Has Christmas become just a duty?
So I ventured into the West End yesterday on a kamikaze shopping mission for Christmas presents.
I approach shopping, especially Christmas shopping, with the same mindset I approach having a full sexual health checkup. Get in, get it done and get out. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. And yesterday was no exception.
What struck me as I fought my way through the throngs of people and stood in endless queues to pay for stuff I couldn’t afford, was that nobody looked all that happy and festive. In fact quite the opposite, most just looked harrassed and lacking any real desire to be there. Including me.
Did I see anyone with a smile on their face yesterday?
In fact, I vividly remember one time about five years ago when I saw a full-on fight break out between two women in Tesco because one believed the other had pushed in front of her at the till.
Is this what Christmas has come to? A stressful, costly time of year we just need to deal with so we can get it out of the way? Is it now nothing more than a huge marketing machine designed to fill the pockets of the retailers and corporate fatcats?
A quick poll of my Facebook friends revealed that a large proportion of them are simply not bothered about this time of year.
Unless you’re religious, Christmas seems to have become nothing more than an obligation to be endured. The expense, the preparation, the feeling that unless you’re sat at a table full of people on December 25th wearing a ridiculous paper hat, you’re in some way sad and pathetic.
Certainly for a lot of my gay friends in London, the thought of travelling back to the bosom of their families and the bubble of small town living they so desperately tried to escape fills them with dread. Even if it’s just for a day or two.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Christmas-obsessed sister, having a red ‘X’ painted on my front door and my windows pelted with stones to the cries of ‘Scrooge!’ I have to say that up until yesterday evening, I haven’t really been in the mood for Christmas.
But something I read last night changed that for me.
In his beautifully poignant Letter To A Brazilian Brother In Law, my good friend, the ridiculously talented Paul Burston, updates Roberto, the brother of his husband Paulo, on how the brother Roberto has disowned for being gay is getting on.
I urge you to read it, and if you’re feeling jaded like I was, I hope it will remind you to be grateful for all the good things you have in life.
I feel for Paulo, and any other people out there who are spending Christmas estranged from families and loved ones because of feuds or lack of acceptance. I’m glad that Paul’s family are welcoming Paulo as one of their own this Christmas in Wales, and I hope he has a holiday to remember.
I’m outrageously lucky to have a loving family whom I can turn to whenever I need. It seems I lost sight of that temporarily as I got caught up in the cacophony of crowded shops, Santa hats and endless adverts set to the sound of sleigh bells, all trying to convince me to buy this product or that.
Presents don’t matter. None of my family are rolling in it this year. Instead, what I’m looking forward to is sitting down to a nice meal and celebrating the fact that we have our health and each other.
It’s been a year of amazing highs and crashing lows, and although I have some great memories, I also won’t be sorry to see it go.
Roll on 2010, a new year and a new decade.
And in the meantime – Happy Christmas to you all – whatever you’re doing.