Tag Archives: Life

Aimless Driving In Wisconsin

One of my most tried and true stress-relievers is to charge up my iPod, gas up my car, buy a fresh pack of cigarettes, pick a direction, and drive. No particular destination, just away. It’s insanely expensive, it runs the car even more into the ground than my daily driving does, and the chain smoking probably isn’t the best for my health, but hey, it’s the best way for me to learn every Rihanna song in my library word for word. That, and it gives you time to think. Time to think about anything and everything. Sports. Jobs. What cutesy thing you should text next to the girl you’re into. Family. Friends. What the best way is to forget that girl. The course of your life. The mistakes you’ve made. How great you’re life could have been if you hadn’t been a dumbass and instead of listening to what your friends and family told you was your best option, you just did what the fuck you wanted to do and felt like was the right choice. And lest we not forget the immemorially bittersweet and hauntingly sublime task of remembering the girl because hey, sometimes you’ll meet people in your life that make you realize that Snoop Dogg was wrong, and that bitches ARE shit. Oh, and, of course, my new favorite hobby of trying to figure out the best and most creative Saw like way of killing Gotye, like he would have to delete his ex off of his Facebook friend list in order to live or something like that, or forcing him to put some fucking clothes on because he is NOT good looking enough to be naked in a music video. But I digress.

Set Blasters to “Kill That Whiny Bitch”

 

The best time to drive-think, I’ve found, is the middle of the night. Unless you’re on a major Interstate, you’ll see maybe four other cars every hour, the stoplights switch to flashing yellow, and you finally get a chance to start living in a Thompsonian manner and drive as fast as you damn well please down the empty streets because the cops that are out give less than one full fuck about you. It’s the emptiness of the road, I think, that really gives you the ability to completely tune out what’s happening around you and just dive into the previously unexplored depths of your head. It allows you to get away from the mindlessness of shitty TV and Internet memes. It allows you to sit there and slow down and actually try to figure out this miraculous little game of “Let’s See How Little We Can Fuck This Up” that we colloquially refer to as life. It allows you to light your fifth cigarette in forty-five minutes, driving at sixty miles-an-hour, weaving in and out of your lane and only be phased by the fact that your voice is almost as gravely as the shoulder that you’re barely holding onto.

But recently I feel I’ve reached a new horizon. I’ve turned down a different road. A road that’s not so easily navigated. Or at the very least the road is transforming into something horribly regrettable. The timers of the stoplights don’t work, so instead of flashing yellows I get solid reds at every intersection. Six beady little LED pieces of shit telling me I can’t keep going, that I need to stop, regardless of the fact that there isn’t another conscious human being within 5 miles of my position. The city has stopped picking up the road-kill, so when you drive over the same road every day for a week, you get to see the stages of decay, from the fresh carcass still intact, legs of the deer still looking as if they’re galloping, to the bloating fly-infested cesspool that forms as the legs straighten out under the influence of rigamortis, and finally ending in the depressing pile of hair, leather, and venison jerky with a center of black and goopy organ nougat.

Even the car itself has started to haunt me. This was the car I learned to drive in. This was the car that’s seen thousands of cigarettes, hundreds of spliffs, a half-dozen blunts and a Crave Case or two. This was the car that saw everything from first dates and kisses to last dates and breakups. This was the car that has the unfortunate experience of seeing me get my first handjob. Hell, with the amount of manual stimulation and fellatio that has gone down (haha, get it?) in that car, I think it’s probably best that we do part ways (I know it’s not romantic, but we were all in high school at one point. As for all that stuff that’s happened after I graduated high school, I really have no excuse). Not even the coolest and most compatible of women have ever stayed with me this long after seeing my penis.

