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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

The NC Double Scrooge: Family/Social Division

Submitted by on December 14, 2010 – 9:28 AM64 Comments

"I think it says 'fragile,' honey."

It's the interpersonal aspects of the holidays that cause the most stress — not because we hate everyone, either, although rage does occasionally play a role. It's more about performance anxiety. Did we get the right presents? Can we get home in time to trim the tree with Mom? Have we overthought the Secret Santa at work? Does coffee-cart lady get a tip?

Welcome to the family/social wing of the NC Double Scrooge house, where abrasive in-laws and impenetrable assembly instructions meet for a drink and settle their differences (and also where we hucked in all the poll choices we forgot in previous rounds).

NC Double Scrooge, Family/Social Division: Please Pick The Three (3) WORST

  • Family-visit politicking (12%, 415 Votes)
  • The Christmas letter that is a poorly punctuated brag-a-thon (11%, 369 Votes)
  • Trying to make everything perfect, which just results in making everything and everyone miserable (7%, 243 Votes)
  • Not knowing how/if to tip the people who deal with your split ends, toe jam, pubic hair, mail, garbage, etc. (5%, 179 Votes)
  • Uneven gift exchanges (5%, 174 Votes)
  • No, it actually is not "cool" for you to "put us" on the uninsulated mud porch -- we're childless, not animals (5%, 163 Votes)
  • Overschedulement (4%, 156 Votes)
  • Dealing with the guilt that you haven't sent Christmas cards in years, not even the obligatory "Look at our CUTE baby in his first Christmas outfit!" mailer (4%, 152 Votes)
  • The office holiday party (4%, 140 Votes)
  • Realizing that you have nothing to say to 65 percent of the people on your holiday-card list (4%, 130 Votes)
  • Yes, Christmas has pagan/Roman origins; nobody likes a know-it-all, Mr. Solsticepants (4%, 128 Votes)
  • Living or working near a major holiday center -- i.e., Macy's in NYC; a mall; the theater in your town that hosts the Nutcracker (3%, 118 Votes)
  • Pets vs. tree: eating tree, climbing tree, knocking tree over, playing with ornaments, drinking out of tree stand, getting sap on selves, forcing you to put tree on top of fridge (3%, 115 Votes)
  • Hey, excited small child or elderly relative who doesn't need that much sleep anymore: we salute your enthusiasm, but IT IS FOUR-EIGHTEEN IN THE MORNING (3%, 113 Votes)
  • People who make their pets wear Santa hats or antlers (3%, 89 Votes)
  • Trying to find holiday cards that aren't too Christian, too cutesy, or too artsy (i.e., the cardinal in the snow that could be for any winter event) (2%, 78 Votes)
  • Self-righteous debates over how, when, and in what order to open gifts (2%, 74 Votes)
  • Passive-aggressive commentary on how messy/wasteful gift wrapping is "nowadays," like everything was wrapped in linen or beef 40 years ago or something (2%, 71 Votes)
  • Office Secret Santa pools that require a rulebook 20 pages in length (2%, 57 Votes)
  • Fruit in the stocking -- if I want an orange, I'll buy it myself (2%, 55 Votes)
  • That "I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!1!1" friend whose intense adoration of all things Yule starts out sweetly enviable but by December 2 has become rather unnerving (we don't mean you, Wing Chun!) (OR DO WE?) (1%, 52 Votes)
  • Chasing down addresses for Christmas cards (1%, 48 Votes)
  • Making fun of Kwanzaa -- it's hacky and you don't even know what Kwanzaa is (1%, 33 Votes)
  • Pets who refuse to wear Santa hats or antlers (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Staying up until sunrise to put together the most complicated toy ever, only to watch the kid play more with the box it came in than with the toy itself (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Finding out from your sister that Santa Claus isn't real and, for the record, neither is the Easter Bunny, and by the way, you are probably adopted (1%, 27 Votes)
  • SantaCon (1%, 20 Votes)
  • Holiday-card writer's cramp (0%, 16 Votes)
  • "Noooo, YOU said YOU were getting the AA batteries!" (0%, 16 Votes)
  • Mistletoe -- stop shoving people under it, and if you get shoved, just smooch and get it over with (0%, 15 Votes)
  • Realizing far too late that 1) you do not have cookies or a carrot to leave out for Santa and his team and 2) your child is At That Age where rolling with it is off the menu (0%, 15 Votes)
  • The Christmas-Eve vet trip occasioned by the nibbling of tinsel, broken ornaments, ribbon, gelt, and/or poinsettia (0%, 14 Votes)
  • The Yule log -- it really only works if you shove your TV in the fireplace (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Fireplace fail, especially the kind that somehow manages to set the garage on fire (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,193

