“As Christmas icons go, I was never into Santa,” I told Work Cathy, explaining why I never bought Santa cards. “I’ll take a nice reindeer or snowman any day. But maybe that’s because my parents never told me that Santa was real, so I never had those magical associations with him. He was just some old fat man.”
My parents’ rationale was that 1) they didn’t want to lie; they always expected honesty from me, so it was only fair, and 2) if there was a present they couldn’t afford to buy, they didn’t want me to think Santa had put me on his naughty list. My parents were/are very sincere people.
When I was a teenager and wanted to be like my friends in every way, I resented them for depriving me of glowy childhood memories. Later I thought they made kind of a cool, nonconformist choice. But today I realized that I move through my adult life exactly as if not getting something I want means I’ve been bad. My parents never told me Santa was real because they wanted to create a fair world, one in which my behavior wasn’t falsely linked to whether or not I got a My Little Pony Waterfall featuring Sprinkles the Pegasus and her sidekick Duck Soup. (I did. I also got a Cabbage Patch Kid that year, which, in a Santa-dominated world, would have led me to believe I’d been very good. But instead I knew that the real estate market was taking off and my dad had made a couple of good investments. The nineties would not be so kind to us.)
Sorry—I got off track googling “My Little Pony Waterfall” there for a minute. Man, I could watch those commercials all day. The bubble bath! The pump that made water dribble from the plastic cloud!
Oh, but I started wondering what kind of merit math my brain would be doing if I’d had a different childhood. If I’d believed that Santa existed, denied me a My Little Pony Lullaby Nursery because I’d been bad, then turned out to be a product of my parents’ cruel lies—then maybe I would have learned early on that the world is nonsensical and I wouldn’t be so surprised by its small injustices now. Maybe. Thirty-three is a little old to turn on your parents—you’re supposed to get that shit out of your system when you’re 22, then appreciate them and shower them with grandbabies in your thirties. But maybe the more important question is, is 33 too old to play with a My Little Pony Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?