December

1999

Christmas

Jesus never did much for me. I wasn’t raised religious, and except for a three-week period back in 1984 or so when my mom and I were traveling across the USA and she insisted on going to church every Sunday; didn’t matter which one. And I had to go to Lutheran camp one summer, but that’s a very long and unpleasant story.

So, to get to the point, Christmas has never been about the birth of the Baby Jesus, but rather about presents. I had skillfully maintained a false front of belief in Santa far longer than was expected, operating on the (true) presumption that I would get more presents that way.

And presents were the thing; my family’s never been wealthy, but I’ve always scored a pretty good haul; and I developed an incredibly complex system of ascertaining the contents of my packages, as well as “Santa’s” hiding places throughout my house. One year, I got a computer game that I had wanted for some time and by the 17th of December I had it out of the box, the shink-wrap off, and was playing it at school. And back in, shrink-wrap sealed with an iron, and opened under the tree on Christmas Eve. I was a pro.

During my freshman year in high school, I came to the point at which it was now appropriate for me to use my own money to buy presents for my family (this was before I had come upon the foolproof scam of being an “artist” and making gifts for people.)

I had been saving up for a video-game system, the top-of-the-line sort of thing (that would become obsolete and go out of production in 2 years) and hence, my innate greedy nature made me fervently penny-pinching around Xmas time, this year.My savings acount, initially intended to serve as a place to put the profits from my paper route, had been surreptitiously depleted by frantic withdrawls, in an attempt to convince people at my new high school that I had a rich family. (don’task…)

So Christmas came around; I got my mom to give me the $120 that had accrued from my Grandma’s sending me $10 a week, which I entrusted to my mom. The video-game was $150. I had to buy presents for both sets of grandparents, mom, dad, cousins, brother and sister…it was obvious that I wasn’t gonna make it without some kind of chicanery. Holiday video-game sales would end soon, and there was no way I was saving my pittances for any longer.

I had actually been saving for about six days, but hell. So I resorted to a number of familiar techniques to get presents for my family – shoplifting provided some nice gifts for my Grandma, midnight sales, and other low-rent scams filled out the shopping list.

I still spent money, though; I only had $6 left! All my cash was gone. I needed to get more money fast. I had exhausted my alternatives when my mother gave me $20 to get my hair cut. $20.

My pubescent brain percolated madly. I could buy more presents and still have some money for myself with this $20. So I did the only logical thing and cut my own hair.

I bought a present for my cousin Matthew, and while my mom was at work on the 23rd of December, I sat down in the bathroom with a pair of scissors and began cutting off my hair.

My mother believed that Supercuts had done it, and she was fuming mad, ready to go kick the ass of the person who had cut my hair and demand the money back. I demurred, claiming it wasn’t really that bad, it was my fault for “not describing the way I wanted it cut,” doing everything in my power to preventmy mom from finding out that I hadn’t been to Supercuts at al lbut had butchered my locks myself. It looked a lot like mange.Eventually I broke down and confessed the scam to my mom, she took some scissors to it to try to even it up, and I kept well out of family pictures that Christmas.