Friday, December 27, 2013

Family Christmas pictures & the pressures to appear perfect

I think sociologists studying the subject could today divide American families into two camps: one represented by The Waltons, the other by Charles Manson.

You may have seen most of the former posting lovely Christmas pictures on Facebook.

You’re probably like me in that you’re Facebook friends with people who have families that are gorgeous enough to model for magazines like “Good Housekeeping.”

The kids are beautiful and the parents seem to exude a warm wisdom I couldn’t muster masquerading as Bill Cosby.

I look at these pictures and think, gee, a family that gorgeous couldn’t possibly have any real world problems.

Surely, the kids don’t sass, the parents are never at odds and they live in a house where the plumbing never malfunctions and the dog’s farts are as aromatic as breezes on beaches.

I love my family, but part of me wishes you’d all invite me to join yours.

And I don’t mean in a surrogate parenting role. I’m talking about you letting me move in with you to maybe a room above the garage where I can come and play with your kids when they get home from school and then after dinner drink beer with you until the credits roll on the last of the “Seinfeld” re-runs.

See, I wonder if mine is a Manson Family.

We take what I think is a nice picture, too. In fact, a couple of years ago I strived to stir envy in my Facebook friends by posting a lovely Rodell family Christmas picture of me, Val and the precocious tots.

But I went for the obnoxious one-up by asking Arnold Palmer to be in it.

And he said yes!

So there we are looking like a lovely American family who happens to be chummy with one of the world’s most famous and beloved men.

I’m sure distant friends of mine saw that and said, “Wow. Will you look at this? That Rodell kid I knew from 4th grade wound up marrying a real babe and having two beautiful daughters. And he’s buddies with Arnold Palmer. Oh, well. I’ll bet he’s still a booger-eating moron.”

But what people couldn’t discern from the picture was the instant after it was snapped the daughters resumed their habitual ridiculing of me, my wife was again lamenting she married a man who answers “Blog!” when asked what he does for a living and that Palmer said, “Who are these people and how did they get in my house?”

In real life, we’re way more Manson than our pictures let on.

There’s too much pressure to be perfect, especially this time of year. It’s one reason why the Festivus phenomenon is only going to get bigger. People resent many of the overbearing trappings of our most over-commercialized mega-holiday.

Maybe next year I’ll strike a blow for imperfection by posting a warts ‘n’ all  picture of me in my shabby clothes with bloodshot eyes and my family looking at me in various stages of contempt. I’ll be sitting behind the wheel of my broken down vehicle and displaying a copy of my latest bank statement.

It’ll be my Christmas gift to anyone feeling like they’re struggling to measure up.

I think it’s healthy for us as a society to every once in a while let the curtain fall so everyone can see how much we all have in common.

We all have money woes, family difficulties and concerns that our precarious occupational situations might suddenly go poof.

Nobody’s perfect and it’s okay to expose our flaws.

And I promise flaws are the only things I’ll expose if my family ever gets tired of all mine and I have to come and live in that room up above your garage.

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