Okay, I’m exaggerating — I’m not unloved — it just feels like it when you consider the superficial shit — like being the one person in a blended family that got the least amount of Christmas gifts — after spending more than your share on the very people who swear they love me back.
Maybe it’s the bravery of being as old as I am with no husband or children that gives family members a pass when it comes to celebrating life’s notables with ornaments from the heart — or at the very least — a symbolic recognition for something as worthy as a fortieth birthday.
If you’re anything like me — then it’s likely that you’ve mastered the technique of giving without expecting anything in return. You deal with the realization that your father is a stubborn penny-pincher who will never feel the motivation to take a much-needed detour from his dour habits. You accept that your two younger brothers are secure in their ability to avoid the hassle of adding you to their shopping lists. Your mother is a sweetheart and is usually the more effective one — but lately even she’s gotten carried away with everyone else — at your expense.
My one and only gift came from my sister-in-law’s mother, and the reason why that happened was due to my brother’s insistence that we adopt the Secret Santa formula in order to avoid the embarrassment of past gatherings — that I was lucky enough to miss due to distance.
The fact that I was far away was the perfect excuse for not getting anything for birthdays or holidays — even though I made sure to do my part without fail. Obviously this year is proof that I spent all that time making myself feel better instead of accepting the obvious.
Truth be told — I was never the girl who could boast about receiving the kind of gifts that drip with the level of extravagance that warrant envy. An ex-boyfriend bought me my first iPhone, which was awesome except the part where he proudly admitted that it was refurbished. His declaration took me back to my father and how he taught me to always aim for the second-hand stuff — instead of gunning for fresh produce.
This way of thinking forced me to be that person who reaches for the burnt toast when other options are clearly better. It made me head for the shabbier elliptical bike, when the one next to it was brand new and not in use. It made me feel guilty whenever shopping trips ended with me buying a dress at full price after spending hours trying to find a cheaper alternative on sale.
I stopped treating myself like a second-class citizen when my early thirties came into view and thank God I did. How else could I accumulate the stuff I needed or desperately wanted? Who was going to buy my Macbook for Christmas or the gorgeous antique chest that fit my studio apartment so nicely?
Some days are better than others, but on this day that “lovin’ feeling” seems brutally absent as I calculate my output against the input that barely compares.
I’m finally tired of making do with the bare minimum by pretending that it’s okay that after showering presents on my parents and siblings — not one of them reciprocated or at the very least felt guilty enough to acknowledge their shortcomings with the promise of making it up to me.
I imagine how different things would be if I had a boyfriend who would be more than happy to compensate for my family’s abandonment. But, I don’t have one of those either — so aside from the comfy vest and jet black leggings that Santa delivered — it’s basically up to me to get that much-needed handbag that will be the splurge of the new year.
I won’t feel guilty buying that bag — even if it costs an arm and leg — but I sadly do feel weird about my preoccupation with the shallow aspect of a season that’s so much more than gift certificates and shoe sizes. I realize that being with loved ones who are healthy and alert is more than we can ask for — and if that’s your reality —you’re definitely winning.
However, it does feel shitty to watch everyone else open boxes of goodies, while you’re tasked with one bag and no dramatic effects. I won’t be apologetic about desiring to be loved to the point that I’m burdened with the evidence — that glitters like gold or diamonds that hug me like a best friend.
It would be wonderful to break my pathetic streak for once and have a surprise birthday party or intimate dinner in my honor. I would love to be presented with a bag filled with beautiful things that wow me beyond words. I could really dig being overwhelmed with the thought process that inspires my personalized participation.
Saying you love me sounds great, but showing it is even better — and yes, it’s going to cost ya. And I finally think I’m worth it. You should too.