Please know that you do not have to transform into an entirely different person in order for the holidays to be joyous for you and other people.
You do not need to morph into a domestic goddess, a consummate host, a diplomat negotiating family treaties, a foodie, a pro-baker, a walking wallet, and a mind-reader with the ability select (and fund) The Perfect Gift for every human in your vortex.
You do not need to be Holiday Fabulous in order to have fabulous holidays.
So let us retire that fantasy.
Like all culturally-imposed fantasies of becoming someone else in order to be happy, successful and loved, The Fantasy of Being Holiday Fabulous* is toxic and alienating. It alienates you from yourself and from other people — which is the exact opposite outcome to what most of us are truly seeking at this time of year (and always!).
As Kate Harding writes in another context*, these kind of collective cultural fantasies are a form of self-rejection:
…the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person — one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also:
- When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage.
- When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted.
- When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.
- When I’m thin, I’ll be an adventurous world traveler instead of being freaked out by any country where I don’t speak the language and/or the plumbing is questionable.
- When I’m thin, I’ll become really outdoorsy.
- When I’m thin, I’ll be more extroverted and charismatic, and thus have more friends than I know what to do with.
Self-hatred forces us to perform our lives; and performance inhibits true intimacy.
And to me, the only redeeming feature of this time of year is special time with my loved ones.
Like Harding’s The Fantasy of Being Thin, my own Fantasy of Being Holiday Fabulous can get in the way of what I truly want to experience during the holidays.
If I want love and connection and intimacy at this time of the year — and all the time — I’m going to have to stop performing The Fantasy of Being Holiday Fabulous, accept who I truly am, and ask people to love the real me.
(It’s true that on those terms, there may be fewer of them who do. But they’re the ones who deserve to be inside my boundaries. They’re the ones who are good for me.)
I, for example, am not built for the cooking/baking/food part of life. This is not my zone of genius.
The times I attempted to host a holiday meal were good for NO ONE.
My loved ones know this about me. They assign me things like soda or dinner rolls or pie from the famous bakery near my house — basically, any foodstuff that can be purchased is my domain.
I am THRILLED to contribute in the best way I know how…and then enthusiastically over-buy. BUNS FOR DAYS.
The rolls at Christmas dinner? Are totally my thing.
I was telling this to a someone yesterday and turns out it’s her thing too!
Like me, her loved ones directly asked her to please NOT host or cook. They assign her the dinner buns, too.
Now, I admittedly have other redeeming talents to contribute. Oh my gawd, can I decorate. My design eye is SHARP.
So if you’ve got a room to rearrange or a picture to hang or a design dilemma, I will take your anguished call. I will happily be the boss of your decor. I will ABSOLUTELY come over and re-do your house or your tree til the wee hours so it’s party-ready. Hell, it doesn’t even need to be A Proper Occasion. I’ll do it on any given Tuesday — and be thrilled you let me!
I have even set up Craigslist alerts to find the perfect _____ and swooped in to buy, revamp and deliver that piece of furniture to loved ones before they even knew they needed it.
We all have talents and contributions.
I am great at radical encouragement, writing, feminist analysis + tool-making, decorating, and picking up dinner buns.
So if I get a text requesting me to contribute any of those things, I don’t feel insulted or deficient or lacking in holiday fabulosity. Instead, I feel seen.
When you text me for dinner rolls, I know the holidays are truly here.
We will laugh because by now it’s tradition.
And I will know you love me just as I am.
YOU, as you are, are the greatest holiday and everyday gift we could ever ask for.
* The heart of this blogpost and its title is an homage (womanage?) to Kate Harding for writing The Fantasy of Being Thin in 2009. A decade after reading it, I am still grateful. It changed my life.
I originally posted the seed of this blog post on Instagram, here.
I also write about another culturally imposed fantasy I call The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand because it is yet another damaging narrative telling us which select few women are worthy of rights, resources, respect, attention and even affection. I obviously want us to divest of this sexist, racist imperative, too.