Friday, December 23, 2005

Giving and Deceiving

Judging by the date on my 365 Cats-a-Year Calendar (what, and I suppose you’ve discovered a less fluffy-and-adorable way to measure time?), in two more days it’ll be December 25th, which means there’s only 48 hours until I have to save Christmas, again. (You guys have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, do you?) Oh, and also that out in the stores, all the moms and the dads are out buying gifts so their kids won’t get mad (because it is better to give than receive, and miracles happen if you just believe – see, I don’t think your Christmas poem actually has to be good, as long as you include those two sentiments, in there). And…I know that the shopping is supposed to be this Thing We Hate, but honestly? It’s never much bothered me, outside of the usual “I should’ve left my coat in the car.” Maybe it’s because I don’t have a bunch of kids to buy for (upon which it’s nice to know that the shopping won’t be much bothering me for a very long time). Or maybe it’s because my main responsibility, on most of the trips, is to hold the bags, which means I mostly get to stand around and drink Starbucks and take in the scene, like, “Whoa. Christmas.” Or maybe it’s because I’m from New Jersey, and the mall is, like, our natural habitat (a stereotype which I always hated, by the way – but then I met some kids from the South over the summer, and when they asked what we did for fun in New Jersey, I replied honestly and without thinking: “We’ve got malls.” Oops. Sorry, guys.). But, for whatever the reason, the lines and crowds are the least of my holiday worries. In fact, the most exhausting part of the holiday season happens after the buying – because sort of a side-effect of all the generosity and giving are, yep: the secrets and lies. (LIES!)

For one thing, I’m not too good at it. Well, actually, I do the improv okay – it’s the keeping the straight face that gets me. So, unless it’s over the phone, you might want to keep our Christmas conversation centered around “What is figgy pudding, anyway?” and “Wait, is Santa bald, I forget,” because, otherwise, you’ll be like, “You know what I really want? One of those Roombas,” and suddenly I’m sticking my tongue out and crossing my eyes and hopping up-and-down on one foot with one hand on my head while the other one’s doing the alphabet in sign language, and you’ll be all, “Thanks for ruining Christmas, jerk,” while getting gingerbread crumbs all over the floor because, thanks to me, you know you won’t be cleaning up that mess!

Plus, talking to someone who might just be keeping the element of surprise isn’t any easier, resulting in conversations in which no one is saying what they mean, and everyone’s walking away feeling just a little bit conflicted. For an example of which, I give you this year’s Christmas pageant, in which I ask you to remember that every line is a lie:

FADE IN on ME, wearing a Santa hat and baking cookies. MOM enters, with a shopping bag behind her back.

Sorry, but I couldn’t get you one
of those new Xboxes, this year.

That’s fine, because…you know,
a lot of them had glitches
and…I’m not real excited about
any of the games, anyway,
so…don’t be sorry, I mean, I don’t
even want a 360!

Well…then…good thing I didn’t
get you one! Because I didn’t!

Yeah, I’ll say! Stupid Xbox!

As Mom and I exit with our heads down, we FADE OUT.

And, while I said I don’t mind the shopping, I’d suggest you don’t rely on the “let’s go to the mall and split up” method unless you don’t mind making with the Metal Gear at the Garden State Plaza, sneaking around and backing stealthily out of stores as you walk in on everyone picking out your gifts, after which you’re forced to pretend, for the next few weeks, that you don’t know what you’re getting, which at least helps sharpen the acting skills that you’re now going to need, since they expect you to be surprised on Christmas day. Unless, of course, you don’t back away, which only makes things worse – I give to you Part II of this year’s Christmas pageant:

FADE IN on ME, in the bag (“pocketbook?”) section of Macy’s, trying to figure out how the heck to pick these things out, while also trying not to look like I need the help of a sales assistant. MOM enters, confused.

Matt! What are you doing,
shopping for a purse?

Wait! It’s not what it looks like,
I mean, it’s not, I just…need a
place to put my stuff, is all.
We should probably talk about
this after Christmas.

Yeah. I think we really, really should.

Mom exits, with her head down, as we FADE OUT.

I mean, I’m all for surprises and I’m glad we don’t do it any other way, but I’m just saying – for a season that’s supposed to be all about spending time with friends and family, there seems to be just as much misleading and avoiding and looking the other way.

