I married his family.

You all know the old adage: “when you marry someone, you marry their family.”

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I mean, at this point, it’s a standard cliche of “I didn’t know what I was getting into” blog posts and “Eleven Things I Wish I Knew About Marriage” Huffpost lists. I know… because I researched it. In true Ravenclaw-style, I read up… on the patterns of healthy and unhealthy unions, the statistics that indicated success or divorce, and indeed, Huffpost lists of things to discuss before marriage, many of which, seemed pretty obvious to me. I mean, how do people get married without discussing whether or not they intend to have children? I didn’t care how forward it made me, that was pre-first date discussion, when I was single… as was “What kind of relationship do you have with your family?”… because I knew, long before I assigned myself a marriage-prep study routine, that when you marry someone, you marry their family.

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As outlined in the many articles on the subject, you don’t just marry their family, but their traditions, their faith, their culture, and to some extent, their way of life. I was prepared to be pressured to eat fried pork chops, attend Protestant church services, go to rodeos, and do things outside, because in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every accidentally racist thing Jake’s mother says, there will be a disgusting and vulgar joke told by my father… multiple times, so no one misses the opportunity to enjoy it. For every family rodeo picture, there will be a photo shoot in matching Christmas pajamas, because don’t you dare throw a wrench in my stepmother’s perfect holiday plans. For every discussion of the drought’s effects on the cotton crop, there will be an angry debate about college football teams, from people who have never set foot in the respective schools. I am fully aware that my family earns their fair share of eye rolls and wait-until-we-get-to-the-car rants. If anyone was in for a surprise, it was Jake.

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Folks, what no one told me, what I never understood, wasn’t that I’d marry Jake’s family, but that I wouldn’t actually know them for years after the wedding. When I was a kid, while everyone else my age was hooked on The Babysitter’s Club, I was binge watching Bewitched. Growing up in a dysfunctional home, there was just something about the classic family dynamic that I adored… plus magic. I remember seeing the episode where Samantha meets her in-laws for the first time, though, and feeling baffled by the idea that someone could marry a person without having even met their parents. I mean, what did this courtship even entail? Were there no official meet and greets, no holiday dinners, no tours of his childhood home? How did you get here?!?

The week before last was Thanksgiving… my third with Jake’s family, and folks, knowing that this first get-together would likely set the tone for the holiday season, I was kind of dreading it. Unfortunately, just a week or two prior, we attended a formal dinner in honor of Jake’s aunt’s induction into the local historical society… and it went poorly for me, through no fault of the Grangers. You see, my dear husband, having married at 32, has this frustrating habit of regressing to a 27-year-old single man in his excitement at seeing his extended family. It’s kind of endearing, how much he enjoys them, or it would be if he remembered I existed. On this particular evening, however, I spent the opening social hour, standing alone in a lobby full of people, over-analyzing how my hot pink ski jacket compared with the formal, neutral-toned wool coats of everyone around me, trying to hide my cheap scuffed boots, ultimately planning an entirely new wardrobe in my head; one that would give me the power to discuss the cattle market, sports, killing cute woodland creatures, or literally anything that interests Jake’s family. You know, a magic wardrobe.

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Where was Jake the entire time? Oh, he was there, hugging family members he hadn’t seen in awhile, laughing over childhood stories with his cousins, hobnobbing with old rodeo connections, the Zack Fucking Morris of the party, as always… but Kelly Kopowski I am not. I tried, y’all. I hugged my mother-in-law, Daisy, and sister-in-law, May, congratulated Jake’s aunt, Vi, asked his cousin’s daughter what she was reading and… those were all the tools in my hot pink toolbox. As the opening greetings predictably turned to stories of sports and hunting, I tried to chime in here or there, but was quickly excluded as the discussion grew more and more foreign. So, I stood silently at Jake’s side for some time, until I began to worry that I looked like a stage five clinger to his family, and attempted to awkwardly fade away.

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I escaped to the bathroom, where I hid out for as long as I could manage without giving the impression that I had some kind of embarrassing stomach situation, in a miserable seventh grade dance flashback. Finally, the doors to the dining hall were opened and I more or less fell through them like the first Black Friday shopper, desperate for the normalcy of sitting at a table and engaging in small talk over the weather, because if there’s one thing I know these people love to talk about, it’s the weather. Sadly, there would be no such small talk for Belle, though, as Jake quickly got the table absorbed in a lively story, complete with grand hand gestures and elbowing an invisible neighbor… except said neighbor wasn’t invisible. It was his wife, who quickly grew tired of having her husband stick his hand in her face and elbow her in the side, because she had apparently become literally invisible. At one point, I quite viciously elbowed him back.

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As we drove home, Jake was in good spirits, energized and cheerful after a night with his family and baffled as to why I was so subdued. After only a mildly exaggerated impression of his behavior throughout the evening, I explained to him that while I don’t need him to babysit me, I’d like it if he occasionally attempted to include me in the conversation, ask my opinion, remember that I’m present, because as kind as his family is to me, we have no common ground. I’m a librarian from the suburbs, who names her pets after fandoms. I know more about Quidditch than basketball or football. When Chris Pratt left those dinosaurs behind in Jurassic World, I cried… over the digitized deaths of animals that haven’t existed for millions of years. Zetus lapetus, what am I supposed to say to these good ol’ country folks?!?

As genuinely apologetic as Jake was, after this disheartening holiday pre-show, I had low expectations for the holidays themselves. Jake would promise to introduce me to new people, include me in conversation, not gesture wildly in my face, and the second he saw his cousins, he’d undoubtedly toss me aside like he just got a brand new Buzz Lightyear doll, not because he didn’t love me, but because when he’s with his kin, he’s 25-years-old again.

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A few days before Thanksgiving, Jake called his mother, who reminded him to bring his sneakers and shorts for the Granger Family Basketball Game. He hung up and gave me the message that I was supposed to bring mine as well.

Me: “I thought that was a joke.
Jake: “Oh, we never joke about basketball.”
Me: ::slightly panicked:: “I can’t play basketball with your family!”
Jake: “Why not?”
Me: “I’m asthmatic, uncoordinated, and I hate sports! Have you even met me?!?!”
Jake: “Yeah, I guess you probably don’t want to play basketball with my family. They’re really competitive. They will yell at you.”
Me: “Of course they’ll yell at me! Your cousin refers to one of the girls on his daughter’s softball team as Shock Collar, because she doesn’t listen. I was totally the Shock Collar of my softball team! This sounds like literal Hell.”
Jake: “I think that’s a little over dramatic. You don’t have to play.”
Me: “I think I feel a cold coming on… I should probably stay home.”

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So, as the holiday approached, I grew more and more apprehensive. A family of extroverts and athletes would never understand my refusal to play a “friendly” family game of basketball. I’d sit on the sidelines and look like an antisocial asshole. On the drive to Jake’s sister’s, I began to brainstorm some alternatives.

Me: “What if I just pretend I’m good at basketball?”
Jake: “Oh, yeah? What does that sound like?”
Me: “I’m very athletic. I played basketball in high school. I was Tri-City three years in a row.”
Jake: “Really? Tri-City what?”
Me: “Tri-City… basketball?”
Jake: “You were a Tri-City basketball?”

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By the time we arrived, I had, admittedly, worked myself up into quite the tizzy. Unsurprisingly, walking into a room with over fifty people, many of whom I’d never met (Jake’s brother-in-law’s family), didn’t really help. I offered to help in the kitchen, asked my nieces how school is going, and… once again, those were all the tools in my hot pink toolbox. So, I sat at the bar, prepared for my husband to abandon me and… he didn’t. While Jake didn’t coddle me, he did more or less stay by my side, talking to his cousins, occasionally drawing me into the conversation or sharing a private joke with me. We ate the misleadingly titled appetizers (cheese, y’all… it’s always all cheese) and answered questions about work and our new home.

When the food was being served, I started to get anxious about the social expectations, a personal struggle I have at every gathering, especially considering the differences between our family traditions. I don’t want to seem rude or overeager, nor do I want to fix a plate after everyone’s put their germy hands all over everything. It throws me that the children are served first in Jake’s family, when they’re served last in mine. I get self-conscious about the amount of food I’m putting on my plate, but don’t want to offend someone for not trying their dish. I feel like I’m taking too long to over analyze these things and holding up the line. Ultimately, if it were up to me, I might consider just sneaking snacks in, like we’re going to a movie.

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Family holiday prep.

This time, however, Jake anticipated my nerves and led the way to the serving line, the second the adults were welcome. He even suggested we eat with some of the kids in the garage, since the main area was so crowded and I obviously needed a breather. Once the crush in the living room had dispersed, we rejoined the adults and Daisy recruited me to help her with her phone. Every other Thanksgiving table might have seen Millennials cringing over tech questions from their elders, but that’s literally my job! This is as close as Jake’s mom will ever get to debating Dumbledore versus Gandalf with me, because helping old people with technology is also my jam!

My excitement was short-lived, however, as Jake came strutting into the room in his disintegrating junior college intramural t-shirt, basketball shorts, and sneakers… much to his mother’s embarrassment. It seemed no one had forgotten the scheduled family basketball game, after all. We filed out to my in-law’s new shop, which doubles as a full-sized court for their daughters’ basketball games. Here came the awkwardness. Jake’s family would all use sports jargon and I’d try not to let on that I didn’t understand… until they asked what sports I played as a child. A terrible liar, I’d blurt out that my dad put me in both softball and basketball, despite the fact that I loathed most physical group activities as an overweight and asthmatic (not to mention antisocial) child and would rather have been reading. I would go on to confess that I briefly tried volleyball, but found that getting undressed in a locker room was one of the seven circles of Hell for teenage Belle, so I quit before the school year even started. If more prone to word vomit than usual, I’d even admit that despite two years of basketball, I never did learn how to determine which goal to use and would likely still get it wrong, to this day. Then there would be silence and they’d all go back to not talking to me. Except… none of that happened.

I sat on the sidelines with the others who weren’t interested in playing, primarily the elderly, the new moms, and their babies… but I wasn’t alone. Despite Jake’s insistence that his family’s competitive nature would get the best of them, the game was indeed quite friendly, the teams including our nieces as young as eight all the way up to the oldest of his cousins. Jake’s aunt refereed and the rest of the family provided friendly heckling from the sidelines. No one asked why I wasn’t playing, seemingly understanding and accepting that it just wasn’t my thing. They didn’t seem bothered that I wasn’t particularly interested in the game itself and Jake’s mom chatted with me and asked me questions about her phone, while I tried to keep his youngest niece, Claire, away from the propane heater. Then, as Daisy lifted Claire onto her lap and told my father-in-law to take her phone, he either didn’t hear or was too caught up in his terrible score keeping to respond. So came the moment when Daisy high-handedly passed me her phone, without a word of acknowledgement, assuming I’d simply take it… as though I were one of her own.

