Let me say, right at the outset: This post is full of big, fat generalisations. So please, gents who do, in fact, trouble over whether a turkey buffe or an entire bird makes more sense, forgive me.
British retailer ASDA this year eschewed the tradition of presenting Christmas in it’s usual joyous light, and released an ad that reflected what many women feel – Christmas is hard, invisible work.
The ad has elicited had mixed reactions – scores of women have cried, ‘YES! That’s MEEEEEEEE!’ While some men have called, ‘SEXIST! How dare you say that when I’m the one who assembled the new bikes and filled the gas bottles.’
Have a look, see what you think.
I’m in the ‘That’s Me’ camp.
I believe it’s mostly women who create Christmas magic. Remember Sleepless in Seattle? Even though he’s a bit of a drip, we all fell a little in love with Tom Hanks when he talked about his late wife and how, ‘she made Christmas beautiful.’ What Tom didn’t mention (because it would have ruined the movie) was how she had been a screaming banshee right up until 3pm on Christmas Eve, when miraculously, it was all done and Christmas could begin in all its tinsely magic.
That women shoulder the burden of Christmas isn’t often talked about – mainly because we don’t want to cause a fight and spoil all that peace and goodwill. I’ve never heard men discuss whose bringing the salad and who’s making the pav. They enjoy having houseguests but don’t worry that the fitted sheets are a bit yellowed and your brother’s new wife is sure to comment.
Men do not take part in the tense, UN style negotiation regarding whose place to spend Christmas morning with and where to go for the afternoon – although they are happy to impose conditions on proposed plans, “I am not going to you sister’s on Boxing Day if she is going to make us play charades when the cricket is on. You can tell her.”
I suspect one of the reasons Hillary Clinton has made such a brilliant Secretary Of State is her experience in juggling the political nightmare that is Christmas (Americans also have its troublesome twin, Thanksgiving to contend with so they are experts).
Christmas responsibility is not just for stay at home mothers, no. Even women with the most high-powered jobs need to pull it together for the 25th. It’s all too easy to imagine Hillary sighing, ‘Sorry Barack, I’ll have to call you back. Bill’s Aunt Valerie wants to know if he needs a new golf shirt and does he need an L or XL. ’
I’m not suggesting men do nothing to contribute at Christmas. But they are the season’s foot soldiers, while women are the generals. Men are prepared to ice the eskies and lug the tree up from the shed (or home from the nursery).
They don’t mind a trip to the fish market – although some need clear instructions, ‘Get the prawns from the third shop on the right, but only if the tigers are big, but not too big. If they’re too big there won’t be enough to go around because your father is a glutton even with his heart thingy. If they’re too big, go to Del Monico’s – further down on the right. More expensive but have a big range. But on no account go to the one near the entrance – there’s a reason there’s never a queue.’
At this point a man may (understandably) huff and say, ‘Well, why don’t you go to the bloody fish market?’ At that point you reply that you’re going to Westfield for a new Queen size white fitted sheet and a box of shortbread for Maureen next door (who bought you some candied fruit), as well as more wrapping paper and some angel’s wings from Spotlight because Sally is in the nativity pageant – but you’d be happy to swap. Trust me, he won’t.
There will be readers of this somewhat ranty, judgemental post who feel sorry for the men in my life. Please don’t. My husband, brother, father, father-in-law and brothers-in-law will have a fantastic Christmas filled with joy and goodwill.
I know, because that’s the way the women in our family have planned it.
Who makes Christmas happen in your family?