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
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
(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.
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
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.
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.