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That’s when it hit me, y’all. A few months ago, when we visited the family ranch, Daisy asked me if I wanted to go garage sale shopping. In the midst of a bed bug crisis at work (it’s so a thing), I declined, paranoid of the critters I could bring home… only to later realize that she was trying to spend time with me. The last time we visited, Daisy asked about the bumper stickers on my car and she understood the “What Would Buffy Do?” reference. She’s trying to relate to me! Every time someone’s asked about our new house, she’s taken the opportunity to tell them how nice it is, to mention that we have our own well and septic tank. Originally, it seemed like a random note to me, but for a cattle rancher’s wife, that’s bragging. She doesn’t dislike me or feel there’s someone more suited to her son. She doesn’t want to exclude me. There are just very few women who married into this family and she doesn’t know me.

From day one, Jake’s mother has always been somewhat… not unfriendly, but cool toward me. I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but I realize now that while everyone told me that I’d be marrying my husband’s family, it would have fewer similarities to our own courtship than that of an arranged marriage or a reality T.V. show. Whereas Jake and I had nearly two years to get to know each other, I counted and realized that I spent time with his parents on eleven occasions before our wedding… and had even fewer visits with his sister. They don’t dislike me, nor are they resigned to just not being able to relate to me. They aren’t uninterested in having a relationship with me. It’s just not going to happen overnight, because they live hours away. There’s still a chance of having the close relationship I dreamt of, with the family I married the day I married my husband. It’s just going to take time. I spent all of last Christmas convinced I’d never fit in with these people. Why isn’t that included in the fucking platitudes?!?! I researched this!

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Holiday Social Contracts: Landmines for the People Who Would Rather Be Reading

Every New Year’s Eve

Jake: “What do you wanna watch?”
Me: “We could watch Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.”
Jake: “I thought we were done with Christmas movies.”
Me: “That’s not a Christmas movie. It’s a New Years movie… and in seven months, we can watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.”

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Y’all, I love the holidays. I don’t mean that the way normal people do, either. I mean aggressively so. I love the decorations, the music, the holiday movies and episodes of my favorite TV shows. I watch and sing along to The Worst Witch and Hocus Pocus on repeat, starting in late September. I love the garishly themed jewelry and t-shirts and hats that are suddenly acceptable on October first, but I pull them out a week early, regardless.

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One of the major concessions of my marriage involved selling my six foot tall hot pink Christmas tree and decor that looked like it was stolen from the set of Babes in Toyland. No one will ever convince me that red and green M&M’s, Reese’s Bells, and Christmas Crunch cereal don’t taste better. I love the holidays so much, that I have to fight getting depressed halfway through, because they’re almost over.

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I will, however, admit that there is one aspect of the holiday season I loathe entirely… 

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… and that is the minefield of social contracts.

In my field, anyone who doesn’t consider themselves to be entirely crippled by their own introversion, is labeled an extrovert. This somewhat skewed view means that many of my coworkers consider me to be quite the social butterfly, due to my comfort level socializing with all eleven of them. They’re not entirely wrong, either. I quite enjoy my job. I spend each day with the same handful of people, whose personal stories and worldviews and interests I’ve come to know and respect. I have numerous casual interactions with customers that rarely go deeper than a reader’s advisory discussion on the abusive relationship dynamics present in Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I see the same teenagers at each program, where we discuss who would win in a battle, Doctor Who or The Hulk. Overall, as someone who always scores on the cusp of extroversion and/or introversion, I get exactly the right amount of stimulation in my position… now.

When I first started at the Cherokee Library, I was completely overwhelmed, socially. I didn’t know my coworkers’ backgrounds, religious views, entertainment interests, political affiliations, or tastes in music. If I mentioned my desire to buy a house near the local Catholic school, so I could send my kids there, would I appear judgmental to the nonbeliever? If I told my coworkers I couldn’t handle the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, because of their political hostility, would they shun me for my less liberal viewpoint? If I casually suggested that Taylor Swift lacked depth, would I devastate her biggest fan by inadvertently calling him shallow? Every night, I went home and turned over literally every interaction in my mind, wondering if I’d said the right thing, left the correct impression, presented myself accurately. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be well liked, but properly understood. It was fine with me if someone didn’t like me, as long as they didn’t like me for reasons that were valid. While taking on the new title of Teen Librarian was daunting, the social implications of starting at a new library again, left me emotionally spent. It’s been about a year and half now and I’m finally in my element, because I see these people literally every day. In short… extrovert my ass.

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So, while I love, love, love the holidays, I think I’ve finally realized that what I truly enjoy is the build up. I love sitting at home, reciting every word to Hocus Pocus, with the cat. I love watching Thanksgiving episodes of How I Met Your Mother, on my tablet, while Jake plays video games. I love listening to Christmas carols on the Google Home, while making peanut brittle in my kitchen. I love showing pictures of my Christmas decorations to my coworkers, and oohing and ahhing over photos of their pets in reindeer antlers. I love driving through Christmas lights with my husband and choosing a real tree together. What I really love is sprinkling the everyday, homebody familiar, with bright colors and lights and glitter and festivity. The grand finale, though? That stresses me the fuck out, primarily due to the aforementioned endless mandatory social contracts, such as…

Bringing a Dish

On December 22 of last year, I burst into tears when my three-ingredient peanut butter cookies tasted exactly like three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, and angrily tossed them in the trash.

Jake: “They’re fine. Why don’t you just make another batch and cook them less?”
Me: “Because they aren’t good and all the women in your family will be judging me on what I bring. If I take those after taking Oreo balls to Thanksgiving, they’ll all think I can’t cook.”
Jake: “What was wrong with the Oreo balls?”
Me: “They were a no-bake dessert. They’ll think I’m a just a Pinterest cook and they’ll all hate me, because I can’t make cookies!”

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Of course, in the end, there were plenty of desserts, too many in fact, which I knew would be the case, but social norms required I bring something.

Being in Someone Else’s Home

Why do I have to offer to help my mother-in-law in the kitchen, when we both know there’s nothing for me to do and little space in which for me to do it? Why does she have to stop what she’s doing to pretend I’m useful and let me spoon butter she’s already melted onto biscuits she’s already made? 

Why is there only bar soap in the bathroom? How many people have used this hand towel? How obvious is it that I dried my hands on the bottoms of my jeans? Will I look rude/weird if I get out my antibacterializer?

If I don’t eat these “appetizers”, am I going to hurt someone’s feelings? Can you call a bar full of cheese an appetizer? Literally, there’s queso, next to a plate full of cream cheese with cranberry sauce, two cheese balls, and a plate of sliced cheese. If I eat this, I won’t poop until Christmas.

Where do I sit? I like the chair that doesn’t require me to sit next to anyone else, but is there some unspoken familial claim to this chair? Am I in Uncle Buck’s Chair? Okay, I’ll sit on the couch by the arm and Jake can sit next to me. Why doesn’t he ever sit down? He’s been pacing for the last 30 minutes. I’m like 80% sure he’s forgotten I’m here. Wait. Is anyone else sitting down? Should I be standing? But… I don’t want to lose my couch corner.

Gift Giving

Zetus lapetus, y’all, I do not get gift giving. I’m 31 years old. I make $50,000 a year, in one of the cheapest states in the country. If I want something, I can buy it. If I can’t, no one else can, either. So what is the damn point of gift giving? Why do I have to spend $20 to buy a gift for someone that they might like, just so they can spend $20 to buy a gift for me that I, quite frankly, probably won’t like, and pretend that we’ve done some sort of charitable service, when both of us had $20 to spare in the first place? A couple of greedy, materialistic, little bitches trading twenties is, in no way, symbolic of the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. If anything, we should just all donate that $20 to give Christmas to a family down on their luck or buy toys for children with incarcerated parents or purchase a goat for a family in a third world country or literally any better cause. If I want to do those things, though, it has to be in addition to trading twenties, which just makes the holidays more costly and stressful. I can sort of understand close family trading gifts, knowing the recipients will enjoy them, but why, oh why do the women in my family draw names for each other’s children and trade advice on what to buy them, when they could just all spend money on their own children, whose interests and wants they already know?!?!

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Don’t even get me started on Dirty Santa, where I’m supposed to spend $40 on a gift for no one, so I can stress myself out by over-analyzing the social etiquette of stealing home decor from my mother-in-law or leave in frustration when I contribute a gift I kind of like and open a bowl of decorative wicker balls and a diabetic cookbook. If I refuse to play, I’m anti-social and if I bring a gift I’d truly enjoy, I’m the weird one who brought the Spock Bluetooth speaker to Christmas. If we must all leave with gifts, why can’t we each spend $40 on something for ourselves and open them in a big circle with genuine delight? I don’t understand.

Talking to Children

I’m a woman and a librarian, so it’s just assumed that I like children. I don’t. I don’t like babies. They’re fragile and they’re always leaking and it’s inevitable that they’ll start screaming like a newborn banshee and I won’t be able to find the mother. I don’t like little kids. I don’t have the patience or the sense of humor for them. Why are you still telling me this story that I think is about Spongebob? Why did you choose me to tell? Am I sending off pro-child vibes, because I work very hard to maintain subtle anti-child vibes. Why are you making that face? Was I not supposed to ask that? Fuck, don’t cry and get me in trouble.

Give me tweens and teens any day, but the holidays inevitably mean someone will leave me alone with a small child and I will make them cry or tell them something I shouldn’t. Someone will ask when I’m having children and I’ll either sputter through an awkward, but appropriate, answer or make a wildly inappropriate joke about how I can’t get pregnant the way we do it. The build up to the holidays does not necessarily mean associating with children, but the holidays themselves are crawling with them. Yes, yes, Jake and I are planning on having our own children soon, but that’s different, because it has to be or no one would procreate. I’ll figure out children when I must.

Talking to Adults

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I love my family. I do… but we do not get each other. I don’t mean that in some sort of coming of age drama way, either. We’re just very different people; or rather, they’re all the same people and I’m very different. My aunts, uncles, and cousins love body humor, the occasional racist joke, maybe something about killing a cat and I just don’t get it.

Jake: ::talking about our Christmas tree:: “When we get home, I’ll take it in the back.”
Me: ::giggling uncontrollably::

Jake jokes that I’m randomly an 8th grade boy sometimes, likely because I spend so much time with 8th grade boys, but the humor is all relatively innocent and is very rarely gross or cruel. I don’t understand why poop is funny and I understand even less why comparing our former president to a monkey is funny. I was genuinely horrified to hear my dad’s cousin giggle over the news story of the teenage boys who were arrested for sexually assaulting their teammate with a pool cue, last year, because apparently rape by instrumentation is funny if it’s done to a boy. Fortunately, my public school administrator uncle was just as appalled and I wasn’t the only one seemingly lacking a sense of humor. My humor is very dry and my family rarely even gets that I’m joking. When it’s not, it’s usually comprised of dorky and innocent puns, which they also don’t appreciate.

