Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas Stockings Are Overrated Anyway

Truthfully, I am glad the weekend - the Christmas holiday - is over. As I mentioned, I stayed behind and spent the holiday with my boyfriend's family. I still feel like an outsider to the family which means I am very soft-spoken and shy around them. It is not that they aren't friendly, because they are. And they know how to have a good time. But we have only been dating three months - and there is nothing like Christmas - or a family holiday - to make you feel like the outsider you are. Sometimes I can sufficiently participate in the grown-up conversation but all the familial holiday hubbub just made me even more introverted than usual.

The weekend started off late afternoon Christmas eve at the sister's home. We all participated in a little family Cranium competition. And the family is pretty competitive. And - I don't know - it could be because there was no drinking involved - and this is a game that involves lots of drinking because you are going to be acting and whistling and humming and spelling backwards (which only a stiff drink can accomplish). So here is where my first bout of shyness surfaced. And it made me hesitant with all my responses for fear of sounding like an Educated Idiot. This backfired because I looked even more stupid for not getting The Obvious. Example: My boyfriend had to act out the famous person on the card only through verbal communication. I was the "guesser" because frankly he is good at impersonations. And he did nail this one. He started it off with the "politician-thumb-to-bent-forefinger-point" very accurately impersonating, "I. Did not. Have. Sexual relations. With...." I paused. I hemmed and hawed. Because Bill Clinton, right? But, I don't know, what if I was wrong and there was someone I was missing. Who else could it be?! (Kobe Bryant? Jude Law? But the voice!) So I doubted myself and thought carefully before I FINALLY answered. We ended up winning the game. Somehow. But this whole game-time wasn't relaxing for me.

Eventually they started pouring the champagne and wine. I managed to come out of my shell a little more. Then we dressed for dinner, which was a Black Tie affair. Look at me with the sparkles. Needless to say, I managed to be over-dressed. Who knew? Then we did a little Pollyanna gift exchange. And kept taking turns blowing into a breathalyzer. All in all Christmas Eve was fun. Who knew a breathalyzer could be such fun? [Only in these circumstances. Do not get in the car. --The Cops] I managed to muddle my way through conversation. Then the uncle's partner started in with how I looked like Tiffani Thiessen. Which, strangely, I have heard many times. I still never see it. So there was some analyzing of the merits of this resemblance. But drinks were poured and laughter was echoing through the house. And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

I kind of wish I could have ended the weekend right here. On what I felt was a good note.

Because what came first: the chicken or the egg? Or, what came first: my own Self-Imposed Bad Mood or a series of events to set off my Bad Mood?

It was agreed that we would stay over at the sister's house on Christmas Eve. The Breathalyzer was not letting us go anywhere anyway. Then - according to his plan - we would partake in the present opening the next morning, brunch, and then head out. Later that evening The Boyfriend (he'll get a name in the new year) would return to the parent's house for Christmas dinner. I was going to be given a "pass" on that. He was concerned that it would be a lot of family time for me. And I agree. However, dinner is easy. I knew the hard part was going to be the Present Opening that ALL the family was going to be doing. With nothing for me to do but sit there and watch. (I know, woe is The Lonely Soul.) In any case, this was the part I wanted out of. For my own reasons.

First, the family has a lot of money so very expensive presents were being opened all around me. They spend a couple thousand dollars a piece - easily. I could tell by the Louis Vuitton, Hermes, cashmere, and diamonds that was in abundance. Who needs - who gets! - two Louis? Therefore, I felt like his family's gifts trumped mine. Sure they were more expensive - mostly clothing from London and Paris. I know that Expensive doesn't make The Better. But they were things he specifically asked for. Things he wanted. Things I couldn't get for him because I didn't/couldn't jet to London to Christmas shop for him. Is there something wrong with wanting to buy him his favorite present?

