A Christmastime Love Story
Christmastime always transformed me.
It made my heart expand in my chest, placing me in perpetual rapture for at least two months out of the year. I was inevitably intoxicated by the twinkling lights, the smell of cookies baking, our family's annual trip to the tattered Christmas display at Fountains of Wayne.
But riding the subway while donning a Santa suit required a certain extra something… an un-self-consciousness that allowed you to pretend that everything was business as usual, despite the fact that you were wearing a dirndl made out of a Christmas tree skirt from the dollar store. I didn't really have that something, but I was trying to pull it off as best I could. It helped that I wasn't alone. Somehow, I had talked my boyfriend into joining me.
Our relationship had never been boring. After meeting on Friendster (of all places) two years earlier, I immediately began dragging him along to a series of Moroccan restaurants, dive bars, and techno clubs I was reviewing for a forthcoming nightlife guide. It was my only source of income, but he didn't seem to mind. He told his friends that I made life exciting. Later on in our relationship, he submitted further, dutifully attending cuddle parties and sexy soirees with me, and even trying out a handcuff set and various vibrating toys—and participating in an associated photo shoot—for Women's Health magazine. He may not have been completely comfortable, but he always tried to keep an open mind.Now, he was standing beside me, wearing a full Santa suit courtesy of Party City, clutching a hat and fake beard in his fist, and staring pointedly at his spat-clad sneakers. This time, we were trying out Santacon, an annual dawn-to-dark mass gathering that celebrated spontaneity, ingenuity, and riotous holiday cheer. Creative costuming? All-day drinking? Christmas? I couldn't help but want to be involved.
We arrived at our destination by 10 a.m. and, by 10:15, there were hundreds of us gathered in a park just within the Brooklyn city limits. It was at this time that the great, lumbering machine that was Santacon headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. Michael and I allowed ourselves to be swept up in the oversized scale of it all, staring around like a couple of hicks as we headed into Manhattan en masse. It was about 11 a.m. when we all crowded into South Street Seaport, taking over a pub on the third floor of the mall. We were cold and windburned, and smooshed ourselves eagerly—shoulder to shoulder—into all available seats. We simultaneously angled for the bartender's attention and introduced ourselves around, trying to down our beers before the word came to move on.
We stormed the financial district next, gathering on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange and bellowing out raunchy holiday lyrics for the onlookers. Looking at Michael mid-holler, I thought that I had never seen him happier.
We eventually relinquished our hold on the NYSE and continued on, in search of our next beer. We spread out in scraggly groups along the sidewalks, heading uptown. The side streets beckoned with their benches and charmingly placed lampposts, and Michael kept begging me to stop for a moment and enjoy the scenery. I, however, was loath to exit the predominately red current, afraid that we would lose the trail (though how anyone could possibly lose track of hundreds of Santas is now beyond me).
Michael finally gave up and pulled closer. "You're making this difficult," he said, "so I'll just have to do this while we're walking. Would you be my Mrs. Claus?"
I looked up at him with my nostrils flared, sure he was joking.
He stuck a hand down his Santa pants—which he was practically swimming in—and dug deep, trying to find the pocket of his sweatpants. When his hand finally reemerged, he was holding a jewelry box that was immediately familiar to me, pale gray and velvet. He struggled out of his oversized Santa gloves and opened the box that contained my great-grandmother's engagement ring. "Would you be my Mrs. Claus?" he repeated, completely earnest.
If I had thought that the magnitude of Santacon could not be matched, I was wrong. At that moment, the event—and its hundreds of participants—receded until there was only the two of us. He walked along beside me, still holding the ring box and waiting for my answer.
Considering all that he had subjected himself to over the past couple of years—and all in the name of love—how could I turn him down?
Feeling both exhilarated and slightly drunk, I found myself saying yes to the scariest thing of all.
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