Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The True Meaning of Christmas

In preparation for the impending Christmas/holiday season, television has once again been inundated with a deluge of commercials, urging us to find the "true meaning of Christmas." In this case, the true meaning of Christmas seems to be expressing our gratitude and love for friends and loved ones by giving them an endless supply of "must-have" products as quickly and at the best price possible.

While some might argue that these products exemplify America's gluttonous and hedonistic ways, I completely disagree. For example, I have been brushing my teeth with a standard toothbrush for years, unknowingly risking serious dental health consquences and apparently a dramatic increase in social status. Thank God for Crest, who has essentially been performing (very expensive) public service announcements by urging folks to run out and purchase one of their Spinbrushes which, with its duel vibrating heads, ergonomic design, and (for kids) sea-creature-shaped handles, will revolutionize public health almost as much as Louis Pasteur did with that whole pasteurization thing. I can only hope to God my parents love me enough to slap a bow around one of those puppies and stuff it in my stocking.

However, this Christmas season I understand more than ever why so many people suffer from depression and anxiety during this time of year. Thanks to Apple, I have been forced to question my existence several times a day--a painful experience for someone already in the throes of a stereotypical twenty-something existential crisis. Apple knows I've survived without the Iphone, but how? they wonder. Good question. Thanks to Apple's insightful inquiry, I'm beginning to wonder whether or not I'm biologically equipped to handle daily life, let alone grapple with issues like graduate school or career choices.

To exacerbate the issue, right now I only have a refurbished phone I purchased from Ebay for a whopping thirty bones. It doesn't even have a camera on it, and worst of all, I have to use a standard, pre-set ringtone. What's Christmas without the Mariah Carey reminding me that all she wants for Christmas is me everytime someone calls? Talk about dejection! Every time that phone rings it's like a knife tearing into my soul, reminding me of my lameness and evoking a serious fear that I may not survive the day. What a Blue freakin' Christmas.

And of course, anyone who bashes the season's overcommercialization is overlooking the important lesson these ads teach us in the skill of communication. How else can people prove their love for one another than by giving them jewelry (preferably on sale)? Things like spending time together or small tokens of affection like favorite books or sweaters are nice...but let's face it: those things are about as temporary as Britney Spears' comeback, but diamonds are forever! My personal favorite of these commercials are those advertising the diamond necklaces that have several diamonds increasing in size to reflect the way "love grows."

My only fear is that this jewelry-giving may be misleading. In the spirit of honest, open communication, my suggestion would be that these items be customized to reflect the true spirit of the relationship. Perhaps a nice rhinestone or two could represent the time the husband accidentally landed in the lap of his secretary and moved out for three weeks. I think a nicely tarnished tennis bracelet would do well to illuminate the relationship between two highschool sweethearts who had a shotgun wedding and have been living in relative antipathy in a mobile home outside of town ever since. For my uncle Jarvis, who's been married 5 times to 3 different women (his current wife #5 is also wife #1), this approach could be slighly complicated. However, I'm sure a tiny bit of coal set in a silver ring could reflect the capricious nature of their relationship. Sure it seems a bit harsh--but that bit of carbon might eventually morph into a diamond under the pressure of their failing relationship, who knows? As the commercials advocate, gemstones truly are the perfect vehicles for communication, as long we use them accurately.

So anyway, this post has absolutely nothing to do with my life as a BabySuit, except to underscore the fact that I watch far too much TV and have no life outside of work. Please excuse the facetious nature of this post in light of the upcoming holidays--it's just that the sarcasm builds throughout the week, and as countless teenage boys have argued, if you don't use it, you lose it. I hope whoever reads this has a wonderful holiday, and is able to find the diamond hidden somewhere in the rough of over-commercialization (and for me, over-sarcasm). Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Handshakes, hugs, 'n' kisses

This weekend I got a much needed lesson in the art of the handshake-hug-cheek kiss. I have never been much of a hugger--the only people I normally deign to hug are my parents, my dogs, and chubby, furry animals in general. But as part of Corporate America, apparently the handshake-hug-kiss is a somewhat common form of greeting...and one that causes an insurmountable amount of anxiety for yours truly.