The Ferragamo wallet I got for him - which is not shabby by any means - was something he desperately needed. On like our third date he mentioned that he needed a new wallet as he had just ran his through the wash. (I made a mental note of that at the time.) And it was falling apart. And it was a tri-fold. Nobody carries tri-folds anymore. Nobody even makes them anymore. So I thought I was gold with this gift. Because what guy goes out and buys and expensive wallet for himself? But then the sister got him a wallet too (as one of many gifts). Hers happened to be brown (and not as nice - or expensive - as she pointed out) so he was ever the diplomat and said that it was great that he had a black one and a brown one and he could interchange them. Who does that? So, my present seemed cliche and insignificant now.

Then I couldn't shake the feeling of Outsider - the outside-looking-in kind of thing. To nobody's fault. But I kept thinking this is not my family. Maybe this was too soon in the relationship to be a part of all this. Silly, maybe. Because they certainly made me a small part of it. After all, I am the girlfriend and who knows if it will amount to anything more. Why should they get attached to the Idea of Me? I don't want to be that girl they talk about next Christmas. "Remember that girl from last year - who was so quiet? We love your new girlfriend!" But they kept thanking me for being a part of their Christmas. And when the mother asked me about traditions and I told her about keilbasi on Christmas Eve, she replied that had she known she would have made sure we had some. How sweet is that? And the mother got me a beautiful sterling silver champagne icer with glasses that I love. Because she knows I like The Champagne. And the sister got me some beautiful earrings. From Neimans. So this was all very thoughtful. So you see, they tried to include me. Still did I mention there were lots and lots and lots of presents. And my boyfriend is Present Opening Upper Savorer. One by one - sloooooowly. One. By. One. The Grown-Up's Present Opening Extravanganza lasted a couple of hours easily.

And then they did the whole presentation of their stockings. Which, I don't know, I felt like they could have just thrown one in for me. I could have brought mine from home. A BYOS party! Because their stockings were a bottomless pit of toys and presents - not the Story Book Life Savers from my past. The mother gave me some Mardi Gras beads with pink duckies on them - again, to make me feel included. Again, sweet. But there is everybody - my boyfriend, his mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and uncle and his "partner" - all carefully inspecting the huge array of gifts from their stocking. Even the dogs had stockings. Bottomless stockings. Since I was without, I tried to take an interest in my boyfriend's stocking - which he is sloooowly savoring. He practically read a whole book. I'm not kidding. It wasn't a novel - so, possible. He interpreted my interest - my need to Do Something besides sit there and ooh and aahh - as impatience.

"So do you just tear through your gifts?" (And I don't!) But I shut up and shut off. all around. He didn't mean anything by it, but at this point, it just rubbed me the wrong way.

Then he says to me - twisting the knife a little deeper - although not intending to, I'm sure, "Did your parents send you your presents?"

At that point, the insenstitivity of that "slip-up" almost sent me to tears. I curtly reply, "You mean my mom?" He knows my dad is dead. He shouldn't have to walk on eggshells but it kind of hit me...not in a good way. Not for the fact that my dad is no longer here but for the simple thoughtlessness with regard to Myself - who I am and where I come from. He caught the slip-up, he apologized, but I kept thinking, "Is he just making small talk with me?" Who am I?

Typically, he is a thoughtful and sweet guy, so am I being overly-sensitive? Perhaps. It has been known to happen on occassion. But that one little comment - or the culmination of the whole morning - or the fact that I missed being part of my own family - shut me up for the rest of the day. Literally. I didn't have the heart or strength to partake in conversation. I entered my shell. Which can only be broken open with alone time. But I still had to sit through a very long brunch and preparation of the brunch. I'm afraid I barely said a word. I drank my water with bottles of bottles of champagne surrounding me, taunting me, bubbling, "Drink me." So now I think that his family - who once liked me - probably now think that I am a Bore or a Bitch. I could also be putting way too much thought into this. Again, that has been known to happen on occassion.

But it is all over. I can't dwell on how charming I woulda, coulda, shoulda been. But, I'll tell you, I was finally thankful - and felt more like myself - once I got to my own home and called my family as I spent the rest of Christmas Day alone on the couch. Until I looked over at my own lonely little stocking hanging on my fireplace.

If you can't be with your own, someone else's family is not a bad place to be.

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