The Ringmaster

Self care
22 Dec 2022

"Pete's put his foot down, this Christmas day we are going nowhere" my friend tells me. In the 30 years I have known her, her brother who lives over 100 miles away has orchestrated a complicated rota which entails she and her husband doing the round trip on the 25th. They can't get a dog sitter, so they leave at the crack of dawn, have just enough time at the other end to unload parcels for nephews nieces and assorted children, down a sherry and mince pie with elderly auntie before setting off for home.

They are on a tight budget, the people they buy for are much better off, but never send a thank you of any kind. A tentative suggestion once year that maybe just the young children could have gifts was met with stern disapproval. How hurtful that would be, the very idea! 

Auntie died two years ago, so they hoped they could have more flexibility. Maybe for example the visit could take place before Christmas, or even, perhaps the others could do the travelling for once. No way, it has always been done this way and to suggest otherwise is downright anti-social.

A lot of families and other groups have one of these ringmasters in their midst. The major holidays, especially Christmas, is when they can really strut their stuff. I know a few people who said they had their best Christmas ever during lockdown. Some young couples spent it together in their own homes for the first time ever, and it was bliss.

My family were pretty awful, but mercifully few in number when still around. For the first couple of years Spock and I were together he still had relatives far afield. Their ringmaster was a cousin who saw it as her duty, not to say birthright, to dictate how others should gather together. One aunt, who Spock was very fond of, was terminally ill, close to the end. The cousin decided to throw a "going away" party, without consulting others. Spock decided to go alone to take his aunt out for lunch one day, instead of attending the party. She really seemed to appreciate it, and they talked a lot. The response from the cousin was a furious letter, how could he be so stubborn and hurtful. 

Friends who work in companies tell me about getting dragged into Christmas jumper days, Secret Santa, whatever the latest fad is from across the pond.

Maybe like me you don't care much for Christmas, and long for it to be over. You may be depressed and find the pressure to be cheerful is making you worse. Stop and think, you don't have to do someone's bidding. Traditions can be lovely and heartwarming, but they can also be oppressive and outdated. If someone else is cracking the whip, you don't have to fit in with their plans if you have other ideas in mind.

I'll end with a joke from the great Les Dawson. "Every Christmas for the past ten years the wife's mother has come to our house. I suppose this year we ought to let her in"


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