Christmas Hair

The plastic Christmas tree is a vast improvement over the natural tree.

[One], I didn’t have to kill it.

And [B], I don’t have to deal with spiders crawling out of it in the middle of the night and eating my brain.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Yet I still feel guilty somehow, like I’ve committed the ultimate Sin against Holiday Tradition by taking the Holiest of Family icons and replacing it with plastic. Plastic is fine for the baby Jesus on the front lawn … it’s even better if you light if from the inside with a 900 watt searchlight that you can see from space. Baby Jesus projected on the clouds like some kind of holy Bat Signal.

But plastic is somehow innately wrong for the tree.

I don’t miss wandering around the supermarket parking lot inhaling diesel fumes, lost in a maze of cyclone fencing, trying to pick out the best dried-out tree nailed to a wooden two-by-four cross like some kind of weird evergreen crucifix.

And I don’t miss hunting it down myself during my one annual trek to the local hills where snaggle-toothed hillbillies who spend the balance of the year raising punkins charge me seventy-five dollars a foot to watch me cut down my own tree with a dull saw.

But I do miss loading all my kids in the car, cruising from one crowded grocery store parking lot to another in search of the cheapest five feet of decrepit, uneven, rapidly decomposing wad of Tannenbaum, struggling not to let them adopt every 24-inch bare-assed little Charlie Brown shrub we stumble across.

I do miss sliding around the muddy hillside in white tennis shoes, trying to remember whether it was the Noble Fir, the Ponderosa Pine or the California Silver-tip Gravenstein Sierra Madre Mark IV that was under sixty-three dollars a foot and wondering why I ever thought I’d be able to identify any one of them by sight anyway, as the kids mark the latest perfect tree with a coffee cup we find on the trail and then promptly forget which of the hundred-and-ninety-seven acres held that flawless specimen because they instantly find another more perfect tree two minutes later.

And although I don’t miss its crappy little combustible needles all over my living room, turning up in my socks for the next six months like forgotten Easter eggs that you don’t find until after you’ve spent a week emptying cans of Lysol behind the refrigerator and asking your friends if they smell what you smell, I do miss the smell of a real tree, the daily watering, and the odd little dance the two of us do as we cha-cha around the living room trying desperately to find the side that won’t embarrass us with its bald spot.

There is something oddly comforting about the tree giving its all, standing sentinel in my living room for three weeks in its Sunday best. There’s comfort and tradition in the process of hunting and gathering, of communing, of pruning and decorating and lighting and watering and nurturing, watching the tree go to the extreme to bring me and mine happiness and holiday spirit. There’s distinction in seeing the branches and the trunk slowly showing through the thin spots, as it dries and droops and drops its needles in a protective circle around the perimeter of the ceramic town with the plastic train, something you don’t get with a plastic tree, no matter how many automotive air fresheners you hang on it. There’s wisdom, and history, and sacrifice in watching the tree slowly going bald.

Buying a plastic tree is for people who think that it’s the tree itself that’s important. It means forgetting about the process, and focusing instead on the thing, and missing the forest for the trees.

Speaking of which, I had a woman ask me once if I would ever consider getting a hair transplant. Asking a man to consider getting a hair transplant is like asking a woman if she’d consider getting breast implants.

What’s wrong with my hair? Isn’t my hair good enough for her? Has she been looking at somebody else’s hair?

Oh, sure, of course, she says, I love your hair just the way it is, she says. It’s just, well, wouldn’t you like to have a little more hair?

Maybe she’d like me to have big thick hair? Is that it? Like that guy at her office? Or Michael Landon? What’s the matter, Kelsey Grammer isn’t good enough for her? Bruce Willis not man enough?

Look, I’m not happy about the Friar Tuck reflector on the back of my head, the inverse Yarmulke around which my remaining hair circles like a group of whispy gray children playing ring around the sunburned scalp. I have to admit I considered the transplant for a few minutes. I even considered the weave.

I didn’t consider the comb over, or the can of hair. Somehow making a hat out of my own hair holds no interest and fools no one, and having to walk like I’m balancing a book to keep the brown Christmas flocking from sliding off my head just makes me look like a prima donna. Cheez Whiz is for crackers.

But buying the plastic hair, or even rearranging the landscaping, puts the focus on the thing, and forgets about the process. I have no desire to cover up the evidence of my wisdom and experience. I don’t want anyone to forget about the journey of years and pain and failure and disappointment that got me here. Those plastic trees, they may be convenient and look pretty, but they’ve never been alive. They haven’t suffered. So don’t ask me to deck myself in aluminum and fiberglass.