But I know it’s not the car. It’s not the road. It’s not those bastard stoplights. It’s me. It’s my life and my choices and my situation that are getting all fucked up. It’s at the point that I can’t even bring myself to lie about it and tell everybody the same old throw-away, pre-packaged lines that I dole out whenever I don’t want to put the weight of my problems on other people. I can’t even muster up the breath to say, “I’m fine,” or, “Everybody has shit in their lives,” if it’s someone I can’t bring myself to lie to. Now when I drive, it’s like there’s this overload of stuff to think about. It’s too much to be able to sort out and think about in my head as the car ticks over 170,000 miles. How am I supposed to pay 25 grand in student loans making $9.25 and hour? How can I ever make it in the world as some type of writer if I let the shit in my life debilitate me to the point that this is the first thing I’ve written for my pathetic fucking blog in four months? How am I supposed to tell the girl that’s currently fucking me that I really don’t want anything remotely serious to develop out of this? And then the realization that, due to work and sleep and booze and drugs, I haven’t actually seen or talked to that girl in like, two weeks, so I guess she knows I’m not looking for anything and now I’m back to just masturbating. Then there’s the fact that I’ve finally come to the conclusion that moving back home after graduation was the worst possible decision that I could have ever made in my life, as it has pretty much destroyed any chance of a positive relationship between me and my family. And on top of that, slowly my friends have started to move away or get real jobs and have their own lives and issues that they need to deal with, not to mention that I’ve got to deal with being cut out of people’s lives that I actually, genuinely gave a shit about. And then there’s the fact that I kind of want to start going back to my therapist to try and figure out what the fuck is wrong with me and why I constantly feel this more or less even, steady, slow-burn depression and relatively large anxiety issues, but I can’t bring myself to do it because of the resentment that I feel toward him ever since he called this whole shitty downward spiral fall that I’m in the midst of, all the way down to what set it off in the first place. Then there’s the question of whether or not I’m going to get around to the whole quitting smoking thing, and then there’s wondering exactly how far back I’m going to continue to push the line that separates the drugs that I’ve done from those that I’m not comfortable with taking yet. And then there’s the fact that for whatever reason, I’ve got this habit of being really shitty at letting things go, and I have a tendency to, even years later, rip previously healed wounds back open just for shits and giggles to try and remember why it hurt so much, just to find out that if you do such things, all those horrible events in your past, all your wrong choices and bad decisions and unfortunate circumstances and years of being treated seemingly unfairly still fucking hurts, so that when you start to think about life too much, it starts to become overwhelming, and you end up doing more harm than good for yourself. And on top of all of that, I start to wonder why the fuck I know every single word to “Call Me Maybe” and actually got legitimately mad at work the other day when my coworker changed the radio station as soon as it came on.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs that I follow, AdamsDaugther came back from a bit of a hiatus (I don’t care that your blog is kind of girly at times, I like girly stuff. Like Gilmore Girls, Andre champagne, your blog, and Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bars). She had a post about how she was coming off of a rough patch in her life and decided to rededicate herself to blogging (and cooking). And, with the exception of her using The Notebook as the source of her revelation (Sorry, I like girly stuff, but I made a promise to myself long, long ago that the only time I would ever watch The Notebook would be if I found myself in the position that watching it would help me get laid), I realized I needed to do something, too. I need to get back to doing what I love, to what I want to do with my life. I need to get back to writing and making these amazing connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of life. I need to get back to bringing everyone a little bit of Panda insight. I need to get back to reveling in the awesome things that happen to me, and publicly crucifying those who wrong me. There have been too many boozed out shenanigans and too much regrettable sex in strange places and too many drugged up adventures that have taught me too many little-known rules of life to just keep them to myself. I haven’t spent all my money on bad decisions to just remember them. I need to tell them.

These are fucking delicious.

And it makes complete sense for me to do so. Even though I maintain that, in some ways, I needed a break from reality to post up inside my head, it’s time to get back to being me. Even though this road has been littered with those now-dried up and blowing in the breeze deer carcasses, they’ll eventually be gone. They’ll fix that fucking stoplight on 124th and Capitol to actually match up with the green lights on the road so you can drive from Peawaukee to downtown Milwaukee without stopping once. The rest-stop outside of Johnson Creek won’t have a car just creepily chilling in the parking lot with nobody in it. I’ll drive around Wisconsin at four in the morning and not have to wonder about whether the car coming toward me is a drunk driver or just another fuck-up like me, driving aimlessly to try and drive all the shit and demons from their head. There will be a time that I’ll stay out until five in the morning and drive home as the sun rises into the lavender-indigo sky as I speed past the unfortunate lot of my service industry brethren who are chosen to open the places of employ head off to work propped up by no less than 500 mg of caffeine, and the phosphene-like death throes of the LSD I took earlier that night streak across my perception as the drugs slowly meet their demise in my well-overworked liver, and I’ll realize that, no matter how badly I manage to fuck it up, no matter how much bullshit I’ll have to deal with on account of others, no matter how many people or stoplights continually tell me what I can’t fucking do, and no matter how many times I willingly let people hurt me with the vein hope that they’ll truly realize what they’re doing to me and my psyche and change their mind, maybe my life is way too damn interesting and beautiful to not write about.

Take it easy,

-Panda


Romance of the Panda, Part 3

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 the first two parts:

Part 1:  Here

Part 2:  Here

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A few months ago my coworker Antonio and I were working at the same table, getting to know each other a bit. The topic of girlfriends came up. After telling him that I did not, in fact, have a girlfriend, he looked at me, shocked, and said, “You don’t have a girlfriend? How come? I mean, I even have a girlfriend. Don’t you want someone?” Now, this was a somewhat strange moment for me, because Antonio is usually the guy that comes up to me on Sundays asking me in a thick Hispanic accent, “Hey John, how was your weekend? Did you get any hot, young poo-ssy?”  So the honest, sentimental side of him threw me for a pretty big loop. But like any question about my personal life that someone asks, I deflected the shit out of it, saying something like, “bitches can’t hold me down” (I figured this would shut him up about the subject, and it did).

