I wish I loved Christmas more. It should be easy, right? What's not to love about parties and gifts, food and booze — a shortlist of my favorite things? The problem is, the holiday just doesn't seem to love me back. I'm no good at Christmasing. Let's just say I'm not my best self this time of year.
When I was in third grade, I sang in the children's choir at church. It must have been open to all kids regardless of talent, because my singing voice is Roseanne-Barr-singing-the-national-anthem bad and always has been. As with ballet, baton, piano lessons, and every other activity, I suspect it was just another excuse for my parents to get me out of the house for a few hours. Well, I sure showed them.
We were scheduled to sing at Christmas Eve Mass. At the end of rehearsal a few days before the service, the director addressed the entire group.
"Please remember to wear your church clothes, and not the costume you wore in the program. Do you understand? Do not wear your costume. Wear what you would normally wear to Christmas Mass. Everyone nod, so I know you're paying attention."
"What are you supposed to wear for church?" my mother asked me the night before the Mass.
To this day, my response is more of a mystery than how the virgin Mary became pregnant. "I think we're supposed to wear our costumes," I said.
I deserved what happened next.
"Oh yeah. She did say that," I thought to myself as the director explained to my mom that she had very clearly and adamantly told us what to wear.
In my defense, she should have sent a note home to the parents. These were elementary school kids! Forget that I was the only one in the group who could not be trusted to relay the message.
There wasn't enough time to go home and change. I ditched the halo headband, but the wings were not detachable. I had my very first "walk of shame" at age 8 as I cried in the line to get Communion. At least I was small for my age, so I could pass for a younger kid. Hard to believe I was a "gifted" child, huh?
That was the beginning of a long legacy of Christmas debacles, which also includes nearly ruining Santa for multiple children, countless awkward company parties, and a lengthy unlucky streak in white-elephant gift exchanges.
I've seen one white Christmas in Memphis, and I'll only remember it because I face-planted on the sidewalk in front of a Cooper-Young bar ... while sober. This weekend I'll be wrapping gifts for charity, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how I manage to humiliate myself there, too.
Also harshing my Christmas cheer is my tendency to buy all Christmas gifts at the last possible moment. I'm no procrastinator — I just utterly and completely lack impulse control when it comes to shopping. I don't observe many traditions, but I do this one thing every year where I spend the entire holiday shopping season lavishing myself with discounted merchandise instead of buying gifts.
I blame email marketing. It's the same thing every morning when I open my Gmail account: "Whoa. Extra 30 percent off sale items at Madewell? Let me see if they have anything for, um, my cat." Now the cat has two new sweaters, a pair of jeans, and a dress. But he really needed that stuff. For winter. Because it's so cold in Memphis right now.
I bought two pairs of earrings on Black Friday and put them in my own stocking. If that wasn't sick enough, I almost took out a pair to wear to a holiday party and had to talk myself out of it using the same kind of language they use on Intervention.
Right now, as I write this, I have purchased a grand total of three items to give as gifts. I will undoubtedly be spending part of Christmas Eve in the Oak Court Mall parking lot cussing and crying and the rest pacing the front porch on the lookout for an 11th-hour Amazon Prime shipment. Otherwise, I hope everyone enjoys the free pizza cards I stole from my husband's wallet. Or whatever gift cards Walgreens has left. Or maybe I can part with one of those pairs of earrings.
Good luck to my family and friends. I'm sure whatever I come up with will be great.
Jen Clarke is an unapologetic Memphian and digital marketing strategist.