Romance of the Panda, Part 2

In light of the single most overrated holiday, Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to open up to my blog readers. It’s time you see my romantic side, the softer side of Panda. This is the second part of a three part series.
Feel free to read part 1 HERE.

This is another poem that I wrote for a class. It’s about loss, specifically the loss of a great thing in my life that I took for granted.

\\

Farewell

Tonight will be the first night
I don’t get to go to bed
with you as the last image in my head
and last echo in my ear.
Three years, you’ve been there to
hum me to sleep,
stay by my side when I was sick,
asking for nothing in return,
except to be taken care of.

I grew complacent.  I thought I could
keep you here forever, and so I neglected
your basic needs.  I couldn’t see the obvious signs
that something was wrong, until it was too late.

My sophomore year,
we met in the aisle of Walgreens.
I figured I’d keep you around for the summer,
give or take a month, it couldn’t hurt.
But we started off stronger than I could have hoped,
you spending every night at my place, and it began
to seem like this might turn into
something more than an end-of-summer fling.

The next two years, running on high,
we were both happy with our place in the world.
No worries about graduation, no wondering
what would come next or if I’d move away.
A full year was gone by
and nothing stood in our way, and it seemed like
this could last forever,
and for a while, it was timeless.

But two days ago, you were quieter than
usual, no spritely humming, no soothing songs
to relax me.  I thought nothing of it,
hoped for the best, stayed positive,
maybe just a bad day, not considering
that perhaps your heart had stopped spinning.

Yesterday, you sputtered around in my apartment hopelessly.
Clearly exhausted, I still felt no need
to bother, but this time because I didn’t want to face
the facts, that this was probably the end.
You’d hit the wall, finally exhausted, and I
guess I’ll someday understand.  You
tried and worked your hardest,
did anything for my comfort, efforts that
certainly weren’t well reciprocated from me.

I wish I could say that I was sad, but I knew that
this would happen one day.  College only
lasts so long before the real world calls us to
become real ourselves.  And when it does,
I knew I’d be at a crossroad, a chance to
be a better person, give another one
a better chance,
and that I’d only be able to hope the same for you.

Today, I walked in and you were silent for
the first time in three years and I know
that nothing more can be done.  I don’t argue
or try to fix what is beyond repair, I just walk you out
for the final goodbye, as I selfishly think to myself,
how will I get to sleep tonight?

In the end, it won’t be so bad.  Maybe one day
I won’t feel that I need you, just so I can fall asleep.
Maybe one day I can move on and find a better
version of you, better fit for me.  Maybe one day I’ll
take care of it, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
I can’t pretend that this won’t upset me for a little while,
but one day I’ll forget about you, and live my life as it is.
Because after all, you were only a box fan.

\\

When we read our poems in the workshop, we would generally read our poems aloud, then have another person read it so we can all hear the poems from a different voice.  Normally, we hold all comments to the end of the second reading.  Normally, we start off with strengths, things we like, etc., then move on to constructive criticism.  As soon as I finished reading it the first time, one of the more reserved girls who sat across the room from me smacked her desk and shouted, “OH MY GOD, you jerk!  I was actually feeling sorry for you.  I thought you were finally opening up to us.”  Nope, just found another way for me to be an ass.  But in my defense, I had originally started it off as a sincere poem about a rather significant (for me at least. That bitch.) failed relationship, and THAT’S when my fan died, so I decided to just kind of switch it up a bit.

Besides, if you want to actually read me being sincere about love, you’ll just have to come back to read the forthcoming part 3 of my Romance of the Panda series (see what I did there?).

Take it easy,

-Panda


Romance of the Panda, Part 1

In light of the single most overrated holiday, Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to open up to my blog readers. It’s time you see my romantic side, the softer side of Panda. So this is the first part of a three part series on love.

When I was in school, I was in a poetry class my last semester of my senior year. And so when it came to the week of Valentine’s Day, he made us write love/Valentine’s themed poems. It was originally supposed to be a sonnet, but I couldn’t get it to work well enough with the strict parameters, so I told my professor it was a more “free-form” sonnet, with no real regard for metrical or rhythmical rules. Sucker bought it. But anyway, the following was the result and, unfortunately, is how far too many of my actual romantic pursuits turn out.

Almost Valentine’s Day

Hey, I was thinking that maybe,
Since I’ve got nothin’ else to do,
Instead of being all lonely
Maybe…I could hang out with you?
On, uh, Valentine’s Day
Since all of our friends have dates.
Oh. No, I haven’t met Ray
But yeah, I’m sure he’s great.
And very sweet too I bet
Yeah, that’s fine, that’s cool.
Wow, he bought you chocolate?
Yeah, he seems just perfect for you.
Well, in that case have a great time,
I’ve got to get going to find my Valentine.