Then, about a week ago, I started to think of what I should post for Valentine’s Day, and that conversation came to mind. Then I started to think about why I don’t have a girlfriend (which is never a fun thought process). Granted, some of you all, my devoted blog readers (particularly those who don’t personally know me), are probably saying, “You really need to think about that? Isn’t it obvious?”  Well, you only know me through my blog, and so I totally understand that I come off as just some asshole who spends his nights getting hammered in pursuit the most sapless woman with low enough self-esteem to sleep with me, cunnilinging her in hope of nothing more than potential fellatious retribution, and using my free time to come on the Internet to spit disturbing and hypocritical venom at all these haters. But deep down, there’s a softer side. At least I used to think so. But then I realized that, in reality, I don’t have a softer side, I’m just really fucking awkward, particularly around women.

In my defense, there seems to be a particularly fine line between being overly awkward and being not-an-asshole. Finding the correct level of not-asshole is incredibly difficult, particularly if you add any amount of alcohol to my system. Take this last weekend, for instance. I was at the bar with some friends of mine, and I see, across the bar, a lady that I realize later works with me. She sees me too. She smiles real big and starts waving at me. Now, here is what my thought process looked like: “Hey, look, there’s a lady. Ok we just made eye contact, be cool. LOOK AWAY TO NOT SEEM CREEPY. OK, done, look back at her to make sure she turned away too. No, she’s still looking at me and now she’s smiling. At who? Why is she looking at me? She can’t be smiling at me. Now she’s waving at me. She’s not waving at me. She can’t be waving at me. Women don’t wave and smile at me. Wait. She looks familiar. Is she that lady that I work with. Yup. PRETEND YOU DON’T SEE HER. PRETEND YOU DON’T SEE HER. STOP STARTING.”  And during this entire process, (which, in reality, probably only lasted six or seven seconds, but felt like three minutes), I was literally just standing there, staring directly at this lady I worked with with a completely blank expression on my face, not acknowledging any of the smiling or waving that she is sending my way. And if that’s not bad enough, she’s one of those ladies that you don’t want to do stupid stuff in front of or act like an asshole to. You know, the everything-you’d-want lady.  Real pretty, super nice, intelligent, AND she’s a Star Wars fan.

And I wish that that were the only kind of awkward that I am. I’m the kind of guy who, when I like a girl, I’ll try to play it cool.  I won’t put my feelings out there right away, but I’ll still flirt and do everything right, make her want to see me more, talk to me more, etc. But then I’ll start to play it too cool. Instead of waiting a reasonable amount of time to make my move, I’ll wait too many months. Then I’ll think to myself, “This is a good idea.” But I completely forget the fact that in reality, since I don’t want to be an asshole, I have all but stopped even talking to her. Then, I get myself pumped up to make a move, meet up with her somewhere, and THAT’S when I realize that I really haven’t seen or talked to this lady for a long time, and then I get nervous, which leads to me not talking, which leads to me thinking too much, which leads to me saying something really stupid or awkward.  Usually, at some point, the sentiment of, “you’re finally getting around to telling me you like me now?  Where the hell were you months ago?” is expressed by her.  So it’s really just kind of a giant circle of awkwardness for me.

With all this awkwardness, can it really be any surprise to you that I really dislike Valentine’s Day? I mean, I screw up even the most simple acts of kindness and sweetness, so of course I’ll mess up the holiday dedicated to love and couples. I’ve done it before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. The fact that a relationship can be so affected by one stupid fucking day is reason enough alone to hate Valentine’s Day.  And I know some of you are thinking, “Well, you’re a guy, so you only hate it because you’re the one on the hot seat.” Yes. Damn right. I prefer being able to prove my love and care for someone else throughout the year. There’s less pressure that way. And beside, I’d hate it even if the roles were switched. I’d want my someone to do stuff throughout the year for me instead of one “big” thing. And I think that’s what we should all be looking for. I don’t view me cooking and cleaning for a woman as a special gift only to be given on one day, I view it as the exchange rate for her being the one who has to kill all the spiders that I see in my apartment and I am way too much of a wuss to kill myself.  Forget flowers, give your lady the first pick of the Doritos so she can eat all the ones that have the most flavor powder on it. Instead of giving road head on the way home from a special Valentine’s dinner, how about when I go in to the gas station to get us pints of ice cream to eat while watching Gilmore Girls, you go grab one of those complimentary squeegees and clean the outer edges of the windshield of all the salt that’s built up because the windshield wipers can’t reach that far; it’s a far sweeter and more ladylike thing to do.  Don’t wish that I’d bring you flowers, but try to understand that me coming home drunk at 3AM, waking you up and splitting a Jimmy John’s pickle with you while I tell you stories about the night is my way of saying that you’re really special to me.

So this Valentine’s Day, don’t fret about what you’re supposed to do. Doing what you think you’re supposed to do is a bad, bad, bad idea. There was one year where I thought that I was supposed to buy the girl a heart-shaped box of chocolates. And so I did.  That didn’t really work out.  Go out and continue doing what got you to this point in your relationship in the first place. Don’t think that you need to do something super special because it’s Abe Lincoln’s birthday plus 2.  Me?  I’ll probably end up at the bar again. Last year, as some of my other single friends and I were leaving said bar, they played Michael Jackson’s hit song, “Beat It.”  We all started to laugh, but only to hide the sadness.

Take it easy,

-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