Even though I grew up on a tiny island, I always thought I was more cosmopolitan than a lot of people there, especially before the internet was widely available. I mean, we had a World Book Encyclopedia set! Sure it was the 1976 edition and I had scrawled on the covers when I was six, but I was able to learn a lot about issues of social and political import. Issues like the Berlin Wall and what Jimmy Hoffa was up to as a teamster leader.
And yet, even now I am struck by knowledge that everyone in the world shares and yet is COMPLETELY NEW TO ME! Most of the time I can fake it, nod my head and just say, “Oh I totally know what that big word means. What did you say again? Homogeneous? Yeah, that’s what I said, too. I totally did not pronounce it homo-genius!”
This week, I learned about this holiday phenomenon called Elf on the Shelf. It’s an elf! On the shelf! And he’s supposed to watch kids and keep them in check? And he’s an elf, you say? (A WHITE ELF? What about the elves of color? No Pacific islander elven brothers and sisters?)
I read up on it this and started asking people in my life, people I thought were my friends until they totally laughed at my paltry holiday knowledge. I didn’t grow up with a fake white elf perched on a shelf, nestled between photos of my parents in Hong Kong and my mom’s porcelain chicken trinkets. I grew up with the very real fear that if I didn’t leave my room and celebrate the tradition of The Niño, the baby Jesus that the village parishes would bring to your house on Christmas, I would be deader than dead. I never had the opportunity to make that mistake of failing to appear for the baby Jesus, not with a hyper Catholic who had supernatural powers, invested by the church and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
I also learned about this magical device known as a purse hook last week. My team at work was having a Christmas lunch at Cactus, a phenomenal Mexican-Southwest restaurant in a fancypants neighborhood known as Madison Park. At the table across from us, a gaggle of coiffed women knocked back glasses of white wine while admiring each other’s golden amulets. I couldn’t stop staring. It was like I was at a zoo, gawking at people who don’t have to worry about credit scores and have cars with heated leather seats (warm butts must be nice!). I saw that one of the women had her Gucci purse hanging from the table thanks to a bejeweled purse hook.
My colleague told me that you can buy those at Target, to which I responded, “I don’t think she bought hers at Target.” I don’t know the lives of tigers or people who never step into Target. However, I bet she doesn’t have twitter and therefore unable to share this with the world: