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The Cult of the Christmas Sweater


December 23, 2004

Christmas ham Christmas is a time for families, for cookies and tree-trimming. Old memories are rehashed and new ones are made. Ham is consumed. Simply put, Christmas is a time to be festive. And believe me, nothing says "festive" more than donning a piece of knitwear with snowmen hugging bears dressed like reindeer with dangling bells and scratch and sniff gingerbread men wearing Santa hats. The Christmas Sweater is not just a piece of clothing; it's an Institution for the middle-aged woman.

Last year I took a temporary holiday position at the new flagship Williams-Sonoma store on Union Square. At the time, the store had only been open for a few months. I randomly wandered in and was dazzled by four floors of kitchen heaven. Before I knew what my mouth was doing (this often happens), I heard it asking for an application. The questions during the interview were pretty difficult: "If we hire you, what will be the first thing you'll buy?" How the hell was I to answer that? Where do I begin? (You know, because having a vagina means that I like shopping. Get it?) "Dinnerware," I sputtered.

I was hired.

They put me on the schedule for about 20 hours a week. As this was in addition to my full-time job, I was not motivated by the need for extra money (although it helped...sort of). I could think of a thousand things I'd rather be doing on a Saturday than ladling out samples of mulled apple cider and directing customers to the bundt molds. Nope, I wanted the 40% employee discount. The whole idea was to use the meager earnings from my $10-an-hour cashier gig to buy presents for everyone I knew. I got a little bit over-excited Le Creuset Oval Roaster (the Christmas spirit just swept me and all my money away!) and spent a lot more than I actually made. This is why one of my credit cards remains maxed-out to this day. However, this is somewhat beside the point; in addition to learning about the workmanship of the enamel-on-steel Le Creuset oval roaster, working at Williams-Sonoma afforded me a crash-course education in the ways of the Christmas Sweater.

Grandma's Elves 1. Regardless of a woman's socio-economic position, she will wear a Christmas Sweater. Rich or poor, a woman's gotta have one. I've found that older women, who probably rely on (what's left of) Social Security, favor the Christmas Sweatshirt. Even though most of their income goes toward the cost of prescription meds (thanks George!), they still have a little bit to invest in some cotton Christmas cheer. Otherwise, she might wear it because it was a gift from the collective grandkids; an extra special Christmas Sweatshirt that announces she is the "Best Grandma Ever." Does this really have to include puffy things and elves dancing around the words? I never want to be guilted into wearing something hideous. This is why I'm never having children.

On the flipside, the more financially-fortunate women show up to shop in cashmere-blend Christmas Sweaters and jeweled angel brooches that keep their Burberry scarves securely fastened "just-so" at the throat. Tiffany & Co. is right next door to Williams-Sonoma. I overheard one Sweater enthusiast thanking her husband? married lover? for the $6,000 earrings he evidently just purchased for her. Her Christmas Sweater was stunning.

2. The more elaborate the Sweater (or whole outfit for that matter), the more Evil. This is an undeniable truth. Beware of the woman who is I want to eat your children. dressed in head-to-toe Christmas couture. She will gladly rip out your throat and bathe placidly in the pulsing warmth of your life's blood. If her bloodlust is not satisfied through visceral killing, she will start screaming because her gift-wrapped packages are not ready. And she has to drive back to Palo Alto now.

I had the pleasure of one such woman. Her breath alone nearly spelled the end of me. It smelled faintly of "pepper and blackberry on the nose" with a hint of "I'm a drunk whore yelling at you about something you had no control over." However, her Christmas Sweater was riveting: a complex, braided affair involving Frosty and Rudolph cavorting in a wintry snowy wonderland. I hope her children grow up to be infertile. Or, at the very least, become artists or homosexuals.

3. She will sing along with the in-store Christmas music. This may be the most unforgivable. Williams-Sonoma has its very own collection of premier Christmas music. Frank and Bing mingle with Patsy Cline in a devout celebration of our Savior's birth and Santa's exploits. During my brief tenure as cashier Czarina, I must have listened to that CD four thousand times. And I only worked part-time. Despite Bing's ability to woo the hearts of many a lass, I became numb to his charms after awhile. Billy Ray Cyrus This is why it was so jarring when a sweater-clad patron approached the register muttering the lyrics to White Christmas. Walgreens and the US Post Office are blaring the shit by this point; haven't you had enough? Often these people purchased the WS Christmsas CD itself; it was placed prominently at the counter next to the snowmen cocoa mugs. Those who purchase actual Christmas music are the saddest lot of all. It is the lowest form of expression. With the exception of Billy Ray Cyrus.

Without further ado, I give you the Christmas Sweater Gallery. I hope I die before age 46 or this will be my fate.




Happy Birthday, Ang. May your day be filled with Christmas Sweaters and joy.

-lisa
 
Copyright 2017 Daniel S. Fettinger and Lisa Warner, all rights reserved.