Return to Sender

Somewhere deep in the intermingling between vanity and carelessness lies the origin of the Christmas card. Any thought about the concept with any level of depth yields the same conclusion. Christmas cards have little to do with making the recipient feel good. They are more about making you feel good.

A cursory attempt at audience segmentation paints the picture quickly:

• Some people have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant. I’m sure the first thing they want to see during the holidays is a picture of your big healthy baby — just make sure he’s wearing his bib that says “Keep Trying B*%$#”.

• Some people are single and do not want to be. I don’t doubt the capacity of humans to be happy for others, but I absolutely doubt the utility that your wedding pictures bring to a lonely friend.

• Some people are single and want to be. They refuse to be in a relationship just to be in a relationship. They won’t settle, even though some of their friends clearly did. They see right through your smiling pictures of marital bliss. Anyone that genuinely happy cannot possibly have the urge to choreograph, design and disseminate a piece of propaganda.

• Some people just got dumped or ended a relationship painfully. It’s very magnanimous of you to send vacation pictures with your soul mate to give them hope, but a phone call can be encouraging too.

• Some people just lost their job or are struggling financially. They really appreciate your play-by-play summary of the year’s highlights, especially the ski trip and new house. I heard the kids in Aleppo though missed your Snapchat of your family cozying by the fireplace. I think they might be having Wi-Fi issues over there.

I mean, who really wants to get these cards? Your parents and the couples comprising your double-date rotation? Jesus Christmas, it all makes me want to vomit into a gift box and send that instead.

My stomach had an actual physical reaction when I walked into the apartment and saw seven Christmas cards dangling from a gold ribbon, centered on the living room wall. It was like when Brad Pitt lost his mind in Legends of the Fall and made the necklace of scalps.

What it really amounted to was an overt middle finger from my wife. On the subject of Christmas cards, we had navigated multiple discussions with varying levels of tension. I think about things in terms of function and value, and this is not intuitive to her. Maybe even counterintuitive sometimes.

We backed away from a full-fledged fight with the resolution that she would send out cards on our behalf, and I would have nothing to do with it. One of my arguments was my friends are too good of people to send Christmas cards, and we should return the favor.

Turns out, five of the seven cards on the scalp necklace were from my buddies. Five bros close enough to me to be at my bachelor party and therefore close enough to stab me in the heart. They should dress as Judas for their card next year.

I have no real friends. In their stead, I seek solutions. If Christmas cards must exist, they should do so only in productive forms. I struggled to get to 10:

1. Interracial or gay couple. This sends a strong message at a turbulent time for the world. Unless it’s white guy-Asian girl. That’s about as original as giving a candy cane for a Christmas gift — Sure I can’t really hate on it, but couldn’t you think of something else?

2. Weight loss. If you transformed your body in the past year, that is an accomplishment to share. Include before-and-after-shirtless pics to prove the feat, or it never happened.

3. Marital struggles. List the three biggest fights with your spouse this year and how you overcame them. This is worthwhile because people can commiserate and learn.

4. Famous or accomplished person. If LeBron James sends me a Christmas card with the Finals MVP trophy as the centerpiece, I would find that a bit aggressive but still keep it on the refrigerator forever. If the coolest thing you did this year was visit Grandma, perhaps an email will do just fine.

5. Single and interested. It seems only couples and families send Christmas cards. But no one is excited to hear from this subset of the population. I think it would be constructive if a single person sent out a card with an open invitation to meet up for egg nog, and then who knows, maybe one thing leads to another and the natural kind can be made. Tinder and Sharkeez should not be the only entry points into the market.

6. Custom note. If you really cared to connect with the recipient, you wouldn’t send the same message to everyone. At least have a few different templates. If you express love the same way to your mother as your distant cousin as your drinking buddy, you probably stumble at the CAPTCHA step.

7. Nudity. Remember, this is not a postcard, so an outer envelope will conceal your inner parts from the postal service. This is a great opportunity for some shock humor with people you presumably can trust.

8. Donate. When Mark Cuban gets fined by the NBA, he matches the amount with a donation to charity. You might operate under the delusion a Christmas card shows you care, but really it shows you care about stroking your own private parts. For every dime wasted on Christmas cards, you should match it with a dime actually meant to do good. I don’t know how many my wife sent out, but I would estimate the cost per card in the $4-5 range. That adds up quickly, but hey, only the best for our family. At least the children of Minted employees will be able to go to college.

9. Actionable tip. Phrases like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” don’t register after the thousandth time. You can’t keep track of who said them or meant them because it doesn’t matter. It’s like the progression of touring art museums in Europe. The first few make you feel good, and the rest blend together. Why not break through that by offering something immediately useful, such as a recipe, workout or investment tip? If everyone sent one of those, the pile would be somewhat interesting.

10. Magnet. Your out-of-pocket cost would increase, but so would purpose and staying power. Magnets are useful, if only to hold up competing Christmas cards for the polite amount of time before recycling.

Assuming none of these 10 scenarios apply, take a closer look at your Christmas card intentions. If you truly want to spread holiday cheer, then take someone out to dinner, labor through an awkward FaceTime conversation, or send a dick pic with a Santa hat draped over the main event.

I have done or received all three of these this holiday season. They were happy ways to connect. If your way is to send a Christmas card, I reiterate this is not so much about connecting as it is the person on the return address.



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