The War on Advent

RatliffHolding back is the best part.

By Phillip Ratliff

It’s a muggy day in early November, my hair is bushy, and I’m sitting in the barber’s chair in downtown Homewood seeking some relief from what is starting to feel like a mound of hot linguine on my head. Blow it up, I demand, and the stylist goes to work methodically resetting my hair’s boundaries.

Outside, a gust of wind sends a few fallen leaves scurrying across the Homewood sidewalk and I fall into a trance. Pleasant minutes pass. I’m interrupted by the sound of my stylist’s voice.

“What do you think about this music?” she asks. I detect a faint tintinnabulation from the barbershop’s cheap loudspeaker.

“It’s early,” I say.

“Isn’t it though? I’ve tried to tell the owners, but they’re having none of it.”

“Well, at least the owners like Andy Williams,” I say, searching for conciliatory words.

“Andy Williams? Who’s that?”

I might have pointed out that Andy Williams was one of a pair of famous toothy middle-aged performers from the 1960s named Andy that I love, and the crooner who has, to my thinking, presented the most convincing case that it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

But this would be missing an opportunity to kvetch about the real issue at hand. The problem is with the “it.” As I sit glistening in the barber’s chair in khaki shorts and a Dole pineapple T-shirt, the stylist is right that, less than a week past Halloween, we are nowhere near what even the most generous traditions would rightly called “it.” “It” is still almost two months away.

The more eager among you will pick up this issue of B-Metro in early December, and, according to my market research, a good dozen from that group will eventually find your way to this column. May I point out that you, my dear handful, are reading this column during the season I know as Advent?

The good news is that Advent is sort of easy, defined by avoiding celebrations of, well, the Good News. You hold back—on candles, sweets, booze, foliage. Advent is the proper time to tell the Walmart greeter that you actually prefer the subtlety of “Happy Holidays,” or to point out to the Starbucks barista that the blank red cup may be a little too specific. I realize that this is probably where my culture war parts company with that other, more well-publicized one.

But the payoffs are immense. After jealously preserving your Advent, you’ll be of a mind to follow your star to its cheery destination. When the clock strikes midnight on December 25, you will find yourself hoping more intensely for the luminous world, of Church or Chinese, for the thrill of opening stacks of presents, boxes of candy, or bottles of bourbon. And after that day has run its beautiful course, you can join me as I layer sweatshirt over sweater over my pineapple T-shirt, enter into the late December night, where leafless trees shiver in the crisp air, load up the car, crank up the stereo, and give dear old Andy Williams his proper moment.

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