The Holiday Letter and Why It Must Die
WG and I are back from our trip to his relatives. I feel like I have to strip off chainmail, drop the battle ax on the floor, un-hunch my shoulders, unbuckle the bucklers, to slump into the couch and try to recover. If I step into the shower I'm sure blood will run down the drain, not all of it mine.
His family is the sort where I wish I could hire a black actor to pose as WG's gay lover and leave their heads spinning.
WG's mom is not well, but I'll leave that for another post when I'm less physically and emotionally wrung out. Everyone I owe comments and emails to, I'm sorry. I'll get to it as soon as I can. It's taken two days to remember that I don't have to defend everything WG and I do, second-guess every smile, attempt to read through the pleasant bullshit and the occasional harsh comments like stabs in the back.
Which brings us to the holiday letter. I have the one from WG's sister in hand.
The holiday letter is already a bad idea. First, a letter is meant to be personal. Sending a xeroxed copy to 900 of your closest friends and relatives means that you can't tailor it to your audience. The holiday letter therefore is by necessity tiresome and bland.
Second, the fact that it's a holiday
letter forces one to include only happy, upbeat news. This wrings the letter dry of anything your friends and family actually want to hear (how you really are) and replaces it with a layer of falsehood as phony as a wild west storefront. Everyone is left either rolling their eyes or reading between the lines.
Third, the need for approval from part of your audience (mom and dad, Aunt Mabel?) causes one to puff it up with all the accomplishments of your family, i.e., bragging. We're back to that problem of audience again. What's appropriate and pleasing to Aunt Mabel is noisome and irritating to your best friend from high school.
Fourth, and this is what happened to WG's sister this year: how do you write a light and superficial account of a bad year? The year your mother started chemotherapy that didn't
take and you're at the end of your rope? The year your daughter finished college but now has to struggle with barista jobs while she finds work? The year your son did nothing noteworthy, is in a career path that isn't brag-worthy, and your husband edged one step closer to retirement because he needs more time to keep you from falling apart?
The smart person skips the holiday letter that year. The foolish attempt to gerrymander the facts and end up with a steaming tower of bullshit. Allow me to read a few choice bits (Icarus shoves glasses up the bridge of her nose):
Their daughter has "launched herself into the working world" and is "sending out resumes while holding down three part-time jobs, including coffee barista (but not at Starbucks!)."
Their son is in his third year of college learning construction management and "loves life."
Her husband made a big change with the goal to "allow more time to pursue life and liberty (and golf)."
She (remember, end of her rope?) is "still staying off the streets" while working at the paper. "Somebody needs to get the news out."
Not word one about anything real.
I ask you all to please, don't do the horrible holiday letter. But if you must, save your dignity and skip the bad years. Those poor little facts can't stretch that far. Your best friend from high school, tormented as she's been by years of your bragging, can tell.
P.S. On the back of ours she wrote how great it was to have us over (like hell...) and how much she enjoyed their gift basket (she hated it, we could tell). No wonder WG's bullshit detector works so well.
Appendix one: ( The full text of that letter, for those who are interested or are fortunate to never have received one and don't know what I mean: )