Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat

Yuletide Yahoos, Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges

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For fans of Laurie Notaro and Jenny Lawson comes an uproarious and oddly endearing essay collection for anyone trying to survive the holidays in one piece.

When it comes to time-honored holiday traditions, Jen Mann pulls no punches

In this hilariously irreverent collection of essays, Jen Mann, nationally bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat, turns her mordant wit on the holidays. On Mann’s naughty list: mothers who go way overboard with their Elf on the Shelf, overzealous carolers who can’t take a hint, and people who write their Christmas cards in the third person (“Joyce is enjoying Bunko. Yeah, Joyce, we know you wrote this letter.”). And on her nice list . . . well, she’s working on that one. Here, no celebration is off-limits. The essays include:

• You Can Keep Your Cookies, I’m Just Here for the Booze
• Nice Halloween Costume. Was Skank Sold Out?
• Why You Won’t Be Invited to Our Chinese New Year Party


From hosting an ill-fated Chinese New Year party, to receiving horrible gifts from her husband on Mother’s Day, to reluctantly telling her son the truth about the Easter Bunny, Mann knows the challenge of navigating the holidays while keeping her sanity intact. And even if she can’t get out of attending another Christmas cookie exchange, at least she can try again next year.

Praise for Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat

“Mann’s writing has transcended from witty anecdotes and complaints to notable satire. Hidden among the many laugh-out-loud zingers are lessons on how we relate to each other, and how ridiculous parenting culture has become.”—Associated Press

“Following the success of her first book, she is now punching throats at holidays, starting from her being age two and continuing to the present, where she is a harried mother bemoaning not just Christmas but all holidays. . . . Harried holiday haters will chuckle and perhaps see themselves somewhere in Mann’s lifetime dislike of and misbehavior during America’s increasingly commercialized celebrations.”Booklist

“The cure for my cold holiday spirit this year is the sidesplitting new book by Jen Mann. . . . Mann delivers her signature punch lines and sharp critique on the oftentimes ridiculous shenanigans of the modern family. Her ability to make an otherwise boring subject come alive with colorful personalities, biting sarcasm, and impressively astute observations on suburban culture is what makes Mann so much fun to read and so easy to relate to.”The Huffington Post

“A lighthearted, laugh-out-loud book . . . with a feel of peeking into a diary.”—Mommy’s Memorandum

“It really does make you laugh out loud.”—Shooting Stars Mag

“A quick and delightful read that you can sneak in right before bed or when the kids are finally napping.”—FangirlNation

“Grab a cup of hot cocoa, sit back and enjoy Jen’s latest collection of humorous rants dissecting the ‘most wonderful time’ of the year. She unleashes her biting wit and hilarious opinions on everything from cookie exchanges to annual humblebrag Christmas letters from overachieving moms to horrifying Christmases of her childhood.”—Creating Serenity

“[Mann] has really mastered the short story format. . . . She packs the maximum amount of funny into the fewest words, and many of these essays are downright hilarious. . . . If you’ve read and liked her other books, you will definitely want to read this one, too.”—Bug Bug Book Reviews

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat

SECTION ONE

Christmas Memories

I’d Like to Forget

BEFORE TODDLERS & TIARAS

THERE WAS ME

I am four years older than my brother, C.B., so you would think that I would remember a Christmas or two without him, but I don’t. I’m sitting here thinking of all the Christmas memories I can come up with, and they all involve him.

It’s weird, because I’m pretty sure that even though he’s the favorite child, we celebrated before he came along. Didn’t we? I’m sure we did. Although I can’t find any pictures. Whenever C.B. and I complain that there aren’t many photos from different periods of our childhood, our parents tell us the camera was “broken” then. I guess the camera was broken at every Christmas until C.B. was born. How convenient.

Wait! I do have a memory of a Christmas before C.B. Well, not quite a memory—­more of a story that I’ve heard so many times from so many different family members that it has become a memory to me.

It was the Christmas when I was two years old. In those days I was the only child and grandchild on both sides of the family, and so I was spoiled rotten (or so the general consensus of the story goes; my degree of “spoiled” actually depends upon who is telling me the story). Because I was the only child that year, December 25, 1974, was going to be a busy day for me, and I had several different holiday parties I was expected to attend. I was like a preschool socialite. My parents and my extended family had divided up my gifts between all the parties so I’d have something to open at each home. God forbid I arrived at Great-­Aunt Arabella’s house with nothing to open. The horror! My Christmas would be absolutely ruined! (I told you my mother was an overachiever.)

We got about halfway through the day and I was at the house of some great-­aunt or second cousin, or something like that, when I apparently became Jenni-­zilla. After opening gifts nonstop for hours I was finally through the first couple of waves. I sat by the Christmas tree, surrounded by piles of Barbie dolls, mounds of art supplies, stacks of books, tons of baby dolls, and more. I looked like some precious Norman Rockwell painting when I realized something was amiss. Looking around at my booty, I quickly understood that I’d been shortchanged. Something was missing, but what was it? I couldn’t put my finger on it. I started going through my list in my head:

☑ Barbies. (Check.)

☑ Art supplies. (Check.)

☑ Baby dolls—­the one that poops and the one that cries. (Check, check.)

☑ Blocks. (Check.)

☑ Stuffed animals. (Check.)

☑ Books. (Check.)

☑ Underwear and socks. (Ugh. Check, check.)

And then I knew.

I sat up straight, glared at my parents, and demanded loudly: “Hey! Where’s my McDonald’s?”

Earlier in the month I had made my wish list, and along with Barbies, art supplies, and a shit ton of other stuff, I had asked my parents for a kick-­ass Playskool McDonald’s. It was not under the tree, and I was more than a little pissed off.