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  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for including Mr. Solsticepants. I know he's pretty much the same guy as Don't Wish Me A Merry Christmas You Deluded Sheep, but he deserves to be on every annoyance list.

  • Jenn says:

    Ahh, this is where I get to complain about a member of my family who refused to participate in Secret Santa because we didn't set it up the way she wanted. Fine, then you don't get any presents.

    I helped my mom put up my parents' tree on Sunday, and the second the cat saw the tree skirt, a light bulb went on in her head and she remembered Christmases past (the first time she has ever remembered something that happened more than five seconds ago). She immediately started writhing around on the skirt, nuzzling the tree and giving us looks that said, "My tree! Don't ever take it away!" It'll be impossible to keep her away, especially when presents start to amass there.

  • Amanda says:

    I have a friend who decided around Veteran's Day that Christmas is the best holiday ever and deserves two months of celebration. NO. NO IT DOES NOT. She's always been overly cutesy, though, so this is probably just part of the progression.

    Speaking of overly cutesy, I totally put antlers and bunny ears and crap on my dogs, and while three of the four we've done it to have been good sports about it (including my poor Great Pyrenees wearing antlers on his nose briefly, because the pair we bought for the puppy was too small for his head), my Akita was NOT. HAVING. IT. when we tried the bunny ears on him. We put them on and he flicked them off before we could get a picture. Akitas are too dignified for that kind of thing.

    I do my level best to buy the least offensive (in terms of religiosity, anyway, because I am all for general bad taste) holiday cards possible, as I have friends who are Jewish and Buddhist and agnostic and whatnot, as we all do. Last year I bought a pack with pandas playing in the snow on the front, and my Chinese friend teased me about being racist. I told her to send me a card with frogs on it, then.

  • Kerry says:

    @Jenn my parents had a cat that loved to hang out the tree too – to the point where my mom actually put up a second tree for her in a different room (note that this is not a hardship for my mom, who has enough ornaments for 20 trees).

  • Miss Twitch says:

    Over Thanksgiving, my parents and I went shopping. Mom's being low-key about shopping this year, so she told me to pick out something and either take it home then or leave it to go under the tree. I chose the latter.

    A week later, my parents, who don't like each other much, started a HUGE fight that made it look like our Christmas together was going to be cancelled. They have since made it up, but my most annoying holiday moment of 2010 was the one where I realized I had deliberately sent my nice bottle of perfume off to be a hostage of fortune!

  • cmcl says:

    I would add re: uneven gift exchanges: People who refuse to abide by the agreed-upon white elephant rule for white elephant exchanges and insist on buying a real gift instead of something you had lying around the house, thereby making the person who stuffed a container of Nutella into one of last year's gift bags feel like the cheapo doofus at the party.

  • Southern Shannon says:

    3 choices are NOT ENOUGH

  • unicorn hair says:

    I have to add the Christmas photo postcard. I didn't know that having children made you unable to write your name. I get bulk mail that is more personalized.

  • Bah humbug says:

    Can I submit a write-in vote for those of us unfortunate enough to work in midtown last Saturday which apparently was also Santa-Con in NY? Its bad enough to getting asked for directions to the tree/American girl store/Radio City every time I try to step out for lunch while avoiding the slow moving hordes of tourists. Having to avoid the drunken obnoxious college kids as "Santa"/slutty elfs/drunken sugar plum fairies pushed me over the edge into full on rage.