\\

Be sure to be on the lookout the next few days for the second and third part of this series, and, as always, thanks for reading.

Take it easy,

-Panda


Why I Unfriended You

I recently went on an unfriending binge. And by that, I mean I just kept getting pissed off about reading status updates from people that I never really liked in the first place but friended them because I was put into a group with them for a school project. Then I got a little addicted to it. It’s soothing. It’s relaxing. Vindicating. Liberating. Everything. For about two weeks, I logged into Facebook, and read statuses, not for the purpose of knowing what the girl I like is up to at any point in time and if any other guys are writing on her wall/timeline in a way that is “more than just friends-ish” what my friends were up to, but to see if anyone posted anything ridiculous that warranted an unfriendship. So, I’ve decided to keep with my recent list-type posts, and I’ve compiled a few of my favorite reasons as to why I’ve unfriended people thus far.

1. People posting about why we shouldn’t celebrate holidays because of past events/beliefs/socio-economic state of the country:  You know these people. They put up statuses about how inhumanely the natives were treated when we stole their country.  I do not care at all about how horrible Christopher Columbus was to those Native Americans. What I do care about is how awesome it is to have turkey sandwiches for a week. Or maybe they’re complaining about how we shouldn’t be focusing on consumerism at Christmas when some people don’t have enough money to pay their bills, or maybe they’re an atheist and don’t want to be forced to celebrate holidays they don’t believe, especially when Christ, in all probability, wasn’t even born on Christmas. Fine, be a bah humbugger. I, personally, consider myself to be a good bit distanced from anything that you could really term “religious,” but I’ll take a bunch of free shit and a couple days off and be on my merry fucking way.

2. Annoying sports statuses: I know, I’m a huge sports fan. And I’ll occasionally put up statuses about the Packers or Brewers when something big happens. But I do not sit there and talk shit about how this is our year or how much I hate a rival team on Facebook. I spend too much time creeping to care to update my status to be about sports. It’s as if these people have literally nothing better to do with their time than sit there and talk shit about sports on Facebook. I can name seven-and-a-half thousand things more enjoyable and worthwhile. Now, I don’t have enough room to list them all, but I will note that numbers 1-37 and numbers 800-1,300 all, in some way, involve shutting the fuck up, masturbating, or both.

3. I am a truly, fantastically, enormous jerk and I just happen to disagree with one or two of your opinions.

4. Super-religious stuff:  We all know that kid. The one you went to high school with who was really quiet and you knew was pretty faithful/religious, but you never really thought much of it. Then you went to college and your senior year got friended by him and you thought, “Hey, I haven’t seen him in so long, I wonder what he’s up to.” Then you find out that he’s become brainwashed by some weird church in Colorado (http://www.theblazingholyfire.com/) and now is trying to spread the word about how much Obama is the Antichrist (the literal one, not just figurative language) and about the impending doom to be brought on by the Rapture that will happen WITHIN THE NEXT FEW YEARS! JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE! Welp, guess I’m never talking to you again.

5. Chuck Palahniuk: Really? Yes. Chuck said, “That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.” This is the stark contrast to the super-religious kid. You have those people you knew in high school or college and you really didn’t like them, or maybe they’re an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/something not so official, and you check on their Facebook to see how they’re doing, hoping that karma finally caught up with them. BOOM. Guess not. It appears as if lots of money and a hot girlfriend does, in fact, make you happy. It drives me crazy seeing people I truly dislike being happy, especially if I’m at a point when I’m not happy (Can’t the universe smile down on me and have at least one of my ex-girlfriends become fat or pregnant or strung out on meth?). So of course I defriend him/her, and tell myself I’ll check up on how they’re doing when I see them in hell, and I feel a little bit better about myself.

6. You’re an idiot: Idiots include people who do the following on Facebook: debate politics; update statuses about how lonely/bored/hungry you are; write nothing more than, “what’s up?,” on my wall; USE ALL CAPS LIKE A PRICK; friend me after I’ve already defriended you (in which case I’ll either accept the friendship and defriend them again to make a point, or refuse to confirm OR deny the request, forever leaving them in Facebook limbo); talk about how many bitches you get per weekend; or poke me.

7. I was drunk and your name is too similar to someone that I actually hate.

There are many more reasons, but I’ll spare you the time, as most of them are for insignificant reasons or fall under the catchall category of me being a jerk. So go forth, my minions, get drunk and defriend!

