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He's Too Busy Ogling Other People's Stuff to Give Thanks


WASHINGTON — Every holiday season I take a few moments to ponder the fact that, although my own life is rich with blessings, there are many others who, sadly, have even more than I have.

They have bigger homes and larger yards. Their fireplaces are big enough to barbecue a steer. Their kitchens have no fewer than 100 polished and gleaming copper pots dangling from the ceiling, obviously unused, serving no function other than to make visitors feel bad. Their stoves are powerful enough to turn hydrogen into deuterium.

Their bath towels are fluffier, and their toilet paper, incredibly enough, is monogrammed. Needless to say, their children don't whine, kvetch or snivel, because the little demons know that they're one irritating noise away from a boarding school in Newfoundland.

Most gratingly, their televisions are much better than mine, with picture quality so high-definition you can actually feel the body heat radiating from the actors on the screen.

Meanwhile, I suffer in my modest living room, squinting at what seems, year by year, to be a smaller and smaller screen, with fuzzier and fuzzier images, a process that no doubt will culminate in the discovery that my TV has become black-and-white and picks up only "I Love Lucy" and "Your Show of Shows."

Often I think of these unfortunate facts while lying on the rug, facing the ceiling, trying to decide if I want to stand up and attempt to do something productive or merely content myself with a minimal, inert, pulseless, gradually degenerative existence. Invariably my cat, Phoebe, will slink into the room and set up shop on my chest, an event that will remind me that other people have better pets.

Meanwhile, other people have cats that just sort of ... pose ... that reside permanently on pillows and windowsills, looking as if they were placed by professional interior decorators. These cats are so peaceful you can barely tell they're not ceramic. Other people with greater blessings also have supplemental pets in the form of dogs, which are always spectacular animals from exotic breeds you've never heard of, like golden Siberian wolfhound or Tasmanian Mountain collie.

I should note, for the record, that I don't personally know any of these sorts of people whom I actively resent. I am aware of their existence solely through the reading of Vanity Fair, various "shelter" magazines and the catalogs that arrive by the dozen through my mail slot every day this time of year. The people I know personally are, for the most part, total losers like me, a fact that gives me great comfort.

As you know, it's essential for your sanity to spend all your time with people who are exactly at your level of personal income, IQ, aesthetic sensibility, physical attractiveness and percentage of body fat. When someone in my posse gets a good job and starts combing his hair and wearing clean shirts and showering daily, we drop him.

But let's return to the issue of the holidays, and how we can navigate this difficult period in which we almost surely will not receive as many gifts as we deserve.

Remember, this is not merely a time for getting presents from loved ones who have carefully shopped for your gift even as you were planning to give them a gift certificate from Jiffy Lube--no, it's also about finding ways to delude them into thinking that your last-minute desperate gift reveals great thoughtfulness.

The holiday that presses upon us now is Thanksgiving, when we celebrate the American tradition of repulsive gluttony. Every year at Thanksgiving we eat ourselves into a stupor, stuffing our faces beyond the point of satedness, literally punishing ourselves because we fear that, somewhere out there, someone else may actually be eating even more.

Question: Should you feel guilty if you consume enough calories at Thanksgiving to sustain an entire village for a week in certain developing nations? Possibly. Very probably, in fact. But you should also take both hands, grab that swollen wad of lard at your midsection, look directly at it, jiggle it, and give it a name.

I know millions of you feel exactly the way I do. But you may also feel a slight twinge of doubt about whether these sentiments are appropriate at this particular time in our nation's history.

You may think that this holiday season, more than any other in decades, we should work on behalf of our fellow citizens and the peace-loving people of the world, and not become distracted by jealousy, resentment, juvenile urges and pathological narcissism.

Well, I've got a message for you:

The moment you stop being a selfish, envious, repugnant lout, they win.

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