  • Krissa says:

    @Kerry – wait, wait, wait…your mom not only put up another tree, but decorated it, for the cat???

    OK, that's pretty hilariously awesome.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Bah: SantaCon is a poll option for exactly that reason. Shut it, barfbeards.

  • Ix says:

    @Southern Shannon: three choices are not nearly enough.

    Also, I'd like to add "having to explain for the hojillionth time that no, you don't have any special plans for Christmas, because you don't celebrate, even after having brought in latkes for the whole class to demonstrate part of what goes on during Chanukah".

  • Keckler says:

    Ah, family. It was my older sister who told me Santa and the Easter Bunny weren't real and that I was adopted. (I'm not, but I believed it because I looked nothing like my two sisters and everyone remarked on it. I look like my Dad more than anyone.)

    It was also my dad who started a fire in the garage because of a fireplace fail. Running out into the snow in our nightgowns and shooing the cats out, that was fun.

  • Kristina says:

    Well and now barfbeard is a part of my lexicon.

    All my holiday-related stresses are self-inflicted, so I really have no room to complain. I really need to work harder throughout the year to lower people's expectations of me.

  • Brian says:

    I was going to cast a vote for the photo postcard, but Unicorn Hair beat me to it. Specific grievances:
    * It's mass-produced. I don't need you to write a three-page letter, but at least sign your own name?
    * It often has photos of the kids, but not the adults…dude, I'm friends with you and your wife, not your three-year-old, and I honestly don't care that you've gotten fatter and lost more hair since last year.
    * It's a piece of paper, not a properly folded card, so I can't stand it up on the mantel/shelf/piano with all the *real* Christmas cards. How much room do you think I've got on my fridge?

  • Bah humbug says:

    @Unicorn – Yes! The pre-printed photo Christmas postcard bugs me to no end. If you can't even be bothered to sign your own name don't bother sending me the card. Then again, I was raised with the notion that even using the pre-printed labels for the addresses was in bad taste as it was too impersonal for "personal" correspondence.

  • Whitney says:

    Oh SantaCon. I have a friend who LOVES it, despite the fact that she doesn't drink at all and she always has to go by herself (because the rest of us want to stay as far away as possible), but even she admitted that this year the crowd was overwhelmingly fratty and obnoxious.

    My family mostly does pretty good on the gift exchanges (partly because we require lists so everyone at least gets something they actually asked for), but I can remember one really awkward year when my aunt hosted Christmas with her new husband and his family and we tried to do a white elephant exchange. I brought a mystery I had two copies of, which any of my family members would have enjoyed but it wound up with one of the other family who said while everyone was still sitting around with their presents "I don't know what I'm going to do with this thing," while all her family members nodded sympathetically.

  • Liz R. says:

    *turns red*
    Ok, I will plead guilty to busting out a Ms. Solsticepants rant in reaction to a smug, republican, conservative relative waxing inaccurate in the service of outlining his Keep Christ in Christmas horridness last year. I maintain I was provoked, but this year I will try to avoid paining the rest of the room further.

  • Brandi says:

    Ah yes, Solstice/Saturnalia/PaganRoots guy. I dated him actually. Newsflash, we've all seen the History channel special on the origins of Christmas so shut it!

  • kategm says:

    I join you in that statement. How can I limit my rantiness to just 3 choices????
    Okay, I know people who are all "giftwrapping is the most evil thing ever!!!!!!!!!" and I probably know a "well, actually, let me tell about how Christmas REALLY began because you're obviously an idiot who's been brainwashed by Big Brother" guy too. Okay, that narrows my options down now.

  • StillAnotherKate says:

    I worked in 30 Rock one year a lifetime ago. (For those not in NYC, 30 Rock is the building directly behind the Rockefellar Christmas Tree.) This is, without a doubt, Christmas Central in NYC. On tree lighting day, we left the office in the early afternoon to be sure to be able to escape before the throngs encircled the building and getting on the subway was still like swimming upstream against a stampeding horde of insane people. Who brings a child into the worst crowd in the City? And for what? To watch the lights go on? I atill don't get it.

