Some variation of this uncomfortable conversation took place in many, many homes this past Holiday Season:
A scruffy man in his late 20s or early 30s is sitting on a living room sofa, holding a paper plate piled high with assorted appetizers and staring at an ornately decorated Christmas Tree. To his right is a scowling older woman (in her late 60s or early 70s) who is sipping a 7&7 and to his left is a corpulent man in his 50s with a plate of cookies and a bottled beer.
Man in his 20s/30s (Clears his throat): Is that an artificial tree? Wow, it looks so real.
Woman in her 60s/70s: It sure is. That's the thing about the artificial ones they make nowadays. You can't even tell the difference. That's what I don't get about these people who go through all that trouble year after year with the real ones. Tying up the tree on the car and lugging it into the house and watering it all the time. And these people always say the same thing, "But I just love the smell of the real trees?" The smell of it. (Shakes her head) People are so damn screwy these days.
Man in his 50s: Got an artificial tree five years back, and I can't figure out why the hell I didn't do it sooner. I'm never going back. Sure, you pay a little bit upfront. But you make up for it. Boy, do you make up for it. You figure you pay $25/$30 every year for a real one, in a few years with the fake one, you go ahead and recoup that investment. Best decision I ever made ... get an artificial tree.
Women in her 60s/70s: $25 is you're lucky. It's outrageous what they want you to pay for a Christmas tree today. I was at the Home Depot with my nephew and I said, let me just see what they asking for the trees this year, and I couldn't believe my eyes. $50 dollars! I nearly spit.
Man in his 50s: Highway robbery is what it is ... with these goddamn prices today, and the economy being in the toilet and all that. How are people supposed to afford that? Tell me that (Shakes his head and sips his beer).
Man in his 20s/30s: Yeah, I guess artificial is the way to go.
For two full minutes, there's an uncomfortable silence in the room.
Woman in her 60s/70s: And they start earlier and earlier each year with the decorations and the music and all. This year our Sears had their Christmas stuff out the first week of November. First week of November! Used to be, the Christmas stuff went out after Thanksgiving. That's the way it should be. What the hell do you need it out there for months and months. Next thing you know they'll be putting it out before the kids go back to school. And for what? It's all over so quick, anyway (Shakes her head and takes a long, loud swig of her 7&7).
Man in his 20s/30s: It didn't seem any earlier ....
Man in his 50s: It's a scam is what it is. The longer they have you looking at all this goddamn stuff, the more stuff you end up buying. Even when they can't afford it .... they just put it on a damn credit card. No wonder this country is in the shape it's in. I was over at the Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, and these fools are pushing around these giant carts that are just filled to the brim with lots and lots of junk. That's what it is ... useless junk. Oh, and don't get me started on what these corporations are trying to do to our Christmas. I was walking out of the store, and the man at the door stopped me and said, "Happy Holidays to you, Sir!" I says, "Happy Holidays yourself, pal! This is Christmas. You hear me? Merry Christmas is what you say to folks around here. I don't care what those suits tell you ... Christmas is what we're celebrating here and don't forget it." Then I stormed right outta there (Shakes his head and takes a long drink from his beer).
Woman in her 60s/70s: (Tilts her head in the direction of the man in his 20s/30s) It's your folks over in Washington that are doing it, you know? So damn worried about offending people, our government is. Don't get me wrong, I have a girlfriend that's Jewish, and we got some of those folks who wear the things over their faces ... what they do they call themselves?
Man in his 20s/30s: Muslims?
Man in his 50s: Terrorists is what those people are.
Woman in her 60s/70s: Right, Muslims. Why do I always forget that. Anyway, my point is ... they're so damn worried about making sure no one gets offended, they're gonna take the Christ right out of Christmas. You mark my words. It's gonna happen. I just hope I'm dead and buried before they ever do, though, I tell you that (Shakes her head and takes another long, loud swig of her 7&7).
Another uncomfortable lull in the conversation takes place.
Woman in her 60s/70s: (pointing toward the direction of the kitchen) Who's that colored fella over there?
Man in his 20s/30s: I don't think you're supposed to call people col...
Man in his 50s: That guy. That's Lisa's daughter's "friend." Word is, Lisa's daughter's been known to run around with all types.
Woman in her 60s/70s: I guess it must be how she was raised.
Man in his 50s: Hmm (Shakes his head and takes a long sip from his beer).
Woman in her 60s/70s: Hmm (Shakes her head and takes a long, loud swig of her 7&7).
Man in his 20s/30s: Excuse me, I'm gonna go get a drink.