Tis the season for puffing up children's accomplishments, concealing dysfunction and despair, and generally broadcasting to an expectant world all your family's exciting news and activities from the year just past. It's time for the smudged, photocopied, mass-mailed holiday letter, and here are some rules and suggestions to ensure your greeting this year is as insufferable and misleading as those you annually receive.
1.When in doubt, include pet photos.
2.Mention everyone's birthday.
3.Does it really feel like an entire year has passed already? Address this issue.
4.What music are you listening to as you write this? And what kind of tea are you drinking? What's happening outside the window?
5.All surgical procedures should be minutely detailed.
6.If your son is gay, say he's "pursuing a career in the arts."
7.No one dies. They only pass away.
8.When it comes to your family vacation, the more details the better. What happened after the third time you missed the exit for the Kelso Red Lion?
9.Yes, tell us more about your ugly custody battle.
10.Items to withhold: total hours spent watching digital cable, total dollars blown on lottery tickets, total packages of Hydrox stacked in basement.
11.Items to include: pottery class schedules, bridge rating, bingo results, diet plans, new scriptural theories about the Book of Revelation.
12.Remember: You're not hoarding pennies under the mattress. You're weighting your portfolio toward precious metals.
13.It's not an unplanned pregnancy. It's "the miracle of life."
14.Personalize with children's hand prints—and Sparky's paw print, too!
15.If possible, use a tired old dot- matrix printer.
16.There's no such thing as rehab. You're simply having some "me time" at the spa.
17.Enclosing Amway order forms helps make your letter more interactive.
18.Describe costumes worn by each member of the family at Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, etc.
19.Remember: You're not having your car repossessed. You're embracing voluntary simplicity.
20.Your therapist says you need to open up. Why not include some transcripts?
21.For emphasis, NOTHING works better than capitalization.
22.Read anything interesting in the paper recently? Enclose clippings.
23.Kids do say the darndest things. Share some examples. Or some poetry!
24.It never hurts to remind people that bad things happen to those who break the holiday letter chain.
25.Show sensitivity to your Jewish friends by noting that without them, there wouldn't be any Christmas!
26.Enclose petitions and urge recipients to contact their congressional representatives regarding: NPR funding, spay-and-neuter-your-cat funding, beachfront erosion, rain forest preservation, canned fruit labeling, denturist licensing, public com- posting, plankton-safe tuna, etc.
27.Remodeling? Enclose paint chips and color swatches. Solicit opinions.
28.Recipes are always appreciated.
30.Your son is not in federal prison. He's "spending some time away" in New Mexico.
31.It's always fun to personalize the envelope with Easter seals, family coat of arms seals, UNICEF seals, and little smiley face stickers.
32.Give a project update on your "inner work."
33.Remember: It's not a restraining order. You're just taking time to re-evaluate the relationship.
34.Share your holiday missive with as broad an audience as possible: grade-school playmates, high-school sweethearts, prison inmates, bereaved organ- transplant-donor families, people you meet on the bus, etc.
35.Two words: scented stationery.