Take it easy,

-Panda


Top 5 Worst Words and Phrases

As an English major, I have spent a lot of time dissecting language and phrases to understand their true meanings.  So, what I have done here is I’ve come up with my top five absolute worst words and phrases in the American English language lexicon.

5. If x happens, I’m moving to Canada:  There are two reasons I hate this. Number one, it’s old. We hear it a million-and-a-half times per election cycle. Come on, you assholes, be creative about your trash talk. Number two, it’s a boldface lie. Nobody these days puts principle ahead of happiness, so stop pretending you’re better than us.

4. The starving children in Africa:  Thank god they’re in Africa, because I might start to feel bad about them if they were American. There are starving people everywhere, one continent’s poor don’t trump another continent’s poor. Sure, they don’t have the basic healthcare or sanitation that I do, but like I said before, nobody puts principle ahead of personal happiness. I could donate all my extra income to those poor children, but I’d much rather buy a pack of Marb 27s, drink either half a bottle of whiskey or 2 bottles of wine, and end up at Qdoba. And of course I’ll take some chips and guac, I’m drunk. Sober me knows that I’ll barely, if at all, be able to eat the entire burrito by itself, but drunk me doesn’t realize that, because drunk me, for whatever reason, fully believes that I haven’t eaten anything in two weeks, so of course I’ll take ‘em.

3. I’m just saying: Shut up. Nobody says something just so they can say it. There is a purpose behind what you say, so stop pretending that what you say is just some type of random opinion that is meant to float around the universe until it bumps into someone who actually needs it. (Of course every guy you ever date enjoys blowjobs, but I’ll tell you this, he’s not “just saying.” Nor is he “just mentioning” that he isn’t a big fan of going down on you, but he does it anyway because he knows you like it.  Get with the fucking program people.) The only people that should ever use this phrase, I feel, are people in the Mafia. It fits perfectly. “I’m not saying that something unfortunate will absolutely happen to you if you don’t give us this money, but I am pointing out the fact that there seems to be a correlation between non-payment and unfortunately timed structure fires. I’m just sayin’.”

2. Thanks in advance: Oh, just fuck off you prick. This seems to be a favorite of any person who is of a higher rank than you at your job. This is just a way for some asshole to try to enforce his or her authority over you by assuming your subordination. Well, fuck that. Don’t ever thank me in advance for something, because chances are I will purposefully screw up whatever you ask me to do so as to teach you a lesson about counting eggs before they hatch. You don’t see me taking the time to thank you for reading my blog right now, do you? No, you get thanked at the end of the post, so at the very least I know you pretended to read the whole thing, or at least checked how long it was before you decided it wasn’t worth your time.

1. Haters: I hate this word and people who use it with a burning and everlasting passion. You can’t just label every person who disagrees with anything that you think or do as a hater. In fact, most times when someone says, “Whatever, you’re just a hater,” I’m pretty sure what they really mean is, “You have an opinion about this. Your opinion may or may not be correct. But I’m a jackass, so go fuck yourself.” Besides, look at who uses the word “hater.” 95% of the time it’s used by people who suck at what they do. The criticizers aren’t haters, they’re right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the video you recorded of you singing an a cappella cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework” reeeeaallllllllyyyyy means a lot to you, but you suck at singing and had to pause the song for 5 seconds while you scrolled down the webpage with the lyrics on it because you’re too stupid to memorize the fucking song that you’re trying to sing. God I hate people like that.

Disclaimer: I can all but guarantee at some point in this blog I have used some of these in my writing. I would apologize, but there’s a time and a place for everything, even the worst phrases in the English language. That, plus I’m sure the seven of you reading this don’t care that much.

Take it easy,

-Panda


Underwear and Lip Zits

So as some of you may know from one of my previous posts, one of the standard things that I ask for on my Christmas list is gift cards. This year was much the same. What did I do with those gift cards? I bought, among other things, underwear. Lots and lots of underwear.

Why did I buy so much underwear? Well, you see, I fully believe that underwear is the true path to happiness. Think about it. Everyone loves their underwear. Think about how mad you were the first time that you ever lost a beloved pair of underwear in the laundry room at college. Or god forbid the mourning period that occurs if you have to actually decide to throw out a liked pair of underwear because they were so worn out. But on the positive end, think of how happy buying (and wearing) underwear feels.

