“Hi, is Jessica there?”
“Yes, this is she.”
“This is Santa. Ho ho ho!”
“Santa! Wow! Hi!”
“Christmas is coming! Have you been a good girl this year?”
“Yes, little girl?”
“Santa, philosophers and theologians have been struggling to define ‘good’ for millennia. I’m not sure I’m comfortable laying claim to the embodiment of an abstract concept.”
“Ho ho ho!”
“Are we talking good in the Platonic sense? Definitely not.”
“Ho ho ho?”
“Now, if we mean good as in chaste, then yes, I’ve been extraordinarily good. I make nuns look promiscuous.”
“That will do! Now tell me, little Jessica, what would you like for Christmas?”
“Santa can’t make ponies in his workshop. What else do you want?”
“Santa can’t make that either.”
“A flame thrower!”
“Santa will see what he can do.”
A conversation rather like this really did take place. Sunnybrook Farm and I were inspired by a form that was delivered to the library. You fill out your name, your interests, and your Christmas wishlist, and Santa gives you a call. Unfortunately, it seemed to be geared toward children, which if you ask me is a total crock.
(Speaking of philosophy, a friend asked me once if I could explain my position on free will. “I Kant,” I replied. Oh, the great puns never die, they just get more annoying. God bless ’em.)
So: Have I been a good girl this year?
I’ve given a tiny little bit to charity—not much, but then again I’m a librarian. If I make a career switch to supermodeling, I will give away tons and tons of money to the needy.
I’ve continued to support my crazy volunteer person in Chapel Hill—mainly by phone, but with a visit back in May and another coming up in two weeks. Not going to go into the whole story here, but I volunteered with the Mental Health Association of Orange County when I was in liberry school. I spent a few hours each week spending time with a woman with some mental issues, only to gradually realize that there would be no graceful way to disengage. Even moving didn’t do the trick. There is no geography cure.
I like her, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I am merely observing that people with issues seek me out and latch on hard. For further evidence, I invite you to observe me at reference desk sometime. She’s a librarian… AND she’s a social worker! Two underpaid professions for the price of one! What a bargain! Hurry, this deal won’t last forever!
Let’s see, what else. I took in a cat whose housing needs were suddenly jeopardized by a woman. I swear, I still can’t quite believe that Nebudchadnezzar gave up a kitty as wonderful, fat, and lazy as Bubby. But it seems like a sure thing. He got hisself engaged over the weekend. (I haven’t told Bubby yet. Not sure how he’ll take it.)
Speaking of pets interfering with relationships, I got a call out of nowhere from my high school best friend, Amber. Amber called because she’d run into a girl we went to school with, who is still pretty and thin and well-dressed, and married now, to boot.
“Disgusting,” I said.
“This is terrible,” said Amber.
So then we spent nearly two hours talking about how unfair everything is. It was nearly identical to the two (or four, or six) hour conversations we had all throughout our teen years, to wit:
A) Other people are more attractive, popular, and well-liked, but
B) We are smarter than they are, and
C) One day we will show them all, and also
D) Yes, even now, more than half our lives later, we both still have a crush on the same guy. (Searches of marriage and property records reveal that he is unmarried and that he purchased a house. Yes, we both searched for this information, both independently, and were frankly unsurprised to find that the other had done the same research.)
Amber had heard a study reported on NPR that suggests that men marry one step lower, e.g., alpha males marry beta females. Societal pressure and masculinity and whatnot prevents them from marrying women who are their equals. Which explains why Amber and I, as alpha females, are still single. (I swear, it was just like high school: Musing over being single, and then hunting for reasons to justify it—reasons that preserve our self-respect, that is.)
“So let me get this right," I ventured. "If gamma females marry beta males, and beta females marry alpha males, does this mean we alpha females have to marry… to marry—”
“Omega males,” said Amber.
“The worst of the lot.”
“Vegetables. Men in comas.”
Where was I going with this? Right: Among the many reasons we are still single (reasons that don’t wound our dignities, remember; that’s key) are our pets. Amber can’t leave her house for too awful long because she has to go home to let the dogs out.
“Can’t guys visit you at your house?”
“Allergies,” she said. “They all have allergies.”
On the bright side, if a man is in a coma, his allergies just pale in comparison.
Let’s see, is there any other evidence of my goodness this past year? Um. I’ve been green! I gave up plastic bags in favor of my reusable cloth bag. And I drive a fuel efficient car and I recycle and I conserve energy wherever I can, but I do that every year, so none of that’s exactly new.
Looking at things in a microcosm, I’ve been good this past week, sorta. I’ve been productive. I’ve done a lot of work on the book (though I’m still refusing to entertain questions about how many pages I’ve written. Privileged information, sorry.) In an effort to eek out extra time for writing, I have not read from a book since last Friday.
For me, this is akin to a porn star taking a vow of chastity. I don’t believe I’ve gone this long without in twenty-four years, i.e., since I entered the literary world with Hop on Pop.
Stop! Don’t hop on Pop!
Ah. That’s quality, that is.
And I’ve instituted a new bedtime rule. Unless I am actively working on the book, I am not allowed to stay up past 12:30 on worknights. In theory, this means that I will be well-rested, meaning that I can’t use fatigue as an excuse not to write the next day. For a woman who regularly stays up till 4 on the weekends and 2 during the week, this 12:30 thing is going to be a pain. I failed with the bedtime rule last night, flagrantly, but at least I felt bad about it. (And tired today.) It’s a start.
So, have I been good? Maybe not according to, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Mahatma Gandhi, but I think I deserve a little compensation. So do your parts, everyone: I’d like to see a little world peace here. Thanks.