On The Dangers Of ‘Following The Ribbon’ This Holiday Season


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Well, it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is behind us, and before you can say crass commercialization, Christmas and Hanukkah will be here. This means three things. First, another year will have come and gone in which I failed to learn military tactical hand signals. Leading my family through a seasonally festooned mall like a soldier on patrol, silently communicating the following with my hands: Honey, get the car. Kids, help your mother with the bags. I’ll be in the massage chair at Brookstone until Mall Security says otherwise. This is to have lived.

Second, Citizen’s Arrests. The question needs to be answered once and for all – are they or are they not enforceable? I’m not asking for a key to the city or anything, but in case you haven’t noticed the following crimes are way down in these parts: Driving While Listening to The Cure, Saying “That’s Your Truth” or “As a Crow Flies” When Giving Directions, Men Wearing Indoor Knit-Hats/Bike Shorts More Than an Hour After Cycling, People Who Still Go On About How Good The Wire Was. All this and not even a thank you from City Hall. Maddening? Yes. But not insanity, which to me isn’t doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. That’s golf.

Third, Human Resources will fail to go big and implement my game-changing idea for year-end performance reviews: 350 degree evaluations. In these reviews staff is permitted to review management, but to keep it interesting an undefined ten degrees remain at all times off limits. Alas, ‘tis the season to get beat about the head and shoulders with voicemails from that muppet Terwilliger in the home office — the point is not to increase enterprise risk, HR will do its job and you do yours, is there a gas leak in your office, etc. — so definitely not this year.

But there’s a bigger problem here, a gathering storm that menaces this season. Like a new babysitter who, having already established that her boyfriend can come over, immediately asks if you own the game Twister, it’s vaguely unsettling. I think we all know what I’m talking about, but I’ll say it anyway: those cloying holiday-ribbon-that-leads-to-a-brand-spanking-new-luxury-sedan-as-present television commercials.

You know the drill. Handsome actor in his mid-twenties playing an impossibly thoughtful husband in his mid-forties. First clue he’s not like you: he has a motor court. Silk pajama bottoms and fitted t-shirt that says Namaste. (Not snug sweatpants that subconsciously keep your wife from enjoying the ballet as she once did, and threadbare I Got Crabs at the 1989 Beach Blanket Bash fraternity t-shirt.) Insouciantly unshaven, with shredded David Beckham abs and soulful David Strathairn eyes. And oh yeah, he’s got enough cheddar lying around in December to get his wife a tricked-out sedan with artificial intelligence capabilities beyond your actual intelligence capabilities.

This is completely demoralizing. Year after year, variations of this commercial do immeasurable relationship damage to Average Joes. Did I invite trouble on myself two Christmases ago? You bet I did. But I’m telling ya, the commercial made me do it, with all that highly stylized, Nordic slap and tickle. Where else would I get the idea that throwing a snowball at my beloved is a sign of flirtatious affection? For me it was more like a sign we’d spend Christmas Day at Urgent Care. How could I have known she’d use the storm door as a shield? In the commercial the beautiful woman falls languid in the snow with a come hither look. After my snowball headshot, my better half dropped like a sack of hammers in the mudroom. Her look? Decidedly more go thither.

And then last December, that commercial did me in again. I see now that having the ribbon lead to my wife’s “big” present was a bad idea. Worse still was leading her out of the house and into the garage. But the part I’d really like to have back: the decision to put the Complete Buddy Rich Vinyl Collection there in the back of her beat-up Suburban. Not one of my better ideas. Worst in fact since two birthdays ago, when inside a Tiffany Blue Box I’d found in my neighbor’s recycling I put a homemade coupon good for one “world-class rubdown.”

But in this season of hope let’s not curse the darkness, let’s light a candle. This isn’t about blaming television for my character flaws. This is about a married man learning from his mistakes and passing on the wisdom. So let’s recap: Ribbon leading to Junior’s new rocking horse? Fine. Your teenager’s Fallout 4 game? No downside, but no real upside, either. Anything for the missus? Step away from the ribbon, brother, step away.