I’m cringing a little bit as I realize that I’m about to write about this. I don’t think I truly have anything to lose—my flickering scraps of dignity are scattering day by day—so maybe it’s empowering and freeing? Mom, never read this.
Red alert, I’m not going to be naming the thing that this essay is about because some of those flickering scraps of dignity came floating back, so I will be referring to it as a “Christmas present.” Sorry, Christians? You’re welcome, Jews?
“Did you do it yet?”
I’m inside the bathroom stall, angling the camera high to capture the best the fluorescent light has to offer. Trying to make it look big but not too big, trying to make my Christmas present look natural, casual and effortless.
“I can’t do it with you guys right outside,” I hiss back, pulling up my gym shorts and opening the bathroom stall. My friends are standing—two of them—outside of the bathroom stall. I’m the first of us to send a Christmas present to a stranger, so this is a communal experience.
But sending a Christmas present while your friends stand two feet away is about as sexy as blowing your nose in a stranger’s jacket at Whole Food’s. It’s also not very conducive for getting the deed done quickly and efficiently.
“I can’t get it…wrapped…if you guys are right outside,” I tell them, retreating back into the stall. Trying to keep everything looking presentable, while getting the lighting and angle right, this is more pressure than it’s worth.
My friends quiet down and exit our dorm bathroom. I breathe deeply, my brain narrowing down to a fine focal point.
Calm. Zen. Don’t think too hard about it. Don’t say the word “hard.” Don’t make yourself laugh. Laughing isn’t sexy, or sexy-adjacent. Oh god, now I’m thinking about laughing. I can’t focus.
My muscles are practically in spasm from maintaining the position for so long. Should I use the Grindr app? Should I do it on my camera? Do I have Photostream on? Oh my god, I hope not. Oh my god, is my iCloud on? Should I do a Polaroid?
The bathroom door—the main one, not the stall—swings open, and my nerves are aflame, camera app open. Soft footfalls.
“Did you do it yet?”
“FUCK.” I yank up my pants, even though there’s a good inch of solid metal—hanging slightly wonkily—between us. “GET OUT.”
Ten minutes, two pep talks and one Zen meditation later, I emerge victorious and mentally exhausted.
“Can you send me one?” my friend Luna asks, a year later when I’m telling her the story. I stop short.
“Um, I guess?”
Sending a platonic Christmas present to a friend is like having someone grade me on private blog posts. I mean, it’s good to have an outside opinion but some things are like just for personal lil ole me so don’t crush my soul, maybe?
Sending Luna a platonic Christmas present was literally the hardest—don’t—thing I’ve ever had to do. Nothing is as unsexy as sending something like that platonically purely for curiosity.
“Delete it RIGHT AFTER,” I text her alongside the present.
“For sure!” she texts back.
She doesn’t delete it, and I don’t even feel betrayed because I ending up showing the Christmas present to all of my friends—sans Marco, because we’re trying to not destroy our friendship—on the last night of sophomore year. At this point, we’re so close that it’s not even weird. These are the people I’ve mooned multiple times in semi-public places and countless times in private places.
The girls of our friend groups send “Chanukah menorahs”—omg, sorry Judaism!—and the boys send Christmas presents and afterwards everyone has been thoroughly desexualized.
*peers around from behind closed door*
Hey y’all! Do I have any readers left? Just the pervs and the serial killers? Great, my target demographic. I’m glad we’ve weeded out the weaklings.
But seriously guys, let’s not pretend that none of us have done something stupid or rash or something stupid that ended up giving us a rash.
I like showing my friends Christmas presents because I think it takes both the stigma and the nerves out of it. Like, I’m not a fucking nudist, but why do we take things so seriously? Note, this is not an invitation to send me platonic Christmas presents. Please, I’m not a heathen. Just some side-boob. I’m elegant.
Oh my god I’m literally laughing to myself because this post was such a fucking mistake but I’m gonna publish it anyway because I’m too lazy to think of something else. You guys, oh my god.
But more importantly, did they use to send Christmas presents on Polaroids? Or, even more importantly, something older? Those cameras where you had to duck underneath the curtain? Or an etching, a la Paul Revere’s Boston Massacre etching of 1770? Am I seriously making this into a history lesson?
The only things my “Christmas present” and Paul Revere’s Boston Massacre etching have in common are the fact that both were made in Boston and both portray British people in a bad light.
This post has gone as far as it possibly can. Bye!