It’s strange, underwear is one of the few things that (hopefully) only a select number of people get to see, and yet we put so much emphasis on having good looking underwear that reflects us as people. Are you old/a dad? Here are some plain white briefs. Are you a thug/gangster/14-year-old white kid? Have these plaid boxers that are so good looking that you want everyone to see you in them. Are you a pretty cool, funny, normal guy that everyone likes? Enjoy these boxer briefs, because now you can get the best of both worlds (I like the compression-like feel on my thighs, but at the same time, the boys need room to breath). I’m assuming it works the same for women, too, but I don’t feel like pissing off a whole bunch of women with mass generalizations, so one of my lady blog readers can go ahead and figure that one out.

But as I mentioned before, the act of buying underwear is quite possibly the greatest feeling in the world.  It’s like heroin to me at times. Everything about it. You walk into Kohl’s and look around the underwear section to see what the deals are (usually buy one, get one half-off). Then you look through all the packs of underwear to try and find the perfect set to add to your collection. Granted, after you buy a good amount of underwear, you start discrediting certain packs of underwear at the store because you don’t want to have duplicate pairs of underwear (because you don’t want people to accidentally catch a glimpse of them and then think you’re disgusting for not changing underwear when really, you totally fucking did).  But on the other hand, you sometimes hit the jackpot.  You find the four pack with four different shades of color that you don’t have yet. And then you take a closer look and find out that, not only are they different colors, but Fruit of the Loom now has striped boxer briefs. Talk about euphoria. And then the great feeling doesn’t even stop when you leave the store. When you get home you get to go through your current selection and throw away the pairs that you don’t want anymore like your boxers (hey, I used to be a 14-year-old white kid), or that one pair of underwear that is that really ugly gray color.

But perhaps my favorite underwear moment (of course I’m going to share this with you (And no, it doesn’t have to do with Valium)) came about a year ago. Imagine if you will, I’m in my apartment on a Saturday night, folding my last load of laundry before I go out for the night. I’m in a hurry, so I fold as quickly as I can and shove everything into the drawers. I leave, get hammered, come home, and go to bed. I wake up the next day with an incredible hangover, so I go to the kitchen, down about three glasses of water, and hit the shower. I get out and stumble back into my room to get dressed.  Now, like I said, I just kind of shoved all the laundry into the dresser, so when I opened the drawer there wasn’t much order, so I ended up grabbing a pair of underwear from the center of the stack. I put them on, and I felt something special, something magical. They were still warm.  STILL WARM. It was, like, eleven hours later. I’ve never felt anything so amazing in my life. It’s almost indescribable (but I’ll try). You remember the first time you got a zit on the edge of your lip or nostril? And you thought to yourself, “Hell, I’ll just pop it, that’s what you do to zits.” Little did you know that lip zits are apparently filled with battery acid, and makes that one side of your face feel like the skin is being ripped away and then the eye on that side of the face starts to uncontrollably tear up as if it’s listening to “Space Oddity” by David Bowie for the first time (I mean really listening to it (Nothing gets at me more than beautiful songs with a heartbreaking turn)). Take that same intensity, but make it the complete opposite feeling. And then take the ecstasy of that and combine it with the relief that is felt from the “Not pregnant :)” text.  Then, and only then, do you even come close to understanding the glory that I felt in my pants that one day.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you take this insight to heart, and embrace the next time you buy yourself some underwear.

Can you hear me Major Tom?

-Panda


My Dentist Told a Sex Joke

So about a year or so ago, I was at the dentist.  It was the first time in about five years that I had gone to the dentist, and so I ended up having a bunch of cavities.  I know, I know, I should go to the dentist more, but there’s this one little issue that I have about hating every dentist in the worlds fucking guts.  That, and when it comes to dealing with them scraping my mouth with metal shit and drilling holes, I am quite a little pansy.  And so, since I am such a pansy about it, I figured, “Hey, maybe I’ll just try that sedation dentistry shit.  Worse comes to worst I’ll at least have been able to take some sweet drugs.”  And sweet drugs did I take.  I honestly believe the world may be a better place if we simply pumped Valium into the drinking water supply.  (Did you know that Valium works as a muscle relaxant?  So the messages from the brain to the muscles are much fewer and far between.  This can be dangerous, because if you’re laying down and you want to stand up, it takes your legs about ten seconds of slowly lower your weight onto your legs until they’re actually ready, otherwise you’ll start to fall.  But not your standard fall.  I mean like that video of those ladies at the end of the Iron Man race who were so destroyed that it looked as if their legs just didn’t really want to do what they wanted them to do.  That kind of falling.  (Also, for those of you who care to know, ejaculation takes place when the male’s pelvic muscles engage in a series of quick muscles contractions, forcing the ejaculate from the genitals.  Muscle relaxants slow the brain signals and muscle contractions, so when you have sex (or masturbate, I suppose) on muscle relaxants, you aren’t really finished when you think you’re finished, and ten minutes later you think you’ve just pissed your pants because it gets warm and then you go to the bathroom and realize what it actually is so you just kind of get really confused while you look for some tissues and a new pair of underwear.  So I’ve heard.))  But if everyone took a little bit of Valium, nobody would get road rage because nobody would ever feel like driving faster than 45 MPH on the highway, domestic violence rates would go down because every red-necked, wife-beating deadbeat would realize, “Meh, she ain’t that bad,” and political debates would have just the mildest, ever so slight tingle of tolerability.

