I resent Christmas more and more the older I get. It’s a combination of my lack of religion, my extreme laziness and my crippling anxiety. I stress myself out to the point of hyperventilation over how much money I’m going to spend (how many years can I skate by on homemade gifts before it becomes tacky?), what to get people (is it appropriate to just give someone a Target gift card if you’ve known them for over 10 years?), and about how I’m going to get it for them (do I shop online and hope that it ships in time, or do I brave the masses of the screaming kids and sweaty people at the mall?). Once I’ve got the gifts in hand, I look forward to the feeling of sweet, sweet relief that I get when I’ve handed them off, although I really don’t start to feel remotely relaxed until after the new year.
I haven’t always been this bitter and neurotic. There was a time a few years ago when I was dating a boy I really liked and I was actually excited to buy a Christmas present for him. For once, I had a boyfriend who wasn’t a complete shithead, and one that I actually had multiple things in common with, so I had a better idea of what to buy for him. We were both in college at the time, and even though we both had part-time jobs, neither of us were exactly making it rain. Despite this, I saved up a little extra money to get him a nice, thoughtful gift, because I wanted our Christmas to be really special. He was an avid tea drinker, so I got him a fancy tea kettle from Teavana and a cannister of some kind of tea that I couldn’t pronounce and that smelled like dirt. I was sure he would love it.
We exchanged gifts when he came to my hometown to stay a couple of days after he was done with his family Christmas. When he opened his present he was, or at least he seemed to be, really impressed with my gift-giving skills. Then it came my turn to open his present for me. Inside the box was a light blue t-shirt that had a white cat face on it and said “Cat Person,” and a couple of movies I’d never seen that we always talked about watching together. But before I go any further, here’s a little backstory on the cat shirt.
He wore that same shirt one day back when we first started dating. I immediately coveted it not only because I am cat person, but because my cat looked just like the one printed on the shirt and I thought that must be fate. (Here’s a picture of my cat for reference, and also just because she’s beautiful).
He told me that a friend of his at school made them, and that he could get one for me. Naturally, I assumed that’s what had happened, so I was very excited - not only because of the shirt, but because we now had matching shirts and I could finally be part of one of those annoying couples that are so in sync that they make everyone around them want to vomit. Or so I thought.
He left to go back and spend time with his parents, so I picked up some shifts at the bank I worked at before I left for college. As I was getting ready for work one morning, I decided to wear the cat shirt so I could show off the sweet gift that my loving boyfriend got for me. As I pulled the shirt out of the box, I noticed that this was not a new cat shirt made just for me. It was his cat shirt, complete with tiny holes and yellow pit stains. PIT. STAINS. I was livid.
I fumed about it all day at work and eventually went from outraged to hurt. I spent like $50 on his gift, nevermind all the thought that went into it, and he gave me an old shirt and some movies from the $5 bin at Wal-Mart?! Was that really what he thought of me? Before you start judging me as a spoiled bitch, let me say that it didn’t take very long for me to realize that these gifts were not brought on by a lack of love, but rather a lack of money. Once the guilt set in, I knew I had to talk to him about it.
We had the uncomfortable talk. I explained to him that I didn’t care that he didn’t have any money, because I was barely scraping by too. I was more hurt that he thought he could pass off a noticeably worn t-shirt to me without me noticing, and that he felt like he couldn’t talk to me about his financial situation. I made him promise that if this were ever an issue at holidays later on that we would find a way around it, like setting spending limits or planning an outing together that wouldn’t cost much. I just wanted to be with him without the extra pressure from this capitalist holiday. It didn’t really matter, though, because he broke up with me a few months later. I ended up giving the cat shirt back to him, a decision I still kinda regret. It was a really cute shirt, even with the pit stains.