Elf On A What?

Last week at work, we were talking about the upcoming holiday season, and a couple of people referenced the new Christmas ‘tradition’—the Elf on a Shelf. This merry little fellow is a posable doll, dressed in a red and white elf costume, which can offer hours of fun for parents, and apparently hours of terror for children. Every morning, the child will get up and find the elf in a new position, having done something clever or naughty during the night. And during the day, there is the reminder that the elf is “watching over you” from somewhere in the house. This, from what I gathered, allows parents to apply leverage to their little ones ie: “You’d better behave—Marcel (or whatever name the parents give the tiny spy) is keeping an eye on you, and if you don’t stop poking your sister, he’ll tell Santa in his daily report!”

While this may sound cute and festive on the surface, it has really insidious undertones. Isn’t it bad enough that “Santa” already knows when you’ve been “bad or good”, sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake? At least Santa is at the North Pole, and might be too busy to constantly monitor whether or not you fed all your vegetables to the dog. But now, there’s a creeper in your own home, who stalks you every minute of the day and reports back to the Big Guy for even minor infractions like colouring outside the lines or drinking straight from the carton or whatever. And there are hundreds of websites devoted to sharing things that people can do with their elves (and quite a few are NOT very PG 13). I took a look at some of them and here are the more disturbing places that the Elf on a Shelf can be found:

1) In a Nativity Scene: These irreverent parents replaced the baby Jesus with their elf, named DJ. He towers over all the other figures like a jolly, stocking-capped god. The shepherds look terrified, and the Wise Men look pissed off, like “We came all this way for that?” Mary just looks confused.

2) Trussed up in a toilet paper roll, wrists tied together, and hanging from the shower curtain rod, having been gagged with what looks like his own collar. This might be the first clue that your parents don’t really like the Elf on a Shelf—or that they’re serial killers.

3) Lying in a drunken stupor on top of a picture frame, after having used black marker to draw devil horns and tails on a family portrait. What kind of behaviour are you trying to role model here? Satan worship or vandalism? And then you wonder why, ten years later, your teenager is playing records backwards and spray painting the neighbour’s fence with pentagrams.

4) Reading the Bible: Not that reading the Bible is disturbing, but it kind of sends a mixed message. Does God have elves or angels? Plus it adds another layer to the paranoia you’re creating in your child. Now the little tyke is being watched by the Elf, Santa, AND GOD. I would just lock myself in my room and never come out.

5) In the hot tub, with a couple of Barbie Dolls: He looks REALLY happy. Maybe because all the Barbies’ hands are under the cellophane water. “Daddy, what are all those ladies doing to Buddy?” “Don’t worry, honey—they’re just jingling his sleigh bells.”

There also seem to be a lot of pictures of the elf defacing walls with crayon, gorging on maple syrup and candy, writing on mirrors, squeezing out toothpaste all over the counter, pooping out Hershey’s Kisses, and writing messages in spilled hot chocolate powder, which makes me think that parents are having way more fun with the Elf than their kids are. Sure, sure, I know that kids get really excited about ANYTHING to do with Christmas, and probably get a kick out of the Elf to a certain extent, but it’s all just a little too Orwellian for me, like the Thought Police have invaded Christmastown. If we really want to draw an analogy to 1984, then Santa is Big Brother, the Elf on a shelf is O’Brien, your child is Winston Smith, and your house is the Ministry of Love (which sounds like a very nice place, but that’s where all the torture-y stuff happened, in case you never read the book). Do you really want your children to wake up Christmas morning chanting, “2+2=5”? Santa was always good enough for me, cuz I loved Big Brother.

Eventually we’ll just blend Hallowe’en, Black Friday, and Christmas all together into a new festival called “Overconsumption”, where adults wearing elf costumes fight to the death in a two-month long tournament to win candy, toys, flat screen TVs and vegetable steamers for their kids. Overall though, I guess if you want to do the Elf on the Shelf thing with your kids, play up the fun, and tone down the fascism. And the sex. That’s my advice.

(As a side note, I would never have an Elf, but I DO have “Sock Monkey in the Wine Frig”. His only job is to make sure no one steals my wine.)