Little did I know that my grandparents had actually bought the Playskool McDonald’s and it was waiting for me at the last party as sort of the grand finale of the day. They wanted to save the best for last and see my sweet little face erupt in pure joy and amazement at the miracle of Christmas gifts. Instead, according to family legend, I went nuclear on everyone. I demanded the McDonald’s and cried and threw myself on the floor in a fit of screams when it wasn’t immediately produced. This temper tantrum was not the reaction my parents had anticipated.

My parents were horrified that their precious snowflake could be such a little bitch. I was promptly put in time-­out. I’m not sure if I was able to open my McDonald’s that day, because I was such a little shit, but since I remember playing with it, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t denied too long. Surely by New Year’s I was living my dream of one day working at a McDonald’s.

(Side note: I may not remember the day I received my McDonald’s, but I do remember playing with this toy. A lot. It had little people that didn’t have arms, so you had to shove their tray of Big Macs and fries in a slot under their chin. How appropriate, right? Who needs hands when you can snarf your food from a tray wedged under your neck? There was also a merry-­go-­round for the armless people to play on—­which is just silly, since arms are pretty important on a merry-­go-­round. For those of you born after about 1990, let me explain what a merry-­go-­round is, because apparently your parents outlawed this fantastic invention. Fucking helicopter parents. A merry-­go-­round was a wonderful device that spun children around with absolutely no safety precautions whatsoever. The object of the game was to hold on tightly until the strength in your hands gave out and you went flying off the contraption, usually onto a concrete playground, or hold on until you puked all over the merry-­go-­round, which resulted in you being called names and being ostracized for the rest of the day. Either way you had a blast! You can thank your asshole parents for denying you this insanely fun toy. Ask them about teeter-­totters, too. Ask them if they have trust issues from being the kid up top when their so-­called friend hopped off the bottom seat and let them crash to the ground. Sure, a few kids got hurt now and then, but come on, you can barely see the scars on my face anymore! These kinds of playground toys just kept us on our toes and made us wily. Shit, by the time Adolpha and Gomer have kids, I’m guessing swings and slides will have been outlawed and will be nothing but distant memories, too.)

Anyway, back to my McDonald’s pseudo-­memory. This tale has been passed down over the years, and even family members who weren’t there love to tell me what an asshole I was that day. It’s practically become folklore in our family. It’s a cautionary tale told to pregnant cousins around a campfire. Who relishes recounting their favorite holiday story of the day their niece or granddaughter was a tyrannical, out-­of-­control toddler? My family, that’s who.

When is it ever a good idea to say to your cousin, “Oh yeah, I heard about your breakdown. You’re famous in our house. My parents decided right then and there to delay having kids for another ten years or so”?

This explains why I am six years older than my nearest cousin. It’s almost like our own Aesop’s fable.

I became infamous. I became That Kid. The one who throws a massive fit on Christmas Day like a spoiled little brat.

Now that I’m a mother (who watches so much TLC that I’ve become numb from seeing scores of bratty kids go ballistic every day), I can sympathize with my parents. They were trying to make the day extra special for me, but they didn’t really think it through and so they never saw the blowup coming. They thought that at two years old, I was a big girl and I could handle it. They thought that by spacing out the presents it wouldn’t be as overwhelming for me and in the end it would be more fun for me. They thought that scheduling three or four back-­to-­back dog-­and-­pony shows where I was the main attraction wouldn’t cause a problem—­after all, I loved being the center of attention! Right? (Yeah, usually.) Smile for Great-­Uncle Joe, Jenni! Show us your presents! (Too bad Great-­Uncle Joe didn’t realize my parents didn’t have a working camera. He could have sent those pictures to us and then I’d know if this story is true.)

What they forgot is that the age of two is when you finally start to notice that there are fun things inside the boxes that you enjoyed playing with last year. They forgot that two is when you can talk and have an opinion on what you want for Christmas. Plus, a two-­year-­old kid has a memory like an elephant. They forgot that two is when you seem mature enough to take on a day full of endless celebrations with no nap in sight and a seemingly unending supply of fun and presents, but you’re really not. They forgot that two is when you are smart enough to look around and realize what’s missing, but you don’t have the social skills to ask nicely and casually about your missing present. Instead, you behave like a raving lunatic junkie who hasn’t been fed anything all day except cheese and candy (because you refuse to put down your new presents and have a goddamned piece of turkey) and are looking for your next fix.

To this day, if people in my extended family ask for a special gift for Christmas and they don’t get it, they will announce loudly, “Hey! Where’s my McDonald’s?” and then laugh like maniacs.

This story is so popular with my entire family that once a cousin bought his wife a beautiful piece of jewelry she’d been hinting for all year. He waited until all of the presents were opened. He could tell his wife was a little bummed when she realized her bracelet wasn’t under the tree like she’d hoped. She tried to put on a brave face, but he could tell she was disappointed. He went into the other room and returned with a crumpled McDonald’s bag (with the bracelet inside), threw it in her lap, and said, “Hey! Here’s your McDonald’s!”

- About the author -

Jen Mann is the nationally bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat, based on her popular blog of the same name. She has also written for The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, NickMom, Babble, Circle of Moms, and CNN Headline News. Her blog received a 2014 Bloggie Award for Best Parenting Weblog. She lives in Overland Park, Kansas, and is married to “the Hubs” and is the mother of two children whom she calls Gomer and Adolpha on her blog. She swears their real names are actually worse.

More from Jen Mann

Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat

Yuletide Yahoos, Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges

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Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat

— Published by Ballantine Books —