Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Stop. Please, Just Stop.

The secret to eternal happiness is to never wish to be anywhere but where you are. Wherever you are, embrace it fully. Say yes to it unreservedly. For there is nothing more foolish than fighting the reality of what is.


If you do not like something, change it. If you cannot change it, change your attitude. Do not complain.

--Maya Angelou


For me, one of the single most annoying things about being in the service industry – more annoying than bad tips, rude guests, or loud children – is holiday music. Specifically, being forced to listen to holiday music six to eight hours a day for a month and a half straight. The normal music is bad enough; many years ago at one of my old jobs (before satellite radio) we had those cassette tapes that run on infinite loops, just replaying the same hour, hour-and-a-half of music over and over and over. One summer they replayed the same one tape for over a month straight; to this day I still can’t hear “Ironic” by Alanis Morisette without getting nauseous. But holiday music is in a class by itself. Part of it might be because I was raised Jewish, and so I really don’t have any fond memories associated with Christmas music (besides Vince Guaraldi's jazz score from “A Charlie Brown Christmas"). But I think the main reason is because Christmas music is almost universally shitty. “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” that awful, awful Paul McCartney song (“Simply, having, a wonderful Christmas time….”) and worst of all, “Jingle Bell Rock,” they all make me wretch. (“Jingle Bell Rock” I think deserves special mention just because of the way it lodges itself in your head, like a parasite burrowing underneath your skin, and you find yourself singing it – over and over). And the less said about that Barbara Streisand monstrosity (Jingle bells, jingle bells, jing, jangle! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jing, jangle!) the better. In my mind, there have really only been three good Christmas songs ever written: “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC, The Jackson 5 version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and Prince’s “Another Lonely Christmas” (which, if you’ve never heard it, is beautiful albeit immensely depressing). Even the reliably cynical John Lennon could not withstand the Christmas schmaltz – “So This Is Christmas” is one of his most annoyingly cloying songs (a children’s choir John? Really?).

So, every year, between the day after Thanksgiving and the end of the first week of January, I bitch. I bitch relentlessly, over and over -- “Not Jingle Bell Rock again!”, “God I hate Paul McCartney!” and so forth. But what can I do? The Christmas music certainly isn’t going anywhere (and, for the time being, neither am I), and the end result of being constantly annoyed is pretty much that I'm walking around feeling constantly annoyed. It’s really not a good feeling. So why do I bitch? What’s to be gained? If I'm completely honest with myself I think on some level I like being annoyed; having something to bitch about is a nice little boost for the ego, it's the ego's way of saying, “I’m better than this music,” or "If I was running the show things would be different" (we’d only be listening to ‘A Motown Christmas’ for one). But it still doesn't feel good. So, as an experiment, the other night I just stopped bitching. I stopped bitching and accepted unreservedly that awful, awful Christmas music that could not be escaped. When “Jingle Bell Rock” got stuck in my head, I sang it and let myself sing it – I made myself really get into it, just belted it out. And you know what? I wasn’t annoyed anymore. I actually found myself in a good mood – whistling “Rudolph” and everything. Like a lot of things in life, it was a trade off. I had to trade in my temporary feelings of superiority for being in a good mood, and I found being in a good mood is vastly more enjoyable. Now we'll just see if I can keep it up when Streisand comes on.