It’s like a switch that automatically turns me off as soon as the Advent 1 church service starts. All of the joy and excitement and celebration that suddenly becomes the center of everyone else’s life for four weeks to Christmas just falls right out of me. Dries up. Heck, runs away screaming.
Because of this, I’ve always called myself a Grinch, sometimes a Scrooge or a Humbug.
But dammit, I’m not. I’m none of those characters. I’m not mean or nasty or heartless. I don’t steal anyone else’s fun and cheer.
I don’t hate the holidays – the secular ones or the holy ones. I don’t hate the traditions, the gatherings, the food, the songs, the colors, the festivities.
But I’m an introvert. The holidays, and my reaction to them, is one of the few ways I know, truly know that my Myers-Briggs 1-point preference for introvertism is really true; seven other behavioral analysis, several repeated, confirm this. I know, it’s hard to believe of me, right?
“The holidays” are inherently a social phenomenon; they can’t happen without the tacit cooperation of groups – mostly large groups – of people, whether parade marchers or watchers, naughty and nice list comparisons, and the most basic present giving and receiving. Even more so, the religious foundation of holi-days is social, beginning with and culminating in a collection of the largest worship services of the year for most churches.
Think about it. There is not one single holiday tradition that carries a positive connotation and is experienced without engagement with others.
And for me – an introvert with a 6-person max – this is excruciating. Even if I’m mostly left to “wall-flower” (which is what I always secretly hope will happen), I watch the clock so that I can cut and run as soon as I’ve attended for a respectable amount of time.
And I do want to be respectful when I choose to attend; I never want to make a host/ess feel like s/he has done something to make me uncomfortable or unhappy. It’s why I choose quite carefully and deliberately when and how and with whom to engage during the holidays.
If I cow to expectations and attend, I’m often noticeably reserved, even if I have a drink. In fact, I willingly – actually cheerfully – volunteer to cook, serve, and especially clean up just so I have an easy excuse to just be rather than interact.
If I do what I want and RSVP regrets in favor of Die Hard and Home Alone marathons, I’m labeled a Grinch, a Scrooge, a Humbug by others.
It’s a Catch-22 of the purest variety.
Because I’m not a Grinch with a heart too small to love others. I’m not a Scrooge who’s been hurt by others and just wants to hurt people back. I’m not a Humbug out to squash others’ celebration. (While I do detest yard decorations with a passion, I’ve never once suggested that others stop decorating or take theirs down.)
But I don’t have any other cultural references to use when trying to simplify my discomfort with the norms of the holidays than to call myself a Grinch, a Scrooge, or a Humbug. They serve to convey that I don’t want to participate, certainly. But the edge of negativity they come with is something I’d like to figure out how to divest.