Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
December 24, 2008
An obligatory holiday entry.
Category: Photo

So I finally got my holiday cards sent out yesterday -- obviously they will be New Year's Day cards, since they probably won't arrive by anyone's religious (or not) December holidays of choice. They may not even arrive by then, and I'm almost sure the package I sent won't, but ah well.

What struck me most about this year's holiday sending of cardboard cheer was how mechanical it felt. The first year I really sent Christmas to others, I made a whole big production out of it. It may not seem intuitive given my general dislike of holidays (Halloween being the obvious exception) and growing distaste for religious affairs, but I really do like Christmas. While people pay lip service to Jesus Christ and the virgin birth and all that manger crap, Christmas is really about Santa Claus and buying toys and sending presents to others to spread cheer and show your appreciation for them. And unless you're a totally stingy bastard who never receives presents from anyone and/or completely despises toys -- which I am not, at least with respect to the receipt of presents and the hatred of toys -- it's hard not to derive some warmth from that!

So my first year with some "disposable" income -- and aided by the free shipping and low price guarantees of DeepDiscountDVD (now -- I sent out a ton of presents. Almost everyone with whom I'd engaged in extended e-mail/blog communication got a DVD. I think I averaged something like $8 per DVD and sent out over $200 worth of stuff. And it wasn't like I chose the DVDs at random, either -- I spent quite a bit of time poring over the lists of discounted DVDs in order to select titles that, based on blog posts, photos, offhand comments, and so forth, the recipients might find interesting, amusing, or both.

Given the responses I received, I think I totally creeped out and/or confused most of those recipients. In fact, following that holiday round of gift giving, many of them all but ceased their communications with me. I think I should have anticipated this -- no matter what my well-meaning efforts entail, in 98.7% of instances my actions will seriously unnerve the intended beneficiaries -- but my inclination and desire to give during the holiday season overruled my understanding of my unique effect on people. 😛

Anyway, the following year, I decided to dial down my holiday operation. Instead of sending gifts to everyone, I sent gifts to a few people -- namely the ones who had sent me gifts the previous year, since I was confident that our exchanges hadn't left them wetting their beds out of fear and loathing -- and instead included a packet of hot chocolate with cards that I sent to the remaining people who had continued to communicate with me that year. I think that went over a little better than actual gifts, but I'm never too sure about how things like that are perceived with me.

So last year (I think), I went with just cards -- but even then I put in quite a bit of effort trying to write personalized and sometimes lengthy messages to each person. Some cards included crappy drawings that referenced specific events; almost all of them included superhero or Disney-themed stickers. Again, I'm not entirely sure how that went over, but I think it was probably my most successful holiday operation. Of course, by "successful" I mean "less likely to inspire recipients to promptly burn my kindly offerings and hire Catholic priests to exorcise their mailboxes and/or porches."

But with the Stampman's continued reign of terror -- yesterday he left a phone message in which he uttered things like "love you, sweetheart" and actually made kissy noises -- I have become especially hesitant to draw goofy pictures or include stickers in cards. I'd hate to swing by the page of a fellow blogger only to find scans of my cards and commentary about what a total freakazoid I must be for including Batman and Little Mermaid stickers in holiday cards! It's probably bad enough that I send cards with Disney princesses on them. So this year, while I did write brief messages that more/less had the individual recipients in mind, I stuck with simple cards minus any of my previous "extras."

And I was disappointed by how mechanical the whole thing felt. Sending gifts and cards was fun for me in previous years, but this year it largely felt like a chore -- which probably has something to do with why I put it off until well beyond the last minute. With the exception of addresses taken from recent pieces of mail, I worked from a list of addresses and printed labels. Whereas in previous years I would spread everything out on the dining room table like a holiday workshop of sorts, this year I handled the cards at my computer desk in assembly line fashion.

Due to my incomplete/outdated records and the lateness of the sending, I even neglected to send cards to people whom I really do want to wish happy holidays -- so let me take this opportunity to extend those well wishes to De, Susan, Jenny, Greg, Lori, Ray, Paul, Megz, Alex, past and present members of #db, and anyone else who's received cards from me in the past and/or reads this blog and/or e-mails me on a regular basis, because I probably meant to send you a card as well. (And even if this doesn't include you -- seriously -- I wish you all the best for the coming holidays and 2009.) Given the outdated nature of my list, I have no doubt that I'll get at least one card back because the address is incorrect.

Anyway, the experience has really soured me on the whole holiday card thing. I admit to being disgusted in years past by how unabashedly mechanical my mother's holiday card process has seemed, yet this year -- although, unlike the apparent nonchalance with which my mother treats the gesture, I do sincerely wish everyone on my lists and in my circles well -- I feel as if I've done the same thing. And given that the sincerity of a holiday wish is no more apparent in a snail-mailed piece of folded cardboard than an e-card (right?), I wonder if it might just be better to gather up all of the necessary e-mail addresses (which, as far as I know, remain current) and truly automate the process next year.

