Sunday, December 11, 2011

not getting through

I have a friend (actually a girl who went to school with my husband) who's of the plain-spoken type. Really, she makes me look diplomatic by comparison. She's also had some fertility-related issues (she had some kind of rather intensive ovarian surgery before she was married - I forget the details), but she's not infertile, probably more like hyper-fertile. I think her younger child is maybe a year or just over, but I imagine she's already expecting number three (early on, though).

While she makes occasionally bizarre statements of "knowing where I'm coming from" on the subject of infertility (since she had medical issues as well, and was worried that she would be infertile), and shares far more details of pregnancy and childbirth than I'm generally interested in hearing, I really do like her. I much prefer someone who overshares because she's blunt, and is equally ready to hear you tell her why you're uninterested in the topic, to someone who overshares because she thinks the world revolves around her and her offspring, and not-so-secretly thinks that your failure to be interested in the miracle of life with which she's been blessed is a sign that you're going straight to hell.

So this girl emailed everyone in her inbox to say that she was very sorry, but she lost her address list in a hard drive transfer, and could we all please send our mailing addresses. We've just moved (you may have heard), so I was happy to oblige. As my DH pointed out that evening, of course she wants it for her Christmas card list. I knew that, but I wasn't thinking about it. She, like most mothers of young children I know, sends Christmas cards with pictures of her children, which generally fail to depict her or her husband (the only family members the cards' recipients are likely to recognize), or Jesus Christ, who, I hear, is the kiddo who's supposed to get the top billing on this particular holiday. (Since I suspect it is easily findable in my posts for previous Decembers, I will here omit the REALLY extended version of my rant about how offensive I find Christmas cards that have been sanitized of all religious references. Ditto well-wishes that have been similarly sanitized. I do not want to receive your "season's greetings" unless you are also going to extend heartfelt good cheer in spring, summer, and fall. I love the snow but I AM NOT CELEBRATING WINTER, IDIOTS. I have no problem wishing Jews a Happy Hannukah; what, other than hatred of Christians and Christianity, could cause anyone who is thinking the matter through to offer salutations that deliberately and elaborately refuse to acknowledge the beloved holiday of the person to whom he is supposedly extending good cheer? I look Irish; they know I'm not celebrating Hannukah, Ramadan, or Kwanzaa. That leaves Christmas or nothing, so say "Merry Christmas" or shut up. And now I am put in the position of responding to "Season's Greetings" with "Merry Christmas" not merely out of the joy and love proper to the holiday, but as a political statement, which is distasteful in the extreme. Go stick your face in a snowblower so you can really experience the "season," anti-Christian bigots. The end.)

Anyway, after thinking the matter through, I realized that I was perhaps being unfair to my friend. It is our house's standing policy to throw out all Christmas cards that are pictures of other people's children (I keep cards that are actual Christmas cards but merely contain pictures of children, which is in appropriate taste, in my opinion; but I still throw out the pictures, because I don't need that crap in my house or my life) immediately upon opening, or before opening, if the contents are obvious. The ones that have lovely religious images we hang on the mantel. So all of these people for whom December apparently contains the holiday known as Offspring Awareness Day are totally wasting their money. While I wouldn't bother raising this subject with most of our acquaintance because they actually don't want to understand where I'm coming from (and will therefore argue with any attempt I make to explain how I feel), this is the blunt friend, right?

So I sent her an email and said, "Hey, I sent our address yesterday, but for reasons I assume are obvious, I actually throw out Christmas cards that are pictures of other people's children. It's not personal, of course. I just wanted to let you know because I wouldn't want you to waste the cost of a card - I know they're expensive. We still appreciate the thought!"

So I saw the blunt friend at book club a few days later, and she said that she got my email, and she actually does the same thing and she's always felt bad about it. Now I was confused. She hates the baby pictures and she still sends them? Then she said something about them taking up space from year to year, and I asked her whether she meant that she throws them out after Christmas. She said yes. (Does anybody - who's not been featured on Hoarders - keep them from year to year?) She didn't take the grammatical cue and ask whether I meant that I throw them out before Christmas. I thought for a minute and decided that my email, while not explicit, was plenty clear; anyone reading carefully would have understood what I meant, or at least recognized it as something I might have meant. She was totally oblivious (and she isn't stupid).

Since she had already said she wasn't hurt by the throwing-out and would send us a card anyway, I figured I would let the matter rest. Why antagonize her by telling her I hate pictures of her kids more than she can imagine that anyone would?

The divide is bigger than I thought, isn't it? I didn't think that was possible.


  1. Where do you come up with such brilliant statements???
    "I AM NOT CELEBRATING WINTER, IDIOTS" --and my personal favorite -- "Offspring Awareness Day". I'm totally stealing those phrases. I feel like those "holidays" are celebrated by too many of my relatives. Ugh.
    Bravo to you for telling her how you really feel and for her "acceptance" of the fact ... oh well ... you tried.

  2. Offspring Awareness Day - there is a reason why, ms misfit, the masses love you (other than your enviable interior design sense). Do you pitch the ones with adults as well?
    I think my father does tuck the cousins' photos away each year - but he does belong on "Hoarders". My parents keep their Christmas cards until the next year and then throw them out. I've been doing the same (helps me figure out who to send a paper card to). I've been keeping my nieces' photos, but we see them so rarely and one of them is my goddaughter. i saw a card that drove me bonkers at my aunt's, who by the way posts all most recent pictures of nieces, grandkids etc. on her fridge and tosses them when the next one comes, but I want to post three or four lines on that at my place.

  3. I went to pick up Christmas cards from the drug store this morning and the selection were not many. The majority were happy holiday cards; so sad.
    A coworker who I am not close to gave me her family picture as christmas card. She actually handed it out to everyone in the office. My hubby saw the card and said who are these people :). I wouldn't mind if it was from a close friend or family. I though it was strange she did that, I don't even know her kids. I think I still have the pic somewhere, I guess that makes me a hoarder :)

  4. A friend of mine posted an awesome picture this week, that I unfortunately cannot find again despite scouring the interwebs. Anyway, the gist of it was that Christmas is really an amalgamation of a bunch of religious holidays (including Druids, Wiccans, and others) and that there is NO HARM in saying "Merry Christmas," even if you don't believe that Jesus Christ was God. As an irreligious person (who still loves religious you), I thought that a welcome change from the hype surrounding the phrase. I will be wishing people a Merry Christmas all month long. :-)

  5. Of the six photo Christmas cards we've gotten in the mail so far this year, 4 of them have been the kids-only pictures. The other two were from fellow bloggers, who know better :).

  6. You are so awesome. I will never open a Christmas card in the same way ever again.