And I think I’ll just never have kids, because I have no clue how I’ll last ten years pretending not to know that (SPOILER ALERT) Santa isn’t real (END SPOILER).

P.S. Don't worry, Mom, I don't think I'm getting an Xbox 360 for Christmas. And also, I don't think you read this.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Well, It's Certainly Not the Most Important Birthday of the Month, But...

This is it, I guess – my most important birthday since I turned 18 (when I finally became old enough to vote for things that weren’t hosted by Ryan Seacrest, to buy cigarettes for minors and to go to a big-boy jail once I got caught doing so). Yes, today is the long-awaited 21st, upon which the door opens to one of life’s more anticipated rights, the one that every kid spends most of his teenage years counting down to. Because, having acquired the maturity and responsibility that comes with just over two decades of experience in, ya know, existing, I am finally old enough to lose all my inhibitions and – that’s right – apply for a reality show! So get outta the way, kids, because I’ve got one place left to go, and that’s wild! Woo! WOO!

Okay, I’m mostly kidding, because…nothing against reality contestants, of which I’m sure there are plenty of respectable and balanced human beings that I just don’t remember because of that very fact, but…well, “reality-TV contestant” just doesn’t carry the rock-star status you’d...actually never expect it would in the first place. Plus, having spent a good part of my formative years mocking them from the comfort of my own home (read all about it in my new book, From Mitchell to Maggie: 21 Years of Making Fun of Those Who Can’t Hear Me So I Could Feel Better About Myself!), I’d probably spend all of my time worrying that I was currently filling an entire season with tragically ironic interviews, slow motion shots of my taking the wrong turn and the kind of challenge-related slapstick that makes you reach for Tivo’s instant replay button. But, that said, what better way to spend my 21st birthday than weighing the hypothetical pros and cons of my exciting new prospects? To the list!

The Apprentice – I started here because, yeah…it’s all cons, with this one. I’ve had at least two bad dreams where I ended up on The Apprentice (well, it’s not like I can control these things…) before realizing that I had no leadership skills, was afraid of getting yelled at (even if it was only by Donald Trump), and didn’t even want the grand prize, in the first place. Plus I could only take so much “step up to the plate and take accountability for utilizing your skill sets” before wanting to punch, like, the world in the face. Well, except George.

Survivor – See, I always trick myself into thinking I could handle this. Living on nothing but rice and fish and the occasional Pringles™ Brand Pringles™ (buy Pringles™!) for about a month? As long as “each other” isn’t on the menu, I think I’d live. Not getting to shower for just as long? Okay, gross, but it’s not like everyone else is hanging out with their lavender bath beads and rubber duckies, so I bet that kind of stops mattering after the first five days or so. Sleeping on the beach in the same pair of shorts for weeks on end? That? I might do for free. I mean, I’m sure the island makes you appreciate things like beds and hamburgers and not smelling like the monkeys that keep you up at night, but since you know it’s not permanent, and you know they’re not going to let you die out there, it mostly just seems like a pretty interesting way to spend anywhere from three to thirty-nine days. So...I just don't know why they always get so dramatic about handling it, is all.

But then…I always forget about the whole game situation, namely: Challenges. See, my already unruly coordination could hardly take first-period gym class, back in the day, so I’m pretty sure the combination of severe dehydration, extreme hunger and Probst’s nonstop narrating (“And Matt falls down again! Matt bringing his team way behind! Matt having trouble with this whole concept of ‘catching things’…”) wouldn’t help my ability to not look like a complete spaz when it comes to rope ladders. So…if it wasn’t televised, I’d totally give it a shot, but, as it is, I’d rather not bring dishonor to my family, like that.

Big Brother – AHAHAHA! HAHAHA! HA! NO. Not that I wouldn’t love chatting it up with Julie Chen (or smuggling a few magnets into the studio, so I could totally call her out on being a robot on live TV, all, “Look! They stick!”) but, even setting aside the boredom and the goofy challenges, and the having to carry the “Former Big Brother Contestant” label around for the rest of your life…looking at past seasons, I just don’t trust casting to stick me in a house with someone’s who’s not crazy or racist or wants to kill me, all summer.