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My Week 222: And so this is Christmas…

Things are pretty crazy busy at mydangblog’s place right now, so here’s a little something from 2015 that you might enjoy (the original, My Week 59, also has a bit about my possessed vacuum cleaner):

Real Life Versus Magazine Christmas

I love decorating magazines. I have subscriptions to at least three different ones, and every month, I pour through the pages for ideas. I’m a visual learner at heart—I can read text very quickly and easily, but I LOVE anything with pictures. Anyway, Christmas is coming up, so all the current editions are focused on Christmas decorating and festive parties. As I was gleefully devouring up the images, it suddenly occurred to me how absolutely unrealistic it all was. Sure, I know that everything’s staged, but this year it seems that magazine editors have become so intensely out of touch with how REAL people live that I started to view everything with an extremely critical eye. Here are some of the more bizarre statements and ideas that I came across:

1) A designer on his Christmas room design challenge: “I arrived upon this magical masculine scene by mixing patterns and textures with eclectic objects. While the palette and the furnishings are traditional, the vignette feels fresh, thanks to whimsical organic touches like the felt bird ornaments and the pompom tree skirt.” Let me translate: “Nothing matches”. Also, “men like magicky things, and pompoms”. Someone should clue in this designer that real birds are organic; felt birds are NOT whimsical–they are things that kindergarten children make. Prize for runner-up goes to this designer’s statement: “I like to mix traditional with modern, and pair maximalist notions with more restrained sculptural items.” Again, nothing matches, but this time it’s JUST F*CKING INSANITY OVER HERE!

2) A page devoted to “choosing the perfect tree”. I don’t need a page of tips. This is how we pick a tree at my house:

Ken: That one over there looks nice.
Me: It’s too cold to walk that far. This one’s fine.
Ken: But it’s missing half its branches.
Me: That side can go against the wall. Hurry up, I’m freezing.

3) A decorating article on “Wrapping Pillows like a Present” to create a holiday feel. Screw that—I can’t even wrap a PRESENT like a present, let alone stupid accent pillows. If you’ve ever gotten a present from me, you might have thought at first that a toddler wrapped it. But the torn paper and scotch tape all over the place just reinforce how much I love you, NOT that I’m super-uncoordinated and have unwieldy manhands.

4) “Fun Things To Do With Your Elf On A Shelf”. Here’s the most fun thing I can imagine—put it in the toilet and watch it grin maniacally as it tries not to drown. Keep swimming, Bjorn! For a full treatise on the elvish devilspawn, please see My Week 61.

So many questions…

5) “Decorative pieces should change with the season”. Seriously? Who the hell has time to redecorate their entire house “with the season”? If you’ve got the kind of time to put everything in storage to make way for your holiday sh*t, then put all that away in January and completely redecorate AGAIN, you’re most likely neglecting other areas of your life, like your children or your personal hygiene.

6) A designer on a recent dinner party disaster: “Go with the flow. My copper garland broke, so I placed the beads across the dining table, and they looked pretty. ..it was a happy accident.” Absolutely. The next time I break a Christmas ornament, I will definitely strew the dining table with the shards.

7) Party tip a): “Always have a signature drink ready for your guests and hand it to them as they arrive.” We have a signature drink in my house—it’s called “wine”. When you arrive, you can have some of this tasty signature drink, or I can pour you a shot of the cooking brandy that’s been sitting in the back of the kitchen cupboard for the last ten years (I don’t cook with brandy that often).

8) Party tip b): “The Fabulous Four-Step Appetizer”. I can do you one better—the Tasty TWO-Step Appetizer. Step one, take a piece of cheese. Step two, put it on a cracker. For the adventurous, I also have the Throroughly Three-mendous Appetizer, where you can add a piece of kielbasa from the plate on the counter before the dog sneaks in and eats it all.

9) Party tip c): “Consider your guests’ dietary restrictions.” I am the f*cking master of this. I can create a veritable feast for people who are gluten-free, vegetarian, piscaterian, lactose intolerant, who only eat chicken, who can’t eat spicy food, and who refuse to eat normal human food like rice, pasta, or most green vegetables because they (Dad) are just plain picky. I do this because I love them all so much. Which brings me to my last point:

10) Magazine cover: “128 Ideas for an amazing Christmas”. Here’s the deal—you don’t need 128 ideas. You don’t even need ONE idea. All you need is the people you love the most—weird-ass food preferences, magic-y pompons, and all. Christmas isn’t about how beautiful and pristine your house is—it’s about the people (and animals) in it.

Merry Christmas everyone!