Sometimes things can seem like a good idea at the time, but as you go down the road to your destination, the endpoint can seem less attractive than it did at first. That’s how I felt when my high school decided to have a Christmas talent show. It was an alternative school and there were only thirty of us, so everyone really had to stretch their imagination as to what constituted a talent show.
I went to this school from freshman through junior year, and envied the kids who went to a “real” high school like the ones on teen soaps and in Mean Girls. I convinced three of my friends to reenact a key scene from the film where the girls perform a suggestive dance to Jingle Bell Rock. I of course would play the Lindsay Lohan part.
I made my friends rehearse for weeks, telling them to puff out their lips, and swing their hips like I was a pubescent Mama Rose. As someone who spent most of their life in the background, this half-assed little song and dance was my chance to stand in the spotlight.
A snowstorm wiped out my plans to slap my thighs and shimmy on stage (or in this case, the cafeteria), and the show was never rescheduled. Part of me is grateful for Mother Nature’s intervention, but another part is wistful when Jingle Bell Rock comes on the radio every year.
Fast forward ten years and I’m at a holiday improv show with a woman I’ve gone out with a couple of times. The actors sing a parody of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, but replace “Christmas”—and most words in the song, with “holiday”. Like, “Maybe we’ll have some holiday pie and we’ll do some holidaying.” My date and I laugh harder than we should as we ride the high of our wine buzz, then go back to her place where she’s says she’s going to make me hot cocoa.
Fooling around on her bed I realize this is the date. I let my body relax, my mind focus, but in my still wine-drunk haze, Rockin’ Round the Holiday Tree keeps running through my head. I do my best to enjoy the moment, but that song is so damn catchy, and a total mood killer as it turns out. She also has a huge poster of The Muppet Christmas Carol next to her bed, and all the characters are staring down at me while she unzips my pants, and I try not to start humming a little Christmas ditty. Did I mention her bed is right next to the radiator too?
You can fill in the rest, but the evening doesn’t go quite the way I had planned. Being tipsy and sweaty and eyed by Muppets does not—at least not all together—a romantic evening make. We see each other one other time after, but it feels weird even though there are no parody lyrics un-setting the mood. Again, I go into something that seems like a good idea, but then I wonder…
So that sums up the holidays for me: sex and regret. I like to think that I’m less in the minority than I sometimes believe.
Oh, and I can still remember that entire dance routine.
Patrick Thornton is a Chicago writer from rural Indiana. He earned an MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago, and completed an artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center. He is currently the Managing Editor of Ghost Proposal, and previously edited for The Rumpus. Selected publications include essays in Redivider, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Collapsar.