Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Memories of Dirty Santa

Tonight I went to the office Christmas party. It was fun...fairly low key...and the food was great. The hostess had a beautifully decorated home, and I had a really good time. I even came home with a great "Dirty Santa" gift. However, I feel guilty. The person who I took it from and who could have taken it back from me...chose not to. Now I feel bad. Why? I mean...this was a $10 gift of a cute little Christmas doormat with "Ho! Ho! Ho!" on it. But...because she actually mentioned that she was not doing so in the spirit of Christmas...I am blessed with a great gift and she is taking home some pretty...but no use whatsoever to me in this lifetime wine glasses. The mat, however, will be put to good use. In fact, it is already sitting outside my front door. Yay me.

"Dirty Santa" has been one of those games that I've had to avoid if I wanted to maintain healthy relationships. More than once, I have become Veruka from Willie Wonka...the epitome of spoiled brat coupled with roller derby participant...and about as lovely. I have a competitive spirit that is healthy in most instances. But put me in this particular game...and I become quite beastly. It is embarrassing to admit, but it is almost an out of body experience. I see my irrational self wanting to rip a $10 prize from someone's hands. Intensity level? Code red.

My first encounter with this ritual of cruelty was in Girl Scouts at about age 11. I ended up with a pair of Today's Girl pantyhose. Granted, the gift limit was $2, but really...pantyhose? I'm thinking that someone's Mama couldn't break away from "Days of Our Lives" long enough to hop in her wood paneled station wagon to go to K-Mart and so she went with what was in the drawer. While other girls had cute little Holly Hobbie notebooks or word search books...I had a pair of Size A Suntan pantyhose to wear to church. Great. Not.

As a young married, I went with Big Dave to a Sunday School "Dirty Santa" ornament swap. Mind you, there were about seventy people in our class and I had drawn something like number by the time that I actually got to choose a number of rules had been renegotiated so that we would actually be able to leave before the pregnant ones gave birth or they locked the church or something. I took a reindeer ornament that was supposed to be retired after my acquisition, but A hussy came up and snatched it away from me leaving me stuck unwrapping a sad little ornament that was certainly no silver reindeer. The injustice of it all (and sugar overload and exhaustion from hours of this game that I firmly believe is a spawn of the devil) upset my equilibrium to such a degree that my competitive nature went into overdrive. So I didn't go all Rambo on everyone, I ended up going to the Ladies' Room until I could collect myself and quit wanting to punch the woman who stole my reindeer. No, I didn't punch a hole in the wall or pitch an unholy fit there in the church Social Hall. I have more class than THAT. But redneck...I did go...on the inside anyway. Not to be robbed of my joy...I did hunt down that little reindeer ornament at area Hallmark stores until I found one.

The very next year at a banking group party, I had a soft red plaid blanket that I was very excited least until some heifer took it and left me scurrying under the tree to find something else to open. The result? A skating pig. Wish I were kidding. A little Dollar Tree skating pig. I left it on the table. Someone retrieved it, and I very ungraciously gave it away to someone whose children might enjoy it. I may not be much of a decorator...but I did draw the line at skating swine.

It was at this point that I refused to play for about a ten year period. Oh, people would mention it...and I'd beg off. I went through a period of "healing" and what I'd like to think was "maturity" but I know better. And then one day...I was invited to the bank Christmas party and "Dirty Santa" was the entertainment for the evening. Egad.

I had psyched myself up to not respond negatively and was doing deep breathing exercises as I saw people open numerous gifts with excitement and with the requisite "oohs and ahs". Me? I was counting sugar packets and reciting the alphabet backwards...anything to keep my mind off of the upcoming familiar routine. You a great gift...think you'll actually get to keep it...and then see it snatched away by someone who leaves you with the equivalent of a gift from the final day of the Dollar Tree clearance sale if there were one I suppose.

I went to the tree and opened a small iron skillet. I was excited but refused to let it show on my face! I thought to myself "Hey, I can use this!" and quietly showed it off and then tried to keep my hopes down...way down. A couple of times I thought that it was in the mix, but it turned out to be one of those gifts that nobody really wanted. Except, of course, ME. Oh, some candles from Kirkland's were traded relentlessly and a couple of other home decorating items that I couldn't have cared less about. But as we neared the end of the game...nobody seemed to remember that I had the skillet...or cared...which suited me well. Having been robbed of my loot once too often, though, I didn't draw an easy breath until the game was over and I was still in possession of it. Fortunately, I didn't have to use it on anyone coming to take it...which I suppose was good. What I didn't know, though, was that I ended up with a gift card along with it to Cracker Barrel. So, not only did I get a gift I wanted...I got dinner out with the family as well.

So back to tonight...I loved my gift...but feel like I did so at the expense of someone else. I guess it has come full circle. Even though she adamantly stated that she does truly indeed want the wine glasses, and I offered more than once to swap with her...she refused to take my HO! mat. I just hope that she doesn't snap in a Sunday School party one day and think of me.

"Dirty Santa" is a game that is fun if you remember that it is not about you. Hard to do when you are on a limited budget and hoping that you'll at least recoup your investment. But that was then...and this is now. As I've gotten older...I actually enjoy seeing it work out...or not. Tonight, one of the ladies got a mixer one night after purchasing one for herself, but other than that...everyone seemed quite content. The most coveted prize? A $10 roll of quarters. Go figure.


  1. Ok, I'm sitting here chuckling at the alliteration:

    and the winner: Ho!


  2. Thanks, Mol! Hope you are doing splendidly this holiday season! :)