Main image by Sheila C. image in ornament by Mic445, both are used under a Creative Commons License.
By Stephanie Sparer
Patrick was not excited about this whole Christmas thing, but he was totally okay with asking me to buy the $500 watch he wanted. It was maybe the only thing he was excited about when it came to the holiday season. So you can imagine his response when his parents asked me to spend Christmas with them. I was thrilled, but Patrick answered before I could.
“She’s Jewish,” he said to his parents over dinner, like I’m not even sitting there next to him pretending to politely eat the dry chicken his father made. “Why would she want to go all the way to your stupid cabin in the woods where it’s snowing and cold just to spend Christmas with us?”
Uh, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Despite being Jewish, I‘ve always loved Christmas time. As Jews, my family always kind of half-assed it; Christmas was a thing all y’all did while I ate Chinese food. I’ve never had that kind of Love, Actually Super Duper Christmas Spectacular, which I think you can only have if you’re a British actress, anyway. Like, I think Kate Winslet is the only person in the whole world having this kind of ideal Christmas, but Gwyneth Paltrow definitely thinks she is.
I was in college and dying to have a proper Christmas. I wanted lights, I wanted Santa, I would even accept Jesus into my heart if it meant having a tree on Christmas morning just once. I wanted a Christmas tradition! This seemed like it could be the start of one. And it was. Kind of.
“It’s fucking stupid,” Patrick said to the table, still chewing. He adjusts his trilby hat while he talks (Forgive me, okay. I was in college.), “Jesus was born in like, March or something. Christmas is just the winter solstice,” he pushes on. “You can look this up. I read a whole article about Christmas recently,” he said.
I had read an article recently, too.
I think it’s the same one that comes out every year in Cosmo and Maxim and Elle; it’s the one that reminds you how Christmas time is the most popular time to become engaged. As if you needed reminding. It’s safe to bet you’ve been seeing the photos of rings and fiancés on your social media timelines since mid-November. The flip-side of all these engagements, the article said, is that Christmas time is also the most popular time to dump someone.
The article didn’t state this part, but I’m here to tell you I am living proof that this statistic also applies to Jewish people.
Patrick and I had been dating two years, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to accept the invitation to spend 10 days of Christmas in the country with him and his family. With visions of sugar plums dancing in my head (and maybe five golden rings), I said yes. I didn’t even think twice.
I didn’t stop to think about the reality that I was about to spend 10 days straight with my college boyfriend. And maybe, if I had thought about it, I would have realized I didn’t even like him that much.
And he didn’t like me that much, either. But, as I stressed to my therapist, things between us were great as long as I didn’t really talk. That’s when we argued. So we argued a lot.
But wasn’t Christmas that wonderful time of year filled with laughter and light and the expectation that you’re supposed to argue with people you love... or date at least? If I’ve learned anything from TV, it’s that, like The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or a five-hours-with-commercials-showing of It’s a Wonderful Life, arguing is part of a long standing holiday tradition. If Christmas was the time to argue, then Patrick and I would be GREAT at Christmas because arguing was totally our thing.
“Don’t you find this strange?” my therapist asked me at some point when I told her we argued furiously about holding hands one night that December at a bar. He recoiled when I went to hold his hand and shouted, “Only little girls hold hands.”
So I cried, which only perpetuated the problem. “Guess you are a little girl!” he snapped back. We got kicked out of the bar. I wasn’t even drunk. Well, drunk in love maybe. He was my first straight (don’t ask) boyfriend, and I grew up on Disney. I thought this was 4evz.
“Most couples don’t argue about everything,” my therapist said. “Even if it is Christmas.” She was very wise, but her eye makeup was very bad.
“Well, it’s the holiday season and it’s our tradition,” I shrugged, dodging a deeper conversation.
But by now, it was the week before Christmas and I still hadn’t bought anything for Patrick. He had called me by his ex-girlfriend’s name that night (“as a joke!”), so I was having trouble getting motivated to buy him a gift. I stared at the watch he wanted a lot online without clicking ‘buy,’ but I had to do it soon or it would never get delivered on time.
I mean, I was delusional about my relationship, but I totally knew I had to buy the watch because Santa didn’t exist.
Patrick called my cellphone as I was about to click ‘add to cart.’
“What’s up?” he greeted me.
“I think I might be getting sick,” I said, as if he couldn’t tell. My voice had skipped right over Scarlett Johannson-ville and landed smack dab in the middle of Harvey Fierstein-land.
“I hope so!” he said.
My heart dropped. What even the fuck.
“What even the fuck?” I ask.
“If you get sick then you can’t come to Christmas and then I won’t go to Christmas and everyone gets to stay home. That would be a great gift for me.”
That actually did sound like a great idea and way cheaper than this watch.
So I broke up with him then and there. It took me a minute or two years, but all that fighting with Patrick wasn’t because we loved each other, it was because we hated each other and also because he was still stuck on his ex-girlfriend...whom he was still seeing on the side. I let go of my dream for a traditional Christmas and realized I could start my own Christmas tradition: not spending the holiday with assholes.
Like Christmas, I just loved the idea of Patrick and what he represented. I was projecting. In both cases I was infatuated with a weirdo who had an affinity for bad hats. It was truly a Christmas miracle that I managed to figure that out before I wasted my money on a $500 watch.
Why Did the Peahen Cross the Road? After Running Into A Wayward Peahen, A Writer Ponders Her Safety And The Intentions Of The Bird Before Finding Salvation From A Colorful Couple.