Take the wrong plane, Jane

The holidays are fast upon us, and if television has taught us anything it has taught us that we should expect yet another season of beloved traditions, candlelight, and baked goods. Families will gather to sing carols and smile at each other over turkey and Zales diamond earrings. Joy will abound, and everyone will share a glass of Coke with Santa.

That’s the idea, anyway, a clear demonstration (if any were still needed) of how the structures of late capitalism support a largely fictional complex of conservative-seeming “family values” that are curiously compatible with the hypersexualization of youth culture, since in the end both help drive economic consumption. No matter who wins tomorrow’s election, the rigid regime of the Family Holidays will stay in power.

But if you’re like me, the defining characteristic of the holidays is not delight in hearing that Bing Crosby Christmas album once again or the happy expectation of nutmeg-scented bliss, but dread. Dread at putting an unexpectedly large plane ticket on your credit card to assuage an overpowering sense of guilt. Dread at stuffing yourself into a coach seat in a cabin filled with crying, flu-ridden children whose parents have decided to fit the Grinch’s whole bag of presents into their carryon luggage. Dread at being stuck in your parents’ suburban stronghold, surrounded by the Anglo-Germanic nightmare of green, red, and brass that constitutes your mother’s Christmas decoration.

Depending on your family circumstances, you are either unable to indulge in your favorite habits at all during the visit, or you have to sneak away to do so, or everyone is such a lush that you start worrying about your own alcoholism, which kind of takes the fun out of the Christmas Eve sherry. Your interesting siblings and/or cousins turn out not to have come, leaving you at mealtimes to discuss scrapbooking and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in between long periods of silent chewing. For Christmas, there is an orgy of gift opening and feigning delight at another ill-fitting sweater from the Gap and your very own copy of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings America’s Best-Loved Patriotic Anthems. You find yourself wishing your family had heard of Barney’s gift cards, then feeling guilty and crass for the thought.

When it’s over, you say your goodbyes, swallow your zinc tablets against the snot-covered airplane children, and silently think to yourself, “I must find a way to get out of this visit next year.”

Well, ’tis the season when a good excuse would come in quite handy. I got to thinking about it, and it occurred to me there must be fifty ways to avoid going home for the holidays.

You just . . .

  1. Take the wrong plane, Jane.
  2. Tell them you’re poor, Lenore.
  3. Sell your van, Stan.
  4. Break your leg, Meg.
  5. Say you’d rather not, Scott.
  6. Father a baby, Davey.
  7. Adopt a new puppy, Duffy.
  8. Forget to call, Saul.
  9. Contract rubella, Drusella.
  10. Replace your hip, Pip.
  11. Book a trip to Nepal, Jean-Paul.
  12. Sell yourself into indentured servitude, Gertrude.
  13. Use an invisibility spell, Del.
  14. Say you’ve got lupus, Rufus.
  15. Lay down a stone col’ dis, Chris.
  16. Get abducted by aliens, Caylienne.
  17. Lose yourself in your work, Herc.
  18. Lie, Sy.
  19. Volunteer for Iraq, Zack.
  20. Run aground on a reef, Leif.
  21. Set out and wander, LaFonda.
  22. Check into Betty Ford, Gord.
  23. Wreck your automobile, Lucille.
  24. Try your miles on a blackout date, Kate.
  25. Give a talk at MLA, Ray.
  26. Become a harlot, Charlotte.
  27. Take a round-the-world, sail, Abigail.
  28. Go on a bender, Anaximender.
  29. Vamoose, Jesus.
  30. Tell ’em to go to hell, Adelle.
  31. Move to Tierra del Fuego, Diego.
  32. Put it off, Geoff.
  33. Start Jehovah’s Witnessin’, Tristan.
  34. Retreat into incoherence, Terrence.
  35. Say your final farewell, Giselle.
  36. Catch the flu, Drew.
  37. Go to jail, Gail.
  38. Run off with the circus, Ursius.
  39. Say “I don’t want to,” Keanu.
  40. Make an excuse, Luce.
  41. Start dating a baddie, Addie.
  42. Put it off till next year, Jamir.
  43. Use duplicity, Felicity.
  44. Tell the truth, Ruth.
  45. Admit flying makes you nervous, Gervais.
  46. Plead deep-vein thrombosis, Moses.
  47. Apologize in advance, Lance.
  48. Make other plans, Nan.
  49. Get stuck in Cincinnati, Hattie.
  50. Send your regret, Bette

13 responses to “Take the wrong plane, Jane”

  1. Scott says:

    See Dave, I knew you had the whole comedy thing in ya. It just gets locked away a little deep in the dungeon sometimes.

    Frickin’ hilarious, especially, “Sell yourself into indentured servitude, Gertrude.”

