Reality Truck: Grant Us a Piece
"Nothing is more stressful for a misanthrope than trying to be nice with no end in sight." -- Florence KingThere's something about all this peace on earth/good will towards men that brings out my (never far beneath the surface) mean streak. If you've had enough merriment and cheer to last you a lifetime, maybe you could use a palate-cleansing sorbet right about now to cut through all the sugary sweetness of the season. God knows I could. My decidedly Grinch-like feelings towards Christmas can be readily traced to third grade. That's when Sister Catherine Regina cut the bells off my go-go boots.My grandmother had bought me these cool white lace-up go-go boots. Me and these boots were inseparable; I wore them everywhere. I was so Nancy Sinatra. In the spirit of the season, my grandmother had also threaded some jingle bells through the laces. Then I wasn't just cool; I was insufferable. I pranced and jingled everywhere I went. Unfortunately, all this frivolity proved to be too much for Sister Catherine Regina. She ordered me to stop "making that racket." When I couldn't (because my manual dexterity did not extend to unlacing or relacing the boots), she descended on me like the wrath of God, and with one snip she smote the offending noise. I then spent the entire recess in humiliated exile, with my two best friends, Scotty Crawford on my left leg, and Bernetta Higgins on my right, re-connecting and lacing up the go-go boots on my behalf. And if Sister Catherine Regina thinks I've ever gotten over this, she should examine the size of the alumni check I write every year. By God, they'd HAVE that new gym by now if it wasn't for her. I don't know what the hell she was in such a bad mood about.Christmas was the one time of year that me and my little fellow hellions didn't have to be coerced into going to mass. With Advent pals, Secret Santas and the like, we were glad to show up because finally we had something meaningful to pray FOR (as opposed to the usual supplications for starving children and war-torn countries). In early years it was Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots and E-Z Bake Ovens. (The true meaning of Christmas -- more and better stuff -- did not escape us.) As we got older, our prayers grew decidedly more personal, not to mention fervent. Or as my friends Richard and Wade so eloquently adapted the responsorial psalm for us, "Oh Lord, grant us a piece."Nothing prepares you for a lifetime of misanthropy quite like twelve years of Catholic school. People are always complaining that we only drag out our holiday spirit for the month of December. Not me. I maintain my generally surly wintry disposition 365 days a year. Oh, I appreciate humanity in the abstract, and I like people in some sort of dim, sociological kind of way. I mean, I've generally voted democrat (hell, I was even a bleeding heart liberal until I got a job). So I do care about my fellow man, I just don't want him to get too close. (Not at Christmas, and not at any other time of the year either.)What is it about the holidays that inspires all this hugging and glad-handing and wanton displays of affection?! Three words: don't touch me. And that goes double for you Aunt Marge. You too Tiny Tim. I'm afraid I just can't be like my friend Linda, who's so nice it makes your teeth ache. She embodies the very spirit of Christmas -- viewing all encounters with strangers, not as unwelcome intrusions, but as an opportunity to make new friends. She once told me I should be more polite to the strangers who indiscriminately hit on us in bars, because if I did, I might just "meet someone nice." Please, as if I'd be interested in some broken-down old alcoholic pothead who wasn't in a band." I guess I'm more like my friend Les's mother. She staggers to the holiday breakfast table every December 25, in festive red terry-cloth, an omnipresent cigarette drooping from the left side of her mouth, and a cup of joe in hand. She takes one bleary-eyed look at the assembled friends and family, greeting one and all with a sullen "Merry fuckin' Christmas." Ah, God bless us every one.