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Elf Guilt: a Christmas Tradition

A Look Into the Dark Underbelly of a Holiday Phenomenon

      Let me put you at ease regarding your purchase: I don’t think you’re a racist.

     But I do think you’re wasting $29.95. 

    It’s a stupid purchase, this magical little creature.  And creepy.  Look at it.  Really.  I want you to look into his dead little eyes.  Sitting there like he owns the place.  He won’t even look you in the eye will he?  Always off to the side, the shady little bastard, until you look away and then!  Goddamnit, just out of the corner of your eye, just as you looked away, or were distracted.  Maybe as you were dozing off, there it was: he moved.  You swear his eyes moved.  It must have been.  It must have been because he’s watching you and he’s watching your children.  He’s always watching.  When you go to bed he goes through your underwear drawer and rifles through your wallet, he raids the liquor cabinet.  He watches you sleep.  You have invited him into your home.  There is no escape.  He is… the Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf Watching You

      It never gets old.  I will say that about the Elf or at least what I think of as our Elf tradition.  This treasured tradition is the pure discomfort on their faces when they have to ask this question.  They really feel bad.  They feel like they’re doing something wrong.  You can tell the ones; they have an Elf on the Shelf box in their hands but they’re not looking at it.  It’s held low in front of them and their eyes are watching the other customers around them.  They feel genuinely guilty about the question they’re going to ask me.  It’s adorable.

      It’s known professionally as Elf Guilt*, but I’m here to tell you not to be ashamed.  You have nothing to apologize for.  I’m here to tell you it’s OK. 

      Say it with me, “It is OK.”

*     *     *

      “Um, hi, excuse me.  You… you work here, right?” the customer asks in a hushed tone, after she motions me a few feet away from the rest of the customers milling around the customer service counter.  Sometimes there’s a little wave, quick enough so no one sees the gesture, but enough to get me to move away from the crowd.

      “Yes,” I respond simply.  

     After all, I have a name tag on.  I have books in my hand.  Also, you just watched me help six other customers while answering the phone and trying not to trip over a cane some old man inexplicably left in the store.  I shouldn’t have to answer this question.  Why would I be doing this if I didn’t work here?  But I answer.

      “Do you…” she holds up an Elf on the Shelf box, her trembling hands keeping the flap closed tight, completely oblivious to the fact the top of the box is transparent, “do you have… a white one?”

      I look at her a moment, the faintest of smirks tugs at my lips.  I remain silent just long enough that she shuffles her feet and looks way.  I can’t help it.  I work retail during the holidays.  That’s a special kind of hell and some days, this is all I have.

      “Of course,” I say finally, breaking into my customer service smile, “right over here.”

      By the way, there are elves everywhere.  Te seconds of you opening your eyes between the front doors and the service desk could have avoided this situation entirely.  There’s a mountain of Elf boxes in the front windows.  There’s another mountain two steps inside the front door.  I can see a third mountain from the service desk.  That’s how many of these things we get in.  We built a mountain.  No, we built several mountains.  One store made their pile of elf boxes into the shape of a twelve feet tall Christmas tree.  Mount Elferest up front is one of at least six places those little bastards are on display.  I can see two of those locations from where we’re standing. 

      Yeah, lady, we got elves.  All right, you toe the ground and act embarrassed.  I’ll take you over to them.  And don’t worry, we have plenty of whiteys for you.

*     *     *

Elf on the Shelf with Jerseys copy      You do know there’s nothing wrong with wanting a white Elf, don’t you?  I mean, you’re white and your kids are white.  So, it’s OK.  That’s why there are light-skinned and dark-skinned ones.  Because it’s OK.  It’s OK to want a light- or dark-skinned elf for the same reason that we have boy elves and girl elves. 

     Shit, you could buy a skirt and slap that on an old boy elf you have because you’re cheap or want to teach your kid a lesson about sexual identity.  Buy a skirt and a football jersey, you filthy liberal.  You’re already scarring your child by bringing the damn thing into your house, why not tear down those gender biases while you’re at it?  On second thought, you probably don’t even need the skirt to raise a few questions….

      It’s a brave new world people, and you shouldn’t feel trapped in your choice of terrifying behavior modification merchandise.  I want you to feel free to buy whatever color elf you want, in any gender and with any stupid designer accessory brought to you exclusively by the Claus Couture Collection.  Yeah, that exists.  There are ugly sweaters, felt skirts, leather skirts, bomber jackets, football jerseys.  Take your pick, you sick bastard.

      So to all of you suburban housewives with your self-indulgent guilt fixations who need to buy a creepy, poorly made doll that looks like it stepped out of the 1970s in a futile attempt to control your spoiled child’s behavior, I just want to say, it’s OK to want a white Elf on the Shelf.  Don’t be ashamed.  You don’t need to act like a Cold War spy dead-dropping nuclear secrets just to ask where all the white dolls are at.  No one who might overhear you asking cares that you want a white doll.  No one cares that you’re an elf racist.  I’m just kidding; you’re not an elf racist.  Because that’s not a thing.