  2. Tim Wager says:

    Dave, you really work hard for the Whatsit. Not even Rhymin’ Simon did all 50! Also, in that my grandmother’s name was Gertrude, I truly appreciate your shout out to her.

  3. Jeremy says:

    All rhyming aside, this post speaks to me like nothing else I’ve read in a while. I booked my plane ticket two days ago. The defining characteristics of my holidays? It’s a progression that begins with dread, moves onto discomfort, and then boredom, followed by annoyance. Then, on the plane ride (or sometimes the long drive) back, there is glee.

    (I hope none of my family reads this. Heck, I still love you all…)

  4. Stephanie Wells says:

    Laugh-out-loud lines: Zales diamond earrings; the Anglo-Germanic nightmare of green, red, and brass; The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings America’s Best-Loved Patriotic Anthems; Plead deep-vein thrombosis, Moses.

    I may be the only adult child left who still loves holidays with the family, and it’s posts like this that make me feel left out because there’s just so much that’s delightful about sharing this kind of grousing.

    p.s. Anaximender?

  5. Dave says:

    A variant, in Turkish and a few other languages, of Anaximander.

  6. Stella says:

    If I ever have a child, or a new pet, I’ll know where to go for names.

    I’ve long been a xmas curmudegeon…my most effective get out was a horrible xmas eve hangover that caused non-stop vomiting for the entirety of xmas day but brought deep disapprobation. Try visiting a dying relative and having your mother stop the car so you can puke on the way there and the way back. Another year I had gastric flu, which brought the sweeter moral highground of being physically unable to participate.

    I recommend emigration – it’s working wonders for me.

  7. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Great post, Dave. It reminded me of the late great Phil Hartman and SNL’s Dysfunctional Family Christmas Album.

    I’m no cut and paste whiz like ol’ Godfrey so bear with me while I crank out some highlight song titles and lyrics.

    “What I Want You Can’t Buy Me”
    “I’ve Got My Drinking Under Control For The Holidays”
    “Peace on Earth? Where?”

    “Ballad of the Co-Dependent”
    Every Christmas when you got drunk
    I told the children you were not drunk
    And I said “Tommy, you’re not being bad”
    It’s just Christmas makes Mommy mad”

    “Carol of Intimacy”
    Leave me alone! Please go away!
    I’m doing fine! Just get away!
    Leave me alone! Please go away!
    I’m doing fine! Just get away!
    Leave me alone! Please go away!
    I’m doing fine! Just get away!

    Regarding all of that airplane talk and Stella’s comment about emigration, let me point out that for a local boy like me who has all of his family AND in-laws very close to home Christmas is just as fraught with chilling excitement but I don’t get to leave afterwards!

    Adriean and I dream and scheme about taking family trips that just happen to take place over the holidays.

    Any East Coasters who are down for the cause desperately need us to visit around, oh, let’s say, the 24th of December?

  8. ssw says:

    great post dave–i keep wanting to sing to it…

  9. We’ve had this conversation before, and I realize that I’m ten years into the excuse that we can’t possibly travel at the holidays with two children (especially when the second one is big enough to require the *fourth* ticket), but I really believe there has to come a time in a person’s life when you say, “Mother, I’m 30+ years old. I have other ways to spend my holiday. If you’d like to come visit me in New York next spring I’d be delighted.”

    For whatever reason (re: congenital frugality, appropriate to the semi-impoversihment of having several children) my parents never really expected people to fork out money they didn’t have to travel for the holidays, and I’m grateful. For one thing, it’s allowed me to build holiday traditions with friends — the Thanksgiving bash inaugurated by Mark and Pandora and then extended to gargantuan proportions by Karen and taken up and down the coast by people like Bacon and Andrea — which have come to be pretty meaningful to me. It’s not the idea of spending holidays with family that bothers me so much; it’s the idea that people don’t feel like they have a choice in the matter.

    Stand up for your rights, young man! We’d love to see you Christmas day. If they really want to give you those CDs they can put them in the mail with a nice card and some much needed moolah.

  10. PB says:

    As one who checked out of the family holiday nightmare scene long ago, recreating it on a more humane level (thanks for the props Bryan) and now feeling stranded in a suburban wasteland once again without the interesting cast, I relate to every part of this post. Except of course the consumption. I like consumption, especially with gravy. Once again, your range amazes me.

  11. Dave says:

    I once loved a girl with consumption, but then it killed her.

  12. Rachel says:

    Mmm, tuberculosis and gravy. Isn’t that a Beck song?

  13. PB says:

    That Beck, all that and now stickers! He thinks of everything, I think I’ll go buy a CD right now, driving the economy with music. cough, cough.