Historically, I’ve been something of a Grinch about Christmas. This is not to say that I actively try to deny people the holiday — no ornaments up my sleeves, no roast beast in my bag — but I have been known to, passive aggressively, make the holiday a miserable experience for those around me.
Example A) My mom: Let’s take a drive around the neighborhoods to look at the Christmas lights!
Me: But X-Files is about to come on.
Example B) Best friend: There’s carolers at the door!
Me: Tell them we don’t need any.
Best friend: *SIGH*
My reasons for not liking the holiday were legion. Shopping was an upstream battle in the crowds. Other shoppers were terrible. Traffic was terrible. The music was atrocious. The food was fattening. The drinks were fattening. The smells were fattening. The kids were annoying. Their parents were more annoying. Being thoughtful was really hard.
It does go deeper than this surface disdain, though. My real difficulties with the holiday have to do with all the expectations, specifically that expectation of happiness. The pressure to be happy tends to make me actually rather unhappy. For some of us the Christmas season is less an umbrella of general jollity, and more a magnifying glass of specific pain. Perceived faults and deficiencies of our own lives and the suffering of others are made hyper clear when the message being sold to you is one of loud, inescapable, suffocating blissfulness.
You should be happy. Why aren’t you?
Perversely, working retail during the Christmas season does make me happy. Discovering that my natural habitat is behind the counter of a bookstore was the best thing that happened to my Christmases since that purple Popple Santa brought in 1986. I get to be the helpful, bookish elf to hundreds of Christmas shoppers, some more harried than others. My unique skill set is such that I can pick out the perfect book for your Secret Santa and remember what picture book you got your nephew last year like some kind of bookish Rain Man. In short, I can make other people happy.
Yes, sometimes there are disgruntled customers, but when I keep in mind that perhaps they are just like me, and that being out in public in a retail location on December 21st is actually their ninth circle of hell, turned up to 11, then I can forgive them. Everybody has bad days; some of us have more of them in December.
This all goes to say that I thank every one of you as customers for helping make my holiday season enjoyable. I can only hope the bookstore has brightened yours a bit as well. Happy holidays. Be kind to your Grinches.