Up Front by Emma Hart


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Shitmas

So Santa is a man. It's impossible to imagine Santa as a woman. The closest you can get to a female Santa is a woman in a furry red miniskirt. Santa is a traditional character for children, and you can't traumatise children by having women dressed up like men in a traditional context at Christmas. Simon Bridges says he "believes in Santa as a man", and of course he does. Just look at his little face. It seems a shame to break his little heart, but I have a surprise for him.

In most New Zealand households, Santa is a woman.

She's the woman who starts putting stocking fillers aside in January. She's the woman who sits up all night on Christmas Eve watching shithouse movies waiting for the kids to go to sleep so she can sneak in and get their 'stockings', like she's not going to be woken up before dawn and then spend six hours cooking, transforming the food she bought into the menu she planned while steadily working her way through the Christmas Lindauer and never once losing her temper or even being the slightest bit grouchy because heaven forbid you ruin Christmas.

That a woman can't possibly "be Santa" in a world where most Santas are women is a glaring example of the invisible mental and emotional work that women do, particularly at Christmas. What do I mean by invisible work? It is my younger son's job to dry the dishes. He does this. But about three times a week, including tonight, it is apparently my job to remind him to dry the dishes. On the other hand, in the run-up to Christmas last year, my older son came and asked me if there was anything he could do to help. My younger son saw a basket full of clean laundry and just sorted and folded it. One of these things requires me to do invisible work. The other saves me a job.

A few men have told me that they absolutely do pull their weight at Christmas. And that's wonderful. It is also not my job to organise them a cookie. Go get your own fucking cookie and stop bothering me. I'm really glad men are stepping up and buying presents for their own family – and choosing them, and lifting that whole burden from their partners so they don't have to think about it at all. And I'm glad men know when all the work and school end of year functions are, and who has to be where, and have got the presents for the teachers. I'm glad they've written and sent all the Christmas cards and baked the cake and aren't just turning up with a ham and some stuff they bought at the service station the night before like my younger brother always did before sitting on his arse and getting drunk and racist.

But woke men, listen up. I raised this on Twitter yesterday, and multiple women told me about sitting up in the wee hours on Christmas Eve crying while they did the work of Christmas. The very, very least you can do is shut the fuck up about how special you are. Yeah, you're probably not as bad as your dads were. Get your own cookie. Bake sixty mince pies so there'll be something in the tins if you have unexpected guests while you're at it.

I know there are solo dads out there doing all of this themselves. They are fucking legends. Let's not diminish their achievements by pretending they don't do it all pushing uphill on Mount Gendered Bullshit.

And yeah, I know, women do some of this to ourselves. My mother was a freaking saint, but she still raised me by example to believe that men were utterly useless, and therefore excused. It was only after she died that I realised the reason she always got peas in pods for Christmas was so she could send the small kids and the men outside to shell them, so they didn't get underfoot. My kids' dad has only chosen presents for them since he and I split up, but it turns out he's pretty good at it. (Not as good as his sons: last year the eldest gave him a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a piece of trolling the magnificence of which I am still in awe of.)

This year, I am stressed in the run-up to Christmas. My oven is only big enough to cook one large piece of meat at a time, so I will need to cook something the night before that we can eat cold, chicken or turkey, except I'm going to my partner's mother's place on Christmas Eve so I'll have to do it before that and I'll need enough time to soak the sponge fingers for the tiramisu and I'll need to find a present for my partner's mother but just something small so I'm saying hey, thanks for having me, not You Now Have a Reciprocal Obligation and I'll also need to get to a greengrocer or a farmers' market which means I'll need a driver and I still haven't finished my Christmas shopping because holy fuck men are hard to buy for, but at least I don't have to worry about doing Christmas stockings any more and I miss having little kids around at Christmas, you know? Meanwhile, three of the dudes in my life have told me they've got my present, and man are they fucking smug about it.

I was Santa, as my mother was before me. Apparently the important thing is that you never see us do it.  

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