Christmas with my perfect boyfriend, or Christmas with my family? Which would you choose? asks Jonathan O’Sullivan
I remember last Christmas like it was yesterday. I gently woke from a satisfying slumber, my body sunken into a plush, memory foam mattress. (It really is like sleeping on a cloud!) My boyfriend’s taut body lovingly spooned my back as he slept, a subtle yet firm reminder that I couldn’t possibly get a better gift than him this year. Not that I would want another gift. I was exhausted from all the giving and receiving the night previous.
I gently removed myself from the king-size and the double bed (sorry, I’m tacky and boastful when in relationships), drew back the curtains and was greeted by a boundless snow covered landscape. The glorious view was perfectly framed by my floor to ceiling window. I wrapped myself in the curtains von Trapp style and squealed with utter glee. It was to be a white Christmas after all!
Wait, no. Hang on. That’s not what happened at all, now that I actually think about it.
Last Christmas, I woke up in my former childhood bedroom. It’s beige, the empty nesters I call parents having decided to strip it of every vestige of its personality the instant I left for college. Lying there, I took a moment to relax, but the more I tried, the more I felt like a Roald Dahl character, trapped in an enormous, hollowed-out digestive biscuit, a veritable Jonathan and the Giant Goldgrain, if you will. So, I jumped out of the trampoline masking itself as a sofa bed and concentrated on realigning my spine instead.
It took a while to register it was Christmas morning, what with the rain pelting against the window and the fifty shades of magnolia surrounding me. As I put on my festive Santa-socks, literally stepping into Christmas, I spotted a dead mouse in the corner of the room. Not caught in a trap, just alone on its side, its glassy mouse-eyes staring at the ceiling, its body drained of life. The poor little rodent looked like it had just given up. Christmas Day, 8am and the O’Sullivan household death toll had already risen to one.
I wandered downstairs hoping one of my nieces might have received a ‘My First Autopsy’ kit from Santa. Then we could properly investigate the reasons for Charles’ demise. (I give all dead animals names. I’m sure it’s some sort of coping mechanism and I refuse to dig deeper into the psychology of it.) No such luck, so sat across the table from my mother, enjoying her breakfast fag, I was forced to conclude that Charles had probably died of mouse-emphysema, commonly linked to secondary cigarette smoke.
Life is for living and Christmas for giving, so I quickly forgot about Charles and began to bestow gifts upon my mother. Books, unwanted jewelry, fur, literallynothing impresses the woman, and I love her for it. Her lack of overt gratitude can only be explained as some sort of gift-related locked-in syndrome that is common in at least one parent per Irish family. It’s like she knows a reaction is expected so she stubbornly refuses to give one. This coming Christmas, I might push her to her deadpan limits and just shit into a large Newbridge Silverware box and wrap it.
Of course, I’m incredibly hard to shop for, but nevertheless I will always feign enthusiasm for even the dullest of gifts received. Generally, I desire gifts that can’t be bought – someone to do sit-ups for me every day, headphones that don’t randomly stop working in one ear, and a slightly longer than normal iPhone charger cord. All of these would lead me to have a more comfortable life and that’s the key to a perfect Christmas gift.
Anyway, back to last Christmas. After showering my mother with seemingly unwanted gifts, I mixed myself a little cocktail. There is no time-of-day stigma attached to my first Christmas drink and that makes the day pretty special for me. It’s the one day of the year the O’Sullivan house has a real cruise-ship vibe to it. To avoid early morning alco-shame, I give the drinks adorably festive nicknames. I might start with a ‘White Christmas Spritzer’ and move on to a ‘Santa’s Little Gin & Tonic’. Before I know it, I’m on my third ‘Ho-Ho-Hot Whiskey’ screaming along to Mariah’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ while wearing a dress fashioned from discarded wrapping paper and performing to a horrified audience of toddlers. I can practically hear my sister praying her kids don’t turn out like Auntie Jonathan.
It’s common to lose two or three hours after Christmas cocktails; what’s important is that I’m awake and sober-ish for lunch. Worried everyone might have too much of a sickly-sweet Brady Bunch-style time during the meal I like to introduce a dark edge to the table conversation. I refuse to patronise the kids at the table and provide them with some food for thought while my sister is cutting up their turkey and generally Irish-Mammying all over them. Last year I tried to engage them in a serious discussion about the assassination of Hamas military chief, Ahmed Jabari. This year, I’m going to educate them about Christmas in war-torn countries. I might subtly hint that a Syrian child wouldn’t be such a little bitch about not getting ‘much’ furniture with their Sylvanian Families woodland hideaway. Chew on that, Jessica.
While I like a little political discourse with the five-to-ten year-olds, when it comes to the adults, I instantly switch to Made In Chelsea mode. I ask them uncomfortable personal questions while playfully tossing my perfectly blow-dried hair. I’ve never excelled in Christmas small-talk because frankly, the only people I actually ever want to engage in two-way conversation with to are sexually attractive, hilarious, or both.
If I feel I haven’t made much of an impact by dessert, I’ll resort to coming out to the family again. My original coming out was very anticlimactic. I still feel I’m owed the full emotional display.
Last year, after alienating the entire O’Sullivan clan, I returned upstairs to my beige retreat for some alone time. If Tulisa, Amanda Holden and Jessie J have thought me anything, it’s always leave them wanting less. I have spent far too many Christmas evenings sitting in the living room, bolt upright on a wooden chair borrowed from the kitchen, surrounded by unwelcome visitors and wondering if my father is trying to get a Bikram yoga session going with the amount of coal he’s throwing on the fire.
I know my family probably thinks of me as an Ebenezer Scroogian tyrant during the Christmas break, but it’s only because I’m bitter about not getting the perfect Christmas I see flaunted on TV adverts from early November. But despite my Christmas resembling an EastEnders special, I am thankful I get to be with my family. No matter how irritated we get with one another and how often we point out each others foibles after years of physiological profiling, I don’t think we’d change each other for the world. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without constant boredom, awkward conversations and gut-busting overindulgence.
This Christmas will be no different, and I expect I’ll be leaving them wanting less again. Once all the family traditions are over and done with I’ll head to bed and celebrate another Christmas accomplished with a personal tradition, watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s. By about 2am I’ll be passed out in front of Audrey Hepburn. Dead to the world like a Christmas mouse.
What’s the best and worst thing about your family Christmas? Tweet me @JonathanThinks with the hashtag # ChristMouse
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