On Not Being a Grownup at Christmas – GUEST POST!

A big thank you to my little bitty sister for this great post! And look at those jazzy handmade stockings. Show off.
Last week, while lamenting to my colleagues that I had no idea what to get my boyfriend for Christmas, we ended up having a long conversation about the family present exchange. That’s when I realized that, shockingly, I have some pretty strong opinions on the topic. So here is my Family Present Exchange Philosophy
In our family, Christmas is about the presents. Once I explain, you’ll realize that that wasn’t the saddest sentence ever to grace this blog.
Our family – cousins, aunts, uncles, significant others – gets together all the time. We celebrate every little thing with a big family get-together, and for the most part, it’s great (tis the season to overlook the drama). American holidays, Indian holidays, Hindu holidays, Christian holidays: it’s all fair game. Next year there’s even talk of getting a menorah (we’re equal opportunity around here). And there’s always food, fun, and more food.
But there generally aren’t presents. Indians are all about the benjamins, which is practical and smart, just like we are. That’s why Christmas is so great (here comes my FPEP); to me, unlike gifts of cash, Christmas presents represent the time and thoughtfulness of the giver. I don’t really care if I’m getting another fondue pot or something from the Dollar Store. Cheesy at it sounds, it really is the thought that counts to me. This person went out of her way to think about what I might like, spent hard-earned money on it, and then wrapped it in pretty paper (Here my colleague, the globetrotting poet I share an office with, disagreed. She wished her big Irish Catholic family would just give her money, instead of the “crap I’ll never use” they usually give.)
But it’s not just the stuff. It’s the entire experience. I love opening presents. I love that we all move away from the TV and sit around the tree. I love the anticipation of finding out what’s under the wrapping, and heck, I love the wrapping too. I spend way too much time thinking about how I wrap my presents, and I like giving my family the presents I’ve spent my time making beautiful.
During this conversation at work, another colleague recommended that my boyfriend and I get something for our apartment – a shared gift. He and I had considered this option, but we decided it was far too grown up for us. We wanted the presents, however small and inexpensive, but full of thoughtfulness and love.

Forget the holly — haul out the Hallmark Movie Channel


GUEST POST alert. RD strikes again!

Some people who know me might be shocked to discover that I am a rabid fan of the sappy holiday movie. Beneath my jaded, hard-bitten, work-a-day veneer lies the mushy heart of a true romantic. Most of the year, I am able to hide this chink in my otherwise sturdy armor, but at the holidays, the jig is up and the tissues are out.

I am not a snob either, of course the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, are always in heavy rotation, but I am also a sucker for the cheesy, un-original fluff that one is likely to find on Lifetime/Hallmark Channel/ABC Family and the like. Have you seen Holiday in Handcuffs, starring the too-buff Mario Lopez (of Saved by the Bell fame) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, aka, Melissa Joan Hart? I predict that it will become a new classic. It’s a fun, opposites-attract, Christmas kidnapping caper, that is so unlikely, you almost believe that it must have happened, because who could make that crap up? I LOVE IT!

Some of the other must-sees on my list include:

The Christmas Card — not surprisingly, a Hallmark standby. Starring the great Ed Asner, and some other people I don’t know, it’s a sweet, slightly predictable tale about finding true love where and when you least expect it. Plus it’s set in the Pacific Northwest, so the scenery is breathtaking.

A Holiday Affair — Starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Call me Psycho (get it?) but I love this old black and white that you can sometimes catch on Turner Classic Movies. Allegedly, Mitchum was “forced” to make it by his management team because he had been caught smoking pot for like the 100th time, and they thought it would be good for his image. Whatever the reason, he’s dreamy and charming in it, and Janet Leigh is beautiful and gutsy–she had “moxie” or whatever they called it back then. I could do without the weird, pointy bra, but that’s another story.

Christmas In Connecticut — Another black and white sigh-fest starring Barbara Stanwyck. It has some funny, Three’s Company-style hi-jinks, but in the end, the right couple ends up together, and there’s lots of snow, and sleigh rides in a rural New England setting that looks like it’s straight out of a Currier and Ives print. I try to watch it twice if I can.

The Holiday — This is a semi-new fave, that I’m sure is much more familiar to most people. What can I say? Jack Black, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Lots of house-porn with a luxe California beach home and a quaint English cottage. “Meet cutes” and witty, snappy dialog make it even better. Oh, and Cameron Diaz is in it too, but I don’t let that stop me from watching it with a bottle of wine…I mean, glass of wine.

There are many more I could list, but this entry is probably already much longer than WMEP anticipated. Besides, I heard Love Actually is coming on soon, so I have to go anyway….

Embrace the Strange

Guest post by my seester. I love any blog that uses Willow Smith and Susan Cain.  I’ve seen Susan live and she’s fantastic – and more corporations would have happier employees if they would listen to her – just sayin’.

Strangeness has been on my mind lately. I know that sounds…(I won’t say it)…weird, but it’s made me pretty emotional this morning, so I want to share. I followed a link from Design*Sponge (a really cool design blog that has just gotten better over the years) to Willow Smith’s new single, “I Am Me.” Since I don’t have cable and I don’t really listen to contemporary pop music or the radio, I’d never heard it before. It might not even be new now, I guess. It’s all about Willow embracing who she is, regardless of those who criticize her music or fashion decisions.

While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think that Willow is strange. She doesn’t dress like the typical tween, her hair is shaved very close to her head, and she is a t.w.i.g. In the video, Willow actually looks like a young Will. The fact that I noticed (and I’m the last to register these sorts of things) got me thinking of our very narrow perception of beauty. You have to be white, or a minority with very European features: small boobs, small butt, angular features, straight hair (full disclosure: I only have the small butt, which just makes jeans shopping a chore). If you’re a girl, you need to look feminine.

Now you may be thinking, “DUH,” but I think what’s so powerful about this is how deeply rooted this thinking is in our global culture. Indians value light skin and European features just as much as Americans do, and I’m sure other minority cultures are the same. So what Willow is doing—flaunting her Strangeness—is really impressive because it’s having a “global” impact.

Yesterday I watched Susan Cain give a TED Talk called “The Power of Introverts,” all about how our society seems to hold extroverts and extrovert qualities on a pedestal (group work, group think, etc), when really anywhere from a third to a half of our population is made up of introverts who just don’t function as successfully in groups. Again, it had made me think about how such people are called strange for what is essentially a biological quality. How messed up is that?!

I don’t know how we go about changing such a deeply rooted problem, but isn’t step one recognition? Isn’t step two conversation? I think I made that one up, but it sounds appropriate. So parents: please share these two videos with your children, and tell them to embrace what’s strange about themselves. But remember that you have to do it too.

Here’s the Willow Smith video. If, like me, you cry if a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, grab a Kleenex before you watch. Also, this made me think of the “Everybody Hurts” video for some reason.

And here’s the TED talk: