For the last several years, I’ve basically been boycotting Christmas. With the single exception of my son, I’m done buying gifts for anyone at Christmastime and I don’t want anyone getting anything for me either. I’m not a Christian. I’m a grown man with his very own job and in general if I want something I can get it for myself. The fact that the right wing has managed to make how I greet people during December into a shibboleth doesn’t help, either. Fuck it, all of it. I’m out.
My mother has had… some trouble with this concept.
I’ve tried to redirect her always-considerable Christmas energies (my list of “what I got” when I was a kid was regularly two or three times as long as anybody else’s, and we were never rich– Mom just really prioritized Christmas) away from my wife and I and toward my son, but “No, really, don’t get me anything” hasn’t sunk in. She’s still getting me things, although I’ve gotten her to tone it down to one or two smaller gifts. This year it was a Barnes and Noble gift card. Just that. And she practically begged me to use it.
I should not be surprised that my mother knows my weak spots. Okay, fine, I’ll bend my principles and go get some free books, geez.
She also got my wife a card, and my son had some free-floating cash around, so we piled into the car yesterday to go to Barnes and Noble, and Christ if I wasn’t reminded yet again why I get every damn thing I read from Amazon now. I used to shop at Barnes and Noble all the time and then they moved their store to the mall, and since then damn near every time I walk into the place it generates a blog post. The mall is seven million miles away and the weather was absolute shit yesterday and the crowds and the parking lot and jesus why the hell am I doing this to myself and my family.
A brief diversion: I have, for the last couple of years, been trying to aggressively diversify my reading, if not in subject matter than at least in terms of the authors I’m reading. I’m always on the lookout for new authors, and in particular I’ve been trying to focus on women authors and authors of color for the last couple of years. I wrote my top 10 books of the year post yesterday, and while part of me looked at it and went yeah, mission accomplished— eight of the eleven books were by women– another part of me noticed how blindingly white the list was. Nine out of the ten authors. In other words, white women, specifically, appear to be the beneficiary of this policy.
Okay, cool. So this year I focus more on authors of color, right?(*)
Y’all have any idea how hard it is to find authors of color in the science fiction/fantasy section at Barnes and Noble? Way harder than I thought it was going to be. I started by going through my Amazon wish list and trying to find some of those books. No luck on 90% of them. I wanted to just scan through the new books, but they’ve gotten rid of that section in SF&F recently and everything is spine-out now. Okay, start looking for authors with visibly ethnic-sounding names and/or using initials instead of first names, which is generally code for “woman author.” No luck. Hell, just finding books by women was difficult enough.
I mean, I eventually found three books, two from my wish list and one that I literally grabbed because I’ve heard of Wesley Chu and he’s Asian and I’ve never read anything by him. But the whole process was unpleasant and took much longer than it ought to have. Turns out discovery of new books is kinda complicated if all you have is the spine and the author’s name to go on.
And then we got up to the counter and the salesperson gave my wife her spiel about the membership card. And we’re cool with that! It’s your job, you go do it. And then I got called over by the salesperson next to her and she did the same thing, and my son made it obvious that he was standing in between his parents and the first lady realized we were together. And I didn’t have a card either, because the card costs $30 annually and I really don’t spend the $300+ every year it would take to make the card worth it at Barnes and Noble any more. I’m not arbitrarily adding $30 to my sale so that I can save money $300 worth of purchases later.
So she leans over to me and snarks, again, in a really shitty sort of tone, “You’d have saved nearly half the cost of the card already if you joined up!” And it’s at this point where you’re no longer just doing your job and you’re kind of being an asshole. I already said I don’t want your card. You’ve had the card for years. I get it. I have to spend $300 before I save any money and I’m not going to.
I opened my mouth, and alternate-universe me snapped “If I wanted to save money I’d have bought this shit from Amazon” back at her. This-universe me, luckily, has a bit more sense and just said “No, thanks” again and we left, driving another seven million miles in snow and over ice to get back home, and I resolved to let the Goddamn post office do the driving for me from now on. Because I’m in sales right now and I’ve worked a register plenty of times before and I try my very hardest to never be anything but perfectly nice to anyone on the other side of a register from me.
So quit making me work at it.
Also, lady? Did you notice we were buying with gift cards? Somebody else already spent that money. I’m not getting your loyalty card today. Between the two of us we got five or six books for like $10 and I don’t care about your card right now.
(*) Miss me with it if you have any plan to quibble with how I arrange my reading, okay? There are millions of books out there and I can’t read all of them, so I’ll use whatever the fuck criteria I want to decide which ones I spend my time on. Thanks.