These people frequently tell me that they can’t have a conversation with me, because I’m too smart… which they think is a compliment. Conversationally, I’m just extremely intellectually curious. I like to theorize about the average age of parents who shake their babies, the effect of commonplace Photoshop on the children we’re “fixing” when they become adults, how technology is contributing to pornography addiction in teens and apparently, none of this is Christmas talk. I have one or two cousins who seemingly enjoy these discussions, but we’re not the norm. Even my fashion sense is completely off base. They’re Miranda Lambert to my Zooey Deschanel. They wear National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation t-shirts, while I bite my tongue about how much I hate that movie, in my giant hand-crocheted Christmas tree hat and my Meowy Christmas cat shirt. None of us is wrong. We just don’t really fit… and also, they’re wrong and that movie is stupid.

Jake’s family has been nothing but kind to me, but if I thought I don’t fit with my family, goodness I have no idea how to talk to those people. Last December 23rd, at his big family Christmas, Jake must have pulled me aside three different times to ask if I was okay, because I’d hardly said anything, but it was just so much people and we have nothing in common. I don’t have kids. I don’t understand the appeal of rodeo. I’ve never castrated a bull. I don’t want to look at the dead mountain lion in my brother-in-law’s truck. I don’t fry stuff. I am so not playing in the family Thanksgiving basketball game, because that sounds like literal Hell.I will get yelled at and have an asthma attack and/or break a bone.What the fuck am I supposed to say to these people?!?! Trust me, baby, you want me to keep my mouth shut this year, because if pressed, I will randomly start talking about the lack of  diversity in the Harry Potter books or why marijuana is not a gateway drug and the benefits of legalization. Just let me be a mystery, dude. Jake, of course, being the most extroverted person on the planet, fits in everywhere.

Me: “I wish I fit in with your family as well as you fit in with my family… actually I wish I fit in with my family and much as you fit in with my family.”

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Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus

I have always hated Elf on the Shelf. At best, it was a brilliant marketing ploy, by its creator, who has sold over 11 million book and doll sets, which doesn’t even account for the new line of accessories.* For most people, however, it’s a slightly creepy self-imposed chore of a tradition, which many parents regret ever starting. I knew, when it became popular, that I wouldn’t be purchasing an Elf for my own children. I’m even more certain of that fact 13 years later, as I watch my family and friends scramble around to perform for their children nightly, for the duration of a season that’s supposed to already be plenty magical by nature. Speaking of which…

I used to be one of the masses, the people who thought parents who didn’t play Santa were ridiculous and depriving their children of the magic of Christmas, but as time has gone by, I don’t really understand why we do this. If you’re a religious person, as I am, then why do you need to add magic to the season with a cartoon character? Yes, yes, Saint Nicholas was a real guy, but the modern depiction of Santa Claus no more resembles Saint Nicholas than Disney’s Pocahontas does the historical woman. We’re not honoring a Saint, anymore… and quite frankly, Protestants never were, because they don’t acknowledge sainthood. We’re revering a caricature, who often overshadows the true Christian value of the season, ironically through the very un-Christ-like means of greed and materialism. If you’re specifically nonreligious, shouldn’t you be opposed to such fairy tales? Isn’t that one of the primary principles of Atheism, that one shouldn’t have faith in what cannot be seen or proven? Doesn’t the modern Santa Claus directly defy both of these belief systems? Isn’t this entirely appropriate conversation for Christmas dinner?!?! Can I please just go home and only talk to my husband and my pets now?!?!

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Sources
https://www.today.com/series/holidays-made-easy/elf-shelf-turns-10-secret-history-santa-s-little-scout-t62531

Holiday Social Contracts: Landmines for the Socially Awkward

Jake: “What do you wanna watch?”
Me: “We could watch Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.”
Jake: “I thought we were done with Christmas movies.”
Me: “That’s not a Christmas movie. It’s a New Years movie… and in seven months, we can watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.”

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Y’all, I love the holidays. I don’t mean that the way normal people do, either. I mean aggressively so. I love the decorations, the music, the holiday movies and episodes of my favorite TV shows. I watch and sing along to The Worst Witch and Hocus Pocus on repeat, starting in late August. I love the garishly themed jewelry and t-shirts and hats that are suddenly acceptable on October first, but I pull them out in mid-September, regardless.

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One of the major concessions of my marriage involved selling my six foot tall hot pink Christmas tree and decor that looked like it was stolen from the set of Babes in Toyland. No one will ever convince me that red and green M&M’s and Reese’s Bells don’t taste better. I love the holidays so much, that I’ve been a little depressed for the last two weeks, because the season was almost over.

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I will, however, admit that there is one aspect of the holiday season I loathe entirely… 

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… and that is the minefield of social contracts.

In my field, anyone who doesn’t consider themselves to be entirely crippled by their own introversion, is labeled an extrovert. This somewhat skewed view means that many of my coworkers consider me to be quite the social butterfly, due to my comfort level socializing with all eleven of them. They’re not entirely wrong, either. I quite enjoy my job. I spend each day with the same handful of people, whose personal stories and worldviews and interests I’ve come to know and respect. I have numerous casual interactions with customers that rarely go deeper than a reader’s advisory discussion on the abusive relationship dynamics present in Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I see the same teenagers at each program, where we discuss who would win in a battle, Doctor Who or The Hulk. Overall, as someone who always scores on the cusp of extroversion and/or introversion, I get exactly the right amount of stimulation in my position… now.

When I first started at the Cherokee Library, I was completely overwhelmed, socially. I didn’t know my coworkers’ backgrounds, religious views, entertainment interests, political affiliations, or tastes in music. If I mentioned my desire to buy a house near the local Catholic school, so I could send my kids there, would I appear judgemental to the nonbeliever? If I told my coworkers I couldn’t handle the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, because of their political hostility, would they shun me for my less liberal viewpoint? If I casually suggested that Taylor Swift lacked depth, would I devastate her biggest fan by inadvertently calling him shallow? Every night, I went home and turned over literally every interaction in my mind, wondering if I’d said the right thing, left the correct impression, presented myself accurately. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be well liked, but properly understood. It was fine with me if someone didn’t like me, as long as they didn’t like me for reasons that were valid. While taking on the new title of Teen Librarian was daunting, the social implications of starting at a new library again, left me emotionally spent. It’s been five months now and I’m only beginning to relax, to feel like I belong. In short… extrovert my ass.

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So, while I love, love, love the holidays, I think I’ve finally realized that what I truly enjoy is the build up. I love sitting at home, reciting every word to Hocus Pocus, with the cat. I love watching Thanksgiving episodes of How I Met Your Mother, on my tablet, while Jake plays video games. I love listening to Christmas carols on the Google Home, while making peanut brittle in my kitchen. I love showing pictures of my Christmas stockings to my coworkers, and oohing and ahhing over photos of their pets in reindeer antlers. I love driving through Christmas lights with my husband. What I really love is sprinkling the everyday, homebody familiar, with bright colors and lights and glitter and festivity. The grand finale, though? That stresses me the fuck out, primarily due to the aforementioned endless mandatory social contracts, such as…

Bringing a Dish

On December 22, I burst into tears when my three-ingredient peanut butter cookies tasted exactly like three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, and angrily tossed them in the trash.

Jake: “They’re fine. Why don’t you just make another batch and cook them less?”
Me: “Because they aren’t good and all the women in your family will be judging me on what I bring. If I take those after taking Oreo balls to Thanksgiving, they’ll all think I can’t cook.”
Jake: “What was wrong with the Oreo balls?”
Me: “They were a no-bake dessert. They’ll think I’m a just a Pinterest cook and they’ll all hate me, because I can’t make cookies!”

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Of course, in the end, there were plenty of desserts, too many in fact, which I knew would be the case, but social norms required I bring something.

Being in Someone Else’s Home

Why do I have to offer to help my mother-in-law in the kitchen, when we both know there’s nothing for me to do and little space in which for me to do it? Why does she have to stop what she’s doing to pretend I’m useful and let me spoon butter she’s already melted onto biscuits she’s already made? 

Why is there only bar soap in the bathroom? How many people have used this hand towel? How obvious is it that I dried my hands on the bottoms of my jeans? Will I look rude if I get out my antibacterializer?

If I don’t eat these “appetizers”, am I going to hurt someone’s feelings? Can you call a bar full of cheese an appetizer? Literally, I see queso, next to a plate full of cream cheese with cranberry sauce, two cheese balls, and a plate of sliced cheese. If I eat this, I’ll die.

Where do I sit? I like the chair that doesn’t require me to sit next to anyone else, but is there some unspoken familial claim to this chair? Am I in Uncle Buck’s Chair? Okay, I’ll sit on the couch by the arm and Jake can sit next to me. Why doesn’t he ever sit down? He’s been pacing for the last 30 minutes. Wait. Is anyone else sitting down? Should I be standing? But… I don’t want to lose my couch corner.

Gift Giving

Zetus lapetus, y’all, I do not get gift giving. I’m 30 years old. I make $50,000 a year, in one of the cheapest states in the country. If I want something, I can buy it. If I can’t, no one else can, either. So what is the damn point of gift giving? Why do I have to spend $20 to buy a gift for someone that they might like, just so they can spend $20 to buy a gift for me that I, quite frankly, probably won’t like, and pretend that we’ve done some sort of charitable service, when both of us had $20 to spare in the first place? A couple of greedy, materialistic, little bitches trading twenties is, in no way, symbolic of the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. If anything, we should just all donate that $20 to give Christmas to a family down on their luck or buy toys for children with incarcerated parents or purchase a goat for a family in a third world country or literally any better cause. I can sort of understand close family trading gifts, knowing the recipients will enjoy them, but why, oh why do the women in my family draw names for each other’s children, when they could just all spend money on their own children, whose interests and wants they already know?!?!

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Don’t even get me started on Dirty Santa, where I’m supposed to spend $40 on a gift for no one, so I can stress myself out by over-analyzing the social etiquette of stealing home decor from my mother-in-law or leave in frustration when I contribute a gift I kind of like and open a bowl of decorative wicker balls and a diabetic cookbook. If I refuse to play, I’m anti-social and if I bring a gift I’d truly enjoy, I’m the weird one who brought the Spock Bluetooth speaker. If we must all leave with gifts, why can’t we each spend $40 on something for ourselves and open them in a big circle with genuine delight? I don’t understand.

Talking to Children

I’m a woman and a librarian, so it’s just assumed that I like children. I don’t. I don’t like babies. They’re fragile and they’re always leaking and it’s inevitable that they’ll start screaming like a newborn banshee and I won’t be able to find the mother. I don’t like little kids. I don’t have the patience or the sense of humor for them. Why are you still telling me this story that I think is about Spongebob? Why did you choose me to tell? Am I sending off pro-child vibes, because I work very hard to maintain subtle anti-child vibes. Why are you making that face? Was I not supposed to ask that? Fuck, don’t cry and get me in trouble.