  • adam807 says:

    Too many here. I can't possibly pick three. I work near Macy's (like, THE Macy's, from the parade), there's Santa Con, uneven gifting, tipping the super who barely does any work and makes more than I do, actually, thank you very much, overscheduled stress, those goddamn Christmas letters…hey, maybe I'll make this comment my Christmas letter!

    I totally WAS that guy who pointed out the pagan thing the other day though! But only because we received a gift of a wreath in the office and as I hung it up my boss said something like "It doesn't bother you?" because of the way I'm A JEW and I said, "there's not really anything Christian about a wreath, it's totally pagan, and besides it SMELLS PRETTY." Sigh.

  • Lori says:

    How about friends who guilt you into going to their house for Christmas because you don’t have any family in town even though you’d much rather stay at home and do nothing rather than deal with their family holiday stress? My college roommate and her mom have been doing this to me for the past ten years (and it’s not just Christmas but Thanksgiving, New Years, Easter, and the 4th of July too). And while I appreciate that they think of me as one of the family, God forbid if I want to spend the holidays with other friends or go visit my ACTUAL family because I never hear the end of it: “Remember that totally awesome and hilarious thing that happened that one year—oh, no YOU don’t because YOU weren’t here that year. YOU went to visit your sister and missed out on ALL the fun we had.”

  • Annie says:

    Now that I've seen all the polls and found very few things I hate, I realize I am the crazy person with an intense love of all things Yule. Sorry, everybody! One of my picks on this one was my disappointment that my dog doesn't like wearing things on her head, so I can't put her in the Santa hat/beard combo I saw for five bucks at Target. And of course, the familial politics.

  • jennie says:


    In the cats-vs-tree department, when they were kittens, my cats discovered they could CHEW THE MINI LIGHTS OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS. Why? I don't know. So the tree went up that year, and then came down a day later, but not so much later that they didn't have time to also pee on the tree skirt I'd spent ages crocheting.

    More generally, drunken and belligerent relatives, my martyr-ey and anxiety-ridden mother, and the part where I am always forced to iron the tablecloths despite having repeatedly demonstrated my total lack of fitness for the task, make it likely that one of these years I'm going to snap completely and book myself an igloo somewhere millions of miles away for the entire yuletide season.

  • Chickwithmonkey says:

    Can I vote for "Trying to make everything perfect, which just results in making everything and everyone miserable" 3 times?

  • K. says:

    Working in Rockefeller Center made me want to throw some blows on a daily basis. Yes, yes, the tree is huge and majestic and instills awe and wonder GET OUT OF MY WAY.

    My friends are just starting to have kids so by and large I don't get many kid-centric holiday newsletters. (Facebook is another story; my newsfeed is FULL of "baby's first Christmas" updates. "Baby's first tree! Baby's first ornament! Baby's first sip of eggnog! Baby's Santa PJs! Baby's reindeer antlers! Baby is practicing his letter to Santa!" like, the kid just learned how to hold up his head, he isn't practicing anything but drooling at this point.) But I do have one "STFU parents" family in my life with twin two-year-old girls. The mom is now a SAHM and she is insufferable about it. The newsletters have stuff in them like "Mommy [yes, her name is Mommy now, apparently] wants more sleep for Christmas this year!" "Mommy wants Daddy to child-proof the house like he promised!" Argh.

  • Katie says:

    Receiving the bragging christmas letters is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I'm disappointed that we get so few of them these days. My family likes to perform them as dramatic readings on Christmas night.

    The last minute run to store is my least favorite tradition. Last year both my kids sat on Santa's lap and asked for candy canes. Only candy canes. "Please Santa, bring me candy canes for Christmas." And, of course, come Christmas Eve around 8pm we realized that we forgot to buy candy canes. My husband had to go to 4 different stores and finally found a box of those nasty fruit-flavored ones. Luckily the kids were fine with that. This year candy canes were the only christmas item I bought in November.

