Just because he looks jolly doesn't mean Santa can't have a dirty streak.
Brett Berk: I spent the Thanksgiving holiday down south with my boyfriend's family. This included our three nieces, all between the ages of 7 and 10. We managed to avoid one scourge of the holiday season -- taking the girls to see Twilight: New Moon. But this left us holding the (turkey) bag for other joyous festivities, namely, taking the kids downtown to go ice skating at a rink set up in a bland corporate plaza between two unremarkable skyscrapers.
This wasn't so bad. It was a sunny day, the ice wasn't too crowded, and the tweenieces delighted in sliding around. Best of all, I managed to beg off donning skates at all, shirking the responsibility onto the blood relative, my partner. Fortunately, ice skating hurts. And even though all three of the young ladies are extremely sporty -- between them, they kayak, play soccer, rock climb, and train for gymnastics -- it wasn't long before they were complaining of sore ankles. Unfortunately, they managed to hobble off the rink just as my least favorite part of Xmas approached: Santa.
Actually, it wasn't just Santa. It was a pair of Santas (Santi? Santum?), both of who wore black boots, pointy caps, and realistic beards that they obviously spent the rest of the year growing and (haphazardly) grooming. One of them had a "Mrs. Claus" with him -- though she looked more like a cast-off Druidic Priestess, with her hauntingly vacant blue eyes, green hooded cape, and a strange stuffed animal that resembled a beagle in a beaver-fur stole. The other Santa was hanging stag (and I don't mean with one of the reindeer).
Those of you who know me know that I tend to downplay our national mania for "stranger danger," reminding people that the negative incidents we associate with this perceived risk have actually remained steady or diminished over the past 30 years (they simply seem more prevalent because of the echo chamber of our always-on modern media), and almost universally occur at the hands of someone in the child's family. However, that doesn't mean that I condone placing your young offspring on the lap of any fat man in a piebald red suit just because it's December.
Yet, oddly, this is just what people did. These weren't official Santas, vetted or cleared in the fashion of even the lowest-rent department store Saint Nick. It's possible these guys weren't even sober (one of them seemed to be tottering). I campaigned against letting the girls get their picture taken on the chubby old dude's knee, but he was giving away candy canes, so my protests fell on deaf ears (also, the nieces' parents were present, and encouraging of contact).
But on our way back to the car, I spotted one of the Santa's cars -- a run-down van with a homemade I Am Santa magnet stuck to the hood, featuring his scary grimace, and listing a "sleigh-mail" address -- in the parking garage. Instead of stoking their fears (it was a VAN, for god's sake; had they never read the basic child molester profile?) my relatives took comfort in this. "It looks legit," my sister-in-law said. I pointed out that a) anyone can acquire an email address with the word Santa in it; this is not a privilege reserved for "real" Santas b) anyone can dress up in a fuzzy scarlet get-up, have a picture taken, and have a big (removable) magnet made of it, and c) the whole concept of Santa is still creepy ("Sit on my lap, little boy, and I'll whisper in your ear and give you a sweet."). I was accused of lacking proper holiday spirit.
What do YOU think?
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|