Give me tweens and teens any day, but the holidays inevitably mean someone will leave me alone with a small child and I will make them cry or tell them something I shouldn’t have. I’ll refuse to hold someone’s baby and call it “it”. Someone will ask when I’m having children and I’ll either sputter through an awkward, but appropriate, answer or make a wildly inappropriate joke about how I can’t get pregnant the way we do it. The build up to the holidays does not necessarily mean associating with children, but the holidays themselves are crawling with them.

Talking to Adults

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I love my family. I do… but we do not get each other. I don’t mean that in some sort of coming of age drama way, either. We’re just very different people; or rather, they’re all the same people and I’m very different. My aunts, uncles, and cousins love body humor, the occasional racist joke, maybe something about killing a cat and I just don’t get it.

Jake: ::talking about our Christmas tree:: “When we get home, I’ll take it in the back.”
Me: ::giggling uncontrollably::

Jake jokes that I’m randomly an 8th grade boy sometimes, likely because I spend so much time with 8th grade boys, but the humor is all relatively innocent and is very rarely gross or cruel. I don’t understand why poop is funny and I understand even less why comparing our former president to a monkey is funny. I was genuinely horrified to hear my dad’s cousin giggle over the news story of the teenage boys who were just arrested for sexually assaulting their teammate with a pool cue, because apparently rape by instrumentation is funny if it’s done to a boy. Fortunately, my public school administrator uncle was just as appalled and I wasn’t the only one seemingly lacking a sense of humor. My humor is very dry and my family rarely even gets that I’m joking. When it’s not, it’s usually comprised of dorky and innocent puns.

Conversationally, I’m extremely intellectually curious. I like to theorize about the average age of parents who shake their babies, the effect of commonplace Photoshop on the children we’re “fixing” when they become adults, how technology is contributing to pornography addiction in teens and apparently, none of this is Christmas talk. I have one or two cousins who seemingly enjoy these discussions, but we’re not the norm. Even my fashion sense is completely off base. They’re Miranda Lambert to my Zooey Deschanel. They wear National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation t-shirts, while I bite my tongue about how much I hate that movie, in my giant hand-crocheted Christmas tree hat and my Meowy Christmas cat shirt. None of us is wrong. We just don’t really fit.

Jake’s family has been nothing but kind to me, but if I thought I don’t fit with my family, goodness I have no idea how to talk to those people. On the 23rd, at his big family Christmas, he must have pulled me aside three different times to ask if I was okay, because I’d hardly said anything, but it was just so much people and we have nothing in common. I don’t have kids. I don’t understand the appeal of rodeo. I’ve never castrated a bull. I don’t want to look at the dead mountain lion in my brother-in-law’s truck. I don’t fry stuff. What the fuck am I supposed to say?!?! Trust me, baby, you want me to keep my mouth shut, because if pressed, I will randomly start talking about the presence of second wave feminism in the Harry Potter books or why marijuana is not a gateway drug and the benefits of legalization. Just let me be a mystery, dude. Jake, of course, being the most extroverted person on the planet, fits in everywhere.

Me: “I wish I fit in with your family as well as you fit in with my family… actually I wish I fit in with my family and much as you fit in with my family.”

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Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus

I have always hated Elf on the Shelf. At best, it was a brilliant marketing ploy, by its creator, who has sold over 11 million copies.* For most people, however, it’s a slightly creepy self-imposed chore of a tradition, which many parents regret ever starting. I knew, when it became popular, that I wouldn’t be purchasing an Elf for my own children. I’m even more certain of that fact 12 years later, as I watch my family and friends scramble around to perform for their children nightly, for the duration of a season that’s supposed to already be plenty magical by nature. Speaking of which…

I used to be one of the masses, the people who thought parents who didn’t play Santa were ridiculous and depriving their children of the magic of Christmas, but as time has gone by, I don’t really understand why we do this; though I do know that I’ve already lost this battle and Jake will insist. If you’re a religious person, though, as I am, then why do you need to add magic to the season with a cartoon character? Yes, yes, Saint Nicholas was a real guy, but the modern depiction of Santa Claus no more resembles Saint Nicholas than Disney’s Pocahontas does the historical woman. We’re not honoring a Saint, anymore. We’re revering a caricature, who often overshadows the true Christian value of the season, ironically through the very un-Christ-like means of greed and materialism. If you’re specifically nonreligious, shouldn’t you be opposed to such fairy tales? Isn’t that one of the primary principles of Atheism, that one shouldn’t have faith in what cannot be seen or proven? Doesn’t the modern Santa Claus directly defy both of these belief systems? Isn’t this entirely appropriate conversation for Christmas dinner?!?! Can I please just go home and only talk to my husband now?!?!

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Sources
https://www.today.com/series/holidays-made-easy/elf-shelf-turns-10-secret-history-santa-s-little-scout-t62531

It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus: In Defense of the Villains

In honor of Halloween. Originally posted October 29, 2013.

A few weeks ago, I was telling Gail about my Game of Thrones marathon. I tried to explain that, no matter how drawn out the storyline was, it was entirely worth it to keep up with the Khaleesi.

Gail: “Okay. Wait. Are you sure she’s the heroine? Because, you really don’t have the best track record with that.”
Me: “Hey. Like 14 people liked my Facebook status defending the witch against Hansel and Gretel. Those little shits vandalized her house. She was the victim, damn it!”
Gail: ::silence::
Me: “.. but, no. Everyone else thinks the Khaleesi is the heroine, too. Even the people who can’t see that Cruella de Vil was doing her part to curb over-breeding.”

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She’s practically an activist.

So, it came as no surprise to Gail that, for my next blog post, I was going to make my case for the Sanderson sisters… particularly since I’ve watched Hocus Pocus nine times this month and have been quoting it on Facebook daily. Actually. Best thing about living alone: the dog doesn’t care that I can (and do) recite that movie as it plays. Now, just to clarify, my argument isn’t so much that the Sanderson sisters were innocent and/or wronged. It’s more that their actions were justified. The kids in the movie deserved to have their souls sucked dry. Happy Halloween, y’all.

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We all know the story. In 1693, the Sanderson sisters were tried and convicted of witchcraft, after punishing some young trespassers. Perhaps the girl was lured into the yard; perhaps not. We never got to hear the details of the case, over the sounds of angry townspeople. We do, however, know that Thackery Binx was was doomed to live forever as a cat. Wait. Doomed? Being an immortal cat would be fucking awesome!

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Regardless, the witches cast one last spell, just before they were hanged.

Three hundred years later, in not-so-modern-day Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison and his “laid-back, California, tie-dyed point-of-view” have relocated with parents and little sister Dani. Though he lives in the aparent Halloween capitol of the United States, Max isn’t buying into this whole “Sanderson sisters” bit. His enthusiasm for his new school and town is further lessened, by the bullies who steal his shoes.

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His name ain’t Ernie no more.

Disgruntled and frustrated, Max goes home in socks, only to flop on the bed and masturbate to the thought of Allison, the pretty girl in class, who totally shot him down. Fortunately, little sister Dani leaps from the closet before Max unzips, demanding to be taken trick-or-treating. Max puts up a fight, declaring that she’s eight and can go by herself.

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Ultimately, Max ends up escorting his little sister, leading them to a luxurious house, owners unknown. Finally, we begin to see the true character of these little delinquents as they knock on the door of this stranger’s home, and upon receiving no answer, stroll right on in. Alright Dani, I’ll forgive you for this. You’re eight. There’s candy involved… but what the fuck Max?!?! You’re 16/17 years old! You’re on your way to a fucking B&E!

Fortunately for Max and Dani, this just happens to be the home of Max’s mastubatory heroine, the one and only Allison… and she is simply delighted that the boy she turned down earlier in the day is standing in her foyer uninvited and stealing candy. At this point, Dani embarrasses Max by declaring that he loves Allison’s “yabbos.” Rather than asking her obvious stalker to leave, the teenage model in a $200 Halloween costume laughs at the fact that the rude and awkward new kid has been talking to his kid sister about her tits.

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Allison seems taken with Dani and tells her that her mother used to run the museum dedicated to the Sanderson sisters. Max immediately suggests they break in.

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I told you he was on his way to a B&E. Despite the protests of both Dani and Allison, the three criminals soon find themselves in the old Sanderson house… setting shit on fire.

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Okay, I get that this was just a candle with a mystical warning, but this place is a damned tinder box. Look at it! It’s made of 300 year old wood! It’s best not to start fires, y’all. Also, why the hell is all this stuff still here? Doesn’t someone own the merchandise? I mean, maybe they can’t just sell the Occult shit to tourists, but the lighters and the candy? If this place was so haunted that the workers had to just desert everything inside, I’m pretty sure Satan’s Damned Candle isn’t just sitting around with an “I dare you” sign on a box of matches. Just sayin’.

Max reads the inscription and Dani does not ask what a virgin is. I’m sorry, but this is the one thing that I just don’t buy. I’ll allow for the suspension of disbelief for everything else, but as much as I adore this movie, Dani was eight. They just said so! It was 1993 and her parents scolded Max for saying “sucked.” There is no way she knew what a virgin was. Anyway… just as Max lights the Black Flame Candle, the electric lights burst and… wait, wait, wait. If someone’s paying the electric bill, surely this place is better guarded than this!

Ahem…

Green lights flash as the witches strut in and marvel over who lit the Black Flame candle. Upon discovery of the children… wait. Hold it. In 1693, a boy Max’s age was considered a man. He likely had a wife and kids. What, exactly, are the parameters for “child?” Anyway… apparently Max and Allison both qualify as children, because the Sanderson sisters want to eat them as well. I’m a little confused as to whether or not they were, indeed, cannibals and feel Disney has done me a great disservice by not clarifying. Case in point: “Let’s barbecue and filet him.” – Mary

In an effort to flee, Max sets off the sprinkler system, insisting it is “the burning rain of death.” Okay, so at this point, this kid has not only broken into two houses and risked burning the latter to the ground, but now he’s flooded it? Three hundred year old wood is going to be seriously damaged by that much water! Eat him Winifred. Eat him and scratch your back with his spinal column, for destroying your home. Before Max can escape, Binx the cat leaps onto his chest, calls him a fucktard, and instructs him to steal the sisters’ spell book

1. Breaking and entering… twice
2. Lighting the Black Flame Candle
3. Flooding the house
4. Stealing the priceless Occult artifacts

How is Max the protagonist? Why is Max the protagonist? He asked for all of this.

Sidenote: Did anyone try to blow the Black Flame Candle out? I mean, it’s at least worth a go, you know?

After robbing a museum, the derelicts and cat seek refuge in a cemetery… after dark. That’s right. The cemetery was closed.

