Tis the season to love-hate

This column first appeared in The Sunday Times Lifestyle on 3rd December 2017

HOLIDAY TAX – by Paige Nick

So you’re finally going to get a holiday, after this brutal, thankless, long, hard, downgraded, redheaded step-child of a slog of a year, in which we’ve all earned less, and worked more, unless you’re a Zupta, then it’s been the other way around.

But here’s the deal, because this is South Africa, and because captcha isn’t just the code you type into the computer to prove you’re not a robot, there’s a Holiday Tax. And all of us have to pay it, each and every one.

It’s okay, we know you’re skint already after Black Friday, Oh-Bugger-Why-Did-I-Buy-That Saturday and Gone-Into-Liquidation-But-At-Least-I’ve-Got-A-Lifetime-Supply-of-Loo-Roll Sunday, don’t stress, Holiday Tax doesn’t come in the form of a financial expense. Not directly, although a lot of us will choose to throw money at the problem in the form of a hotel room, to avoid a blow up mattress on the floor in the lounge (and resulting chiropractic appointments), because baby Terryn HAS to sleep in your old room, because if she doesn’t have four walls in a room of her own and an en-suite when she sleeps, she feels insecure.

And if you’re not throwing cash at a hotel room, or a chiropractor, it’s just the therapy that will cost you down the line.

So while there is some money involved, more often than not, your Holiday Tax will come in the form of emotional, physical or psychological expenses. Because unlike the other holidays you may get to go on throughout the year, with people of your choosing, if that’s the world you live in, December holidays come with one catch; family.

Drunk uncles, annoying sister-in-laws, mothers who (whether on purpose or by default) know exactly what to say to make you feel bad about yourself. Fathers who, oh I only have a few hundred words left, let’s not get into what fathers do.

While it’s all fun and games and nostalgia and amazing to see each other after all this time, and you do love your family a lot, and mwah-mwah and tea and catch ups, and pressies, and see how much all the kids have grown, and eat your mom’s famous coleslaw, out of the famous coleslaw bowl, but after a few December days in the family pressure cooker, you’re pretty much guaranteed that someone will be not talking to someone else, someone will reveal that they’re in the middle of a break up and will snot and cry for four days straight, someone will drink too much, someone will complain constantly, someone will get on your last nerve ten times, someone will eat too much, someone will be cheating on their other, someone will reveal they’re broke, someone’s dog will vomit on the carpet during dinner, and someone will have to sit on the wrong side of the salad bowl and the sister who always picks all the avo out of it before passing it on to you. You try managing the seating arrangements for that hot mess and see how far it gets you.

The universe is smart, there’s a reason December’s festive holidays only come around once a year, and then there are eleven months for recovery before the next one. The universe knows that’s statistically how long family members need to forget a grudge and feel able to be in the same room together long enough to brew a new one.

The only cruel truth is that the older you get, the quicker the years go by and the less time you have to get over yourself.

Or maybe that’s just us, and your family is delicious, and you all love each other unconditionally, and you still call your dad ‘daddy’, even though you’re forty-six and should know better. And you never fight with your siblings, because they’re so special to you and this is such an important time together, and you want to treasure every second. Shame.

Although I’m afraid to say, even you smuggies have to pay a Holiday Tax. Sure yours might come in the form of that extra five kilos you carry home with you in January, from all that smug and Christmas cake you ate, while you were deep in the welcoming bosom of your big, loving, ridiculously happy family fest. Or your Holiday Tax might be a four day hangover or sunburn, or a urinary tract infection if you go camping, or simply that you have to wait a whole year before you get to see each other again. Boo hoo hoo for you!

Tax is tax and as SARS tells us, we’ve all got to pay it. Just some more than others.
Ho ho ho, happy holidays.

(PS: Love you fam, can’t wait to see you. Oh who am I kidding, they don’t read my columns.)



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