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December 24, 2012
The Scrooge in Me
When I was a child, I liked presents, and I notice that children have not changed in this respect. My eldest grandson, who was born in France, knew all about "cadeaux" from an early age, and the children of Spanish-speaking friends know all about "regalos."
But we adult men hate presents. No doubt that is why, studies show, the majority of shoppers in America's stores are women except for the three days before Christmas. On December 23, I saw three men loitering suspiciously near the gift card display at my local supermarket.
In my case, the advent of Christmas always provokes a feeling of panic. At some point, I know, I will have to give up on work and writing, not to mention the care and feeding of the vast web empire known as usgovernmentspending.com, and think about other people. Bah, humbug!
The Lady Marjorie, of course, composes a list of presents and people by early November and has the whole operation complete by Thanksgiving. But she is something else.
Why do men hate giving and receiving presents, and women absolutely love it? I think it is because men want to concentrate resources, while women want to spread the wealth. Men are fighters, and anyone knows that you must concentrate your forces before giving battle. But women are lovers, and that means giving and receiving. It is better to give than to receive, of course, so that is probably why the president is so eager to shower his favorite voter, Julia, with gifts all through her life.
You can see why women are so focused on gifting. It's all about relationships. When you are in a relationship, you can gauge the other person's interest by the intensity of giving. No gifts equals no interest.
What makes a woman really mad? It's when she gives and gives, and gets nothing back in return.
So we can say that the manly disinterest in gifts merely reflects a manly disinterest in relationships in general. A man needs to keep his options open, his powder dry; he must be ready to make the bold stroke, fire the devastating broadside.
The trick is not to take it too far, you Scrooges. It's all very well to snap at the professional charity fundraisers: Is there no welfare? Are there no food stamps? Official charity, whether governmental or non-profit, is cold and calculating. What makes the world go round is a smile and an act of kindness. It takes you and me giving and receiving as free people, and that means closing the laptop. And stop checking your smartphone.
When Charles Dickens's Christmas spirits lead Scrooge around England in A Christmas Carol, the old miser gets to hear what people are saying behind his back at Christmas, and he discovers what he lost, years before, when he gave up Love for Gain. Mrs. Cratchit would like to "give him a piece of my mind to feast upon." His nephew plays a parlor game in which a "savage animal" turns out to be Scrooge. And the worst of it is to see the women at the junk shop selling his bed curtains the minute he is dead.
It turns out that Scrooge is not a savage animal, after all. He is human, and a modern one at that. For the Spirits of Christmas do not need to frighten him with the threat of divine justice to straighten him out. All it takes is a bit of eavesdropping. Scrooge is a social animal after all: he cares what people think about him, and he cares about Tiny Tim.
What a lucky guy he is. As soon as he goes out into the street and starts smiling at the world, the world begins to smile back.
As for me, I managed to slow down enough get out into the Christmas scrum and buy a few presents. And I decided to buy a few gift cards to give to the checkers at my local Safeway. Those folks work hard and don't get no respect.
For you Scrooges who still haven't quit work for the holiday, here is an out. Charles Dickens may have celebrated family and domesticity, and conjured up an endless parade of sainted heroines like Agnes Wickfield, Little Dorrit, Little Nell, and Florence Dombey, but when the chips were down, he dumped his wife after 23 years of marriage and took up with an actress. I suppose it just proves that Dickens was a true Victorian, double standard and all.
Sunday night, after I finished this piece, I headed out to the airport to meet Lady Marjorie's flight from Charlotte -- in green pants, a red shirt, tails, and a top hat. After all, I didn't want people to think I'm a Scrooge.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.
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