5. Breaking into a cemetery

In contrast, the Sanderson sisters did not break in. They just hovered over the ground for awhile. Eventually, events lead the witches, desperately trying to reclaim their rightful property, to a neighborhood filled with trick-or-treaters. In the meantime, Max leads Binx into the street, with no idea that he’s immortal, ultimately getting the cat run over. Even if he doesn’t die, we know it hurts, because he complained of pain later, when he was held over an open flame.

6. Killing/inflicting immense pain upon Binx

As the witches seek out children, the main ingredient in the potion that will allow them to live forever, they come upon a creepy old man dressed as Satan and think he’s the real deal. They figure their “master” can help them reclaim their book. Let’s just hope it’s not like the books get back, covered in urine. Who knows, though. Max clearly has no regard for anyone else’s property. The Sanderson sisters consult with Fake Satan, while Max and company try to convince a cop (psych) and eventually his own parents that they’re in danger. The sisters realize they’re mistaken about their master and leave to find that their brooms have been stolen by three children dressed as our “villains.”

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What?!?! 

Who the hell just steals a bunch of brooms that clearly belong to someone?!?! No wonder the Sanderson sisters want to kill children! It’s not like they’ve had any pleasant experiences with them!

The witches chase the “protagonists” to a town party, where Max has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his parents that he’s being stalked by the supernatural. No shit. Really? After the sisters put on a lovely performance, encouraging overweight Americans to get some exercise with “dance until you die!”, the children hatch a plan to burn the witches in the school kiln… in the middle of the night.

7. Breaking into a government building in the middle of the night
8. Operating highly volatile and expensive equipment with no experience
9. Burning school property in the form of a boombox used as bait

The witches burn as the children cheer… sadistic little shits. But, wait! They’re not really dead. Binx is fully aware that this may be the case, instructing them not to open the Sanderson sisters’ spell book. Allison, however, is enjoying her bad boy phase and declares “What harm could it do?”

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For realz, yo?!?! It’s made of human skin and has a working eye. What the hell kind of harm do you think it can do?!?!

While Max was making out with Allison, the Sanderson sisters acquired some more children…

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Seriously. What is a child? On what are they basing this?

… and are currently waiting for death, when they look out the window and see the beacon sent out by the book. You know what? I’ve about decided that this is just the story of a woman desperately fighting censorship. We’ve got another activist here.

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Belatedly, Binx the cat tells the kids that “nothing good can come from this book”… because it is made of human skin. Seriously. These kids fucking asked for it. There’s a final showdown in the cemetery…

10. Breaking into the cemetery again

… and sadly, Max survives, though Winifred had him in her clutches.

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Not only does Max survive, but the Sanderson sisters perish. The worst part? The only intelligent and good being in the entire movie is officially killed. That’s right. Binx the Immortal Talking Cat is turned back into a stupid boyWhat the fuck, Disney? First you take the awesome talking furniture in Beauty and the Beast and turn it into boring ol’ people and then you kill Binx the Immortal Talking Cat?!?!?

The movie ends on this tragic note, but we see in the sequel that Max and Dani got theirs for leaving the bullies to slowly starve to death in cages. Though it’s never addressed in Hocus Pocus, the brief soul sucking leads to Max’s eventual demise. His parents no longer mention his name, their marriage crumbles, and Dani grows up to seek refuge from that tragic night, through the comfort of the deeply disturbed neighbor boy in…

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2016 Was NOT the Worst Year Ever

With only two more days left in 2016, ’tis the season for everyone to bitch about how awful this year has been… and I do mean everyone. Whether you bought your first home, got your dream job, or finally conceived a child after struggling with infertility for years, social media dictates that you must spend the next two days wailing about the cruelty of 2016, usually in conjunction with the death of a long forgotten celebrity.

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I, however, love New Year’s. Like birthdays, New Year’s provides an opportunity for reflection… which is basically receiving a grade, and that’s my favorite.

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A year ago, I had been dating Jake for six months, was excitedly preparing for my first day as a supervisory librarian at the Northside Library and dreaming of getting a cat after  I moved from Shetland to be closer to work. I was struggling financially, having worked as a half time librarian while substitute teaching for so long, and was still relying on the health insurance that is prayer. I was excited about all the major life changes that would come in 2016… and change things did. While I’m not so heartbroken by the death of Debbie Reynolds and Prince as to lament of the despair of this past year, I will admit that the amount of change has been a bit… overwhelming.

It all started with my new job and its surprise levels of management. As I adjusted to the demands of full time supervisory work in a new library with new people, Jake worked two weeks on and two weeks off… and then two weeks on and one week off. We made the best of the time we had together, going skiing and seeing movies… growing closer and beginning to discuss marriage. When I realized moving wouldn’t be worth the time it would save, my commute increased to about 35 minutes each way… but I still got my kitten. Thackery Binx weighed a half pound the day he joined the family and he has brought nothing but joy. Jude loves the company of his brother and even Jake likes him. Though he won’t openly admit it, I’m pretty sure he wants several more.

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By fall, I’d decided to step down from management and Jake had agreed to quit oil. I never saw him. He’d been demoted and his pay had been cut numerous times. I wasn’t game for being the oil wife, enjoying manicures and designer handbags to take her mind off the fact that she’s mostly alone. So, as the holidays neared, I chased a new dream and worked to control my nerves over Jake’s unemployment, reminding myself that he’s hard working and good and not my ex-husband who refused to hold a job for four years. In the meantime, Jake spent his weekdays on the Granger Ranch, working cattle for $100 a day and I spent mine crying in my office over how much I hated my job… simultaneously counting the days until the weekend, when I could see Jake again.

Despite all this upheaval, on November 20th, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Jake asked me to marry him, just days after I’d accepted a voluntary demotion and transfer to the Jackson Library. We could’ve waited until Jake had the perfect position and we’d relocated to Jackson, but why waste time, when we could move forward with our lives? We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving and Christmas together, since we refused to join our holidays until we were committed.

For me, this was my last Single Girl Christmas. I’ll say goodbye to my pink tree and purple glitter bulbs forever, when I put all my décor away in a few short hours. It’ll be the first of many bittersweet goodbyes as I bind my life to Jake’s on May 6, 2017. I’ll leave my little apartment, the first place I ever felt truly safe as an adult… my hometown of Shetland, where I spent my teenage nights driving around with Gaily… my maiden name and my identity as Just Belle… the time in my life where the only decisions that effected me were my own. While 2016 has been a year of change, 2017 will put it to shame as I become Belle Granger, wife of Jake, and resident of Jackson. I’ll celebrate my 30th birthday, and happily so, having accomplished nearly everything I’d planned by such a big date.

So for me, 2016 was a stepping stone to all the great things 2017 will bring… and I am so excited.

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Why My Boyfriend Will Never Be at Christmas

The holidays are my very favorite time of year. Jake enjoys them, too, though not with quite the overwhelming enthusiasm that I do.

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I’m insufferable during the last four months of the year and I know it. My text tone has been sleigh bells since mid-November, when I put up my hot pink tree and started playing Christmas movies around the clock. Every time I saw Jake, I talked him into watching at least one Christmas movie, and he did so in good spirits, even when said movie was Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. We did our holiday shopping together and Jake even waited in the obscenely long line to drive through the Springfield Christmas lights, just for me, despite having been awake for over 24 hours for work. He even did the walk-through portion. We traded gifts and had our own little celebration, after Jake made a trip to the mall the weekend before Christmas, just to get my present. Despite all of this mutual cheer, however, neither of us attended the other’s family festivities… and we spent the entire holiday season defending that choice.

Mrs. Granger: “We’re doing Christmas the 23rd. Is Belle coming?”
Jake: “That’s actually when her family is doing their thing.”
Mrs. Granger: “Is that going to be a problem?”
Jake: “What? No. We’re not married. Neither one of us is going to miss Christmas for the other.”

Dad: “Well, maybe if you guys had been dating longer…”
Me: “No. There is no period of time that we could date, when I would be willing to miss my family Christmas for him, nor would I expect him to do so for me.”

Cousin Delia: “You do have to bring him around eventually.
Me: “Sure, but we’re not married. I’m not asking him to miss Christmas for me. Would you guys be okay with me ditching our Christmas for him?”

Jake’s Family: “So, where’s The Librarian?”
Jake: “Well, first off, she has a name. Second, she also has her own family, that she wants to spend Christmas with.”

Why is this such a foreign concept?!?! Why must it be the case that Jake and I aren’t serious enough if we’re not willing to split our holidays?

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My whole family knows that, not only does Jake work one week on and one week off, but his family lives well out of town, with his parents actually living in another state. Had my family done one of their smaller Christmas parties on the 20th, he’d have gladly come, but since they did it the same day as his family, it wasn’t an option.

Laura: “Well, we used to spend less time at each and do both.”
Me: “No. That’s for married people.”

That, right there, pretty much sums up my and Jake’s views on the entire issue. I recently followed a link on Facebook, leading to an article dictating what not to say to newlyweds, because Guides to Not Offending Me were to 2015, what doomsday prepping was to 2012. One of the numerous reasons to sit in awkward silence with the Just Married was to avoid asking “Do you feel any different?” The article went on to elaborate that for most people, there’s really not much difference between their dating life and their married life.

giphy1

Now, I’m not knocking the decisions of other people. On the contrary, my entire point is one of “to each their own.” If my 15-year-old cousin gets to bring her boyfriend to the family Christmas party without hearing complaints of how she’s ruining our photos with that random kid who won’t be around in five years, or concerns about why he’s not with his family, though, then why can’t I come solo without insinuations that Jake and I must not be that serious?

I love Jake and he loves me. We’re actually planning to go away for a weekend together, to attend an engagement party, so I can meet every friend he’s ever had. We also acknowledge, however, that there are perks to dating, over marriage. One of those perks is not having to divide Christmas family time. If things keep going well, then the day will come when we do have to choose a Christmas day destination. We may be able to schedule my individual grandmothers’ parties around some of Jake’s family gatherings (something completely unreasonable if we’re not married, I might add), but on December 25, we will not be able to attend two different gatherings, in two different states.

