I’m just a lonely Jew on Christmas

this get-up is beneath me

this get-up is beneath me

I originally wrote this piece for my student newspaper, a couple of years ago (hence the outdated ad references) and I’m well aware that it’s inappropriately unseasonal. But it’s raining, and it’s freezing, and it’s nearly June. So the only possible alternative I can think of to stomping around in a permanent strop at the Universe is to pretend it’s Christmas…

Every year, around this time, the pangs of tinsel envy start setting in. I’m overcome with the burning desire to mull things that I don’t usually mull, the overwhelming urge to roast things on open fires. Aside from the whole Jesus thing, I’m full of the spirit of Christmas: fairy lights, food, booze, consumerism, snow…all things I can (in varying degrees) get on board with.

I don’t know why I have such warm and fuzzy associations with the holiday, given that it’s one I’ve never celebrated, but that doesn’t stop me from coming over all tingly when the lights go up. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a real Christmas to shatter the overblown Adland romanticism of yuletide ― I spent last 25th December in my PJs eating bagels and schmear, and watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ until my eyes bled. I didn’t cry at ‘The Notebook’, but the John Lewis Christmas ad makes me well up (mostly because of its great Smiths cover. But also, the childlike innocence beaming from that little boy’s bowl-haircut-topped mug).

Obviously the flipside of the sheer delicious, snow-dusted wintry scene, ginger-bread-house, nights-drawing-in-at-four, mulled-cider, german-market, twinkly-lightedness of the whole thing is what Binge Britain is best at ― going a bit overboard.

Anthropologist, Kate Fox spoke to the BBC recently about a set of studies suggesting that the behaviour we exhibit when drunk is dictated by cultural rules and norms, not by chemical reactions. Whilst alcohol does reduce inhibitions and slow reaction times, there’s nothing to link it specifically with violence or promiscuous behaviour. These drunken behaviours are only symptomatic in temperance cultures such as the UK, United States and Australia, where drinking carries a moral pressure. In integrated drinking cultures like France, Spain and Latin America, alcohol consumption is as morally neutral as drinking coffee and, despite higher alcohol consumption, cultural beliefs and expectations mean that people don’t exhibit these anti-social drinking behaviours.

This ingrained social problem, and all of the wider health- and crime-related implications that become particularly pertinent around the season of excess, however, pale in comparison with the horror of the Littlewood’s Christmas advert. In 41 soul-shrivelling seconds they manage to sweep aside all quaint, joyous, familial notions of Noël, casually booting Santa in the face as they laugh maniacally all the way to the bank. In the advert, the uglier lovechild of Catherine Tate and Beelzebub sticks her head between the curtains to the refrain “Who put an x-box under the tree?…my mother”, a lyric with so many layers of wrong, it makes me do a tiny vom in my mouth. Diligent wives and mothers buying domestic happiness with D&G watches and Macbook Pros- is this the true message of the season? Merry bloody Christmas, retail consumerism, you’ve pissed all over my dreams.

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old skool

old skool

I was initially biased against the whole idea of blogging (yep, this is a blog post on blogging: META). I came to it with some fairly misconceived prejudices, and like anyone who looks down on something for being snobby/showy/ arrogant, I was bringing my own fair share of snobbery to the table. You’ve got to position yourself above something to look down on it.

To me, the Blogger seemed to be the cyber generation’s equivalent of the Beige Flasher Mac: the dude who yells his ill-informed opinions down public concourses, his head swollen with self-importance, and his pockets with four pints of Kestrel. In my head, they were something like the information super highway’s answer to the ‘Don’t Be a Sinner, Be a Winner’ guy.

The slightly unhinged preacher used to haunt the crowded streets of London, condemning passing shoppers to consumerist Hell. Until he was slapped with an ASBO and ordered to refrain from vocalising his unsolicited opinions in public. But on the grimy streets of the inter-web, no such intervention takes place; there is no anti-social behaviour order to silence the deafening cacophony of the Ethernet. And sure, no one’s making me read the words of the Bristol-based fashion blogger who feels uninspired because, and I quote: “when I’m in London/Paris/NYC, I nearly always put in more of an effort. Unfortunately for moi, fashion-speaking anyway, I am in Bristol, which I personally do not find the most fashionably inspirational place in the world”. The poor love. This has led this cruelly misused flogger (that’s fashion blogger, for the non-portmanteau savvy. Yes I made it up- I’m a woman of the interwebs now) to feel “fashionably depressed”. Get that girl some Valium, and a public platform to air her woes immediately. This stuff’s for sharing.

So I’d read two or three bad blogs and took from it the implied arrogance of blogging ― the assumption that anyone actually wants to read the unedited, unpublished opinions of a rampant self-publicist― which sat uneasily with me. Armed with this meagre understanding, a copy of Thomas Pynchon and the kind of confidence that only comes with ignorance, I went on my merry way like a burnt-out junkie: shooting myself in the foot.

Since then, I’ve chilled my boots, suspended my judgement and discovered some amazing blogs from the well-known like Vagenda and Hyperbole and a Half, to the stylings of some of my lovely wordsmith friends. (treat yourself to a look at Joyriding the Storm by Vanessa Kisuule, performance poet extraordinaire and all-round bro whose words I have in the past paid to listen to, so I think I can give em ten minutes of screen time). Maybe the blogosphere is about earning your stripes, proving your worth before you go on to more gainful publication. And for those who don’t make the cut, I don’t have to trawl through their misspelt verbal excrement until I have a rage haemorrhage. If I really want to get my anger fix, there’s always the comment section of the Daily Mail’s website.

In fact, blogging might be the ultimate democratiser. The People vote with their mouse as to which blogs make it into the public consciousness, and which are consigned to the ‘should have saved it for your feelings journal’ pile. All of this sets up a bit of a dilemma for an aspiring writer with a low cringe-threshold for Blogs Etc. So I’m swallowing my pride, stepping away from angry cynicism (my old friend, you keep me so warm at night), and plunging into blogocrisy. And who knows, maybe you’ll think my words are worth reading too.*

*If not, maybe I can offer you one of my three other talents: I can make gyoza from scratch, I can tie my hair up with my own hair, and I can do this.
That is all.

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