**Owing to a particularly busy schedule, this week I have asked a friend of mine to provide a guest post. Below, Anne Thrope offers some thoughts on holiday cheer at the office. If she should seem a touch excitable at times, we beg you indulge her. We hope you find her ruminations not unworthwhile.
Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t care about your “War on Christmas.” Let’s get another thing straight. I also don’t care about your Christmas either. I am, however, a fierce partisan in the war of “Can’t You Just Leave me the Fuck Alone?” Look, I don’t mind caroling. I don’t mind it because at 27 years old I’m perfectly capable of putting my headphones on. Or earbuds in. Whatever. It doesn’t bother me if you want to dress like a hipster Santa Claus or a slutty Mrs. Claus. I grew up in the East Village back when you could still get crack with your bagel in the morning. I’m used to people who dress like idiots.
My problem is when your holiday spirit invades my workplace. For starters, I work in an office. Sterile isn’t the word for it. Soulless, maybe. And probably degrading. Look, you remember what Sarah Palin said? No, not that one. The one about lipstick on a pig. That’s what your little dinky lights around your desk are. And your holiday cards on your cubicle wall. My god, man, you’re just gilding the cage. If you really want to help somebody, bake some tree shaped cookies and sprinkle them with green sugar. Or arsenic. Whichever.
I’ll tell you what, though. I can even take the lights and the cards and the obnoxiously shaped cookies. I mean, I don’t have to sit at your desk. And by the grace of whatever god you’re praying to this holiday, they let me wear headphones at mine. So I can tune you out, you and your confabulated holiday cheer.
You must understand, the great war of Can’t You Just Leave me the Fuck Alone is not a war of aggression. We have no lust for new lands, no desire for power. It is strictly a defensive engagement. We wish only to keep you behind your own borders while we sit ensconced in our grey little bunker. Ah, but what is this? In the spirit of the holidays you send an embassy? Waving a white flag? Well, it has been a long war, and we are tired. If you believe we have something to talk about, do come in. Yes, we ask that you leave your arms at the gate. Check your goddamn Santa hat with the corporal. It’s not that we don’t trust you. It’s more that we don’t much like you. Nothing personal, you understand.
What is that in your hand? Ah, you bring us terms. Sit, sit. Please. Would you join us in a glass of rum? No, I’m afraid we don’t have any milk in the bunker. Oh, yes, we do have eggnog. Here, let me just pour your rum into that. Now then, what is it you wish to discuss?
Embassy: Oh, I’m so glad you allowed us in to speak with you! You know, we’ve worked together for over a year, but we hardly ever chat.
Anne Thrope: Yes…
Em: Well, oh and first of all, happy holid – are you quite alright?
AT: Yes, child. Just cracking my neck. Do go on.
Em: Umm, yes. Well. So I was thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we started a Secret Santa around the office. You know, nothing much. Maybe five or ten dollars. I was just thinking that would really lighten things up around here. I mean, as I’m sure you know, nobody’s gotten a raise in this company since the Carter administration, and I think it would really make a difference to a lot of people if they got a little something from a coworker. And of course, as I said, it needn’t cost much. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
AT: *pinching the bridge of my nose while you smile like a madwoman.
Em: So can I count you in?
AT: Look, I…<sigh>…is everybody doing this?
Em: Well, I was going to send out a mass mail this afternoon. But I thought if I could get a couple of people down for certain, that would make it easier.
AT: And you came to me first becau – <sigh> – this means rather a lot to you, does it?
Em: Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I just think it’d be super fun!
AT: I see. (Turning to an aide). Leftenant, bring me another bottle of rum, will you?
L: But sir, you’ve had half a bottle just in the 15 minutes since the embassy arriv –
AT: Bring the damn bottle, soldier! On the double! That’s on order.
L: Yes, sir. Right away, sir.
So I finished my rum and agreed to her terms. What else could I do? I may be a bitch, but it’s not in my nature to completely disregard people who mean well. And if there’s one thing you could say about this cheerful bobbing mass of inane smiles it’s that she’s damned annoying. But I suppose she means well. And anyway, what’s five dollars? (I assume she was kidding about the ten-spot).
Now just because I’m going to participate doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. In fact, I’m going to hate it. Every step of the way. Because that will teach her a lesson. Surely. But I have two major problems with all of this. The sort of problems that I’d confess to you over a pint at happy hour if we worked together. (Alternatively, if we worked together, we would not be going for happy hour).
First, I resent feeling coerced. And make no mistake, “friend,” this was an act of coercion. You corner me and ask me to participate in some action which you assure me will have as its issue the improved morale of my colleagues. Wherefore the only thing more inconvenient to me than engaging in this ritual is meeting with your looks of disapproval for the next several weeks and the passive aggressive barbs which shall surely be slung in my general direction when you arrive at your next bright idea of chipping in for so-&-so’s birthday. Ah, I can see the email now. “Julia over in accounting [ed. Not even our department!] is turning 31. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all chipped in for this [ed. meaningless] anniversary of her birth and got her a gift card to the Disney Store? Of course, don’t feel obligated. While it’s only five or ten dollars, I know some people can feel put out by this, and that’s the last thing I want…ANNE!” Hey, honey, go play in traffic.
So yeah, I’ll throw down a fiver to get out of that email. But I’m also annoyed by the whole Secret Santa thing as a practical matter. Let’s be honest. Five bucks barely buys you a round trip on the subway these days. And what’s worse, you’re not even going to give me a five dollar metro card, i.e. something I could actually use. Instead I have to look forward to some trinket, some gewgaw, some knick-nack (paddy-whack, can’t I just go home?), that a) I have no use for and b) I’ll feel guilty about throwing away because some poor sap put the intellectual equivalent of five bucks worth of thought into it. This leaves me with two choices. Establish said bauble on my desk whence it shall be as a font of astonishingly dull small-talk. Or else take it home to my shoe-box sized New York City apartment whereupon shall it add to the overall clutter of the place, and make it that much harder to realize my dream of just once getting the whole joint cleaned up, if even for a day.
Oh, and here’s a question. Who the hell appointed you ambassador from the North Pole anyway? No, really. How does one arrive at the conclusion that they ought to self-anoint themselves as Grand Marshall of Secret Santa Ceremonies? Does one look around and see in the faces of their coworkers a latent desire to join in such a ritual, if only some brave soul would be the first to ask? I think I know what you see in their faces, friend. These are beaten men and women. Worn down by corporate directives and politically correct goodthinkfulness, they just want to earn their paychecks and get home to their families. (Or bottles. I’m just saying). Can’t you let them slave away in silent dignity, dead to the world around them?
In the end, you’ve succeeded in breached my bunker. You’ve snookered me into your little rite, shanghaied me with your deceptively friendly holiday wiles. The least you could do is bake some cookies. And I mean real, nice, gooey chocolate chip cookies. Not those blasted flavorless sugar cookies whose only redeeming quality are their “fun holiday shapes.” And so I say, Merry Christmas to all, and to all…can’t you just leave me the fuck alone? Cheers.
**Miss Thrope is a regular contributor to The Cynic, where she frequently disapproves of most things. Her most recent book, Seriously? Could you walk any slower?, did not appear on the New York Times best seller list. She lives in New York City. Alone.