I have plenty of positive Christmas memories, but the funniest one to think about as an adult is the year I faked a stomach ache—forfeiting my right to open presents that night—because I didn’t want to read the Bible story of Christmas out loud.
My family does not have a lot of traditions, but every other year (or so), we’d leave our humble Colorado cabin and make the drive to Ohio to see my grandparents.
One of the last times we made this trip, perhaps the last time we made it as a family, I was in the beginning stages of my angsty teenage years. I remember having a handful of CDs with me for the drive, but the one I had on repeat was Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
For most of my life, my parents were not religious. Which might explain why we didn’t have all that many traditions. That, and the fact neither of my parents were big on cooking. Take away food and religion and you’re not left with much in the way of pre-built customs. But my grandparents, and most of the rest of that side of the family, was religious.
Around this time, my mom was experimenting with religions. It felt like every week we were going to a new church. As a kid, I gave it a chance, but somewhere around this Christmas I’d realized it wasn’t for me. I just wanted to play video games and listen to music on Sunday mornings. Combine this realization with listening to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” on repeat on my Discman and you’ve got a kid who resembles a two-liter of Coca-Cola that just rolled down a hill.
Out of nowhere this Christmas Eve, my family decided it was going to have all the “kids,” aka me and my five cousins, take turns reading some illustrated version of the story of Christmas to the rest of the family. I immediately didn’t want to do it. Partially because it was just a dorky idea—I was a teen and had a very specific idea of what cool was—but also because it felt like a lie for me to read those words earnestly (emo was, unsurprisingly, just a few years ahead in my future).
I distinctly remember a wave of uncomfortableness flooding through my entire body. Had we ever done this before? I didn’t think so. Was it a new tradition? If so, does taking part in it now solidify the idea that I’ll do so every year in the future? That didn’t sound good. I had to take a stand. I knew, in that moment, it was time to act. It was time to stand up to the powers that be and say how I really felt. It was time to be a man, whatever that meant.
So, I faked a stomach ache.
As a teen, faking a stomach ache was my one and only move. I had no other power. I think I might have even made a few trips to the bathroom before declaring my feelings to sell it better. It helped that I was unaware of a lactose intolerance for many of those years, which gave me plenty of cover.
I remember there being a lot of convincing me to stay. Someone, probably my grandpa, told me that I wouldn’t be able to open presents if I didn’t do the reading. But I was having none of it. I was resolute.
I limped up the stairs, put on my headphones, loaded up my Discman, and enjoyed Christmas Eve with Billie Corgan and company.
And to this day, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness sounds like a Christmas album to me.
Currently reading: The Stand by Stephen King
Currently watching: (null)
Recently watched: Better Watch Out (⭐️⭐️⭐️), Rare Exports (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Currently listening: Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness