I heard my first Christmas carol of the season a couple of days ago. It was on an ad for some kid-related somethingorother. It irked me. It is still irking me. Watch me creep like Nosferatu: knees bowed, back hunched, arms bent upward, and fingers held like claws. Listen to me say, low and soft, irk irk irk. I am so irked, I am Irk.


When I think of Christmas, I remember the smell of my maternal grandmother's house, which smelled of cooking meat during our entire stay over the holidays, and when I remember that warm holiday smell of hot carcass, I immediately think of my grandmother's hair up in orange plastic curlers covered in a green gauzy kerchief.

curlersUntil this moment, I thought that the important part of my first memory after the dead bird part was my grandparents bustling about in their kitchen with the turquoise cupboards, but as I scanned that picture in my brain, I realized that I keep tracking back to those orange curlers and the way her tinted fine hair barely covered each one. Through her kerchief, I could see each spiny tine pressing against the material and a good portion of the curlers' barrels between thinly wound hair.

She kept her curlers in a salvaged bag made of thick, clear plastic that was pitted with dents and holes from the hard teeth that protruded from the orange curlers. Now that I see the bag attached to this memory, I remember that there were smaller green curlers, as well. The green ones had no teeth and were held in place by matching plastic pins that fit through holes along the length of the curler. She kept the bag in a drawer under the bathroom sink, and when I went to pee, I would often open that drawer and draw the palm of my hand firmly along the top of the bag so that I could feel the crunch of the curlers grating against each other. It was the sort of sensation that was at once ugly and alluring. They made thick-sounding clicks as they slide in and around each other's evenly spaced holes.

But this is not about curlers, or even Christmas ads shilling for the latest plastic injection mold gadget that is meant to both entertain and ease our lives. No, this about something else entirely. This is about the terrible stress of buying presents when you are 1) terrible at picking out gifts that are at all interesting or meaningful and 2) not exactly fat with cash and 3) aware that the Palinode has already purchased you a fantabulous present that is special and meaningful and likely beautiful to boot.

Is there a book or a video that could help a pathetic buyer of gifts such as myself, that could guide me through the muck of retail to the one true present? Because, you see, in previous years he has ended up with a book or a sweater. I am the perfect gift-giver if I am your mother and you are a disgruntled eight-year-old shaking your Christmas present expecting to listen to the bleak prospect of socks sliding back and forth with a new pair of viscose-acetate slacks, but for Jeebus' sake, I AM NOT THE PALINODE'S MOTHER. I am his lover, his friend, his partner through life, his own personal baker of potatoes. I want to give him a gift that he doesn't have to exchange at the Gap during the turbulence of a Boxing Day sale in another city just so I feel like he actually got a present from me, and all he ends up with for his troubles is another fucking sweater to cherish as his very own.

He has been very sweet about my gift-giving insecurity. Just yesterday, in an effort to make me feel less inadequate, he recounted some of the nicer gifts I have given him. Among the items he listed were: a gift certificate for books, an actual book, and a pair of shoes. Gift certificates. Books. Shoes. People, I have thrown up my hands and am presently beating my forehead against the desk in time to "Good King Wenceslas". It has a good, plodding beat for this sort of thing, and it's also got that great drawn out bit at the end of each verse that affords me a touch of a breather.

I am searching for enlightenment and completely missing the meaning of Christmas. Well, fuck good will toward men, I say, because I've been riding on the Palinode's knowledge of my good will since we met, and my good will is boring, characterless, tedious, bromidic. Christmas this year must mean cheap and improved, and once I have found my cheap and improved treasure, only then may I rest easy and muse on the warmth of the season and humanity's generosity of spirit. It's not looking too promising from this end, but there is always hope the possibility of whiskey shots to dull the dreadful pain of insecurity.

Which brings me to this off-topic addendum, which is addressed to Neil: I am not a person who is "...modest and quiet and [sits] with [her] knees folded". My gawd, no. I have a tattoo and I drink beer and I smoke cigarettes and I swear like nobody's business and the number of people I've slept with is in the double digits and I once stole my father's car and drove it without a license and and and and and, oh! And didn't I nearly got sexy there with that earlier sensual bit about the curlers? No? But there was peeing and touching things in the bathroom! Too abstract? Hmmm. I'll work at saucing it up a bit. You're still voting for me, right?

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