(Image of small illustrated holiday tree with the following written above it:
Reminder: we don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed, and tired.)
*Aprox. 7 minute read
I came across this image and text whilst scrolling my FB feed and I instantly clicked and shared it to my own timeline, but then it wouldn’t leave my mind immediately and I realized just how much I’m processing and working through so much of my own stuff around this time of the year. My own current circumstances may differ than many/most, but I hope to alleviate some of the negative things we all think about and carry with us through this complicated season. This isn’t about religion at all, for me or for this post, but more about family dynamics, consumerism, societal obligations, and general toxic behaviors. I hope you will comment below with your own thoughts and feels and advice if you have them to share. These thoughts and feels are my own, no matter how unpopular. Ha!
The media and marketers want us to buy into the idea that “The Holidays” are about family, togetherness, giving, kindness, celebration, gratitude, helping those in need, etc. What that really looks and feels like in our actual lives is often very different. And even if it is still about those things, it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re actually feeling while in the midst of it all. It’s more often than not the most stressful, saddest, toughest, coldest, rudest, and most triggering time of year. I personally feel that the brunt of this hustle and bustle and work and emotional labor (not to mention the shopping, gift wrapping, housekeeping, cooking and such for these gatherings) falls on women almost exclusively, but that isn’t what this post is about. This is about the toll these things take on us. The impact they have on our quality of life and most of all the trauma we endure and ultimately have to carry as a result of it all.
Yes, I said Trauma. It’s a heavy word, but necessary. We are exposed to people, places, and things at this time of year that we just aren’t the rest of the year. There’s the travel aspect if that’s something you must go through to visit with family. As a fat bodied individual, you are subject to an entirely different set of rules if traveling by aircraft on a commercial airline. You may be forced to buy two seats, you may be forced off of a flight you’ve already boarded, you may be abused or assaulted by fellow travelers and even airline personnel. This is something we accept as part of the privilege of air travel, but it is traumatic. You can plan for everything, but the world still chooses (IT IS A CHOICE!!!) to oppress fat people throughout the world. It might be the only time of year you travel because of this. You might be preparing for your travels now and considering if it’s truly worth it or not. This doesn’t even bring the financial impact of air travel into this equation, but I’ll get to that shortly. You do this to be with Family! Your Loved ones! They would do it for you…right?!
Family traditions! Oh, the warm and fuzzy wholesomeness of being Home with Family for The Holidays! Right?! Isn’t that what this is all about? Every family has their own traditions and rituals or ceremonies. My family would go to Midnight mass after spending Christmas Eve at one of my grandparents’ home for a big dinner. The next morning we’d open our gifts at home but then rush over to our other grandparents’ house for the opening of more presents, followed by a full day and evening of family revelry. We’d usually get home late, exhausted (I often had to be carried to the car or into the house after passing out), but full of that family love that everyone hopes to have in their lives forever. I just didn’t realize I would only have it for 13 years. Ha-ha!
That’s not always so close to reality, that wholesome image. Often, families at this time of year consist of a variety of personalities, values, and beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs are outdated and downright damaging. But we’re expected to remain silent (especially women!) and “just try to enjoy the holiday!” So what exactly are we getting together to celebrate here? If we have to just shut up and sit down for this shit, we become part of our own oppression. Wait! Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating togetherness?!
Okay, okay…Family! Maybe your extended family isn’t toxic. Awesome! You sit around the dinner table passing all those delicious homemade dishes you’ve been looking forward to. Grandma’s pie and Auntie’s casserole, but the minute you take a helping for yourself all eyes are on your plate! If it’s only that you’re lucky. Often our worst food and body policing come from those who claim they love us most, Family. If it’s not monitoring your portions or actual food choices, it’s comments on your body, unsolicited diet advice, mentions of abusive ex-boyfriends (okay, that one’s personal), and more. I don’t care what they say, they are not concerned about your health at all! If they were they wouldn’t make you feel like absolute shit for simply inhabiting a fat body! It isn’t your fault! You have done nothing wrong!
The foodstuff doesn’t seem to end, really. If it’s not one holiday feast it’s another, or a potluck at work, it’s always something! And there is always some miserable ninny who will ooh and aah at all those delightful and delicious delectables, only to loudly shame and blame anyone actually eating the fucking food! I hate this person, and I don’t care who they are! This person hates themselves, hard! This person is mad at you for not feeling as bad as they do. This person will steal joy from a toddler! Seriously! Unforgivable! There must be some requirement for every company ever to hire this person. UGH!!! Anyway, fuck them, enjoy and nourish yourself!
The financial impact of this season is perhaps toughest of all. How many of us have gone into debt all in the name of giving? Or had to go without necessities yourself so that you could give to those you love? I get it. It’s hard to make those choices. And I don’t know what it’s like to have the added pressure of having kids who expect things this time of year. I grew up poor, but my grandparents always made sure we didn’t go without too much. Though being an 80’s kid (born in ’77, after all), it was the height of the toy craze. I’m kind of glad about this part in a way, I mean even now I never really want or expect the newest/coolest/hottest/top of the line anything! Ha!
