Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sweating the Ugly (Christmas) Stuff

January 6, 2013. The 12th day of Christmas for those who are keeping track. The end of the holiday season.

Christmas trees are migrating curbside, each night fewer and fewer lighting displays are lit, the “return only” lanes at the stores are coming down, New Year's resolutions are dropping like flies and Ugly Christmas Sweaters are being stowed away for the season.

Or burned.

But I don't think we could get that lucky. Most likely those tacky, gaudy, be-jeweled, jingle-belled, glitter-dusted and just plain or plaid ugly monstrosities are being laundered, folded and tucked away between the stockings and tree skirts to await another holiday season.

We bought the Princess's first official Ugly Christmas Sweater this year. “Official” as in we bought it specifically because we thought it was ugly, not “official” as in we bought it off the “Ugly Christmas Sweaters!” rack at Goodwill. In fact, I felt kind of bad when we bought it – brand new – at the discount store (which ends in “-Mart” but doesn't start with “Wal,” K?), because I was pretty sure I saw someone wearing it at a Christmas party the week before.

I should point out this sighting did not take place at an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. Not a designated Ugly Sweater Party, anyway. But there does seem to be a certain age and sex demographic (60+, female) that is prone to wearing non-intentionally Ugly Christmas Sweaters. There is a fine line between festive and ugly, and attendees at nursing home Christmas parties tend to teeter along that line.

Spending perfectly good money on something the Princess has declared “ugly” goes against every bone in my penny-pinching body. I wasn't even swayed by the argument that “everyone else” had already bought their Ugly Christmas Sweater. The decision to buy the Princess her very own UCS came down to one thing:

I wanted to save myself from certain embarrassment.

The Princess had UCS on the brain, and every time she saw one she felt the need to point it out.

“That reminds me. I need to get an Ugly Christmas Sweater,” she would excitedly whisper. Since I usually replied “WHAT?” in a loud voice and immediately turned to look at the sweater, I figured It was only a matter of time before someone took offense.

I know what it's like to have someone think that your sweater (a sweater which you thought was an OK looking, maybe even a pretty cute sweater) is an Ugly Christmas Sweater, because last year the Princess picked out one of my favorite sweaters and asked if she could wear it for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day at school.


Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I know I'm not the only mom who had that happen to her.

I know that it is impossible for the Princess and I – for any mom and their teenage daughter – to agree on the attractiveness of clothing.

Furthermore, I know that I have some Sweaters of Questionable Attractiveness. I even dug through my sweater pile to come up with a sweater we both thought was unattractive. I didn't think it was that ugly, but it was a gift and hey- what the heck, I didn't pick it out, so maybe it was a little bit on the not-cute side.

But the Princess's first choice – my favorite sweater – was most definitely NOT an Ugly Christmas Sweater. It's a subtle grey, black and dark red striped, knit sweater, with a Nordic ski-style, horizontal band of big snowflakes across the chest. There are no elves, reindeer, Santas, gingerbread men, trees, angels, bells, plaids, or glitter anywhere on it. None of the typical Ugly Christmas Sweater hallmarks.

It's not even a Christmas sweater, really. It's just a sweater. A sweater that I wear in the winter. Which is when Christmas happens to take place.

Not. An Ugly. Christmas. Sweater.

I was reminded of all this today because I wore that formerly-favorite, now of-Questionable-Attractiveness, sweater for the first time this winter.

When I looked at myself in the mirror, the sweater looked kind of... ugly. The knit is starting to pill from being washed and dried. It has shrunk in that weird way sweaters do, so that the sleeves are too short but the body too wide. And that horizontal band of snowflakes? Not helping the appearance of width.

I'm thinking it's time to wash it up and donate it to Goodwill.

Or maybe I'll just save us all the trouble and I'll pack it away for next year's Ugly Christmas Sweater parties.