Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Houses of Cards

Happier - Guster (mp3)

I’m going to start a new seasonal business for set-up in malls across the country.

Facing one side will be Santa’s chair and the elves, and the moms will line up with their little darlings to get that priceless pic of their precious screaming in terror from having to sit on the lap of some bearded old dude.

Facing the other side will be a fake family. Three children dressed in matching sweaters, and two picture-perfect white adults of somewhat indistinguishable age, the kind of adults you can’t quite tell if they’re under 30 or approaching 40 because it doesn’t matter, because they’re adorable and perfectly put-together either way...

You see, back around Thanksgiving, my wife put up a fancy felt board of sorts at our doorway this holiday season, on which she has pinned the dozens of cards sent to us over the holidays.

Not quite a quarter of cards came from older couples or those with empty nests, and none of those cards included photographs. They were just cards. The majority of cards, by far, came from Marrieds With Children. One single amazing photo of the family, or of just the children. Or a photo collage of each individual child, sometimes with the parents in a separate shot as well.

Married people with children with a minimum income range of $50,000 per year send Christmas cards with pictures on them. That’s just what we do in 21st Century America. It’s so ingrained and expected that people do it even while they complain about the stupidity and pressurized feel of this tradition.

Wealthier couples send cards that scream of wealth. Professionally-shot photos, often in black and white, on thick card stock, sometimes even done with with die cuts or on letterpress, the kind of thing now available through Apple’s iPhoto in the hopes of helping upper middle class Marrieds With Children buy what was previously only available to high class MWCs.

My many friends and relatives who have not yet married have never, to the best of my knowledge, sent photo Christmas cards. Doing so requires a level of shamelessness or satire few are willing to pull off. None of the couples who have divorced in the last few years sent us a card, not even just one with a collage of the children. Once they settle back into a new cozy relationship with a replacement heterosexual mate and possibly additional children, they’ll likely rejoin the Christmas card photo battalion.

I was in Target on Christmas Eve and ran into an absolutely gorgeous divorcee we knew. She and her hubby used to send us Christmas cards of their family. As we stood in the overlong checkout line, talking politely about our kids and the crazy holiday insanity without ever bringing up her current relationship status*, I realized we hadn’t received a card from them in two, maybe three years.

(* -- Side Note: I’ve decided that it’s even more uncomfortable to talk about someone’s divorce than it is to talk about their having a terminal illness.)

These cards, they’re like instant dividers. They identify your social class, your financial portfolio, your marital status, your parental status, even occasionally the degree of religious fervor.

I’d like to bring us all back under the same Christmas card umbrella. I’d like to do Apple one better. With my mall photo service, single people and divorced people will finally be able to get family portraits taken so that they, too, can make Christmas Cards to send to all the people they’re supposed to love. Rather than be forgotten by their MWC pals, drowning in their pile of MWC cards, they can jump straight to the forefront, with rumors of the origins of their mysterious new perfectly-formed family!

If it goes well enough, soon enough married people will come in, too. Just for that chance to see what that new family looks like in the dressing room mirror. Just for one brief alternate universe Christmas moment.

When I make my first million, I’ll send you a Christmas card with my new family on it.


Daisy said...

I did not send Christmas cards this year for the first time in almost two decades. My marriage is fine and I had no political agenda. I just didn't send cards this year. The week before Christmas I felt guilty I was even thinking of a last ditch New Years card or something. Now that Christmas has come and gone I feel liberated.

Tockstar said...

Since getting iPhoto, I've sent out a New Year's card. It usually has one large landscape type photo, a shot of my dog, and sometimes a shot of me doing something interesting. On the back, I put a few lines of whatever poem I like at the moment. I do this because a) I like to get cards and b) I like to make a strong, but subtle statement regarding the fact that, while marriage and procreation are fine, they are not essential to a productive and fulfilling life.

I'll send you one, Billy!

Tockstar said...

Oh. Lest I sound bitter, I do mostly send out cards because I like my friends.

Billy said...

@Tockstar - I only wish more singletons did this. Or maybe I just wish there was less of this self-imposed pressure for breeders to HAVE to do this. Or maybe both.