There's a reason why January 6 is referred to as the Epiphany; at that point, most people come to the startling revelation that there's a big dead tree in their house, and it's covered in live electrical wires. Tannenbaums are all about festivity and warmth and glee as Christmas nears, but in the bleak light of post-holiday empiricism, they look ridiculous and pathetic, like a 40-year-old at a house party. So out to the compost it goes, along with most of the holiday cards.
After I gathered our cards from around the living room and gave them a last thumb-through, I noticed that almost no one included a picture of him- or herself. Instead, all the pictures were of children (or failing that, dogs in sweaters). Then I went to my parents' house for Christmas II (Electric Boogaloo)--multiple Christmases being a nice perk of geographically diverse grandparents--and their card collection was resplendent with buck teeth, cowlicks, freckles, and matching red gingham dresses. But not an adult in sight.
Listen, friends. If you sent my family a Christmas card (or in our case a New Year's card, since we never place our Shutterfly order until December 24), thank you. It's great to know that you're 1) still alive and 2) not quivering in a ball on the floor, praying for the pain to end. But you are my friends, not your kids. In many respects, I've never even met your kids. So I'm not all that impressed if they've managed to increase in mass this year. I might have guessed that already.
When you send me a card, I want to see what you look like. I need evidence that my friends, whom I care for deeply, are decomposing as alarmingly as I am. I want to see cracked teeth, mange, incipient jowls, translucent skin, paunches, premature grays, gingivitis, moobs, wrinkles, ear hair, surgical scars, as well as a general look of fatigue/malaise, just so I know I'm not the only parent of young children who looks like the picture of Dorian Gray.
Will my wife and I share a private chortle at your expense? Possibly. But I'll also miss you all the more, perhaps enough to make contact and set up travel plans, so we can have a beer and compare hairlines in person. And isn't that what true friendship is all about?