The Real World – Okay, I’ve been old enough for this one for a while, but I only mention it because, while I would never even think about doing The Real World, I’ve always kind of wondered if my chances of getting on don’t actually suck. I mean, I’ve got all the makings of the “How Will This Decent, Christian Boy Who Doesn’t Party And Avoids Confrontation React To All Of The Drunken Hookups Going On In The Other Room” Guy, as opposed to the millions of frat boys and “bad” girls I’m sure actually want to be on their show. But then, should I get on, I’d actually have to react to the all of the drunken hookups going on in the other room, so…no. And besides, I think you have to lack a certain self-awareness, or at least spend enough time in bars to lack a certain self-awareness, for them to let you on, so maybe I’m wrong about my chances, anyway.

The Amazing Race – Without a doubt, the only reality show I actually really want to do (not that I actually want to do anything about that…unless you’re looking for a teammate, that is), which probably has something to do with the fact that it basically has no downsides. You get eliminated? At least it’s not because all of your cool, new friends decided that the disadvantages of having you around far outweighed any of the benefits. You get eliminated first? At least you still got to be a New York Jew in Iceland. You’ve been dating your teammate for the past 12 years, and you finally begin realizing, with each task, that you guys actually kind of can’t stand each other, resulting in interviews that are almost as uncomfortable to watch as the entire Family Edition? Well, okay, I can’t help ya there, Millie and Chuck.

On the other hand…I’m about as good at reading maps as I am at folding them up, and if I’m gonna be driving around a whole other hemisphere, I should probably figure out which pedal means “go,” and my inexperience with airports would probably accidentally land my team on a flight to Neptune (and not even the earliest one). Still, if there’s ever a show that would make me say, “Hey, let’s send in a tape and see!” this would be it.

So the moral of this story? While I wouldn’t mind doing certain reality shows to varying degrees, one thing’s for certain: I’d lose them all, equally. At least, until they come out with America’s Next Top Model: Guy’s Edition.

And…okay, guys, you could stop pretending you forgot, now, and jump out from behind the couch. Guys? Anyone? Cake?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I'm All Out of Love...I'm So Lost Without You...

Well, I know it’s been slowly eating away at you, so I might as well answer the question that’s been on everyone’s mind, lately - well, at least the one that doesn't involve the words "Nick," "Jessica" and "WHY??" No, I mean the one that involves the words: Why have things been so slow on here?

Has the Christmas shopping season suddenly turned all my free time into not-exactly-that? Nope - I finished gluing macaroni on all those refrigerator magnets way back in September (looks like that whole "low-carb" trend passed over just in time - and I hope you guys like GLITTER!) Have I finally decided to keep my incoherent ramblings (read: Alias references) to myself? As if! Does the fact that I finally started Metroid Prime 2 have anything to do with it? No - well, okay, I do loves me some sci-fi violence, but...moving on...

The real reason that I've had about as many updates in the past week as the United States has had since August 21, 1959 is because my Stupid Broken Computer is currently livin' it up repair-style on the west side - that's, like, two whole mountain chains between us! And an Alamo! And, according to my HP tracking number (speaking of which, you do not wanna know me when I’ve got a tracking number - I check on it so often you’d suspect I had, like, an orangutan hidden in the other room, or maybe another girl who doesn’t know you’re here, and that sitcommy hijinks of the "You...just wait right there - I've gotta go check on the, uh, thing in the oven" variety are about to ensue), it won't be back in my warm embrace (uh, moving on again...) until I have a car, squirrels are extinct and my favorite team actually wins The Amazing Race (the car and the squirrel thing which, actually, will most likely coincide with each other. At least, so long as I have anything to do with it.) In other words, my computer will be back NOT UNTIL FOREVER. Or, okay, not until December 16, you know how long that is? It's like waiting for my birthday and Christmas at the same time! Which, actually, is already like waiting for my birthday and Christmas at the same time (December 22, y'all - gift me)'s like waiting for my birthday and Christmas and Bastille Day, all at the same time. Darn you, slow passage of time! Why must your dark pendulum swing to and fro at its leaden pace, slicing deeper into my soul with every beat?

Wait, what? See, my brain's all not right and stuff. By which I'm referring less to the bad poetry than I am to the fact that I even hypotheticalled that I could get two girls to have to hide from each other, let alone the first. Or an orangutan! As if!