Contemporary Christmas Stories
"Social Q's" is Philip Galanes's advice column in the New York Times. Every Tuesday in Anti-Social Q's, I will answer the same questions as "Social Q's," with a greater regard for the sad state of the human condition.
This week Philip received more letters than Santa Claus on what people (by this we mean adults) should do on Christmas. How can people that have been celebrating this holiday for at least 18 years now, still be this lost?
My husband and I had our first baby this year. We’re thrilled. And even though my parents got divorced last year, I want both of them to celebrate Christmas with us. So far, they’ve refused to be in the same room together. (It was a messy split.) I told them how important it is for me and my son to celebrate his first Christmas as a family. But they still said no. How can I get them to see how important this is to us?
Anonymous, San Francisco
Seems like the real babies in your family are your parents. Tell them they either come, or they can both forget ever seeing the kid again as they make for horrible role models.
My girlfriend is terrible at saving money, even though she makes plenty. We’re near 40, and she doesn’t even have a retirement account. For Christmas, I was thinking of opening an I.R.A. for her and making a small contribution. My brother thinks she will take this as criticism. What do you think?
Jim, New York
You may be in the right, but Christmas is not the time to bring up money matters. Money should not be brought up at all, even though the holiday has morphed into a highly commercial one. Get her a gift she will enjoy (also not what Christmas is about) and save the investment advice for January. You also need to make it appealing to her. She will not invest unless it meets her interests. I do not know what your girlfriend's interests are, so you will have to figure that out for yourself.
My company’s holiday party is coming up. It’s a karaoke night. We are required to bring food to share and a gag gift for the Secret Santa exchange, and if we want to bring our spouse, we have to pay $25. If company parties are supposed to show employees how much they’re appreciated, this one seems pretty lame. Is it bad manners to skip it?
Karaoke? For Christmas? My, we have really hit rock bottom. Not only is it good manners to skip this atrocity, but also the right thing to do.
My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years, and I am hoping he will ask me to marry him over the holidays. (If he does not, I will probably break up with him in January.) Is there any way I can raise the subject to see which way he is leaning?
It is just one day away. Patience is a virtue. Did you drop any hints that this is what you are expecting? Make sure you tell him that you expect to be married soon before you break up with him unexpectedly. He may also want to marry you but may think that is not what you want. I appreciate the brevity of your letter, but seriously, give us some details to work with.
An employee has given me expensive holiday gifts for the last four years. I have not reciprocated. None of her co-workers at her level give gifts. How do I ask her to discontinue them without seeming unappreciative?
You are unappreciative. You are also an ass.
For a holiday open house, to which we will invite friends and neighbors to drop in, how do we indicate that children (newborns to middle-school age) are not welcome? Is there a magic phrase?
Pat, Lawrence Township, N.J.
Yes. The magic phrase is this: "We are a couple of fucked up individuals and detest children, and have no clue what the meaning of Christmas is. As far as we are concerned it is about being selfish, not selfless, rude, and dismissive of people based on their age. If these are the kind of people you want to be around on this day of love, or these are the kind of people you want to expose your sweet innocent children to, please do show up to our horrible event. Does it surprise you that we are from New Jersey?"
Every year, we are inundated with holiday cards from friends and family. Most include pictures and come directly from the printing company that makes them without any personalized note from the sender. Are we required to return holiday cards to everyone who sends one to us, or just to the people who write personalized notes?
Nicole, New York City
If you plan on sending cards, You should send cards to people you love, people that are important in your life. Do not wait around to see who sends you cards to figure out who you should send to, that seems quite disingenuous, but then again everything about this holiday has morphed into something disingenuous (see above letters) as has the broader society. Merry Christmas.