      Unless you think the dark-skinned elf is going to steal your stuff after you go to bed.  Then we have a problem on multiple levels.



*It’s not known professionally or otherwise as Elf Guilt.  I just made that up.  Feel free to use it.

the Circle-Jerk of Life / part 2

        Besides, we like animals better then people.  Especially anthropomorphic animals—they’re so clever, aren’t they? 

some people .. like anthropomorphism more than others

        I watched a woman drag her screaming crying child across a parking lot to her car once, practically wrenching the little girl’s arm out of its socket, screaming—pure banshee having her internal organs removed without anesthesia screaming—at this little four year old the entire time to shut her mouth. 

        Kid gets locked in the backseat of the minivan while the woman pulls her little yappy terrier-Pomeranian-Scotty whatever the fuck stupid little dog, and coos and sweet talks to it as the thing takes a shit in the parking lot. 

        The whole time this little girl is crying, screaming for her mother, whom she probably thinks just abandoned her, and this fat bitch is googoogaga talking her doggie about how “oh my god you made such good poopies—yes you did—you made poopies—good job!”

        This woman had infinite patience for her stupid dog, that thing could have shit on her face—no, wait, she’s probably into that—so it could have blown just-got-into-the-garbage explosive doggie shits all over the inside of that car and she probably would have rushed it to the vet to make sure Mommy’s Little Snookums didn’t have a tummy ache.  And while Snookums was in the vet, the little girl would probably be left in that rotting shit covered minivan.

        And all that little girl wanted was a coloring book.  Got a dislocated shoulder instead.  And then got slapped for crying about that.

        Do you know why?  Because despite only being four that little girl is human, and therefore is viewed as intelligent, but that little dog?  No, that little dog just doesn’t know any better.  Its sweet and stupid, so innocently oblivious.  Unlike that little girl, who fucking knows better.  Not should know better—no she does, she knows better.  She’s doing this on purpose.

you don’t get between a child and their coloring book

        A coloring book?  How dare she hope to express her childish desires by coloring!  Little bitch.  She probably won’t even stay inside the lines, and do you know what that is?  It’s not being sloppy, or childish, it’s disrespectful.  How much was the coloring book?  $3.95?  You think money grows on trees?

        Kids.  Running around like they don’t know any better.  Like what?  Like you’re  supposed to teach them how to act, how to behave.  Teach them?  How ridiculous.  You’re parents, not teachers, that isn’t your job. 

        When did we start caring more about pets then children?  When did it become normal to chastise a toddler into never-ending psychological insecurities simply for being a child while displaying unending patience and sweet baby talk for a fucking quadruped?

        Now, I’ve been misunderstood here as meaning that child should be showered with gifts and coddled and sweet-talked to end her tantrums.  That’s not what I’m saying.  I vaguely remember being a child, and I remember throwing epic tantrums.  And I remember getting punished.

        I’m not advocating rewarding bad behavior.  I’m all for ripping that kid out of the store when they won’t heed repeated verbal warnings or a spanking if things get out of hand.  Yeah, a spanking—oh no, child abuse!  I didn’t tell you smother your kid with a chloroform-soaked Care Bears pillow to get them to sleep, or recommend shaking your baby to stop them from crying. Its a spanking, get over it.

You knew the consequences of your actions---I warned you, I warned you in my mind

        Now, I’m not saying that little girl deserved a coloring book because she was crying, or that her mother wasn’t justified in pulling her out of the store without one.  I’m sure that girl was being a little brat and should have been taken home without anything at all.  I’m not telling parents to heap rewards upon their children regardless of behavior, or more so for bad behavior.  I’m not telling parents anything, actually because, really, what the fuck to I know about child-rearing?

        My objection was that this mother treated the family pet with more dignity than her own offspring.   I don’t object to the child being removed from the store without the object of her desires, but the manner in which the woman did so, juxtaposed by her treatment of the dog moments later.

You gonna turn the car around? That's going to teach him to stop kicking your seat? I think not...

        Don’t get me wrong, I love bullying little kids.  I’m not a big guy—there really aren’t many people I can intimidate, so when I have the chance to browbeat another human being (OK, six year old), I’m going to take it.  Kids and homeless people.  Well, homeless people when I’m drunk, sober hobo fighting is just sad.

     I’m not saying it’s OK, but I’m not the kid’s parent.  There’s tough love, there’s strict parenting, and then there’s just being a dick. 

       Maybe if kids started shitting on the carpet instead of in diapers?  Diapers?  Really?

        Who do they think they are?


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