But either way, let us fast forward to what happened after the procedures.  I woke up in my bed, (after all those drugs generally the only thing you really want to do is sleep) groggy and sore.  Just like I do after any bender, I try to recall just what the fuck actually happened.  I remember going in, sitting down in the chair, and then waking up in my bed ten hours later.  So first and foremost, I’m trying to figure out how I can get a hold of more of these drugs.  But then I decide to deal with that another time, and go downstairs to talk to my dad.

My dad was the one who transported my stoned ass to and from the dentist.  So I asked him what happened when I was there.  For the most part, apparently, I was very good, until I gained more consciousness and the ability to talk back.  The general policy for any time that a patient is sedated is to transport the patient from the doctors’ office to their car via wheelchair.  I did not like this.  Apparently, I said, “I don’t need a fucking wheelchair.  I’ve got fucking legs.”   I’m not on the best terms with the support staff at my dentist’s office anymore.  And then, I’m told, I became quite hungry on the way home.  My dad asked me, “Do you want a burger?  We can go to Kopp’s if you want.  Or do you want something big, like a Whopper?”  “No,” I replied, “Whoppers are for pussies.  I want Wendy’s,” (What an interesting choice of words, as you will see).   I apparently only ate like, half of it before I went to my room and passed out.

But then as I was truly coming around, I noticed that the underside of my tongue was quite sore.  I went to the mirror and looked, and the son-of-a-bitch dentist carved me up good.  You know how your tongue has that connector piece underneath it?  Well, mine was very large, in that it went fairly far up the underside of my tongue, almost to the tip.  This, apparently, isn’t the way that everyone else’s tongue is.  Apparently, normal people’s tongue connector doesn’t go very far up the tongue at all.  And it looked as if my dentist had decided to just go right on ahead and cut my connector off.  So I’m pissed, because I all of a sudden just have these open sores on the underside of my tongue that hurt anytime I eat/drink/talk/breathe/hold my breath/brush my teeth/etc.  And then I get to thinking, “why the hell did he do that?”  Well, my friends, let me take you back to my appointment before this sedation procedure.

I was sitting there, and the assistant was doing her thing with cleaning and checking my teeth, when she said, “Oh, you’re tongue-tied.”  I had no idea what she was talking about, and she proceeded to tell me that the connector underneath my tongue shouldn’t be that far forward.  I brushed it off because I truly did not give a single shit about my tongue connector.  So then my dentist came in.  Here is how the dialogue went from the moment he noticed my tongue connector:

Dentist:  Oh, you’re still tongue tied.

Me:  Yeah, I guess, I just found out that this wasn’t “normal” like 3 minutes ago.

Dentist:  Well, don’t worry, we can take care of that, just a snip or two.  It’ll take like two minutes.

Me:  I mean, I don’t know about that, I haven’t had an issue with it.

Dentist:  You’d be surprised.  It’ll give your tongue more mobility and range of movement. It’ll come in handy, trust me.

And as he said “trust me,” he winked.

At first, I didn’t make anything of it, but then I realized.  Did he really just do that?  Did he really just make a sex joke to one of his patients?  Did he really literally just commit malpractice for the sake of helping me become a better lay?  Does he realize that I can never go back to his office again, not because I’m offended, but because the waiting room has pictures of everyone in his family, including his wife, and I won’t be able to get that horribly disturbing image out of my head.  Shit, no wonder this guy has five kids already.

As awkward as my entire time with that dentist was, he wasn’t so bad.  I mean, he gave me great drugs, made me healthier, and helped my performance.  Nevertheless, he was my dentist, and I don’t want my dentist making sex jokes.  Not if he’s going to be spending so much time in my mouth.  But anyway, to anyone who felt really uncomfortable reading this, sorry.  And to any women who have spent roughly 15-25 (depending on how drunk I may have been) minutes of mildly regrettable and thoroughly average passion with me, 1) I am so, so sorry; and 2) you can thank my dentist for it not being truly regrettable and below average.

