ornament by the incredible nikki mc ferren
so maybe i'm a thirty-five year old child who gets as excited about christmas as a second-grader hopped up on hot chocolate. so maybe i can't help but make gingerbread today, even though kim and kiyomi are 3000 miles away, just because.
and while this holiday zeal is absolutely sincere, apparently i have my limits.
the most festive thing i've done this christmas time was to stumble into a swingin' country christmas singalong. yes. a swingin' country christmas singalong. new york is great for that. if you do your research, you could find an event as awesomely random as this, 365 days a year. in this case, sarah dragged me out of my working hovel and forced me into the ribbon lined, pews of jalopy--a cafe style performance space in red hook. being early december, i hadn't yet been hit with the holiday spirit stick--or cane, i suppose, in this case. but the sweetback sisters said 'bring it on!' and i was game. i was convinced. it was great.
except it was really hard for me. already i'm someone who hates crowd participation. i am eternally suspicious of the first few rows of any auditorium and really don't want to sit there, lest i be pulled up on stage and hypnotized into making out with an elvis impersonator or have to endure some clever thespian's spontaneous assault. or be asked to wear a burger king crown and slow dance while a boy you have a crush on sings fools rush in. (um, that last one actually happened). no thank you. i even really hate clapping along with a song just because everyone else is doing it. i will sit there with a bad attitude, arms folded, while everyone claps off-beat grinning. i hate it in the style that the grinch hated christmas. yes, like someone who's shoes are too tight.
but a sing-along shouldn't be a problem, right? i mean, they put the words in a booklet and everyone's doing it, not just the front row? and i love christmas, right? this should be totally awesome. but for that very same reason that i overzealously love christmas, it was impossible to feel right. and that is that i was raised under the influence of the jehovah's witnesses. i didn't sing christmas carols at church or at school. i wasn't allowed. in fact, when they sang christmas carols or made pipe cleaner santas or ate snowman cookies, i was escorted out of the classroom and generally given the task of counting the rocks on the elementary school wall. i could still hear the singing, but it was muffled and forbidden. an evil kind of satan thing. and by the way, did you ever notice how you could just scramble the letters of santa to get satan? mmhmm. i didn't think you did.
so being asked to sing "who comes around on a beard that's white" (wait, what's the lyric?), though a delightful thought, feels like looking at a songbook page that says, "shit fuck piss damn". these are words that as an adult, i don't mind saying (sorry, dad!), but nonetheless hold the stigma of trouble. of evil. singing them out loud feels weird. and that didn't change, even after 12 choruses of the 12th day of christmas.
and so it was. swayback sisters and band dressed in festive garb, artificially flocked trees glistening with electricity, jingle bells, and mouthful after mouthful of profanity. it was glorious. and it made me squirm.
my name is kitty joe sainte-marie, and i'm a recovering jehovah's witness.