I use to enjoy the holidays when I was in my 20s and single. Bowl season gave my roommates cause to head to the bar for some friendly wagers on a nightly basis (not that we needed a cause for either), and if the football sucked, hoops more than filled the void. There was an ugly Christmas sweater party every weekend, and for reasons that continue to bewilder sociologists, chicks dig ugly Christmas sweaters. We'd go wassailing around the neighborhood, the office was always filled with enough sugar cookies to make Rachael Ray blush, and it was perfectly acceptable to get trashed off egg nog because Santa, you know? It was glorious.
Now I am in my 30s and married. And this life is mostly cool, save for this time of the calendar, which is now my hell.
I still show up to parties in an ugly Christmas sweater, but others are wearing sports coats and ties so I look like an asshole (which as my co-workers will attest is not something I need help at). Try to carol as a grown man and your neighbors will call the cops. No one brings cookies in anymore because of gluten allergies. The egg nog remains, but it is fat and alcohol free.
But the most devastating, heartbreaking, Grinch-stealing sentiment is those football and basketball games have been replaced by the Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas.
Yes, laugh it up, you sweet, naive, 27-year-old son of a bitch. You're meddling with powers you can't possibly comprehend. The fervor we generate for the Masters or March Madness? Times that by five, dunk it in candy-cane dust and inject two shots of Starbucks' jingle-jangle peppermint mocha. That is how your significant other will feel about this movie marathon. It's going to be on your television from now until New Year's. A mere mention of flipping channels during commercial is grounds for castration.
So when you reach this abyss—and make no mistake, you will reach this abyss—you're going to need a coping mechanism, and lots of them. As a big believer in #BandOfBrothers, I've assembled a survival kit to make it through these trying times. Godspeed.
Tip 1: They are not Christmas movies
That's going to throw you for a loop, considering the marathon, and every movie title, has the word "Christmas" in it. In truth, it's an entire canon of meet-cute stories set during December. The next Hallmark film with a married or in-relationship protagonist will be its first.
Ipso facto, use this as evidence that "Die Hard," in fact, qualifies as a Christmas movie.
Tip 2: Every movie is the same
The scripts follow one of two plots:
A busy, busy businesswoman/man with truculence towards the holiday spirit is sent to a small town where Christmas is everything.
A community center or business is in danger of being closed.
Additionally, every main character has a loved one that died tragically, there is an inordinate amount of good-looking single people in their upper 30s and early 40s for towns so small they don't show up on state maps, about 80 percent of scenes take place in a coffee shop or inn, it's never not snowing and anyone wearing a suit is a villain. I warn you because after a movie or two you may believe you're in Groundhog Day. You, sadly, are.
Tip 3: Have IMDB ready to roll
There are going to be so many, "Oh, HIM!" and "Hey now, I think I know her …" moments. Guess what, you do! Every actor in these films was the fourth or fifth lead in a '90s sitcom or movie. My two favorites are Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill Murray's brother and the bad guy from "A Christmas Vacation") and Danica McKellar, better known as Winnie from "The Wonder Years." She's actually not half bad in these flicks, although she looks like a confused chipmunk in every other shot.
Tip 4: You're not allowed to laugh
Are you a fan of unintentional comedy? Great news, you're about to be swimming in the Pacific, my friend. Bad news: You're not, externally at least, permitted to acknowledge it. So while you'll want, nay, NEED to LOLZ at the cringe-worthy dialogue and saw-this-coming-a-mile-away "twists," you have to bury those urges something fierce. In short, you're going to need to do a better acting job than what you're seeing on screen.
Tip 5: Play Hallmark BINGO
Unfortunately this will have to be played in your head, but it's still a crowd pleaser. Taking a start from the tropes in Tip 2, compile your own list of Hallmark staples. Is the name of the town "Christmas Valley" or "Santaville?" That's a G. Are there three dozen TV reporters at a middle-school Christmas pageant? Another mark for you. Ditto for bad weather, decorating montages or adventures to a tree farm. Just don't turn this into a drinking game. You will die.
Tip 6: Be diligent when making comments about the film
You're not watching characters in a play; the spiritual and emotional connection your significant other has with these holiday films is stronger than any bond you two will ever enjoy. The slightest knock at the story or actors means you're spending the night on the couch.
This especially applies to the following …
Tip 7: You can't talk shit about Candace Cameron Bure
A.K.A. D.J. Tanner on "Full House." She is the Samuel L. Jackson of Hallmark movies, showing up at least nine times a year. Get to know her, because she's a part of your family now.
There is not a more beloved person in America than CCB from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Which I get; she projects a warmth, kindness, and non-threatening presence that makes her the paragon of imaginary BFF-dom. If Candace was ever in distress in real life, there would be a worldwide alarm where every woman would come to her rescue like the Avengers did for Captain America in "Endgame."
However, you did get one pass, although it's one you might not want to take …
Tip 8: You can rip Lori Loughlin to shreds
Women hate Lori, mostly because she was the target of every man's heart when they were growing up. (And frankly, still is.) In fact, there's a 99.9 percent chance the college admissions scandal whistleblower is a Hallmark Christmas zealot. Loughlin is in a bunch of these movies, and her appearance will be met with an avalanche of "Isn't she a little old to be wearing that?" and "Yeah, that's believable." Granted, you just finished watching a movie about a Brooklyn maid becoming the Princess of Winshire in "A Crown for Christmas," but now is not the time for rationality. A simple nod is all you need to provide.
Tip 9: Rum is not as detectable as vodka
It clouds the egg nog, sure, but you can say that's chocolate syrup, and it doesn't come off your breath like fire. You're welcome.
Tip 10: She's going to cry
My wife didn't shed a tear at our wedding and was pretty stoic when she went through some health troubles a while back. But no matter how many times she sees Candace find true love on Christmas Eve in the town square during a lighting ceremony, it's like she's watching a dog be put down. I'm not sure what the right response is to this. But heed my words. Asking "Why are you crying?" is not it.