It's that time of year again, people.
Whooo! It's time to let your hair down! A period of excitement, wine, forgetting your troubles, family...
And just like everybody else, I am also hugely excited about the prospect of getting wasted and ignoring my family.
I jest. For what could bring people together quite like shared empathy? What inspires the Christmas Spirit quite like seven blood-relatives who all unanimously agree that you would absolutely never, ever, want that fucking tie. Common ground indeed.
And yet? Here it is. Waiting to be worn by someone that never wears ties. Statistically I am probably more likely to wear the wrapping paper. And so the tie becomes more a mascot for a socially awkward, dysfunctional son. For all sons. We should all wear ties that we'd never wear. Like a re-appropriated symbol of strength. Or something. I imagine attending support groups in decrepit terrapins - our art/canvases in one hand, ties tightly-clenched in the other; tears streaming down our faces; sad from Christmases gone - yet happy we've found each other.
All in all, let's be real: Christmas is as much a time of disappointment as it is rejoice and happiness.
"But Aid... it's about Jesus being born? The Son of God was born!".
You obviously haven't seen the ending of that movie.
And so to numb myself from the bi-polar highs of carols, tinsel and fairy-lights; to the devastating lows of religion, shit presents and whatever singing shelf-stacker X-Factor's vomited out this year - I stare, wide-eyed out into the garden, one hand still clasping the tie, placed on the rainy window pane, mentally questioning whether anyone really knows me - I observe the festivities in my own way:
Drinking myself to oblivion.
It's become as much a Christmas tradition in the Thompsin household as turkey or the same five songs from 70s we've failed to replace in the forty Decembers since. A day that serves as one man's celebration of the birth of our Lord & Saviour, Jesus Christ - is another's perfect storm of anti-climax, financial hardship and the annual reflection of all they haven't achieved that year.
It's difficult to not descend into an existential crisis about it all.
For days on end, we will pretty much solely remain in the company of relatives who have known us our entire lives - yet struggle, year-on-year, to find a present that reflects any trait or trace of our personalities Literally the people that know us best... are at a loss as to which gift (voucher) is us. Thirty-five years in and I seemingly have the complex psychological tapestry of a three year old. Wonderful. I mean, do I even exist?
To manage my disappointment, I decide to get out of the house - make the most of being back home. I wander into the pub that we'd frequent, back in the day. Each year the numbers get less and less as "mates" become fathers, "chicks" become mothers; in 2013, the Maidenhead Advertiser failed to report it, but that was actually the year when the sight of me ordering a tequila stopped being 'party-time!' and first acquired the subtext of "thirtysomething just trying to get through a divorce".
I look over to the end of the bar, slightly unsettled. The hot-mess from house parties in 2002 is now thirty-seven years old. That 'intriguing and hot', teen-angst-chic has to end at some point, absolutely. No great revelation there. It's just that nobody told me it was the opening chapter to the lengthier 'Tragic-Buzzkill-Woman' story. I mean, "What Goes Up..." and all that...
Leaning against the bar, kindly answering questions about her apparent bi-polar disorder that were never actually asked in the first place, she explains how she now has multiple personality disorder. I snigger as the bored barman sarcastically responds:
"Multiple? Are you sure?"
I grab a lager with my friend, Charles (if we're going to pretend this is 2002, we may as well drink like it).
"So. How've you been?" I start.
"Don't do that." He answers.
"The whole How-Have-You-Been shit. We're not there yet."
"Yeah, I hope not."
But we kind of almost are now. We're almost those people. Older men. Guys that used to be 'mates'. A circle of mates that would head down the skate-park, delete four-litre bottles of cider. Probably not in December, I suppose. But guys, mates that would head out on Christmas Eve, get smashed and end up round a mate's house 'til 4am -wake up with two simultaneous eyegraine hangovers in each of our eyeballs on Christmas morning.
Two guys. Out drinking. We knock-back a couple of Jaeger-bombs, laughing as we do.
"Hey remember when we really used to go out and drink jaeger-bombs! Haha!" we chortle.
Now it just feels like parody. Ironic-binge-drinking.
Christmas Day arrives. I run onto the internet. Save me cyberspace.
Perhaps I'll see a status update from a tragic divorcee, overcompensating with an expensive gift to his son. A confused five year-old unwrapping a Rolex and bursting into tears. Instead it's just fucking turkey pictures, one after the other. The awkward period between a Christmas Eve hangover and god-awful "Well this has been QUITE a year!" updates has begun.
Because let's be clear. The worst thing about this time of year isn't shit gifts, it's not the midnight-on-New-Years texting your ex from the disabled bog you used to shag in, sobbing as Auld Lang Syne roars through two inches of wooden door you've locked to hide behind...
It's the insufferable Facebook statuses that follow in the days between.
"Well this has been QUITE a year!" they chime, as though they know that you want to know how fascinating it's been. For everyone.
"This has been QUITE a year, you guys!"
Really? I must've missed you between Greece's near-collapse, Syria, Charlie Hebdo - I must've glanced past the Special Report into the mind-numbing minutiae you call a 'life'. That's what's sad. That this is an 'update'. This is a 'status' of your life. This is a year-end, best-of, Greatest Hits of your entire existence and the best you could come up with was "moved into Elizabeth Gardens & bought the new Fiat!!!!!!!!!!! #blessed".
"OMG, guys, this has been QUITE a year..."
Get a grip. You bought an overpriced terrace and fucked your wife a few times. Have a f*cking medal.
To the debt of society, nobody has yet commissioned analytics to show the best or worst times to post (/brag) about your year's achievements. But the exact week where I'm sitting, reflecting on my own failures, caked in liquore, defeated by life is probably not the best time to bullshit about yours.
Sound depressing? Perhaps. But take solace in the fact that for every narcissistic "my status is a publicist's statement"-style cretin, excreting sunshine and rainbows out into the ether...
...there's another ten delusional fucks ready to pretend the next year is going to be even better. They already know it. Why else would they broadcast it to five hundred people. That's basically a wedding vow. And yet it totally escapes their reasoning that, perhaps, after ten days and nights of consecutive excess, bad food, booze, maybe drugs and exhausting money you didn't even have in November - after all of that, now you've decided to slow it down. Shocking.
"January 1st - I'm off to the gym, guys! New Year, New Me!"
Break it down.
You're never gonna quit smoking. You're not gonna stay sober. You're not gonna suddenly enjoy eating vegetables. You're never gonna keep going to the gym. You're still the same piece of shit you were three weeks ago. You don't suddenly love running. You. Just. Have. A. Hangover.
"You people need to learn to let shit go!?" I mutter - as I clutch my tie in my right hand.
And wish it was still 2002.