Here we go again with the ho-ho-ho-ing and the fake snow blowing. With the shiny happy velvety red, cutely-clad motherfuckers that I’d see joyfully dashing about in every torturous 90-second commercial slot if I still watched TV. Here we go again with the utter lunacy that seizes us who really cannot afford to spend extra money on more useless, corporate crap; but we do, just so that it can’t be said that we weren’t good people during the holidays.
Amid the wreath-hanging, bell-jingling, pine-scented terrorism that prettily gift-wraps its iron grip around our Jack Frost-bitten necks at this time of year, we’re instructed to take inventory of our year’s comings and goings, victories and missteps, with the underlying task of measuring our worth against the status quo. Did I make enough money? Am I finally dating The One? Will I finally marry this year, even if s/he is not The One because I don’t really care anymore, I just want to be married? Am I on the fast-track to my ideal house in the ideal city with my 2.5 kids? Did I kiss enough ass at work? Will I finally make it to middle management this year? Is my diet plan working? Am I any closer to looking like Charlize Theron? These questions would be enough to make me want to drizzle my slit wrists all over every White Christmas if I gave a shit about the answers to any of them. Through corporate media and incessantly brazen glossy advertising, these are some of the questions that constantly harass what little sense of peace we may be able to grasp. Like frightened grunts who are too afraid to forcefully blow the whistle that would awaken us all, merrily along we roll, consumed by Macy’s and the Kardashians, looking like a prostrate army of these immaculately identical, suited skulls.
Somewhere between my art-saturated earlier years and this moment, I feverishly bought the idea that aspirations to be one of these suited skulls would wildly fling open the gold-plated doors to unceasing bliss. Like the record-breaking Takeru Kobayashi with his hot dogs at Coney Island during the first few years of the new millennium, I simultaneously devoured stability and predictability as if I were going to be rewarded some shiny trophy for finally choosing to embrace the norm. As if that would be a lasting proposition for such a deeply disenchanted misfit like me. For all the predictability I’ve built around myself, I’m still waiting for Vanna White to hand over my fucking prize.
It’s decidedly unlikely that the sequinned game-show siren will be wheeling a sparkling new Maytag into my apartment any time soon, but I’ve long given up on expecting any reward for my disingenuous pursuit of what’s called the American Dream. It’s time to occupy the disenchantment, and craft it into something that works for me and everyone around me.
How many times have we seen soul-depleted, spirit-weary office drones declare with fatigue and resignation that, while they may get kicked around like country mice lost in the traffic of the big city, “At least I got a job.” Hello! I am one of those people.
My situation could be much worse; I realize this. As proof, just pull the cord and elicit my monotone auto-response: “I’m grateful to have a job. I’m grateful to have a job.” While I work on navigating the maze of possibilities toward an exit without descending into a trap that finds me in yet another ninth circle of heave-ho grunt work hell , I spend eight hours a day luxuriating in fluorescent rays and inhaling the infinitely recycled air that is on endless loop between me and a number of unhygienic lawyers who are notorious for taking a dump and heading straight for the restroom’s exit, without so much as an obligatory hand rinse just for show. Since a decent number of lawyers in our office have, at best, a perfunctory regard for sanitation, it’s reasonable to conclude that our resident thieves are not the same people as the dump-and-dashing lawyers. Our thieves, lawyers or not, are unlikely to willingly bypass hand-washings; thus the anonymous Post-It plea for folks to refrain from stealing what’s left of the dollar-store soap in the kitchen.
We have an active band of thieves; or at least one thief who keeps him or herself quite busy. In the past few months, among the nifty possessions that have been coveted are iPods (yes, plural), a digital camera, a piggy bank full of coins, and a Christmas envelope that the thief apparently discovered only contained a coworker’s infant grinning maniacally from a glossy postcard. Company-issued laptops have disappeared with consistent frequency for years, but management has not thought to implement some sort of record-keeping procedure that would prevent their most costly inventory from going AWOL. Instead, they issue pathetically ineffective emails asking for the laptops’ return, but this is probably indicative of the usual upper-management brilliance one would find in anyoffice in AnyTown, USA. Add to this a workforce punctuated by substance abusers and sex offenders – who are supposed to be helping substance abusers and sex offenders – and by unapologetic racists posing as liberals, and you have my office. A place that encourages “women, people of color, and gays, lesbians, and transgender people to apply.” That hiring line had always been uplifting for me, until, after I’d seen and heard plenty in this joint, I finally learned to infer the poisonous thorns that accompany that warm and rosy feel-good text. They’ll encourage the likes of you being hired so they can get a pat on the head for being conscientious employers, but once you get in, you ladies, queers, and you minority folks, don’t you dare count on being safe, or on them protecting your non-white, non-straight male ass. Just like the schoolyard, once you get in, you better know how to fight, or at least be willing to learn. Quickly.
In honor of my wholly dysfunctional and ethically deficient workplace, and the thousands across the country just like it, on this December 25th, I am Occupying Disenchantment. Like a devoted wine connoisseur who embraces the full bodies of the spirits poured from the bottle, I raise my glass to upending the ho-ho-ho status quo, and to these lovely Christmas lights, which will burn out faster than I ever will.