-Panda


On The Benefits of Grandma Dying, Meta-Reality, and Scarves: Merry Christmas

We all knew this would come.  We knew we couldn’t stop it.  Christmas is here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and spit venom about many people’s favorite holidays.  Rather, I am simply going to tell you all about how strange I find the Christmas season in general.

To me, Christmas time is quite possibly the strangest month or so of the entire year.  You see, my family has never been super close, so the whole getting somebody something that they don’t even know that they want yet has never really been a possibility.  Thus, we’ve come to rely heavily on the Christmas list, which has a strict deadline of Thanksgiving dinner to be handed out to our relatives, otherwise they will call you every day until you actually get them some type of list.

So, a few days before Thanksgiving I sit down, and start writing out a list.  Now, after twenty-plus Christmas’, I’ve come to figure out a few key rules on making the Christmas list:

  1. The more items you put on the list, the less likely you are to get what you want:  Pretty simple, but it needs to be mentioned.  Plus, if you put the thing you really, really want on the list, there’s a decent chance that someone just won’t get it for you because, in their mind, giving is better than receiving and all things on your list are created equal (Two things we all know are goddamn lies).   That’s why you cut the list down to only about 3-5 things that you actually want, and then just list, “Assorted Gift Cards, & etc.” at the end to cover any loose ends.
  2. Make sure there is something for everyone’s price-range:  In my family, everyone puts a price limit of how much they love you.  Er, I mean, how much they are willing to spend.  This is very important, because you don’t want to put a whole bunch of really expensive items on your list when you know damn well that your aunt has a gambling issue that nobody talks about (so much so that your parents got mad at her because she kept thinking Powerball tickets and scratch offs are acceptable Christmas gifts (which, let’s be honest, there is nothing cooler in the world to a 6-year-old than a scratch off)), so they don’t usually have that much spendable money laying around, and you certainly don’t want to make them think that they need to head to the casino to get more money just so they can buy you an iPad or an Original Collector’s Edition Furby.  Or maybe you just have frugal relatives, and you know that your uncle has the uncanny knack for finding the most affordable (coughcoughcheapestcoughcough) knock off item that he can find and then still leave the price tag on so that you see it and start to get upset that he spent so little on you and then you start to feel bad that you would stoop to the level of judging someone based on how much they spent on the gift that they gave to you for no other reason than that they still believe in god and the “true” meaning of Christmas being about celebrating the birth of the savior, not about getting bomb-ass gifts, so you just think to yourself, ‘fuck it,’ and accept it and never mention it again until you get an anonymous blog and you can talk all the shit you want without ever needing to be worried about answering for your opinions or letting your family know that you’re a materialistic bastard.  Again, gift cards work really well for this purpose.
  3. Always be as specific as possible:  I understand the hesitation behind being too specific; you want to make the list seem like an idea generator, not a shopping list.  But keep in mind that the season is about giving, so your family may as well be giving you the exact thing that you really wanted. If you’re just generalizing your list, you may end up disappointed.  If you put down, “exercise equipment,” you might end up getting the Shakeweight instead of the Shakeweight Pro that you really wanted.  Or if you put down, “DVDs of good TV Shows,” you might get a couple seasons of Ugly Betty instead of the entire series of Gilmore Girls that you secretly wanted but didn’t want to tell anybody about because you’re a guy.  Or maybe you put down, “Good books,” and you’ll end up with a collection of James Patterson’s finest pile of shit.
  4. *sigh*

    Putting too few items on your list has its risks, too:  Namely, Scarves.  The issue that I’ve had when it comes to putting too few items on your list (in conjunction with rule number 1), is that people feel bad about getting you just one little store-bought thing, so they decide to make you something.  Now, I understand that it’s (supposedly) the thought that counts, but you cannot sit there and say that the thought wouldn’t be much more appreciated if it came with a real world use or application.  Thus, my family tends to get scarves.  My mom and sister both knit them, other people will buy them, and it seems like almost every year now, I get them.  Again, I appreciate that they care about my comfort and health and fashion enough to get me a scarf, but it just goes to show that they clearly did not stop for a second to put any thought into the gift that they got me whatsoever.  I have never worn, nor am I currently wearing, nor will I ever wear a scarf.  Ever.  Ever.  Ever.  I have struggled through too many years in high school of pathetic, desperate attempts at facial hair to not keep a full, thick beard at all times now that I can grow one.  And if you’ve never had a beard, it acts just like a scarf, except you don’t have to worry about it being too loose, and you will ALWAYS look more badass with a beard.  And I’ve had a beard now for about five years, so it’s not exactly like it’s a new development.  But, nevertheless, someone in my family will take a look at my list, and want to go the extra mile (for which I’m appreciative), and get me a scarf.  And I, in turn, will take that scarf graciously, and at the end of the night, take it up to my bedroom and place it on the coat hook all the way in back of my bedroom closet, with about ten other scarves that have never been worn.  Alas, the tragic life of forgotten knitwear.