  • Holly says:

    As someone who grew up Catholic, and whose emotional interest in the season is now Solstice-oriented but who still derives comfort from some of the symbols and rituals of a religion she no longer follows: I say AMEN (*snerk*) to "Mr./Ms. Solsticepants" as well. What? Christmas has pagan roots? YOU DON'T SAY! (File that under: everyone who could possibly care knew about that years ago, and those who don't care aren't going to suddenly have their Christmas Bubble popped by your telling them. Hey, it's midwinter! Can't we all just be midwinter-celebration buddies, no matter what/why we're celebrating?)

  • Beth C. says:

    In re: The Mud Porch. My issue is similar, but since we don't have to travel it's less "where will you sleep?" and more "Oh, you're single so you obviously have no schedule or plans and can obviously work around whatever cockamamy time tables we work out after letting all the marrieds work out their ideal plans." I know you have more in-laws and such to work with, but sheesh, I do have a life too and just because I'm single doesn't mean I can drop everything at a moments notice. /rant.

    Sorry, this one gets me every year.

  • Karen says:

    May we perhaps have a write in along the lines of a "It's MERRY CHRISTMAS you heathen" purse-lipped auntie?

  • ferretrick says:

    The office party-I loathe my coworkers and their petty, bitchy backstabbing ways all the year long. Why in hell would I want to spend my free time with them? And bore my poor husband and make conversation with their also bored spouses who I see exactly this one time in the entire year?

  • Lisa M. says:

    Can we add "Christmas is really a holiday for the children." in all caps and ginormous font?

  • RC says:

    I think it's the "poorly-punctuated" bit that gets me more than the "brag-a-thon"… but only slightly. Only slightly.

  • Miglet says:

    The Yule log — it really only works if you shove your TV in the fireplace

    Growing up, our TV was actually in the fireplace anyway. My father got such joy out of watching the Yule Log in the fireplace every year.

  • MattPatt says:

    I love that other people have as much of a hate-on for the self-aggrandizing Christmas letter as I do. I honestly don't know whether it's the "poorly punctuated" or the "brag-a-thon" that bothers me more.

    Also, piggybacking on @cmcl, declaring a white elephant exchange without specifying price limits or rules. Is it a "white elephant" as in "exchange funny useless crap," or "exchange real gifts that are within a reasonable budget," or what? There are people in the family that make ten times what I do; if we don't set a spending limit, the income disparity becomes obvious and embarrassing. And then someone winds up getting screwed.

  • Jeanne says:

    Oy, the card buying. I almost wish I had a kid so I could just do the photo cards. I have to buy cards that will work for my Christian friends and family, my Jewish friend, and my atheist friends. I usually wind up going with cutesy and getting a different card for my Jewish friend. Lucky for me I know she wouldn't care if I accidentally sent her one the cards meant for my family or other friends.

  • Krista says:

    Growing up our cats never bothered the tree. And we taunted them by putting bells and those things that are strings of plastic. Our late Reba loved those! She wouldn't bother them on the tree but when you took it down and shook it for her she'd go crazy trying to catch and eat it. She also claimed the tree skirt and we would always leave a blank spot for her.

    I voted for finding out from a sibling that Santa's not real. This didn't happen to me, but my brother got tired of the pretense and ruined it for my sister. She likes to claim it as a major tragedy of her childhood, though Mom thanked my brother. My sister was an oops baby and my brother and I were over the Santa thing when she came along. It was nice that Mom and Dad had to go back to getting us a gift from them and one from Santa. Still it's good she's gullible, because we were never very secretive or very convincing.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    When we first brought the kitties home, we debated about not setting up the tree that year, but realized that that road leads to No Decorations Ever As Long As The Cats Shall Live. So now we do the "bottom third bare" thing and man the squirt bottles. They mostly have the idea by this time and crouch beneath it in wounded fashion, gazing up into the plastic-branch glory that will never be theirs.

