I’ve decided to pick at random past Christmases to revisit in writing. If you have a voyeuristic side (don’t we all!) and have started to feel that singular holiday malaise heading in to the station, you’ve come to the right place.
Some years ago we decided to go from New York to Philadelphia for Christmas. Changing our environment seemed like a really inspired idea for all the reasons you’d imagine. But here’s the thing; I can’t escape the pressure of the holidays no matter where I run. It’s exactly what Sylvia Plath described in The Bell Jar:
“Because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
I didn’t know that I couldn’t run from Christmas because I hadn’t tried yet. There was a room at the Ritz that I secured at a discount rate–I really, really love luxury hotels. Part of me still thinks money mitigates pain despite the substantial evidence I’ve gathered to the contrary.
The lobby was vaulted and historic. I was given a glass of Champagne when I checked in.
I got up to the room and it was small. I texted a friend a picture of myself stretched out on the bed so I’d feel it was nice but I wasn’t convinced. Time for the reassurance that comes from getting in a really hot bath. Another line that deeply resonated with me from The Bell Jar:
“The longer I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt, and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself in one of the big, soft white hotel bath towels I felt pure and sweet as a new baby”.
I got dressed for a drink in the lobby. All was well with the world.
I sat next to a middle aged man who had decided to skip a meet up. He started talking to me about his beautiful daughter who lived in New York and though he admitted some prejudice he kept doubling and tripling down on how “really gorgeous” she was. The man was dumbstruck that despite being really, really gorgeous, she was single.
I thought it was in really poor taste. Dads shouldn’t talk about their daughter’s physical attributes. It also struck me as incredibly obtuse: being beautiful really has no bearing on whether or not you’re married.
I was trapped in this conversation. He wanted to buy me a drink so we could continue on in this same horrible vein. I declined.
Back up in my room it was moments to midnight. The clock struck twelve and it was Christmas Eve.