened them at the same time. After presents, we’d eat a tasty lunch of warm ham, soft rolls, and Grandma’s baked “cheese and macaroni” (as she calls it.)

As respectable as lunch was, my true interest lied with the desserts. Each Christmas, Grandma’s laundry room would turn into a veritable museum of sweets, with her washer and dryer serving as a display table of brownies and candies and pies. (Oh, my!)

It was every kid’s dream.

desserts

Unfortunately, the adults limited us poor, inferior children to two desserts apiece. As an adult, I now understand why people might want to avoid herds of sugar-crazed, chocolate-covered children climbing the walls and swinging from the ceiling fans; as a little kid, a limit of two desserts was akin to cruel and unusual punishment.

And I was not going to stand for that kind of treatment any longer.

One year, after lunch, Lauren and I headed to one of the extra bedrooms to play. Once we were alone, we paced the floors, thinking. We wanted more dessert. We needed more dessert. We just weren’t sure how to get our hands on it.

We brainstormed our options.

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And then inspiration struck.

Lauren and I both had play strollers for our baby dolls, and we worked quickly to buckle our babies into their seats, even lovingly placing blankets over their laps. Then, we casually sauntered into the living room, meeting the glances of our family members as they paused in their conversations to admire us. We smiled sweetly, fully playing up the part of two cute little girls with their dolls.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we sang, oh-so-innocently.

We continued to stroll through the kitchen until we arrived safely, and unquestioned, in the laundry room. Like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, we frantically grabbed at fudge and cookies and candy, stuffing them in the strollers, under baby dolls, probably even in our pockets – anywhere that they wouldn’t be seen.

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Then, just as nonchalantly as before, we wandered back through the living room, forcing ourselves to walk slowly. We smiled pleasantly, but not too excitedly, so as to not arouse suspicion. Soon, we were back in the bedroom. Our plan had worked. We were alone with the desserts.

And we scarfed it down like deranged animals. Or just deranged human children.

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Not satisfied by the first round (or pound) of chocolate, we repeated this process a few times. Each time, our “casual” behavior grew more and more erratic.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we screeched, our eyes wide-open and unblinking from a sugar rush. If an adult looked at us oddly, we grinned in a psychotic manner and gestured clumsily at our dolls. Nothing to see here, folks. Just some children taking their dolls on a walk!

It wasn’t until our fourth or fifth trip through the living room that our parents finally narrowed their eyes at us. “What are you girls up to?” they asked, their voices full of suspicion. “You’re not going in there to get sweets, are you?”

“Noooo!” we replied in fake, squeaky voices, because kids are terrible liars. With demented smiles still plastered on our faces, we made panicky U-turns with our strollers and veered back to the bedroom. Obviously, the grown-ups were on to us. Even in our chocolate-induced delirium, we knew better than to press our luck.

For our parents’ sakes, I’d like to say they figured us out and prevented us from doing this at future holiday gatherings. But that’d be a lie. We repeated this devious and greedy plot for a few years without ever being caught in the act.

Unfortunately, our grandparents did figure out our secret when they eventually rearranged the furniture in that bedroom and discovered a massive pile of empty candy wrappers under the bed. Basically, we were clever enough to secretly steal large amounts of food, but not smart enough to get rid of the evidence.