Alison Berkley: A holiday worth celebrating
November 4, 2002
In the midst of recent efforts to grow up and start taking responsibility for my future, I dressed up in costume, ate some drugs (sorry Dad, it was a special occasion) and went out on the town with Little Orphan Annie, Austin Powers and the Blues Brothers. Now that really put things in perspective! I normally don’t do Halloween, but everyone was so excited it was ridiculous. For weeks no one could stop talking about how great it is, how Aspen goes off, how the costumes are insane, and blah, blah, blah.
I don’t like holidays. I don’t appreciate the hype, the elaborate preparations, the high expectations, the money and effort put forth on account of some stupid tradition that really has very little to do with me. I am spontaneous and don’t really see the need to plan out my fun like I’m the member of some silly social planning committee.
That’s how it was growing up in a family who interpreted holidays for their own purposes and beliefs (or lack there of). As a kid, Halloween was OK since it didn’t involve religion or conflict with my parent’s work schedule or ski vacations. My best friend Becky Seale and I dressed up as cheerleaders every single year. We’d make our own pompoms by cutting newspapers into strips and painting them blue and yellow and gathering them into a bunch with tape. We’d spy on the cheerleader practice at the high school and try to memorize their routines. We’d put our hair in pigtails with yellow and blue ribbons and tape a cardboard cutout “S” (for the Simsbury Trojans) onto our sweaters. Becoming cheerleaders was our dream ? until my parents shipped me off to a private school that didn’t have cheerleaders.
At least my parents loved Thanksgiving, probably because it involved eating a lot ? a favorite pastime of American Jews. Rather than parade around the kitchen in an apron and oven mitts, my Mom had Thanksgiving dinner catered. We’d get up around 9 a.m. and drive over to Nanshe’s, a gourmet caterer in West Hartford, who had the meal all prepared and packaged for us in big aluminum tins. We’d heat everything up ourselves and throw all the food into pretty serving trays. My Dad’s family from New York City would come and fill the house with quirky, intelligent, and hilarious banter fit for a Woody Allen movie. We’d sit around my Mom’s huge Bavarian leaded-glass table under an Italian disclike chandelier that hovered over the table more like a spaceship than a lamp. We’d eat from contemporary china with polka-dotted cotton napkins to match ? a setting more suitable for Star Trek than something the Pilgrims would have chosen. “Why should I have to slave over a hot oven all day?” my mother said. “It’s my holiday, too.” So what if old family recipes and traditional cooking skills were lost on me? I definitely know how to identify a good caterer ? a skill that I’m sure will come in handy one day ? if I should be so lucky.
When I was about 20, my parents announced we would no longer celebrate Christmas. They did it for us as kids because we grew up in a primarily non-Jewish town and felt left out. But now they were over it. Instead, we would go skiing and wait in long lift lines with all the other bitter Jews who also thought they’d have the mountain to themselves on Christmas morning. At the resort they’d blast those stupid, annoying Christmas carols over loudspeakers like they were trying to persuade us to participate in this major holiday even if it is, like, against our religion. Every year we say we’re not going to exchange gifts but we always do it anyway, running around at the last minute to buy things we don’t need, even though we’re pretending that we’re not celebrating Christmas anymore. Last year my mom gave me a diamond ring that my brother said would for sure scare men away since it looks like an engagement ring gone bad when not worn on the proper finger (I’ve heard it’s bad luck to do that). I am definitely going to marry a gentile so that I can have my own damn Christmas with a tree and everything, so mazel tov!
If Christmas is bad, New Year’s is worse. The routine is always the same: get drunk, say something I shouldn’t to some hot guy I think I’m in love with, get rejected, and throw up. Last year I went to Boulder and wasted $60 on sushi that sat in my stomach for approximately two hours. I mean, seriously … what a waste! I call them “bad prom nights” and I can’t remember a year I didn’t have one. Every year I resolve not to do what I do every single year ? so what, may I ask, is the point?
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I dreaded Halloween, and scrambled around looking for the right costume. I bought three different outfits until I finally got on the right track. I returned the other two and started getting excited about finding every accessory possible without spending a fortune. I ran into everyone I knew at Carl’s, shopping for last-minute details like makeup and hair paint. I admit it. The excitement was contagious. I wore a fur-trimmed tiara and a long gown with a ruffled hoop skirt. I put on bright lipstick and colored my cheeks pink with rouge and got glue all over my face trying to get my fake eyelashes to stay on. I danced with the Knight Who Says “Ni” and a giant penis and the ditched prom dates and the straight shot and the S-curves. I fell in love with the song “Twist and Shout” like I was Ferris Bueller on his day off. If the meaning of holiday is something I’ve been searching for my whole life, then I think I may have found it.
[If you know the proper way to affix fake eyelashes, e-mail the Princess at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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