    Yeah, Roman Solstice Jesus Was Born In SUMMER You Know, Actually guy? Cram it with moist nutmeats. Whatever overlays the Church did back in the day stuck and now we celebrate in winter, got it? Good.

  • attica says:

    I take a perverse delight in receiving the poorly punctuated brag-a-thon letters. They never fail to cheer me up, as in "at least I'm not so pathetic as to need to send my CV out as holiday mail!"

    I am, however, anti-pets-in-costume at any time, with only one exception. The only clothing pets should sport is a Yankee hat. ;)

  • SarahBeth says:

    OMG I only got 3 choices? I could have EASILY picked 6.

    Family politics SUCK ASS. As referenced this year. My parents are divorced. So I have to schedule time to spend the holidays with both of them (This is not usually a big deal). However, my uncle who lives in Europe is here for Christmas and my grandmother is insisting on having the entire family on the cape for Christmas ON CHRISTMAS DAY. My brother and I have been whining about this for months and my dad's like, "Go or don't go, you're both adults." But the problem is, my Grandmother expects us all there, even though we're adults. And if we DON'T show up, we get in trouble. Explain to me how this is fair.

    /end rant.

  • Girl Tuesday says:

    Drat – I read "family-visit politicking" as "family-visit potlucking" Potlucking is kind of fun… not so much politicking, though.

    Also, I'd like to submit a write-in vote for "SHUT UP obnoxious family member who shows up intoxicated and thinks they are HILARIOUS!" This has appeal for not just Christmas, but just about every other holiday as well.

  • Nina A says:

    Also, being obliged to throw holiday club parties because they're too cheap to go to a restaurant and your partner wants to.

  • TipperTapper says:

    Ack, no actual entry for White Elephant?

    I don't know which is worse–the endless debate over whether the first gift-opener gets to pick at the end (because "it's not fair" "well that's the rules" "yeah but" "no but" "YEAH BUT" "NO BUUUUUUUUT")

    Or the one who always has to be Mister Witty and say "well, I know it's pee-see to call it a white elephant, but I grew up calling it a chinese auction," then adds a little snicker and an oh-i'm-such-an-unreconstructed-buffon smirk.

  • Jenn says:

    By the way, if anyone has pets who try to stealthily mess with the tree, the trick is to hang little bells on the bottom branches so you know when the critters are misbehaving. Of course, that leads to lots of jingling, but it's a nice little alarm.

  • Profreader says:

    Devotees of "Simon's Cat" will be glad to know he's made a cat-versus-tree installment:

    (And if you don't know the "Simon's Cat" series, you should check it out immediately…!)

  • Laura says:

    I think the treatment for my SAD must really be working, because I am usually as crotchety as they come, and all of these options elicit no more than an "eh. not so bad." from me. I am sure that they would normally drive me bonkers. My first Christmas without seasonal depression. It's a Jesus solstice miracle!

    Though I do have to put in a vote for family visit politicking. I wish I had realized before moving 1500 miles away that living close to your family means not having to spend all your vacations visiting them.

  • MH says:

    Arrrrgh – Christmas trees and pets! The first year I was on my own (after finishing college and moving out of Mom & Dad's) I got my very first tree – trimmed it proudly with ornaments I had been given over the years. The next day while I was at work my cat knocked it over and broke my favorite ornament. I was so angry I undecorated the whole tree, dragged it out to the balcony and heaved it over!

    Then there was the year that my sister's cat decided to leave everyone a gift under the tree – a dead rat!

  • lsn says:

    My work Christmas function this year has a "risk management plan", that was circulated at the start of this week (function's Thursday).

    I haven't laughed so much at an OH&S document for ages. Amongst other things it reminded everyone to cross the road at designated crossings; not to return to the lab if intending to drink alcohol (*snerk* – yeah, everyone was going back into the lab, honest!); to wear sunscreen and hats if sunny (southern hemisphere party) and to remain hydrated (isn't that what the alcohol's for?). Oh and not to drink and drive as "taxi's are widely available". Anyone would think scientists have a mental age of five, seriously. Surely they know by now that we're at least seven.

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