Sunday, December 18, 2011

Everyone's a Little Bit Schadenfreude... la la

This Christmas Holiday, I sent a message to the Mothership.  "Please advise all that I will not really be doing Christmas this year.  I don't want to be embarrassed should folks from Blighty want to send me something, so please ask them not to.  Thanks, Mummita. Love me."

It's not that I am a Scrooge--although I am wearing legwarmers and gloves right now.  No, please don't buy me a Snuggie--I'd just don't want stuff that I will then have to accommodate in the Brooklyn Shoebox and--Heaven Forfend--dust!  I'd rather hibernate, write, read, listen to Adele, with a cannister of chocolate and a vat of wine.  (With a bendy straw.) This is far from an alternative Christmas; in fact, I am holding the very bastion of British Christmas dear: misery and chocolate.

Let me explain my choices:
Adele has the wisdom beyond her 23 years.  She writes lyrics that gut me like a freshly caught jail island salmon.  Shit, she is one heartsick chick.  My non-lesbian, live-in gal pal, let's call her *Monica,* has commented, after having to listen to the same agonized tune play from my computer over and over,
“Adele seriously needs to have a successful relationship.  Or lashings of good, hot sex.”  But, I disagree.  Sorry, Adele.  If I wanted to listen to Mariah Carey's Jingle-fucking-Bells, I would.  I want misery, goddammit!  Pure, unadulterated, gouge my eyes out with  a rusty trowel, pain. So Adele’s angelic voice, bemoaning her stressed and collapsing pulmonary, will be the soundtrack to my Christmas.  Her unhappiness is quite the comfort.  Why is that?  I am no sadist.  I don’t want others suffering, and yet my own puffy-faced, pre-Christmas-Mis is loving her great Cockney choral complaining.  I’m not even German, but I’m reveling in Schadenfreude, right now. 
"What's that?  Some kind of Nazi word?"
Well, click on and listen for the full explanation:

Maybe it is because the holidays are coming, and Adele reminds me of home: of being apart from Mum and Dad and Oliver, as they three sit at the table made for eight, pulling crackers, wearing paper crowns, talking about the gravy and the roasties not being as good as last year’s organic offering from Sainsburys; of settling down for the turkey coma to set in whilst watching the EastEnders Christmas special, in which someone will undoubtedly die, eating a glass bauble--yes, it happens; or in a house fire, because Ethel fell asleep after her annual sherry, her lit cigarette smouldering up the synthetic, brown 1968 sofa;  or because there was a particularly heated argument in which Alfie discovered Kat was sleeping with Matt, Martin, Pete, Phil, Rickeeeeey and Uncle Tom Cobbly, and now half the Square is dead, dead, dead and floating in the Thames. Ah yes!  I could write the script!  Downton Abbey, it ain't.
If 2011 has left you hemorrhaging from the eyes with disappointment, it is such a comfort to see, hear and sing about others less fortunate.  Tidings of comfort and joy?  Fuck that!  We Brits like a dollop of misery to make us feel better about our own shit-uations, then we pass around the Quality Street tin full of chocolate jewels, and allow the chocolate opiate to dull our senses.

Oh, you think I’m joking?  No, really.  Chocolate.  It is a traditional part of a British Christmas: teasing kidlets with the mouthful of chocolate behind their advent calendar door, and then, WHOA, WHEY HEY!  It’s the 25th Choc-fest! While Americans sit back and watch the marathon brain-melt of American Football, munching Christmas cookies and chugging the eggnog, we Brits watch a marathon of low-income misery-drama and have a high ol’ time on chocolate.  As we age, we also add wine which aids chocolate consumption.  (No, am not being so cultured as to say we pair our vino with dark chocolate to bring out certain notes.  We just drink beyond our dietary inhibitions and stuff our faces.  It is Christmas, after all.)

Chocolate actually releases certain neurotransmitters, which signal between neurons.  Impulses shuttle along our neurons to illicit movement or sensation, so the more particular neurotransmitters we have, greatly impacts on our mood.  I’ll spare you the science, but basically chocolate-produced-neurotransmitters can cross the synapse from one neuron to another, and trigger the receptors to fire off different responses in other neurons.  It’s Chocolate Domino Rally. 

You’ve probably heard of three of the main happy neurotransmitters: endorphins, which reduce pain and stress; serotonins, which are anti-depressants; and phenylethylamine, or “chocolate amphetamine,” which causes changes in blood pressure, can quicken your heart rate and thusly, illicits that heart-pumping feeling of being in love.

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid we ingest, is a pre-cursor of serotonin, and guess what is tryptophan-rich?  Uh huh, turkey!  So really Christmas Choc-Fest and Turkey-Gorging is just one big Serotonin Orgy.

Really, with all this going for it, chocolate should be a major food group.  Does Anthony Bourdain know this?  He’s all about the meat.  The more “unctuous” the better, but he used to be about the drugs.  If only he knew that chocolate was a legal drug.  But then, his story would be much different and not half as scandalous or entertaining.

So, if you should see me over the next week, without my family, not wearing a paper crown, or telling a crappy joke and lighting my Wolverine eyebrows on fire when flambeing the Christmas pud; but instead, bundled somewhere in New York or Pennsylvania, wailing Adele, watching miserable TV, and eating vast amounts of chocolate, know that I am merely celebrating in a very British way.  And if this rather alien description paints a sad picture to you, then maybe I am giving you the gift of Schadenfreude this Christmas,
"we provide a vital service
to society, You and me,
Schadenfreude, making the World a better place to be!"

God Save the Queen.  And Chocolate.  And Wine.

"Yes, we know we are alive when it hurts."  Don Lafferty.

*Please note, the Monica of my blogette does not smoke or play with cigars.  Or Politicans.  She just likes the name.

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