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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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.

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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? 

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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.

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“Roger, will you make me a drink?”: A Christmas Perspective on Children

I know Christmas is supposed to make me want kids… but it makes me want to wash out my uterus with bleach instead.

Me: “You know… I think she’s old enough now, that she’s gotten to the age where I really don’t like her anymore.”

My neice is four and a half and that’s apparently not something you’re supposed to say at a family Christmas party, but it is so very true. Don’t get me wrong. She’s adorable… like 50% of the time. 40% she’s midly irritating. 10% she makes me want to impale myself on something in the ovarian area.

When I open the front door and she screams “AUNT BELLE!” and runs up to me and starts ranting about the Elf on the Shelf, she is fucking precious, even if I do think the Elf on the Shelf is the creepiest Christmas trend ever. She shows me her Hello Kitty earrings and tells me about how she has to feed the reindeer with Santa. I pretend I know what the hell she’s talking about, because I don’t care and if I say otherwise, she’ll explain. She says cute and blunt things like “My momma had surgwy. She wears pajamas.” after my sister-in-law’s “mommy makeover” (an entirely different rant). She’s happy and I’m happy. It’s a pretty bitchin’ moment… for like twelve minutes.

Why does everything have to be a whine? Why can’t you just ask me to play with you? Pouting and whining “Aunt Beeeeeeelle. You said you would plaaaaaaay with me…” makes me want to kill your dog with Christmas tinsel and place the Elf on the Shelf next to it. I’m lying. It does, however, make me want to walk away without a word and ask my grandma’s slurring husband to pour me a drink.

Of course, when whining doesn’t work, just cry. A lot. And loudly. Right in my ear. You are fucking fine. He didn’t hit you that hard, if he even did in fact hit you. I want to hit you. Yes, that’s right. Go cry to grandma now, about how Aunt Belle is mean, because she insisted you were fine. I didn’t even say “fucking.”

When the kid doesn’t like the food she’s eating, she will atually make herself vomit to get out of being forced to eat green bean casserole. I mean, it’s diabolical and she’ll take over the world one day, but ew. Kids are gross. She used to be so cute and now half the time, I only love her as a biological requirement.

I have hope that it gets a little better with age, which I think my cousin’s 7-year-old boy has proven.

7yo: pretends to shoot me with his toy gun and braggingly sings “I have a real gun, you know.”
Me: intentionally antagonizing the child, because I’m bad with kids “Yeah, well I have a bigger real gun.”
7yo: “Nuh, huh! It’s like a real rifle!”
Me: “Yeah, what caliber?”
7yo: “It’s a BB gun!”
Me: “Yeah? Well, I have a .357 and BB is not a caliber!”
7yo: “Well, you know what? There are more boys in the world than girls. You know why?”
Me: “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but why?”
7you: “Because the boys have to protect the girls.”
Me: “Wow. You are a terribly sexist little kid.”
7you: Lightly hits me on the arm.
Me: “Hey now! You’re not doing a great job of protecting the womenfolk!”

Teenagers, though, I freaking love.

To step-sister
Me: “Hey, brat. Pregnant yet?”
Bea: “Not anymore.”

Children are like a fine wine. They only get better with age. Except then, they aren’t children anymore, and wine is always wine. I guess they’re not really like a fine wine. They just make me want to drink fine wine… or cheap liquor from a plastic bottle.

* Reblogged, with more amusing Gifs, from December 24, 2012

How Nobody is Ruining My Christmas

‘Tis the season for mild stomach ulcers, yes? Christmas is, sadly, one of the most stressful times of the year for many people. This time for love, annoying music, and glitter has become the disaster of which the Mayans foretold. Pretty much every advertisement on television is designed to make me hate all children as I watch these greedy little parasites state that their parents have finally appeased them on Christmas morning. Then the parents sigh in relief, making me hate all parents. Everyone stresses themselves out trying to cook the perfect dish, putting up the perfect number of lights, and elbowing each other in the ribs to get the last IT toy of the season, because we’re all materialistic and insane. So, I’m taking a stand on the following issues to keep such madness from ruining my favorite time of year.

The Work Party
If I want to go (define: don’t have anything better to do), I’ll go. If I don’t, I won’t. Period.

The Decorations
I’m not going to lie. I pretty much had to rape that fucking Christmas tree to get it to do what I wanted. I knocked it over and broke the stand that was glued on. I hit myself in the knee with my pretty pink hammer getting the old stand off and gave up on the new one once there was glass all over the floor and the tree leaned so far to the left that it was practically horizontal. Then I tearfully texted C and told him I was the worst handyman ever and that I’d even put on a bra and pants if he’d come over and fix it. He had it up in under 10 minutes and I called him a bastard for it. But I love my tree. It was worth all of that trouble. However, aside from this, I have some glitter snowflakes on the wall, a couple of stockings, a wreath on each door, and some patio lights up. That’s it. I am not Tim The Toolman Taylor. I don’t need to prove that I have the most awesome decorations ever. I know my hot pink tree is the heroine of all Christmas trees and I don’t need a trophy for it. People fall off their houses rigging up their lights to connect to music on some random radio station and then bitch about how much trouble it was, because they didn’t even want it and only did it to make other people say “Huh, that’s neat.” Why would I stress out for a competition that doesn’t even actually exist when these minimal decorations make me happy?

beforetreeBefore and after a big strong man had to help me. Pathetic.