Just quit being such a shallow lazy bitch, and take the time to adventure into the woods and hunt me down. Spend a little time slopping around in the mudflats that are my history, dammit. Go to the trouble of breathing a little diesel fuel and getting lost in a cyclone maze, do a little comparison-shopping to understand why it’s worth it to overlook that uneven spot. Go ahead and hang an old coffee cup on me, so you know where to find me when you’re ready.

You can just turn my back against the wall when company comes over, and spread a sheet around my feet.

Oh yeah. Merry Freakin’ Christmas.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.


Halloween is over.
It’s almost Thanksgiving.
Then Christmas.
Then New Years.
It is, as I like to say, the beginning of the end.

This time of year is, in fact, a season that particularly pisses me off. It’s a series of events that illustrates just how much of our culture and society is really all about just what unrefined, frightened, lonely social animals we are.

We build up for twelve months toward the one major holiday of the year, Christmas (or Kwaanza, or Chanukka, or whatever you celebrate during that season) and it becomes a watershed moment of the year as regards your relationships. Yeah, sure, there’s some religious pretext, there’s all that crap about “good will toward men” or whatnot. But really, what you do is you take stock of your friends and relationships in a very digital way. You prioritize them, in dollars and cents, as to who this year during this month is worth the most effort and expense, energy and attention. It forces you to re-evaluate the most intimate aspects of your life. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on which relationships are showing a worthwhile Return On Investment, and which ones may have run their course. And admit it or not, you use it as a guide to gauge how you rate on the lists of the folks around you.

This is followed by New Years Eve. A holiday which is made somewhat less entertaining by my encroaching sobriety, because drunk people are significantly less appealing when you are not among them. So few of them are as cute as Dean Martin.

New Years is, of course, the personal commitment holiday. After suffering through Christmas (or Kwaanza, or Chanukka) has forced us to evaluate our personal lives and relations, New Years gives us the opportunity to reinvent the things we’ve come to realize aren’t working for us, in an effort to ensure better, more valuable and rewarding relationships and intimacies. To make us more attractive to others.

We’ll treat our significant others better (to reduce the likelihood of being left without a mate). Eat better (to make ourselves healthier and more attractive to potential mates). Excercise more (to make us more attractive to our significant others). Get a better job (to make us more attractive to our significant others). Masturbate less (to save our seed for the procreation that nature demands). Write our great American novel. Be more selfish. Be less selfish. Get laid. Buy a pig.

There is always some apparently significant personal change that needs making.

Then there’s Valentine’s day.
Six weeks into the new you. A month and a half into the first year of the rest of your life. 45 days into the more exciting, healthier, more well rounded relationships you had mapped out.
How’s it going?

This is a poser of a holiday, invented in a smoke-filled room during a meeting between executives at Hallmark and the calendar publishers of At-A-Glance. I know it’s not a real holiday, and I’m willing to bet that “Saint Valentine” was no saint. Probably named after Rudolph Valentino, for all I know.

Frankly, i don’t freakin’ care. What I do know is that, just like Christmas and Chanukka and Kwaanza have been reduced to mere working models of intimate interaction, Valentine’s Day has become little more than the day we reflect on how poorly the new plan is working out.

Unless of course you’ve actually been lucky enough to stumble into a close relationship that appears to be exclusive. Better say thank you! Thank you for not leaving me alone, worthless, and without company. Here’s a card! It has a puppy on it!
Please don’t leave.

Got no-one to send a card to?
Then you probably dropped the ball on that “I’m gonna reinvent my life, goals and relationships” thing.

No big deal, you might say, as you don’t need anyone. You’re whole and complete on your own.
Yeah, right.

We humans are social animals. Our relationships, our family units, our religions and our holidays are about social organizations. About filling our innate need for companionship, reproduction and survival. It’s about all of us being so afraid to be alone, we structure our whole social calendar around guaranteeing it won’t happen. And about being so afraid to admit it, that we hide it behind holidays, white sales, and the seasonal offerings of gifts in exchange for, and appreciation of, just a little intimacy and companionship. We have turned the calendar year into a microcosm of that struggle; a twelve month cycle of family events, relationship evaluations, personal re-inventions, and other endless pursuits of intimacy.

All of which comes to a head over the course of the next six insane weeks, carrying the highest depression ratio of any calendar season.

And it all begins with Thanksgiving, a time when we give thanks to the Universe for not making our heads explode during the past year. Thanks for keeping our cars right side up, our flies shut in front of crowds, for keeping us from guzzling sour milk straight from the carton, and from eating our young. Thanks for all the minor little victories that should have gone without notice, lost in the radiance of success and love and fulfillment but instead were thrust into the limelight of primacy by virtue of the very lack of success and love and fulfillment over the course of the past year.

Thanks for keeping me breathing for the last twelve months. It’s the least you could have done.

Or maybe I just need to get laid.

That’s it. That’s all I got.