The next strange thing about Christmas is the annual Christmas dinner. Every year for the entirety of my childhood, my family would hop in the car and head off to my grandmother’s house.  Before dinner was ready, we would munch on some appetizers (which, being from Wisconsin, means an untouched vegetable tray, a box of wheat thins, and about two pounds of cheese) while engaging in small talk about our lives as if anything major had changed or happened in the last month since Thanksgiving.  So that leaves me the choice between telling them that nothing is new, and opening the night up to more in depth discussions of my life and why my $120,000 English degree from Marquette is going down the drain by me working second-shift in a bakery, or I could just simply tell them the same exact stories that I have already told them.  I choose the latter, usually, and hope that I can somehow remember the stories that I made up to tell them at Thanksgiving well enough that they don’t call me out for one of those stories changing.  Sure, there is the third option of saying nothing and learn about the happenings in their lives, but I don’t want to know about how my Uncle was able to squeeze in a quick 18 holes of golf on December 10th because of the mild weather.  But like clockwork, before I have to go into too much detail, my saving grace appears.  The roast comes out of the oven, and we all stop what we’re doing and go to the dinner table to eat.  Same shitty food, but we all say we love it, and eat way, way too much of it (And we still do.  I mean, how else am I supposed to put back on the 25 pounds that I’ve lost since graduation? (“Who’s a sexy bitch?”  “I am!  I am!”)).  Roast beef sandwiches, pasta salad, 7-Layer salad (Hey, I’m from Wisconsin and it’s fucking delicious), dinner rolls, some type of vegetables which suffer the same fate as the veggie appetizer platter, and this strange concoction that my grandma just loved, consisting of candied fruits mixed into a tub of Cool Whip.  She called it salad.  Nobody touched it.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy.  I knew what would be good and what to avoid.  And the small talk would always stop because we knew that all that my grandma wanted to hear was how good the food was and how much we all loved each other and how great of a family we are.  Well, she’s dead now.  And it’s not like we didn’t see it coming.  70 years as a smoker has that affect, I’m told.  But for the last couple of years, she had been circling the drain and was always too weak to be moved out of her hospice room to our house for dinner.  So, this opened up a grand opportunity for us.  We could say, “To hell with tradition,” and we could eat, literally, whatever we wanted to.  Three years ago, we had barbequed beef.  Two years ago, we had lasagna.  Last year, we had bratwursts and Italian sausages.  It was amazing.  And it never struck me that we could actually do this.  It was as if our family was waiting for my grandma to kick it or to be too sick to cook or come to dinner to break out the good food.  And I have to say, it really made dealing with the awkwardness worth it.  And yes, we all miss my grandma and it’s a tragedy she died and all that sentimental stuff that you want me to say so that I don’t seem like a total bastard if you are reading this because of a link you found while surfing the, “Freshly Pressed,” section of WordPress so that I seem like a more likable narrator/main character (something my English professor taught me was necessary in order to have a successful piece of writing (Gotta put that degree to work)).  But goddamnit, I love lasagna.

Delicious

This next particularly strange aspect of Christmas will most likely be new to you all, taking even me until just a few weeks ago to figure it out.  But you know when you eat Thanksgiving dinner and after the dinner and desserts and your family is just kind of sitting around talking to each other and waiting until it’s an appropriate time to leave and somebody finally says, “You know, that tryptophan is really getting to me, I think I need to go home and take a nap,” or maybe they just go into the TV room at your house and take a nap right then and there?  For some reason, it happens after Christmas dinner, too.  There’s no turkey in Christmas dinner, so what gives?  Sure, you could argue that it’s because it’s just a really long day in general (let’s face it, waking up early, going to church, opening presents, saying thank you a million times, watching Elf three-and-a-half times, and then eating dinner while suppressing any and all opinions on politics/morals/religion truly does take a lot out of you), or that it’s because of the sheer quantity of food that you consume in that short amount of time.  But I dare to venture to say it’s something different.  You see, it happens at every holiday.  And what’s present at every holiday?  Your family.  And what’s the one thing that you are happy about once the holidays are over?  The fact that your family left.  Sure, you love your family and all that, but it’s always a relief to get away after spending a whole bunch of time with them.  And who is the first one to “get tired?”  Your parents.  You see, they’ve been around the block a few times, so they know exactly what to do in order to have an immediate and foolproof exit from family events (A lifetime of seeing the same people who tell the same stories over and over again has got to be exhausting).  And everyone knows how tiring the holidays are in general, from shopping for your relatives, to shopping for yourself, to shopping for yourself again after Christmas to use up all your gift cards before you forget about them, so nobody really has the authority to question or call you out for wanting to go and take a nap.  It’s just like when you were a kid, and you knew how to pretend to be super sick so you could get out of school because you have a test that you didn’t study for that day, and yet miraculously be healthy and strong enough to eat the lasagna that your parents make for dinner (I’m sorry, but I really do love lasagna).

