Holiday Blues Charlotte Townsend

"Christmas Morning" painted on my face. December 2010.

I am obsessed with Christmas. And that is an understatement. I completed the list of gifts I was going to get for various friends and family the first week of November and finished all of the shopping a week later. I started decorating before the arms of the clock struck midnight on Thanksgiving and last year I even asked for a face painter to paint “Christmas Morning” on my face at our local holiday street fair. The artist looked at me confused and I elaborated, explaining, “You know, when you come down stairs and you see Christmas Morning. I want that on my face.” After, I walked around proudly for the rest of the night with a beautiful scene painted right on my face – my friend walked five feet in front of me to try to hold onto some anonymity. Maybe it adds to the dramatic irony of the situation to state that I was seventeen at the time. True Story.

Well, needless to say, I take Christmas (and the whole holiday season for that matter) very seriously and today the holiday season came tumbling down on me. I had a holiday meltdown. I think we are supposed to grow out of meltdowns at age 4 (until we grow back into them while planning our weddings… at least that’s what romantic comedies allow me to believe). Anyway, I had been carefully planning what to get everyone for quite some time and I knew that I wanted to get two previous offices that I had worked in Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. When I moved to New York, I brought both of the offices in Los Angeles Sprinkles cupcakes as a thank you for such a lovely work experience and thought it would be a nice gesture to FedEx the New York equivalent overnight.

But nothing ever works out as planned, does it? I was engaging in a humorous string of e-mails with my dad, so when I received an e-mail during class I didn’t think anything of it. But the e-mail wasn’t from my dad. It was from my old boss. The headline was simply MAGNOLIA BAKERY. It was a very sweet e-mail, thanking me etc., but it was the last line that got me. The last line that left me mortified. “You accidentally put _____ ______’s card in our box, so I’m assuming you might have put our card in hers.”

Oh my gosh. Just shoot me now. After everything, all of the planning, the hour waiting in line at Magnolia Bakery, the numerous trips to FedEx, however many coveted college dollars, the planning, hours, trips and money (and, well, my dignity) flew out the window. I am a perfectionist and on some days, that does not work out in my favor. Today was just one of those days. I felt that my good deed was no longer perceived as something nice or thoughtful. I messed up. But there was nothing I could do. The only thing I knew to do was cry. And to call my mommy.

She tried to comfort me, she really did, but saying, “Oh I remember when someone did that at CAA—they were ridiculed for weeks. I think they even got fired. At least you weren’t that person” really didn’t help sooth me much. I retorted by muttering words that had never EVER come out of my mouth before: “I hate Christmas.” Pause for reaction.

Because my eyes were so bloodshot from the perpetual tears that had been streaming out, I was too embarrassed to walk into my building. I was plagued by the idea that the doorman would see my tear stained face. (I’m a teenager, I’m allowed to be self-conscious, okay?)

I sat perched on a windowsill outside in the crisp December air and it was not until I saw a father carrying a Christmas tree, trailed by his adorable little girl, that I thought, “Why am I getting so upset? I did something nice. It’s the holidays. It’s the thought that counts I guess (or at least that’s what everyone always says).”

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to make “Christmas morning” (or Hanukkah nights) perfect? The holidays are supposed to be about love, right? All month, decorations are everywhere you look, great holiday tunes (like A Very She & Him Christmas) play in every shop and  even Starbucks tries to put a smile on your face every morning with a festive cup. So who cares if the wrapping paper matches the bow or if you could only afford to buy one present for your family members this year instead of two or if you simply messed up by sending the wrong card by accident?

Everybody says “it’s the thought that counts” for a reason. It is the thought that counts. It’s Christmas time, y’all. Take the pressure off and go get “Christmas Morning” painted on your face, no matter how old you are (metaphorically or not). Eat (peppermint bark), drink (apple cider) and be merry (even if you have to deal with airports to see your family) this holiday season!

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  1. I grew up in a household where, to this day, we do not decorate for Christmas — we *redecorate* for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, all the usual decor comes off the walls and is replaced by something Christmasy (and the Christmas music starts in October to get us in the mood). I totally understand the impulse to wear Christmas morning on your face (wonderful story, btw!) as well as the accompanying pressure of putting so much effort and thought into the holiday. One year, I decided to burn my brother a CD of music from a movie we both worshipped and rewatched about a thousand times as children but for which no soundtrack was available. I knew he would never expect it because he checked online at least once a month to see if the music was ever going to be released, and I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face when he opened this ages-sought soundtrack that I had put together myself. It took WEEKS of work recording the tracks and editing them, and I even photoshopped the DVD cover into a CD-sized one and made a track list and fake credits to go on the back. To this day, it’s one of the homemade gifts of which I’m proudest. And when the time finally came for him to open it, he had just unwrapped it and pulled the lid off of the box, and I saw his face light up as he opened his mouth to say… something I never heard. Because at that exact moment, my dad started talking over him and my brother stopped whatever he was about to say to let my dad speak, effectively obliterating the “OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME!!!” reaction I’d been hoping for. It was like someone hit the little red button. I felt this boiling mix of panic, hysteria, and borderline rage that resulted in me having to call upon every fiber of willpower not to scream like a banshee at my dad — whom I love dearly — to just shut up so my bro could enjoy his present that I’d put months of effort into. I had put so much stock into the promise of that magical “reveal” that I was on the verge of ruining Christmas morning for the rest of my family by having a full-blown meltdown… it was one of those moments when you exist as both the self experiencing the emotion and the self who realizes you are being carnival-freak-crazy. All of this is my long-winded way of saying that I loved your piece and fully understand the supplementary psychosis that can come wrapped up in any Christmas present, even if it’s coming from a place of love for your gift recipients and the season in general. :) Cheers to just eating, drinking, and being merry with your loved ones this year!

  2. This was great! Even though I’m Jewish, I like the “Christmas” feeling and the idea of being generous towards others. Unfortunately, that generosity is often forgotten by stampeding Black Friday crowds and nasty people in line at stores.

  3. Thank you, Charlotte! I was starting to feel like a real Grinch the past few weeks, but this article really helped me realize I need to chill out a little bit and enjoy Christmas. After my final this morning I fully intend on painting Christmas Morning on my face! Thanks again, and happy holidays to you!

    • I am glad that you could connect to this piece. I hope you had a lovely time “painting Christmas Morning” on your face!! Happy Holidays to you too!

      Charlotte Townsend | 12/15/2011 10:12 pm
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