First of all, there is the traumatic experience I've had with a variation of this greeting. At a benefit dinner I recently attended with several of my company's executives, I made a complete fool of myself attempting what might even be a complex, impressive maneuver challenging even the most seasoned professionals. Now, as a twenty-two year old six months out of college, these dinners are foreign and sometimes painfully awkward enough: I try to drink enough wine to stay afloat amidst of a sea of frothy white-haired heads bobbing to some pedantic speech but not so much that Drunk Suit breaks free and starts flirting lasciviously with that sexy banker at table 10.

In any case, we were all sitting around the table, and one exec, perhaps the P. Diddy of the hugging industry, came around to offer his customary bear hug. In my naivety, I didn't stand fully before he reached my part of the table. I was mid-stand when he reached from behind to hug me. Suddenly, I saw his face nearing mine, and I tried to twist and turn and tilt my face up....when his lips narrowly avoided mine and ended up on my nose. My face turned ketchup red as I tried to laugh and shrug off the fact that I had almost inadvertently smooched the most powerful man in the company...on the lips.

Needless to say, this experience simmers in the back of my mind during each of the 5.5 million cocktail parties I am required to attend. Part of the problem is that there are just too many variations: with women, you can never be sure if they are going to give a strong handshake, a fish-shake or if their birdlike bones will be crushed in my hand as I administer my I-am-an-Assertive-Businesswoman Handshake-so-take-me-seriously-even-though-I'm-your-child's-age handshake. And then there's the hugging: if I go in for the whole hug, will my huggee just try to side-hug me with the traditional one-armed awkwardness so common amongst highschool males, making me look overzealous and scary? And vice versa--if I'm not really a hugger (and I'm not), if someone goes in for the whole hug, they may see my reflexive flinch and stiffness and interpret it for unfriendliness (which it most definitely is not). Plus, I always worry that I might inadvertently overstep the lines of appropriate warmth and morph into sheer creepiness?

And then there's the cheek kiss. This is a phenomenon I have never understood: if the huggee kisses you on the cheek, how can you also kiss them on the cheek simultaneoulsy? It's physically impossible without a considerable amount of talented lip twisting. And if this is true, what's the air kiss but a contrived attempt to seem European?

These questions continued to discombobulate me until this past Saturday, when at my first of four Christmas parties I learned the smooth tango of cursory greetings. After confessioning my intractable clumsiness, a smooth actor friend of mine taught me this: small step forward, slight pressure on the handshake with the right hand while the left goes in for the hug. The air kiss, while not my taste, shows social poise, and so should be executed blithely and quickly. The hug should last as long as it takes to say, "It's so great to see you again!!" or "Happy Holidays!" and then the release and smile. The parting smile is also critical--it's kind of like the parting gift given to the losing contestant on a game show: sorry, I don't like you well enough to keep you on the show, but here's a little something so we can both pretend you're not a sorry, sorry loser. (OK, that's a little harsh, but the point is, the smile is the finishing touch-perfect if you stay to converse, and perfect if you smoothly transit to the next handshake-hug-kiss).

So, after practicing a few times, I felt confident that I might be able to execute the complicated dance of the HHK. After all, if Heather Mills can dance with only one leg, I can pretend to be a normal, semi-poised human being for 30 seconds right? At the party, the same exec made his seemingly slow-motion approach to me, and ...wait for it.....I went in for the handshake-hug-kiss! Check, check, and check! All completed with the perfect combination of machinelike precision and careful casualness. I did a small fist-pump in my head and a genuine smile spread across my face....until he graciously apologized for "stepping on my feet." Apparently I had gouged him with my pointy pumps. My triumph faded as my face once again turned some unappealing shade of red.

If this clumsiness of mine keeps up, I'll be on hypertension meds by 23, not to mention dash all hopes of snagging the banker at table 10. The only available alternative? Another cocktail, please....