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You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch - A little less than a happy high — LiveJournal
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch
This will sound tremendously uncharitable of me, but I really have a problem with panhandlers who use "Merry Christmas" after you decline to give as a means of instilling feelings of guilt. Why? Because it for some reason it works on me. With the mention of the upcoming commercial free-for-all that is somehow supposed to represent our "giving nature" and "goodwill to our fellow man," my perception of who I am changes in an instant. I transform from a man struggling through a difficult time into a living embodiment of Ebeneezer Scrooge before the old bugger had his psychotic break and started hearing voices and seeing things.

It happened this morning when I stopped to get coffee.* As I pulled out my wallet to pay for my go-juice, the guy hanging out at the counter leaned in and asked to have a dollar so he could get a sandwich. Well, no... that won't do at all, I thought to myself, and politely refused. The fact of the matter is that I just don’t have the cash to spare when someone asks me for help.

"Sorry I asked," he said. I stood waiting for my cup, and when I didn’t say anything more, he continued. "I haven’t eaten in two days..."

This played on the heartstrings. I kind of wish I could be far more cavalier with my money than my $19K of forced charitable giving each year allows. No, it wouldn't kill me to give up a dollar, but in the face of everything else, I feel like I need to get myself back on something resembling an even keel before I can even think about helping other people. I started feeling uncomfortable and wishing that, "Sorry, I really can't..." had truly ended the conversation.

The nice lady behind the counter handed me my coffee and I turn to leave. Before I took a my second step, he hit me with, "Merry Christmas." Ugh. His voice was tinted with just enough spite to show what kind of person he thought I was. I felt low for looking after myself. I felt guilty because I’m not the one who has to beg. I felt sad that I’m not in a position to help everyone who comes to ask. Underneath it all though, I felt annoyed that I got beaten over the head with the expectations that grow out of the lies of this particular holiday.

It’s funny. There was a Anglican priest who took flak earlier this week because he let the truth leak about Santa Claus when he was talking to a group of children. The reason for the reprimand? Because parents were forced "to do a lot of explaining." Well, you know, if you lie to your children about a jolly fat man who breaks into your home once a year to steal cookies and who is clearly more partial to the rich kids in his charitable donations, sooner or later there is going to be a reckoning.

The big lie we tell ourselves as adults is that people are going to act any differently during the holidays. Yes, sure, there are beautiful souls out there who will do amazing things for their fellow man around this time of year, but you know, they are the same people who will do amazing things for their fellow man throughout the rest of the year. For most, the holidays are little more than a stressor, and will tend to enhance personality traits that are already there. Expectations and obligations are high, so high, in fact, that a fair number of people each year decide that it is beyond them. Suicide rates climb, depression mounts, and for what?

It isn’t a magical season when our problems go away (I wish), or where people go through intense personal transformation. The selfish remain selfish, the desperate remain desperate, and those few good souls that there are remain good souls. I fully recognize that my perception is tainted, and that for some, this truly is "the most wonderful time of the year." I congratulate you, and do so wish that I could borrow some small corner of your world.

Christmas is hard.

*Yes, I know that this all brings up the question of why I am out buying coffee in the morning rather than brewing it at home. I don’t have a good answer to that. The answer I do have is that I’m too freakin’ depressed to make sure that I have a clean pot to work with or to keep the beans and milk in the house or to get out of bed at a reasonable hour so I have sufficient time to brew before I have to rush out the door. I feel guilty about that, too. There’s an inelegant beauty to feeling guilty about being depressed.

Current Mood: anxious anxious

2 comments or Leave a comment
futurenurselady From: futurenurselady Date: December 14th, 2002 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)

I put the X in X-Mas Every Year

Don't feel bad about disliking Christmas. Most of the time (and especially this year) I absolutely hate it. It is bad enough being depressed and down on your luck, but it's only magnified when someone says "cheer up, it's Christmas" (or in my case, "go somewhere and sober up, young lady; i can't ba that bad"). my gripe about the Christmas season is that all of a sudden people who are complete strangers start acting like they care about your life in the least useful ways. I have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas. This is partially because I was raised in a Jewish family, but also because I have nothing better to do, and it is more fun to go somewhere and get sloshed covertly than doing it at home alone. Whatever city or theater I decide to do this in, some busybody (usually in the evening with their family) always asks me that disgusting compassionately meant queston "how bad can it be?" judging my situation solely on my appearance. They must think I am only lacking a plane ticket or something. The fact that we are barraged at this time of year with how things (and we) are supposed to be makes the bile rise in my stomach. Not everyone's circumstances are the same. This is something I usually try to ignore in myself so I can find satisfaction in other aspects of my life. Being constantly reminded of what I don't have makes this a Herculean effort I don't have the stamina for by the time the 22nd rolls around.

This is the one time of year I am not an optimist.

komos From: komos Date: December 15th, 2002 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I put the X in X-Mas Every Year

You know I'd like to say that being ill-at-ease is a recent thing, that it's because I'm so shellshocked, but really the feeling has been growing for a while. The whole just seems so disingenuous. I used to think the holiday was great fun... I loved doing things for people, seeing their faces light up when they opened up the perfect gift. At some point, it started feeling like so much obligation.

Don't get me wrong, though. I still love being with friends and exchanging gifts. It's where expectations overtake reality that I start to chafe. I suppose it might be different if I had a closer relationship to my family or felt like my existence was moving in a positive direction (speaking of expectation v. reality...) Still, I fear that I'm on my way to becoming a bitter old man.

Hang in.
2 comments or Leave a comment