Turtles and Batman and knockoff Prowl -- oh my!Happy holidays to the tots of America.

I think a great deal of my disappointment is also connected to the fact that my perceived creepiness has begun to ruin even the holidays for me, but I suppose I should have expected that as well. Still, at least I can still donate to Toys For Tots without seeming (overwhelmingly) creepy! The Donatello Christmas Tradition continues.

-posted by Wes | 5:58 am | Comments (10)
  • Becky says:

    I remember getting the hot chocolate -- it was good! With my family and having moved so much, I send out quite a few cards and I admit that I just don't have the time to personalize them much, other than the signature. Still, I guess I still feel honored to at least make it on someone's lists as the amount seems to dwindle every year.

  • Dave says:

    Well, you got me a pretty cool gift, I recall - Existanz.

  • I'd very much enjoy having a card full of drawings and or other stuff in it. There are a few on the fridge even now.

    T.A.B and I both wish you a happy holiday and New Year.

  • jenny says:

    Happy Christmas and New Year, Wes! I loved my madballs dvd, by the way, and am always, always impressed with christmas cards. Especially because I think i've only gotten my shit together to send them once in my life. I'm sorry it felt automatic to you this year--that is no fun. And I know I am a terrible card recipient because I really, really love them, but almost never reciprocate. (It took me 30 years just to get to a point where I even have thank you cards in the house on a regular basis--growing up with hippie parents leaves you kind of behind in basic social protocol. But ahead in drug experimentation, I suppose, so not totally without its perks.) Anyway, thank you for the holiday wishes, and I hope 2009 is grand for you!

  • jenny says:

    PS--After all these years, I'm still completely baffled by the whole "creepy" thing. You seem thoroughly charming to me.

  • Wes says:

    Becky: It does seem like holiday cards are becoming an endangered species, and I guess there is something nice about getting holiday cards. Thank you for remembering me each year, by the way!

    I can certainly understand the practical reasons for not sending out exceedingly personalized cards -- it's the transformation of sending holiday cards in to a robotic, guarded chore rather than a fun holiday activity (for me) that I'm finding more problematic. Stickers would be fun even without the personalized messages, but then I'd run the risk of becoming the Stickerman.

    Dave: I'm glad you liked it! That was a pretty neat film.

    Ro: I think part of the problem is that whereas many people probably wouldn't mind gestures like that, those gestures become particularly disconcerting when they come from me. People's interpretations of actions are dependent upon their opinions of the agents.

    Happy holidays to you and TAB as well!

    Jenny: I totally would have sent you a card, but I knew you'd relocated. And I've never had thank you cards around, but then I rarely have occasion to send them! I'd also worry that sending them would make me seem even creepier -- like if I sent one for some minor gesture that, in the eyes of my benefactor, didn't warrant folded cardboard gratitude. I'd also be particularly inclined to personalize the card in those instances, which could make the perceptions even worse!

    And I appreciate the compliment, but you've never actually met me in person -- I am entirely capable of creeping people out even without direct contact, but my record in face-to-face situations is unrivaled. Perhaps you'd fall into the 1.3% of people not frightened by me, though. You do fall into the relatively small percentage of adults who can tolerate that Madballs cartoon, let alone enjoy it. 😉

  • jenny says:

    but wes, since we're all your friends already, wouldn't you becoming the stickerman be a hilarious joke? i would laugh my ass off if i got a card with a bunch of stickers on it labeled with things like "cat face." a la stampman. i say this with a lot of certainty because the one time in my life i got into sending cards regularly was when my best friend and i started imitating the cards sent to me by my grandmother--they're basically the corniest hallmark cards in the world, but then she goes in and underlines certain words, or adds dorky little editorial comments. it's kind of stampmanesque, actually. and my friend and i started getting the sappiest "to my husband/wife" cards and doing that. it seems insane to be typing this, but it was actually an immense amount of fun. i guess my point is just that context matters. if someone like stampman sent me cards like that it would be kind of terrifying. but i already like you, thus it would be funny instead.

    and i stil justl want to go on record as saying, i don't think you could creep me out, wes. seriously. next time you're in new york, let me know!

  • jenny says:

    ps--the above totally sounds like an ornate plea for a card, but it isn't, i swear! i just think it's sad for something you enjoyed so much to become unfun, particularly if it doesn't have to be....

  • the Jax says:

    I always enjoy your cards and notes, Wes, and the only creepy present I can recall was the DVD Satan's Little Helper---but I do vow to watch it someday! I never have done Christmas cards myself, but given my lack of belief in either Jesus or Santa Claus that's hardly surprising. One atheist friend of mine did send xmas cards this year, and they were hilarious--she wrote little rants about how the "reason" for the season is b.s., but how much she values her friendships etc.

  • De says:

    Cora still digs the Ninja Turtles DVD and so do I. It's been beyond crazy the past couple of years, my friend. We (Em, Cora, and I) have never and will never be creeped out by you. Actually, I feel guilty for not being a better friend.

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