As much as I love Jake, I’m really not looking forward to hiding tears over missing my own family’s giant Christmas gathering, for the first time in over ten years. We rent out the church gym for our crazy Catholic soiree. The kids usually put on a talent show and we play Dirty Santa and board games and eat until we all want to die. Sometimes, a few of us even go to a movie afterward. It’s a blast… and one that I’ll likely have to sacrifice, in the near future, on rotating years. Jake feels the same loving nostalgia for his own family get together and dreads missing it just as much. So why would we voluntarily sign up to do this a year or two earlier than absolutely necessary? To make a statement about our level of commitment to one another? Really? That’s worth missing Christmas? 

ralphie-parker-shock-face-a-christmas-story

Quite frankly, the same goes for living together before marriage. Jake and I have discussed it and it’s not going to happen. One of the joys of being in a serious relationship, that is not marriage, is continuing to live alone. If we marry, eventually, we will have to give that up and say goodbye to midnight CW Netflix marathons/Fallout 4 binges, at least on the scale we enjoy them now. I’ll have to start folding clothes and Jake will have to own furniture. I won’t get to have a pink Christmas tree anymore and Jake will have to deal with me decorating his hunting trophies. Why do that for any reason other than marriage, though? Ideally, we don’t get to go back, to be alone again. Why shouldn’t we enjoy the perks now, instead of playing marriage without any of the actual lifelong commitment? I don’t condemn those who do it. Gail and Terry have lived together for more than three years, scheduling hobbies and holidays around one another, and they’re happy. I’m happy for them. It just doesn’t appeal to me, and that’s okay too. One day, Jake and I might decide to join our lives, trading in all of the aforementioned for the joys of being husband and wife. In the meantime, though…my boyfriend won’t be at my Christmas and his girlfriend won’t be at his.

not-going

The Sociological Horror that is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know I adore a good over-analysis and that extends to my favorite classical Christmas movies, including Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

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There have been numerous depictions of Santa Claus in the media. He was anti-establishment in the stop action film, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He was absent-minded in Elf (how do you not realize there’s a human child in your toy bag?) He was on acid in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. He was terrifying in A Christmas Story…

… and he was a douche bag in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

The movie opens with newborn Rudolph residing comfortably in a cave with Donner and “Mrs. Donner,” because female characters don’t warrant their own damned names. It quickly becomes obvious that Rudolph is horribly disfigured, when his nose starts to glow.

Mrs. Donner: “Well, we’ll simply have to overlook it.”
Mr. Donner: “Now, how can you overlook that?”
Santa: “Great bouncing icebergs!”
Donner: “Now, I’m sure it’ll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa.”
Santa: “Well, let’s hope so, if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.”

No one mentions the real concern here, and that’s that Rudolph’s nose makes a high-pitched whining noise. Seriously, light up all you want, but stop that. I suppose it doesn’t matter, though, because Santa’s made it pretty clear what his sleigh team values most: conformity.

We even see the universality of this concept, when Hermey the Elf tells his boss that he doesn’t enjoy his job.

Hermey: “I just don’t like to make toys.”
Boss Elf: “Oh, well, if that’s all… what?!?!?! You don’t like to make toys?!?!.. HERMEY DOESN’T LIKE TO MAKE TOYS!”
::Immediately, all of the elves start to whisper about the Freak Elf (not a direct quote)::
Boss Elf: “Do you mind telling me what you do want to do?”
Hermey: “Well, sir, some day, I’d like to be a… a dentist.”
Boss Elf: “A dentist?!?! Now, listen you! You’re an elf… and elves make toys. Now, get to work! 10 minute break! Not for you! Finish the job or you’re fired!”

Okay, dude, first off, you asked what he’d prefer to do. Second, he just told you he hates his job and doesn’t want to do it anymore and you responded by taking away his break and threatening to fire him, though you clearly want him to stay? Also, what kind of regime is this? Elves are born and die in their station as factory workers? They’re shamed for wanting to pursue higher education? Fortunately for him, Hermey grows a pair and decides that he can’t be fired, because he quits.

Meanwhile, Donner makes Rudolph cover his disfigurement with a fake black nose that makes him sound like he has a sinus infection. When Rudolph complains about the discomfort, we get this parenting gem:

Donner: “There are more important things than comfort: self-respect! Santa can’t object to you now!”

So, like a closeted, homsexual, country boy, Rudolph dons his fake nose to make his dad happy, and as long as he’s doing so, Donner is proud.

We return to the elves, as they practice their Christmas song for Santa. As far as we’re told, this isn’t really for any kind of event. They’re just singing Santa a song to make him happy. He accepts this gift with the poise of a mom stomping on her child’s macaroni necklace.

Santa: “Hmmm… well, it needs work. I have to go.”
Mrs. Claus: “What does Papa know? It’s beautiful. You keep it just the way it was.” 

See. Even Mrs. Claus is like…

Geez. No wonder my parents’ generation came up with the participation trophy.

Ultimately, both Hermey and Rudolph are shamed into leaving Christmastown, but not before Rudolph’s crush, Clarice, is told by her father

“You get back to your cave this instant! … Now, there’s one thing I want to make very plain. No doe of mine is going to be seen with a… a red nosed reindeer!”

Off they go, and in their travels, Rudolph and Hermey team up with Yukon Cornelius, prospector of silver and gold, narrowly escaping The Abominable Snow Monster of the North, Bumble. Bumble is apparently very dangerous, though he never actually harms anyone. Rudolph’s parents, however, are still quite worried about him. When Donner heads out to find the bane of his existence, Mrs. Donner wants to go as well, but Donner insists on leaving her behind.

Donner: “No. This. Is. Man’s. Work.”

Regardless, Mrs. Donner sets off to search, taking Clarice along with her, also known as kidnapping. Seriously, she’s a child and you’re taking her out, alone, into the arctic? No wonder the men belittle the women in this story.

Rudolph and Company find The Island of Misfit Toys, where everyone different has been banished. No seriously. The lion with wings, King Moonracer, gathers them from around the world and keeps them on the island, until they find homes. It’s never explained how they’re supposed to go about that while confined to a deserted island, though. Read: banishment. The truly confusing part, is that most of these toys’ problems are easily remedied. The water pistol that shoots jelly could be filled with water. The Charlie in the Box could start going by Jack. Also, who made these loser toys? Was it Hermey? I’m betting it was Hermey, either falling down on the job while daydreaming of incisors, or fullfilling some kind of God complex, while he created an inferior species.


Is that… other toys they’re burning?

Sadly, Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon are denied safe haven on The Island of Misfit Toys, seeing as how they aren’t toys. King Moonracer still has the gall to ask for a favor, though. Rudolph is to plead the case of the banished toys to Santa, in the hopes that he’ll find them homes. They’ve already tried to find homes, so I’m guessing they’ll end up in some kind of orphanage. The elves, of course, could replace the square wheels with round ones or repaint the polka-dotted elephant, but that was apparently too difficult in the first place… Hermey.

When Rudolph returns to Christmastown, his parents and Clarice are still out looking for him. He’s now an adult reindeer. It’s been at least a year since he left, as it takes a male reindeer about that long to reach sexual maturity.* Clarice knew that boy for about 11 minutes and she’s been searching for him for over a year. That’s what I call commitment. Lucky for her, Rudolph returns this sentiment by heading out to search for the search party, where he’s held hostage by Bumble, who honestly, is only seen petting Clarice. No one’s been harmed, until Rudolph attacks Bumble and he clubs him. That, right there folks, is self-defense. Naturally, in response, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius set a trap to knock Bumble unconscious.

Okay, so I get that Yukon is supposed to have some sort of history with Bumble. He’s apparently very dangerous and that petting would have turned vicious… eventually. Here’s where it gets intensely disturbing, though. After Bumble is knocked unconscious, Hermey and his God complex pull out all of his teeth. What the fucking fuck?!?! That’s like half of the procedure used in Human Centipedealso by a man with a God complex!!!

hermey
Hermey. So I had a little free time? That doesn’t make me “creepy.”

After Yukon pushes Bumble off a cliff, “they realized that the best thing to do, was to get the women back to Christmastown.”

We all know the ending, of course. Rudolph and pals make it home. Santa finally realizes that the exact same idiosyncrasy, for which he shamed a child all along, can be exploited for use as a fog light in an epic storm… because the elves can’t make a fog light? Then again, I suppose if the task fell to Hermey, it would be a fog light that doesn’t light up, so he can feel better about going against The Regime’s demands of him, when he’s finally allowed to become Christmastown’s dentist. Seriously? The guy has no training beyond his experiments with animals. That’s like making the town butcher your new gynecologist. Speaking of animals, abominable snow monsters bounce, so Bumble is given a job… to put the star on the tree. That’s right. He can no longer feed himself, but for one minute annually, his life still has purpose. Last, as an afterthought, the misfit toys are saved by Santa… though we never do find out who wants these half-assed creations.

http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/reindeer.html

A Third Date on the Fourth of July

Gail: “At least I never refused to go on a second date with a guy, just because I didn’t like his brand of microwave.”
Me: “Yeah. I’ve never known what brand of microwave a guy had after the first date, you whore.”

We’re practically Disney sisters.

I’m never going to live down the number of men I’ve refused a second date, no matter how legit the reason. That being said, Saturday night, on the Fourth of July, I had my second ever third date with Fluid Engineer.

Last I wrote about Fluid Engineer, I had to turn down the opportunity to go out, because of such short notice (as in 12 hours). He was willing to make the drive, but we didn’t have any concrete plans and I didn’t feel like brainstorming for an activity at the, fairly literal, last minute. I had suggested we find something cheap or free to do, because although I think it’s chivalrous for the man to pay, I also don’t think he should have to spend $50 every time he sees me. Knowing that there would be several festivals over the holiday weekend, I suggested we go to one of those.

Over the next week, we texted daily, though not necessarily at length. It was nice, but not overwhelming and he always kept it appropriate. Though he’s never flaked before, I kind of expected him to cancel on me as the holiday neared. Perhaps some last minute family plans would be made and he’d decide he’d rather spend time with his family than getting to know me, as Engineer 114 did. Cautiously, I avoided making family plans of my own and hoped for the best. Ultimately, we decided on the Springfield festival at 5:30.

The date started off a little rocky, when I arrived at the park and Fluid Engineer wasn’t texting back. For a moment, I was certain I’d been stood up again and was frustrated by the idea that I might have to spend my holiday alone with Netflix and some tears. I reminded myself that he’s been meaning to get a new phone and just parked my car and waited, periodically muttering “Dude… fucking text me back.” Finally, his truck pulled up and the explanation was exactly as I’d suspected. His phone had died and he had no way to ask where I was, since the park had three separate entrances.

The festival seemed dead, but Fluid Engineer assured me he’d driven around to the other side and it was quite busy. He was right, but only after we’d walked a mile did I think it might’ve been a good idea to bring the blanket I’d packed with us. I suggested we walk back to get it and was a little worried that he’d be annoyed, even passive aggressively, but he was totally cool with it and we talked and became comfortable with each other again as we walked back. I grabbed some sodas from the backseat and Fluid Engineer very sweetly offered to carry the blanket in the heat. Of course, I didn’t just thank him sincerely… but also made a joke about how I was clearly doing my share by carrying the sodas.

What I wouldn’t give for the superpower to shut up.