For me, one of the worst parts of this time of year is the societal obligations and phoniness. People you know who outright hate you will somehow make you feel as though you should be buying them a special gift just for knowing they exist. Then there are the competitive gifters! You know the type. You think you got them a nice, thoughtful gift and then they get you something ridiculous like fucking plane tickets or some nonsense (I realize how that sounds, I’m a very untrusting human, because that very thing happened to me). There’s just so damned much you’re “supposed to do” because of what time of year it is and that just stinks, in my opinion! Even if you aren’t religious, there’s this whole American way of consumerism that drives folks out in hordes, and often against each other, all in the name of bargains. It’s disgusting. (I worked retail for ten years.)
Look, it isn’t all terrible. I love the smell of the crisp, late-autumn air! Few things in this world exhilarate me like that or fresh and new rains (it’s so rare in California, I cherish every drop!). The scent of douglas firs and pine and veggies roasting in a hot oven. I love giving gifts most of all and take it very seriously! But the pressures of the holidays are just too fucking much, dude! Gift giving is my love language and let me tell you, I have been hurt and burned far too many times. Now I hold back, I can’t just give because I want to anymore. Not just because I’m broke as fuck, but because often folks don’t know how to handle a thoughtful gift, given directly from the heart. It can be too intense for some.
I’m voluntarily estranged from my family as I write this. I’m also divorced, single (no romantic partner to speak of, not that I’m prioritizing that at all right now, obv.), and unemployed, living alone for the first time in my life. I don’t know how to feel this year. Mostly just terrified for my survival, but aside from that, how does one celebrate when all of the trappings of the season do not apply? How can I not let all the past traumas of my life drag me down in my darkest hour as these dates approach? I am fortunate to have an incredible friend group who feels more like family (most of the time) than my own ever has. But they each have their own families to celebrate with. I’m not “Oh woe is me!” over here, I am simply looking at patterns and behaviors and society more critically these days.
I used to love Christmas! I would wear Santa hats and eat a candy cane every day with glee! In my town, we have a Candy Cane Lane where all the houses in the neighborhood decorate and the fire department gives out candy canes to the kids, and families and couples stroll along the sidewalks in the evenings. It’s really lovely and special (and you probs have one in your town, too), and I miss all of those feelings that used to go along with all of that. I miss my grandma and my aunt Jo and I can’t ever think about this time of year without them, their warm and inviting homes and arms, their cooking and hilarious banter. This year especially! I have never felt more alone in the world in my entire life! Not lonely, mind you. I just miss what family meant back when ya know? I miss the matriarchs of my family in a deep and cutting way I can’t quite put into words.
This time of year also brings up a lot of memories of my adolescence, like my first love. We met just 1 week before Christmas. I’d sneak out at night and walk around my neighborhood with them or sneak them in my window and just kiss and hold each other for hours. I don’t know how I never got caught! Ha-ha! It felt so romantic though, to be freezing cold out, but so full of warmth from a connection between two people. It didn’t last long, but it is still fresh in my mind and I just haven’t ever had to think about this time of year as a single, solo, independent human. It feels complicated! Ha! I’m glad to have my own space and safe place to live. I just miss having someone to stay in and keep warm with.
Facing December without a job is so tough! Most companies won’t start hiring until mid-January when the new budgets come out. So I have to just stick it out and hope for the best. I have been applying to allllll the jobs and have already had a bunch of interviews, but these things take time. Patience I have, but money I do not. I’m actually far worse off financially than ever before in my life, and I know I have published those exact words the last time I would out of work. I can assure you that this time it is far worse. C’est la vie!
I share all of my absurdities because I want you to know that it’s okay to question what has “always been”. It’s okay to not want to do things that you didn’t or don’t get to have a say in. It’s perfectly awesome to start or create your own new traditions and rituals, with whomever you choose! Seriously, what other point to adulthood is there?! You get to decide what you will and won’t stand for in your life and in your celebrations. There will always be hard times, complicated feels and so much to navigate through this time of year. You can choose to opt out or to opt-in, in whatever way feels right for you!
If you do not have a support system of your own for the coming festivities, I offer my unbiased and empathetic ears/eyes. Send me an email, take a load off your mind or chest or whatever, I get it and I’m here for ya! firstname.lastname@example.org I’m also on some other apps and things if you need real-time support. I don’t yet know what my plans are for celebrating if I even feel like it at the time. But I’m always glad to be able to provide some emotional support for someone who truly needs it.
What gets you through a difficult holiday season? How do you prioritize your own self-care? What helps you stay away from self-destructive behaviors when it’s so easy to fall into those traps? What is your favorite part of this time of year? Least favorite? How do you stay true to your beliefs when surrounded by others toxic behaviors? Do you have a new tradition or ritual you started? Do you have a fave handmade item or recipe you’re proud of? I wanna hear it all!
Thank you so much for your continued love and support! I have been truly touched by the kindness and generosity of the readers of this blog. My fat community has been such a bright light in a dark time. You have my undying gratitude and affection!
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
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