Look, I know this sounds ungrateful, but I do hate getting presents. I am really particular, and I don’t like your taste – sorry to be blunt about it, but that’s how I feel. I have limited room, and limited resources. When you get me something, I feel the need to get you something in return, but second guessing you makes me stressed, and it leaves me with less to get something I’d prefer. I sometimes find your interpretation of my taste misses the mark, and while the the embarrassment of regifting is guiltridden and time taking things to charity shops is poorly spent, I get a bit ticky about things in my house that don’t fit in to my personal aesthetic. I know how this sounds, but it doesn’t stop the feeling that really, I’d much rather you’d not bothered. I expect you sometimes feel the same?
I am finding Christmas increasing stressful. It starts in November with the pressing appearance of cards I don’t want to buy and certainly struggle to write – my wrists are weak and handwriting appalling; postal dates I inevitably miss, and seasonal greetings from friends I have forgotten clutter on my door mat making it hard to open the door, and it gives me a headache to stoop to pick them up and then to put up on a shelf I have to stand on a stall to reach. The wrapping bonanza, which, with kids, I try and do by mid month, defeats my dyspraxia, and inevitably leaves me with poorly packaged parcels and Sellotape stuck between my teeth. I’ve started outsourcing the grunt work to Tom, who will cook and manage Amazon orders as well (I can’t cope with form filling, preferring to shop in the flesh, but only when it’s not too busy and there aren’t any queues, which limits me to midweek pre-sales) but even curling ribbons with scissors – my need for colour balance means I feel uncomfortable unless presents have a contrasting trim – feels more a chore than a pleasure.
The boozing, which starts at the tail end of November with my birthday and politeness requires at least one outing a week in the run up to the big day, makes me bloat and my liver can’t take it anymore, but alcohol is the only way to assuage the social anxiety that grips me at gatherings of acquaintances and colleagues, so I’ve started not going out, or going home early, which makes me feel like a party pooper, or I get shitfaced and make an idiot of myself, the recollection of which consumes me with horrors for days, weeks or years afterwards.
And then the eating. God, the eating. Look, I’m not that fussy about food these days but I really get overwhelmed by too much of it, and any anorexic tendencies I may have once had seem to rear up when my plate is too full. As Christmas approaches, offers of food are hurdles to be sidestepped, nipped past and crumbled into pot plants. I feel scrutinised and judged if I decline the invite to eat food that I would never ordinarily chose to put in my mouth and yearn to be empty as my waistband tightens and the disgust I feel at bulging flesh in the mirror, which I avoid like the plague, is enough to make me want to vomit. I hate feeling full, particularly when I’m full of pastry. The looming annual detox only fills me with a kind of grim relief: the purge after an enjoymentless binge only reinforces my sense of discomfort at the annual festive splurge.
I know how I sound, but hear me out a minute. For me, it’s all too much. But opting out – even when I try to cut down on engagements, gifts and cards, only leaves me with a sense of guilt and fretfulness that I am somehow committing social suicide. By the time New Year comes, I’m filled with a sense of self loathing, dread at the coming of bleak midwinter and the distinct feeling I’ve not had all that much fun.
I wish I could lighten up, but I can’t, so please do me a favour and don’t burden me with too much Christmas cheer this year. And I’ll do my best not to bah humbug too loudly as I clear up mounds of wrapping, fret about expenditure and feel queasy after I’ve eaten reheated frozen party nibbles that I know will make my jeans uncomfortable until at least February. Oh, and feigning delight at a gift I don’t want is really, really hard for me, so maybe just ask me what I want in advance, or better still, don’t bother – I will feel better about having missed the hints you’ve been dropping, and sense of failure engendered by not being able to afford what my own taste dictates for you. All I want for Christmas is a lie-in and a new personality anyway.