Throughout the evening, Fluid Engineer was casually chivalrous. He’d opened the door for me at my car and walked on the street side each time. It didn’t appear to be an effort on his part, just natural, which I appreciate. If I don’t want to pretend to be fucking precious, I don’t want him to put on a front, either. But I truly appreciated all of his little gestures. The live music was insanely loud, so we chose a spot quite a ways out to sit and eat our free watermelon and ice cream. We chatted and eventually I commented that I’d like to get something to eat from one of the food trucks, wondering aloud if they took cards, because I didn’t have any cash. I wasn’t fishing, here. I was genuinely planning to buy my own food. Dinner wasn’t in our plans and I suppose it’s habit to pay for myself. Fluid Engineer, however, assured me that he had cash and he paid for both meals and shared his fried green tomatoes with me.

All was going well and the conversation was really flowing, so naturally, I had to throw a wrench into the works. You see, I’d gone to the restroom while Fluid Engineer got the food, so he hadn’t asked if I wanted a Gatorade, but he did have two of them, so I thought one might be for me.

Me: “So… um… is one of those for me or is this a weird question?”

Subtle, I ain’t.

Fluid Engineer told me more about his family and we laughed and chatted and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Physically, we were still a bit awkward, not wanting to sit too closely or too far away, but it was a… comfortable awkwardness? It wasn’t painful. It was natural getting-to-know-you awkwardness. He mentioned that he’d told a friend about me and that made me all giddy. I talked a little about Gail and my family and he told me more about his. I’d texted Gail earlier… “On another date and he’s still pretty keen.”… only barely catching myself when I almost sent it to Fluid Engineer, the last person I’d texted. Seeing my notifications light up, I knew she might be concerned.

Me: “Hold on. Gail’s making sure you’re not raping me.”
Fluid Engineer: “Did I tell you I had to stop for a [unintelligible word]?”
He has a really thick Texan accent and I was willing to concede that what I could’ve sworn he said couldn’t possibly be the case. I was so certain, had it been our first date, I’d have left.
Me: ::still looking at my phone, hiding my expression:: “What did you just say?”
Fluid Engineer: “I had to stop and buy a [unintelligible word].”
I heard it again. There’s no way he’d say that. That’s completely out of character… especially twice.
Me: ::finally looking at him, to watch as he speaks:: “A what?”
Fluid Engineer: ::clearly confused:: “A charger.”
Me: “OH! A CHARGER!”
Mortified, I went back to my phone to respond to Gail.
Fluid Engineer: “What did you think I said?”
Me: ::still looking at phone:: “Not that.” 
Fluid Engineer: “Was it inappropriate?”
Me: “Yup.” ::finally looking at him:: “I thought you said ‘Trojan.'”

Gail: “That would be a really weird thing to say, period. ‘Did I tell you I had to stop for a single condom?'”
Me: “Actually, it would’ve been more like ‘Did I tell you I had to stop for one Durex?'”

Fortunately, Fluid Engineer thought this was hilarious, but didn’t even really tease me about it. The conversation just went back to normal and finally the lights went out for the fireworks show.

Me: “You got that Trojan, now?”

I am such a dork.

After the fireworks ended, we stayed on the blanket talking for the longest time. I was in a dress so I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I was pretty sure there would be a visible bruise on my ass, because there are only so many ways to sit on the ground in a dress. I didn’t want to end things, though, because I was genuinely enjoying Fluid Engineer’s company and I realized this was the first Fourth of July I’d spent with a man since I was married and it had gone so well. We walked back to our cars, him carrying the blanket and walking on the street side again, and stood by my car talking for ages. I don’t think either of us wanted to end things. At one point, I was pretty sure he was going to kiss me, so in my nerves of having only actually kissed two people, I started babbling like an idiot.

Any time on that superpower…

Fluid Engineer settled for putting his arm around me and didn’t push it, but didn’t seem irritated either. When I told my friend Dana, she assured me I was “gonna lose him” because we didn’t “make-out with tongue,” but Fluid Engineer seems to disagree. The fates have aligned and my work schedule has been changed to give me Monday night off, so we’re planning the – unprecedented for Belle – FOURTH DATE.

So, there it is. Over the last month, we’ve been out three times and I’ve yet to convince myself that there is something fundamentally wrong with this man. I actually happen to like him. He’s laid-back, yet quite intelligent. He’s not threatened by my level of education (it’s a thing), nor does he feel the need to belittle my career. He texts often enough that I know he’s truly interested, but not so much that I feel like he’s stroking a lock of my hair as he does it. Despite living an hour away, he’s made every effort to see each other during his limited time off. He seems to want something serious, but doesn’t expect to impregnate me tomorrow. Perhaps most importantly, he seems amused by my humor and awkwardness. So many men on online dating sites talk about how they want someone sweet. I’m a lot of things y’all, but sweet sure ain’t one of them… and this one doesn’t seem to mind. I like him. He’s still pretty keen. He even Facebook friended me and I accepted… another first.

Looking Back: The Men I Didn’t Date in 2013

Today, my Facebook newsfeed, like many others’, is equally filled with photos of newly healthy meals and bitching because the gyms are crowded. I, myself, am a goal-oriented person. I set goals weekly, so it would just be poor characterization if I missed an opportunity to set them annually. This year, I’m keeping it simple with the following five:

1. Perform more service work. Dedicate a minimum of one day, per month, to helping someone else.
2. Attend church more consistently… and punctually.
3. Swear less… or more creatively, by cutting back on the more universally unacceptable words.
4. Lose twenty pounds… because it’s New Year’s and you have to choose a cliche.

and finally…

5. Put some actual and legitimate effort into dating.

Numbers 1, 2, and 4 have clear guidelines. They’re pretty attainable. Let’s face it though; in regards to number 3, “suck my dick” is a pretty universally unacceptable phrase, from a woman. It’s likelier that I’ll lose twenty pounds by next Tuesday than it is that I’ll suddenly be a Sesame Street extra. I do, however, tend to mix dorky Disney-worthy swears with the worst ones in my vocabulary.

Me: “Zetus lapetus! Fuck. Do you think it’s been long enough since Zenon: Girl of the Twenty-First Century for me to use that?”
Gail: 

So, I’m half there. Which brings me to number 5.

2013 was a year of sporadic dating, vacillating between the two extremes of “I CAN FEEL MY EGGS ROTTING INSIDE OF ME!” to “My next wedding will take place ON A SNOW-COVERED MOUNTAINTOP IN HELL!”

burning wedding dress

Before I got my promotion to librarian, I really hadn’t been dating at all. Sure, I claimed to be putting in effort, but I just didn’t have the time, between finishing graduate school and rocking in a corner, chewing on my own hair. I went on a couple of dates, but that’s about it. So, this year, I’m going for consistency. For the past couple of months, I’ve really had no interest in meeting anyone, because the holidays are busy for losers who crochet their own Christmas presents; and every single guy who tells me Christmas Vacation is hilarious, is just plain wrong. I feel like, if I’d hit the dating scene with half the vigor I hit that bottle of bourbon on New Year’s Eve with Gail and Terry, I’d be madly in love in no time.

::drunkenly discussing Charlie Hunnam::
Terry: “He’s okay looking, I guess. He looks like…”
Me: “Like he fell from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? I know. I would give that man a rim job in front of my grandma. Admit it. You would totally go gay for him.”

Facebook status New Year’s Eve 2013:
Let’s get CRUNK! It stands for crocheting while drunk. 

Note to self: don’t drink on any future dates.

In my defense, however, it’s not like the prospects have been great, lately. In fact, I’ll treat you to some of the guys I didn’t date this year.

Aerospace
I’ve briefly mentioned Aerospace in previous entries. He was 27, educated, enjoyed his big boy job, and never sent me a penis picture. He seemed promising through text message… for six weeks. After three, even I had decided it was time to be a little forward. I mean, I didn’t actually ask him to meet me, because I don’t posses my very own set of testicles, but I did ask what his normal time constraints were. When Aerospace said he usually talks to someone for about a month, before meeting, I decided to give it a bit longer. He regularly messaged first and encouraged conversation. He seemed interested. During week six, however, I was just tired of receiving news of how his day went, when I’d never even met him and he was showing no inclination to change that. If I’m not worth meeting, fine. Find someone who is, because I’m not looking for a fucking pen pal. I’m not your chat buddy, when there’s nothing on TV. Suck my big fat furry dick.


There goes number 3.

Clingy Catholic Engineer… because there was already a Catholic Engineer
If Jane were not an engineer, I would seriously be judging this entire profession. It seems every engineer I’ve dated is batshit. CCE was a year or so younger than I, and after having discussed that issue with Jane, I decided to give him a chance. We messaged for a couple of days online, before trading numbers. The next day, after quite a bit of text messaging, I didn’t respond after work, because I was working out. We’d been texting all day, and I’d messaged on my break, to tell him why I couldn’t talk, so I figured that was fair. The next morning, I woke up at seven o’clock to…

I hope I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The voice of Gail sounded in my head and it was stronger than my fight or flight response, so I kept chatting with him. At one point, he asked me to send him pictures. I wasn’t sure what kind he meant, and I’m thinking that was the point, to allow for my own creativity. I told him there were current photos online and I wasn’t sending more, but I was a little creeped out by the vague request, coupled with his… enthusiasm. Then, the next evening I got home from work, after having traded a few messages…

CCE: You make it home okay?
Me: Yeah. I have a friend coming over. We’re going to hang out and watch Netflix.
CCE: Ah. Sounds fun.
CCE: You still want to talk, right?
Me: Sure. Just not right now, since I’m about to have company.
:: two hours later ::
CCE: Watching the game?
Me: Nope. Watching Netflix with a friend.
CCE: Oh. A marathon. Cool! Watcha watchin?

First, aside from the obvious issue of clinginess, who has someone over for less than two hours? That’s not a thing. Second, “Nope. Watching Netflix with a friend.” was a nice way of saying I was busy, he knew that, and he needed to leave me alone. That was his chance to feign forgetfulness and apologize. Still, I heard Gail telling me to give him a chance… until the next night.

CCE: You wanna watch the game and maybe have dinner tomorrow night? 
– dude, you’re coming on strong right now and that’s several hours together, making it super awkward if I’m still not feeling it –
Me: I’m cool with meeting, but why don’t we do something low-key, like coffee?
CCE: Coffee Sunday sounds great!
– okay, he’s receptive to just coffee; good sign –
Me: How about Monday, since the weather is supposed to be bad on Sunday?
CCE: Sure. We can work out the details then.
– whew… I really was reading into things –
Me: I’m disappointed by the weather. I really don’t want to miss Mass again.
CCE: Oh! We could go to Mass together. 

… aaaaand scene. I tried. I did. But the guy asked me to meet him at the chapel. Fine. I’m intentionally wording it dramatically, but we had only been chatting for a few days and he wanted to meet at church, after I’d told him dinner was too much? Dude, calm down, you are making women uncomfortable. I sent him a text telling him that he seemed to want something much more serious, much more quickly and that I wasn’t interested in meeting. Then I spammed his number. Later, I saw he’d responded, but didn’t read it past the “Okaaay. You said…” There was nothing to say. He made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t happening. A week later, I got a “Hey, how are you?” message in my inbox, like we’d never had the “thanks, but no thanks” conversation at all. Um… no.

