Ask G&G

Ditching Christmas

Holiday escapes, the monogram craze, and hangover cures

Illustration: BRITT SPENCER

Q: This year, we need out of the holiday rigmarole. Help!

I assume from the heartfelt time-off-for-good-behavior prison-release tone here that you traditionally have a lot of family over, but even if it’s only trudging through the bright hysteria of Costco and Walmart that’s giving you hives, exiting Xmas is still the Big One. We’re staunchly in favor of this kind of tectonic social shift, by the way—it keeps life fresh. There are a million ways to play it. You could just walk out of the house one afternoon, drive to the airport, stare at the departures board for a second, pick one, and…vámonos, baby. Otherwise, you’ve got three points to ponder. First, do you really want to stay in the country? Whether you actually set foot in the dread behemoth malls or not, the seasonal mass-consumption riots are pretty much the same in Little Rock as they are in Phoenix, Schenectady, or Seattle, which is to say, if you’re going to leave, make sure your passport is current, and leave, dammit. You’re missing Christmas, so do yourself a favor and don’t miss it by a mere domestic flight. Miss it by many thousands of miles.

If you can persuade your significant other that this is a good idea, two further choices to face: Do you want to don your best aloha shirt and do the irono-Xmas, as in the eco-villa in Costa Rica or the Seychelles, where anything referring to Santa or any of the trappings instantly becomes a joke? Or would you rather have a more classic Christmas, as the holiday in London would be? The city remains delightfully Dickensian at the season, if you’re inclined—there’s goose to be eaten, bonny caroling, and farthings to be passed out in church. As there is in the gorgeous Anglo-colonial city of Melbourne. But in Australia, it’s summer. Take a minute and apologize to all who expect you to host, but do yourself a favor and—as you are booking your sailboat in Melbourne—don’t worry about paying them back for bailing. Next Xmas is just around the corner.

Q: Where’s the line when it comes to monograms? His grill fork, their SUV’s rear window, the dog bed, maybe?

Wait, are you living next door to Mar-a-Lago? Never mind; you’re right, there is a line, and unfortunately, it’s yet another one that has fallen prey to the Age of the Vulgarians. The pathology of monogramming every object in the house and on the grounds is worth study, because, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta knows, it helps interdict the plague long term. Used to be, a monogram was a purposeful thing that helped keep stuff separate, as in, silver. When you inherited it, you knew which aunt it came from, and the monograms keep giving pleasure in the stories attached to those ancestors. In the days of steamer travel, the monogrammed wardrobe was practical—the initials kept your unmentionables separate from others’ in the ship’s laundry. All of which is a long way from a “monogrammed” SUV window, bringing us to the point: Monogramming once was a function of history and designation, not one of pure possession. Monogramming in the Age of the Vulgarians is strictly about reifying your ownership of whatever—a coffee tumbler, a tote bag, sandals. It’s the equivalent of starting every conversation with: Hey, this is mine, and by the way, did I tell you, this is mine? Sadly, you can’t change your neighbors. As the CDC would put it, they’re terminal.

Q: We’re heading to a wild New Year’s Eve party but have to catch a flight for a fishing trip the next morning. Tips?

These days, it’s heartening to see folks go whole hog to celebrate anything, so, first, kudos for not sending your regrets. The hope behind what we call Defensive Hangover Management™ is that you enjoy the party but are not slowed en route to the angling by the classic New Year’s Day affliction. Invented in the South several generations back, DHM requires the tactical application of diverse resources as you battle your way through the holiday meat grinder—namely, time, hot water, barbecue, hot sauce, and golf clubs. First, time: Imagine the entire forty-eight hours from the eve of New Year’s Eve to the evening of January 1 as one integrated unit, thus reducing the party to a five-hour fraction of the whole operational schema. On December 30, eat a leisurely dinner. Next morning, work out for two-plus hours. Whatever you like, just do it hard: Bike, swim, run, but best is golf. On your way home, pick up two pounds of good barbecue and that hot sauce. Late afternoon: Take a two-hour power nap, followed by stretches and a hot shower. Preparty, erect your defensive bulwark by downing three or four barbecue sandwiches. We recommend four. Finally: Should you decide to march through the bacchanal’s bitter end, remember that a well-made barbecue sandwich for breakfast is a bracing kickoff to any annum novum and excellent fuel
for a flight to anywhere.