City Paper is not for tourists
The holiday season is upon us, which means that you are gradually sinking into a pit of hopeless despair, if you are a woman. According to the Daily Mail‘s steady holiday diet of personal essays detailing women’s lack of holiday cheer, Christmas time can bring only embarrassment and ruin upon society’s females. (To men and children, Christmas time brings presents, as is appropriate).
Perhaps I am too young, and have not yet been broken by all the unreasonable expectations heaped upon women during the holidays, but—-Christmas is not that bad, seriously. It can be a little bit of a pain in the ass, it doesn’t always deliver the warmth and happiness it promises, but it’s certainly not cause for debilitating loneliness or the haunting feelings of inadequacy. Is it possible we’re overthinking this, ladies?
POSSIBLE VARIATIONS ON FEMALE HOLIDAY SADNESS:
SAD HOLIDAY FEMALE #1: The aging single woman with 17 cats.
Feel her pain: Liz Jones sees major holidays as a reflection of her worth as a woman. Around Christmas time, even television newscasts and grocery store lines can send Jones into a sobbing fit. “Everywhere you look, you are reminded you are a pariah, that you have failed to even dampen life’s litmus test of happiness,” writes Jones, who is single with 17 cats. “Everywhere you look at this time of year, those of us who live alone are deemed wanting. The inevitable footage on the TV news of traffic jams on the motorways makes me wail: ‘Why is no one driving to see me, laden with parcels and food hampers?'”
Get happy: Liz Jones is sad, and you are too!Jones takes comfort in the fact that at least women who are married with children despise Christmas, as well. “I have 17 cats, all of whom worship at the altar of St Michael, my sheepdog. There will be sheep nestled like something from a nativity play, horses breathing steam with icicles in their manes,” Jones writes about her Christmas plans out in the countryside. “And lonely as I may be, the thought of doing just that will, I’m sure, make many women, who are desperately trying to make everything perfect for a family who remain resolutely ungrateful, turn an appropriately festive shade of red and green.”
Listen, big props to anyone who will admit to owning 17 cats in a major newspaper, but don’t think you’re living out every woman’s unrequited fantasy just because you’re herding cats instead of kids. There are some women in the world who do not descend into a pattern of self-loathing each December, and dragging them down to your level will not make you any happier. Just be content that being the proud owner of 17 cats is what you want to do with your life.
SAD HOLIDAY FEMALE #2: (Practically) married with children.
Feel her pain: Alexandra Shulman—-career woman, mother, girlfriend, Christmas tree decorator—-resents Christmas because it tests all of her feminine wiles. “Christmas wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for womankind. It’s modern women’s keenness to pressurise ourselves into exhausting over-achievement that make possible the festive season as we know it,” Shulman writes. “Perfect gifts, imaginative wrapping, tasteful trees, beautiful decorations, impeccable food, happy families, a glamorous outfit and thoughtfully annotated Christmas cards are just a few of the goals women set out to achieve.”
You know, whenever I list out the goals of women, as a gender, “imaginative wrapping” never seems to make it into the top 10. Perhaps some women have aspirations beyond holiday homemaking? Why, yes they do! Having careers, for example! And perhaps this confusing set of goals explains why they are so fucking sad at Christmas!
“The point is that many of the demands that women feel compelled to fulfil are placed on us by ourselves,” Shulman wries. “The reality is that as more of us are balancing the schizophrenic lives of career women and carers, wage slaves and employers, that list has grown accordingly. We may well be able to have it all, but increasingly the question is becoming: can we actually do it all?”
Get happy: This has always struck me as an unconvincing argument for the utter unhappiness of all women: The problem is that we women just love to do everything, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in all of the things we love to do. I don’t see having an over-interesting career and a too-satisfying home life as a very compelling problem, actually. How about this for a problem: Women don’t love to do everything, and we wish our significant others and children would pick up some of our imaginative wrapping duties so we could go to work in the month of December?
SAD HOLIDAY FEMALE #3: The nervous wreck.
Feel her pain: This year, Janet Street-Porter files a story about how a tangled mess of Christmas tree “fairy lights”—-and the holiday’s other nuisances—-always manage to leave her sobbing, “drunk, and binge-eating.” “Fairy lights as we know them were invented by a bloke (obviously) in the 20th century at around the same time as women started to claim a few rights beyond the vote and the right to be the person who always did the washing-up and the shopping,” Street-Porter writes. “The minute we started to demand equal pay and better jobs, they invented fairy lights, the one thing that can reduce any highly intelligent woman normally capable of multi-tasking at an advanced level, to a crying, snivelling wreck.”
Get happy: Porter’s essay falls under the Bridget Jones tradition of women making self-deprecating British humor out of what utter messes they are. Street-Porter, like all these other women writing for the Daily Mail, is exaggerating her unhappiness for laughs, obviously, and I get that. But, hey! Wouldn’t it be funny if just one Christmas, one of these women commissioned to write a hilarious essay about how they are big, awful failures at being women, instead found, like, a new joke? Wouldn’t it be great if one of these women managed to write a piece that didn’t revolve around the fact that Christmas time converts all women into drunk, depressed, lonely, crying, helpless, overeating, thankless cat ladies? No? Okay, fine. Jesus Christ.
SAD HOLIDAY FEMALE #4: The perpetually sad woman.
Feel her pain: Liz Jones, in her second story about why she hates Christmas so much, complains that it is the expectation that women be happy around Christmas that makes her so unhappy around Christmas. “But most of all at this time of year I hate the pressure to have a good time, to be all cheerful and festive,” she writes. “‘What are you doing on the Big Day?’ people keep asking me, throwing my singleton status into sharp relief. ‘What am I, 12 years old?’ I want to bark.”
Get happy: I don’t think being happy is an aspect of the Liz Jones experience.
SAD HOLIDAY FEMALE #5: Married to Toby Young.
Feel her pain: Toby Young loves Christmas. He celebrates the holiday by uncorking a bottle of Champagne, inviting over 20 of his closest family members, then sitting back as his wife serves up “roast turkey, plenty of stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and lashings of gravy . . . Christmas pudding with brandy butter, more champagne, then an orgy of cracker-pulling.” Then, Toby Young receives presents.
Toby Young’s wife hates Christmas, obviously. “The reality is that he appears from goodness knows where just as the doorbell rings for the first time, chirpily inquiring whether there is anything he can do,” Caroline Young files in her retort to Toby’s Christmas cheer. “Like most households in Britain, it is down to me, the wife, to do the work involved with creating Christmas . . . I only have to buy the presents, wrap the presents, write and post the cards, decorate the house, do the food shopping, roast the turkey, prepare four different vegetables, make the bread sauce, the vegetarian gravy, the meat gravy, two stuffings, the cranberry sauce, the Christmas pudding—-and put a partridge in a pear tree.”
Get happy: I’d like to say that airing your grievances against your husband in the newspaper might help you get happy this Christmas, but I’m betting that Toby Young put Caroline up to participating in this absurdly gendered column in the Daily Mail, as well. Because it’s not like Caroline already has enough to do this Christmas! I’m not sure what Caroline can do to pull this one out, except maybe marry a man who doesn’t delight in watching as your relationship unfolds along the lines of a bad situational comedy?
Photo via George Eastman House, Flickr Commons