The holidays are a time when all of our emotions the good, the bad and the ugly run perilously high.
And jealousy is no exception.
The combination of family, free time and shoppingoverload creates a petri dish where everyday jealousy can grow into something monstrous.
Pretty soon, youre narrowing your cold, dead eyes at every mothers child, fuming over how much better you imagine the holidays are treating them.
Here are five seasonal jealousy traps and somecrucial advice on how to break out of them:
Trap 1: Christmas Party FOMO
While scrolling through your Instagram feed, youre starting to feel like your friends got invited to a superior class of holiday parties.
Eleanor from Pilates is sipping an eggnog martini on a yacht, Sheila from next door is getting photobombed by Jason Mantzoukas and Tom from accounting seems to be attending some kind of luau, doing Mai-Tai body shots off a 3D-printed duplicate of himself.
Meanwhile, youre stuck at some low-rent party in the suburbs where the signature drink is Kirkland brand pinot noir, the medianage is 52 and there are several sickly dogs roaming around.
You might start questioning your own value.
Why were you denied access to the beautiful people parties?
Are you not a beautiful person?
Are you a social pariah who is doomed to hang out with sicklydogs for the rest of your natural life?
Solution: Remind yourself nobody at those cool parties is actually having fun.
Cool parties are far too crowded, which means you’ll spend the whole night standing in line, whether it’s for the bar, the bathroom or the overrated food truck theyve hired.
Theyre also incredibly loud, so youll end up smiling and nodding a lot, and your willingness (or lack of) to engage in totally incomprehensible conversations with people you thought were your friends will make you realizehow little you care about what they have to say.
Thiswill, in turn, depress the hell out of you.
And cool parties are so homogenous; theyve got all the same trappings, and they hit all the same beats.
Janky parties may be janky, but at least they have character.
If youre sitting on a ratty sectional sofa playing Catch Phrase, and the host calls a time out because she has to go drain the tumors on three of her dogs, thats really something.
Maybe its not glamorous or conventionally fun, but it offers a totally idiosyncratic Christmas memory that will amuse (or haunt) you for years to come.
Trap 2: You wish you were a gift-giving superstar.
We all know that woman yes, she’s typically a woman who always gives the perfect gift.
Sheknocks it out of the park every goddamn time.
Its because shes been listening all year long.
Shes had her gifting antennae up, picking upany little mention of what her future recipients might want.
She was listening back in May when Tom from accounting muttered something about needing new garden loppers.
So come December, whenshe gives Tom those loppers, he feels so deeply understood that he ends up weeping openly in front of the entire office staff.
All you gave him was a PF Chang’s BOGO discount card.
He was unmoved.
Solution: Focus on creating your own distinct gift-giving brand.
Look, youre never going to beat that gift-giving virtuoso at her own game, which is to play it straight and attempt to placate the recipient.
Why not reject the idea of giving personalized gifts entirely?
Give everyone the same thing, and make that thing a showpiece.
Become that guy who gives everyone in the office a Royal Dansk cookie tin covered in lotto scratchers.
You will be admired for your renegade style, and after a few years of committing to the cookies and scratchers gift gag, everyone will have forgotten you were once infamously terrible at buying appropriate presents.
Trap 3: It seems like everyone else has a special someone, and youre all alone.
If youre not coupled up this time of year, the loneliness can swallow you whole.
Christmas culture loves love, so images of romantic partners nuzzling under light snowfall are everywhere.
That’s all well and good for those in relationships, but for the unwilling singles among us, this creates an emotional minefield where catching the end of a Kay Jewelers’ commercial can trigger a depressive spiral that will likely end in sobbing.
Solution: Remind yourself that non-romantic relationships are less problematic during the holidays.
You dont need to be sharing a bed or a bank account with someone to have a happy, social Christmas.
Meet your friends for drinks, use your extra free time to Skype with family members and never underestimate the connective power of the pet-owner relationship.
Stare into the wide, limpid eyes of your dog, cat or gecko, and remind yourself that you are definitely not alone because here is a creature who would literally drop dead if itweren’tfor you.
Also, its easy to forget that being coupled up onChristmas isnt exactly a pleasure cruise.
There are disputes over money, disputes over how much time will be spent with whose family and disputes over which goofy pose to strike for the annual Christmas card.
Seasonal togetherness can be a real bitch.
Trap 4: It seems like everyone but you is traveling to some exotic locale for the holidays.
The breakroom is abuzz with talk of Christmas travel destinations.
There are lots of backdoor brags about how crazy stressful it is to arrange visas for Laos, or how difficult it is to know how to pack for the sophisticated alpine fashion scene at Chamonix.
Meanwhile, the most exotic place youre bound for this season is your boyfriends uncles double-wide outside of Rochester.
Solution: Resolve to be an armchair world traveler this Christmas.
Stack another log on the fire, curl up on the couch and queue up an episode or seven of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”
Youll probably end up learning more about the culture and cuisine of Borneo than your friends who actually went to Borneo, as boots-on-the-ground travel is exhausting, disorienting and doesnt come with Bourdains irreverently informative commentary.
And ifirreverence isnt your thing, why not click over to PBS, which will surely be airing a “Rick Steves’ Europe” marathon.
Watch the gentle Rickas he tours small towns in Normandy, and listen to his honeyed voiceover as he explains how Calvados is made.
Maybe even try mixing your own Calvados cocktail?
Next, imagine what would happen if Rick Steves and Anthony Bourdain collaborated on a new travel show.
What kind of conflict would be generated by such opposed personalities?
Maybe they could compete as a team on some high-octane spin-off version of “The Amazing Race?”
Try writing to CBS Headquarters and pitch the producers this idea.
Call it “Amazing Race: Masters.”
They’ll green-light it immediately and reward you handsomely.
Look at how much fun youve had on your staycation.
Meanwhile, those friends of yours were getting giardia in Laos.
Trap 5: Youre envious of the charities your parents are donating to.
Only a few years ago, when your career hadnt yet taken off and you were living hand-to-mouth on a baristas salary, your parents used to write you fat checks at Christmas.
Now that youre on your feet, they give you sensible grown-up gifts, like a nice watch or a Le Creuset saucepan.
As for those fat checks, now theyre making them out to their favorite charities, like Oxfam or their local NPR affiliate.
Deep down, you know you should be heartened by your parents benevolent spirit, but you cant help but feel somewhat jealous.
Just because you arent teetering on the edge of bankruptcy anymore doesnt mean you couldnt use that $200 Oxfam is getting.
Or maybe, your parents have volunteered to buy presents for a disadvantaged youth.
You tag along withthem to Target to find the items ananonymous child has written on her modest list: pink jeans, a jewelry-making kit and a plush talking koala.
You think about how they used to shop for you with such care and purpose.
Now they just ask you what youd like in the $80 price range, hit click and call it a day.
Dont they love you anymore?
Solution: Get over yourself.
You’re being dumb.
Of course your parents still love you.
And Oxfam will make much better use of that $200.