Kinda Sorta Catholic
KSC and I had been messaging on and off for awhile. I don’t think either one of us saw the other as a real prospect, but we couldn’t pinpoint a reason to blow each other off. We’d each send an “Oh, sorry I didn’t get back to you… blah, blah, blah” type of message every 10 days or so and try to pick things up again, over the course of a couple of months. He had a real job and his profile said he was Catholic, so despite the mutual lack of interest, I decided to give him a chance when he gave me his number. Naturally, since his common religion was a main appeal, I brought it up.

KSC: I’m Catholic because my dad was. The topic of religion is a fun one for me, but I’m not sure where I stand. I think it’s really personal and those beliefs are private.

Um… well, for one, if you’re Catholic, because your dad is, you’re not really Catholic. Unless you go to Mass and receive Reconciliation and Communion and all that jazz, the Catholic Church does not consider you a practicing Catholic. That’s fine and all, but know where you stand. Two, if we’re talking about dating, I think it’s a fair question to ask what someone’s general beliefs are. I didn’t sick the Quizmaster on the guy. Finally, if this is a “fun” topic for you, why are you being such a little bitch about it?

quizmaster
The Quizmaster. My dated references are downright nostalgic.

We continued to chat, and KSC asked to meet at the cowboy bar the next night. Okay, I’ve told ya’ll stories about the cowboy bar. One involved Gaily nearly being dragged forcibly to the parking lot and the other involved damned near nudity on the Saturday before Halloween. This bar can be fun in the summer, with the right crowd and attitude, but it’s pretty sketchy. I told my dad that I’d let Woody Harrelson “stick it in my ear” and he laughed, but the man doesn’t want to hear stories about the cowboy bar. People get raped there.

Me: I really don’t like the cowboy bar.
KSC: 😦 Oh. Well, what do you like, then?
Me: It’s not even that I don’t like the cowboy bar, really, but that I just feel like it’s a really sketchy place for a first meeting.
KSC: Oh. Well, I see it differently, but that’s okay.
Me: I’m also a woman. I have to be more careful.

We made vague plans to meet for coffee and then neither of us ever talked to the other again. That’s fine by me. If Jesus gives you the heebie jeebies, but meeting a stranger at a place I recently described as “a little rapey” doesn’t, this is what I picture…

Just… ew. 
I opened the new year with this gem, from a guy I messaged a few weeks ago, but who didn’t really return a lot of interest.

Ew: I’m gonna throw this out there and hope I don’t scare you off. Would you be interested in coming over to my place and having some fun? I guarantee you will have fun.
Me: If you’re “looking for a real relationship,” you should probably keep the hook-up pleas to a minimum.
Ew: I am looking for a real relationship. I still would like to have fun though. I’m not a bad dude I just figured I’d take a chance and ask you.

Um… no. You’re not looking for a real relationship if you’re comfortable with being seen as that guy who begs for sex online, because no one looking for a real relationship will respond. His profile opened with talk about wanting to settle down. If that’s how he puts up a white picket fence, I’ll pass.

I’ll just die alone with my Christmas movies, thank you very much.

If you’ve been following my blog long, you probably realize I have two favorite topics: dating and over-analysis. There’s been little on the dating front, besides magical moments like this opener:

PoF User: you look cute without the glasses. how are you doing?
Me: I look cute with my glasses, too.
PoF User: I prefere u without the glasses…lol…how r u doing

Yeah. That happened. I’m still swooning. I didn’t realize anyone actually used “negs.”

I have two settings when it comes to dating:

1. I’m going to die alone!
2. Hopefully.

Right now I’m on the latter, soooooo in honor of the Christmas season, I treat you to my second favorite topic, with an over-analysis of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

There have been numerous depictions of Santa Claus in the media. He was anti-establishment in the stop action film, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He was absent-minded in Elf (how do you not realize there’s a human child in your toy bag?) He was on acid in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. He was terrifying in A Christmas Story…

… and he was a douche bag in Rudolph the Red Nosed Riendeer. 

The movie opens with newborn Rudolph residing comfortably in a cave with Donner and “Mrs. Donner,” because female characters don’t warrant their own damned names. It quickly becomes obvious that Rudolph is horribly disfigured, when his nose starts to glow.

Mrs. Donner: “Well, we’ll simply have to overlook it.”
Mr. Donner: “Now, how can you overlook that?”
Santa: “Great bouncing icebergs!”
Donner: “Now, I’m sure it’ll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa.”
Santa: “Well, let’s hope so, if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.”

No one mentions the real concern here, and that’s that Rudolph’s nose makes a high-pitched whining noise. Seriously, light up all you want, but stop that. I suppose it doesn’t matter, though, because Santa’s made it pretty clear what his sleigh team values most: conformity.

We even see the universality of this concept, when Hermey the Elf tells his boss that he doesn’t enjoy his job.

Hermey: “I just don’t like to make toys.”
Boss Elf: “Oh, well, if that’s all… what?!?!?! You don’t like to make toys?!?!.. HERMEY DOESN’T LIKE TO MAKE TOYS!”
::Immediately, all of the elves start to whisper about the Freak Elf (not a direct quote)::
Boss Elf: “Do you mind telling me what you do want to do?”
Hermey: “Well, sir, some day, I’d like to be a… a dentist.”
Boss Elf: “A dentist?!?! Now, listen you! You’re an elf… and elves make toys. Now, get to work! 10 minute break! Not for you! Finish the job or you’re fired!”

Okay, dude, first off, you asked what he’d prefer to do. Second, he just told you he hates his job and doesn’t want to do it anymore and you responded by taking away his break and threatening to fire him, though you clearly want him to stay? Also, what kind of regime is this? Elves are born and die in their station as factory workers? They’re shamed for wanting to pursue higher education? Fortunately for him, Hermey grows a pair and decides that he can’t be fired, because he quits.

Meanwhile, Donner makes Rudolph cover his disfigurement with a fake black nose that makes him sound like he has a sinus infection. When Rudolph complains about the discomfort, we get this parenting gem:

Donner: “There are more important things than comfort: self-respect! Santa can’t object to you now!”

So, like a closeted, homsexual, country boy, Rudolph dons his fake nose to make his dad happy, and as long as he’s doing so, Donner is proud.

We return to the elves, as they practice their Christmas song for Santa. As far as we’re told, this isn’t really for any kind of event. They’re just singing Santa a song to make him happy. He accepts this gift with the poise of a mom stomping on her child’s macaroni necklace.

Santa: “Hmmm… well, it needs work. I have to go.”
Mrs. Claus: “What does Papa know? It’s beautiful. You keep it just the way it was.” 

See. Even Mrs. Claus is like…

Geez. No wonder my parents’ generation came up with the participation trophy.

Ultimately, both Hermey and Rudolph are shamed into leaving Christmastown, but not before Rudolph’s crush, Clarice, is told by her father

“You get back to your cave this instant! … Now, there’s one thing I want to make very plain. No doe of mine is going to be seen with a… a red nosed reindeer!”

Off they go, and in their travels, Rudolph and Hermey team up with Yukon Cornelius, prospector of silver and gold, narrowly escaping The Abominable Snow Monster of the North, Bumble. Bumble is apparently very dangerous, though he never actually harms anyone. Rudolph’s parents, however, are still quite worried about him. When Donner heads out to find the bane of his existence, Mrs. Donner wants to go as well, but Donner insists on leaving her behind.

Donner: “No. This. Is. Man’s. Work.”

Regardless, Mrs. Donner sets off to search, taking Clarice along with her, also known as kidnapping. Seriously, she’s a child and you’re taking her out, alone, into the arctic? No wonder the men belittle the women in this story.

Rudolph and Company find The Island of Misfit Toys, where everyone different has been banished. No seriously. The lion with wings, King Moonracer, gathers them from around the world and keeps them on the island, until they find homes. It’s never explained how they’re supposed to go about that while confined to a deserted island, though. Read: banishment. The truly confusing part, is that most of these toys’ problems are easily remedied. The water pistol that shoots jelly could be filled with water. The Charlie in the Box could start going by Jack. Also, who made these loser toys? Was it Hermey? I’m betting it was Hermey, either falling down on the job while daydreaming of incisors, or fullfilling some kind of God complex, while he created an inferior species.


Is that… other toys they’re burning?

Sadly, Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon are denied safe haven on The Island of Misfit Toys, seeing as how they aren’t toys. King Moonracer still has the gall to ask for a favor, though. Rudolph is to plead the case of the banished toys to Santa, in the hopes that he’ll find them homes. They’ve already tried to find homes, so I’m guessing they’ll end up in some kind of orphanage. The elves, of course, could replace the square wheels with round ones or repaint the polka-dotted elephant, but that was apparently too difficult in the first place… Hermey.

When Rudolph returns to Christmastown, his parents and Clarice are still out looking for him. He’s now an adult reindeer. It’s been at least a year since he left, as it takes a male reindeer about that long to reach sexual maturity.* Clarice knew that boy for about 11 minutes and she’s been searching for him for over a year. That’s what I call commitment. Lucky for her, Rudolph returns this sentiment by heading out to search for the search party, where he’s held hostage by Bumble, who honestly, is only seen petting Clarice. No one’s been harmed, until Rudolph attacks Bumble and he clubs him. That, right there folks, is self-defense. Naturally, in response, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius set a trap to knock Bumble unconscious.

Okay, so I get that Yukon is supposed to have some sort of history with Bumble. He’s apparently very dangerous and that petting would have turned vicious… eventually. Here’s where it gets intensely disturbing, though. After Bumble is knocked unconscious, Hermey and his God complex pull out all of his teeth. What the fucking fuck?!?! That’s like half of the procedure used in Human Centipedealso by a man with a God complex!!!

hermey
Hermey. So I had a little free time? That doesn’t make me “creepy.”

After Yukon pushes Bumble off a cliff, “they realized that the best thing to do, was to get the women back to Christmastown.”

We all know the ending, of course. Rudolph and pals make it home. Santa finally realizes that the exact same idiosyncrasy, for which he shamed a child all along, can be exploited for use as a fog light in an epic storm… because the elves can’t make a fog light? Then again, I suppose if the task fell to Hermey, it would be a fog light that doesn’t light up, so he can feel better about going against The Regime’s demands of him, when he’s finally allowed to become Christmastown’s dentist. Seriously? The guy has no training beyond his experiments with animals. That’s like making the town butcher your new gynecologist. Speaking of animals, abominable snow monsters bounce, so Bumble is given a job… to put the star on the tree. That’s right. He can no longer feed himself, but for one minute annually, his life still has purpose. Last, as an afterthought, the misfit toys are saved by Santa… though we never do find out who wants these half-assed creations.

http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/reindeer.html