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Bah Humbug, Not

CD Knowles 6 months ago

Dear Knowles,

I don’t mean to be bah humbug, but I find Christmas to be one of the most difficult holidays of the year. When it was just me, my kids and husband I adored it, but now the kids are all married so we have multiplied from a family of four to a family of eight (not including my husband or myself). Each of my kid’s spouses expects a well-thought-out gift handpicked personally for them. I’d just as soon give them gift cards, but that won’t fly and so I have to schlep to the stores to get ideas (cruising around online doesn’t do much for my imagination). Not knowing the partners well makes the gift buying all that more difficult, a chore that has brought on tremendous anxiety and makes me dread a season that’s supposed to be joyous. My question to you is: a) how do I switch to gift cards without bringing on WWIII and b) would it be wrong for my husband and me to skip the whole goddamn thing and take off for Tahiti or Thailand or someplace where our kids can’t find us? Merry Christmas to you, Knowles.


Bah Humbug, Not

bah humbug

Dear Bah Humbug,

I hear you loud and clear. And you, as a kind of matriarch, should have exactly the Christmas you want. Announce to everyone in the family that they will be getting gift cards, period, finish and out, and that you don’t expect to hear grumbling and complaining. Gift cards to them is a gift to you. Another possibility, however, is that they let you know well ahead of time exactly what they want so that you can go out and shop for them without anxiety. If they don’t let you know, they receive a gift card, which I see as very fair. A third possibility, of course, is that you skip Christmas altogether but that really might start WWIII. Here’s a refrain that a wise teacher once told me: “You’re free and you can do what you want.” I suggest you repeat that as a mantra several times a day till you actually feel it.

All the best to you,

CD Knowles




Dear Clueless,

If you set up a buffet, people could serve themselves and sit wherever they want. That way you could avoid the nightmare of having to arrange seating. And it leads to a more friendly, less stiff and formal party. I’ve done it both ways, so believe me I know.

Harriet K., Des Moines, IA


Dear Clueless,

Figuring out seating is like working a puzzle, made all the more delicious by the fact that you hold the fates of your guests in your hands for a few hours. Who knows? Love could flare or matches be broken all because of who you choose to sit next to who. Think of it as an adventure and enjoy!

Marcus P., Los Angeles, CA


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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.

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