It’s the holiday season, and if you’ve been reading, you probably know I’ve been baking up a storm. Tis the season for it, and for shopping, wrapping, decorating, writing holiday cards and letters. And some other stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting.
But here’s the deal: I bake, but I don’t do the resultant dishes. That’s the Dude’s contribution (the time is still not perfectly equal, but still). I shop for the Dude and my family, he shops for me and for his family. We wrap what we buy. We split up cards and letters. Early on, I was adamant about not becoming our family’s social secretary, in no small part because he has a large extended family with whom he is close, and I knew it would be a shitload of work–and if he’s close, then he should be close, right?
I know that I might be in a minority with this arrangement, because the holiday cards we’ve received thus far–especially those from people of a generation ahead of us–have clearly been chosen, addressed, and signed by the women of the family. (I talked about this already here.) And I know that the gifts I’ll get from Mama and Papa Dude (and Gram & Gramps Dude) will all be the work of Mama.
This is the case for most social-family work, but the heat really turns up at Christmas, because even for people who are completely secular about it, it’s so much about ideas of home and family and nostalgia. And nostalgia, if you haven’t figured it out already, is about conservatism, and retro attitudes, and hanging onto traditions particularly after those traditions (which were, after all, borne out of practical needs) have outlived their usefulness. What I’m saying is nostalgia is no friend to women. Ever.
And so the holiday season, with the unending attention to making a “good ol’ fashioned Christmas” is a season upon which I must cast a hairy eyeball. At the same time that I make a point of thanking all my female relatives for all the work they’re doing to make their families comfortable and happy at significant cost (financial, time- and energy-wise) to themselves.
I’m hopeful that this is changing, and I’m definitely invested in doing what I can to push for this change in my own family. A lot of that is thinking about what works for us, for where and who we are now, not who we’re supposed to be, or who we wish we were. So this year it means we’re sending out holiday postcards to many people, rather than full cards and letters. And it means that we’re not buying and decorating a tree this year. And it means that we’re scaling back gifts, too.
It’s possible that this means we (or I, as Elf-in-Chief) will get some criticism, but so be it. I don’t think that means I’m the one lacking the spirit of the season.