Future Perfect Parents

Our parents are simply the adult version of Ferris and Sloane.  Is it deceitful?  Maybe.  Genius?  Absolutely.

But perhaps the strangest thing about Christmas is actually the month or so leading up to Christmas.  For those of you who are super into Christmas, maybe you don’t quite understand this part, but being multicultural is a big part of being a good person, so keep reading.  For everyone else, you know what I’m talking about.  The phone calls from relatives, asking you why your Christmas list is a couple days/a week/two weeks late.  Those same relatives calling what seems like five or six times to ask what time they should show up for dinner.  Your uncle asking if he should make that Cool Whip salad that grandma loves so much just for tradition’s sake.  Your last final before winter break.  Your last day of work before you take off for the holidays. It’s those moments when you are forced to acknowledge that it, in fact, is the holidays, and that you, in fact, do have a family, and they will love you and talk to you, and buy you shit even if you somehow manage to have enough excuses for not getting them a list until the 23rd.  A family that will undoubtedly continue to pester you about your personal and professional life until you finally give in and admit that, while you aren’t married yet (I’m only 22, cool your fucking jets), you did see a cute girl the other day.

Hey, My Family Already Thinks She's Awesome

Granted, they don’t know that you were speaking in the absolute most literal definition of the word, “see,” and that no, you do not actually know Alexis Bledel, nor will you probably ever meet her, but when they ask about her you refer to her as Alex and describe the plotline of your favorite Gilmore Girls episode (preferably an episode from when she’s dating Logan and they get into a fight, because then your family will totally be on your side saying how they think that she just dump him because he’s being such a tool or scumbag and start marrying with you (Note: Constantly referring to a potential significant other by a non-gendered name such as Alex may cause your relatives, who have never met her, to ponder the possibility that you may be gay.  Even if you aren’t, it’s a fun little game to see who in your family becomes most uncomfortable with this possibility)).  All the little moments that break you from your meta-reality where you pretend like there is absolutely nothing notable is going on in the next few weeks whatsoever.  The world and reality that you choose to live in because you know in your heart of hearts what’s just around the bend. (It’s a lot like when you start seeing Facebook statuses about how much people hate the new Facebook, but your profile hasn’t gotten updated with it quite yet.  You know it’s coming, and you hate it and you want to take your profile, run away with it, and hide out in peace and quiet in a world stuck in a time even before even Facebook Chat and Timeline and that stupid fucking instant update of any and everything that your friends do).  Those moments, when you are walking a tightrope over the canyon of time, and you’re focused, looking dead ahead toward the goal of January, and every time you think that you’re almost there, you allow your gaze to drop and you realize that you’ve never done tightrope walking before, or anything acrobatic for that matter, and that you are doomed, at one point or another, to fall into the pits of familial love and endure the perils of quality time.

And so that, my friends, is the story of why I find Christmas time to be so damn strange.  It’s not that I don’t like the holiday or my family or anything like that (actually, that may be debatable), but it’s a stressful time, and everyone is on edge at least a little bit because of that.  And I’m certainly not saying that these strange things are by any means bad things.  God knows I’m a pretty weird dude, but I still maintain that I’m pretty decent guy (Did you hear that Alexis?).  Consider this some food for thought as you enter your childhood homes, or your grandmother’s home, or wherever you go for the holidays, and try to recognize your own family’s strange habits.  And remember, the loosening of the belt and yawn is way overplayed.  Try raising your hand to your brow to block whatever the nearest and brightest light source is, close your eyes, and try to suppress your yawn (preferably only one.  Two Max.) before you announce your exit.  Much more subtle, much more respected, much more effective.

Take it easy, and Merry Christmas,

-Panda