The Expense
I really don’t believe in credit. Maybe it’s Gail constantly talking about her dampened “I ❤ Dave Ramsey” panties (how much is too much to spend on a gag gift?), but I think it’s irresponsible to pay on time for anything that is not an actual necessity or a house. Taking out a line of credit to buy other people crap they probably don’t even want? No. I’m not doing that either. Regardless of whether or not they get a Wal-Mart credit card to do their shopping, though, the expense of Christmas is one of the biggest complaints I hear from pretty much everyone. I don’t get that. The people for whom I’m getting gifts are either people I know well enough to choose something they’ll like for $10 or… they’re not. The latter, I just feel obligated to buy something anyway, in which case, why the hell would I spend more than $10? I don’t have children, thank God, but I do have children in my life who I don’t think should be raised to be materialistic, greedy, and entitled little bastards. So… their gifts are also going to be $10. Maybe I’m not mommy, so I don’t get a say in whether or not Santa brought my niece a 32″ flat screen for her freaking third Christmas, but I can do my part by making it clear that while Aunt Belle cares, that won’t be reflected in material items and she doesn’t owe anybody anything. In general, if Christmas is getting too financially stressful, just forget it and give everyone hugs. Christmas is about family and love and stop action movies. I’d rather know that my Gramma had a fun holiday and get nothing but a kiss on the cheek than hear her tell me a week into December that she’s ready for Christmas to be over. But I can’t control what she does. I can only control what I do and that’s to spend $10 on your gift… unless you’re Gail or my Gramma, the only two people who would actually accept a hug as a gift with no hard feelings. Ironic, huh?

The Shopping
I finished most of my Christmas shopping in November… via Amazon. I spent Thanksgiving night watching a movie with my little sister, not telling the cashiers at Wal-Mart to screw themselves (read below) and have a Merry Christmas. We live in a digital age, people. Why the hell are you standing in line to buy that Furby? I even make a point to do my grocery shopping on a Monday morning, because I’m not dealing with that crap.

The Customers
Thank God I don’t work in retail anymore, because people are asshats to customer service representatives during the Christmas season. Lady, I’m sure Jesus Christ, himself, would fist bump you for trying to get that man fired for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Yeah. That’s a thing. Welcome to the Midwest, y’all. I’m even happier I don’t work in a movie theater anymore. Sir, if the movie reel messing up “ruined” your holiday, you have shit priorities. You’re supposed to be loving on your family and treating people well, not screaming at a teenager about how you couldn’t see the bottom two inches of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, because seriously, that guy is in everything lately. Library customers are much more mild-mannered, thank goodness, but the number of times I’ve been yelled at over Christmas candy has stuck with me. Now, I make sure to give every cashier a smile and even the occasional apology for the jackass in front of me.

I Want
One of my family members has this super tacky habit of sending out text messages instructing people on exactly what to get for her and the children. I’m not exaggerating. “We want Garden Ridge gift cards this year. The kids want Lego’s.” I didn’t even ask. My Gramma really stresses out about these detailed instructions, because she wants to pick things out and buy what she wants with her money. So, I’m ignoring any such mandates and buying what I want with my money. I don’t care if you want a Garden Ridge card. I already did my shopping and you’re all getting homemade hats. Fucking deal with it or I’ll just donate them to someone more grateful.

The Family Drama
I love my family and I’m looking forward to the 93 and a half Christmas parties that will require me to supply Oreo balls, which are a huge pain in the ass to make. We’re a fun, loud, and offensive bunch. I’m genuinely excited. However, everyone has that one family member they don’t love, but someone loves, so they’re required to be polite… even when they cause drama. Being polite, however, does not mean humoring you if you’re going to be cruel to me. I am 25 years old. I pay my own bills and take care of my own life. If I don’t want to do something, I’m not going to do it. No one is going to bully me or manipulate me otherwise. Nasty text messaging, catty voicemail, creative rumors, none of these things are going to get a response, because I don’t have to respond. I won’t yell. I won’t trade barbs. I won’t hide an insult in a smile. I will sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and skip that get-together, because I don’t have to sit through that awkward dinner with people I don’t like while they make snide remarks. You can thow that tantrum as loudly as you want while all of your friends agree that I’m a bitch. In the meantime, I’ll be at home, eating raw cookie dough in an oversized t-shirt and my granny panties, reading trashy fiction and blogging in front of my bitchin’ hot pink Christmas tree.

me jude and treeMy view of your fit.