It came in the mail again for about the gazillionth straight time: a photo of my former next door neighbor's kids all dressed in matching holiday sweaters and, some years, with floppy elves hats.
I haven't seen these kids since they were about 2 and now they're in college and one is engaged to be married according to the card. Sorry to say, but I don't even recognize these kids.
As I recall, they were nice enough and one (the engaged one) once threw up on my couch. I'm still trying to forget her.
At the risk of sounding like the Grinch (and even if I do), I'm here to ask folks who send posed holiday photos of their kids, thinking they're the cutest things since fake antlers for dogs, to please stop.
Most recipients are too polite to say anything, so they've elected me to be they're spokesman. I get all the dirty jobs, but I'm a servant of the people. So here it goes: I'm begging you, please stop or will retaliate and send cutesy photos of our pets. I know we're fighting dirty here, but we want to impress you with how serious we are.
What's more, I'm finding it difficult for my goldfish Bubbles to sit still for a shot; and it's not easy photoshopping antlers on her head. But I swear I'll do it, if the family portrait holiday theme cards don't stop immediately. This is the friendliest of warnings, given in the spirit of the holidays.
Here's why we don't want them any more: Kids are cute when they're small and look like elves themselves. However, at a certain age (you fill in the exact number), the cuteness wears off and they look, well, let's just say no so cute any more. It happens to the best of them -- myself included. For the record, I haven't taken a cute photo since I was six. You get the picture.
In addition, the contrived themes are typically hokey. Do you expect me to believe that the entire family is sitting in snow drifts in front of a fireplace? Come on, what do you take me for? Not to mention what the heck is snow doing in front of a fireplace? I'm guessing you have a roofing problem.
And I have a tough time believing that your family typically huddles into a sleigh every Christmas for an invigorating jaunt in a winter wonderland.
If your family enjoys dressing up in uniforms, that's a beautiful thing, but don't feel obliged to share. And if you do have a sleigh, don't forget to feed the horses.
Don't just take my word for it, consider your kids who had to pose for these cards. When they're young, they go along with it because they don't have a choice or know any better. But listen to them when you have to march them in front the camera with threats and the kids are grumbling about outright rebellion. Those children are trying to tell you enough is enough. We're no longer as cute as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
On the other hand, think of the folks who receive these cards. As they pry them open and there's a photo of an entire family dressed in holiday garb, smiling at them. What are you saying to us: Don't we look as cute as Santa's helpers and don't you admire us?
One friend received a Christmas card from a former neighbor with their four kids lined up in a row, each wearing a white sweater with a letter embroidered on it, spelling out: N-O-E-L.
How clever, how wonderfully holidayish; how ridiculous. But what if they had a mischievous moment and switched the letter order backwards to spell: L-E-O-N. Now that's a Christmas card I would cherish and keep forever.
I believe this holiday narcissism flourishes even more during the Facebook era when some think the world wants to know what they ate for lunch or they're opinion on the Mayan Indians prediction on the end of time.
Write me off as churlish, but as the recipient of my fair share of these photo holiday theme cards, I'm just saying a cute Santa or a wintery scene with a bluebird on a tree limb will do. It's nothing personal against anyone, but I don't send photos of me. I wouldn't think of imposing my face on anyone -- not at least without warning.
Throughout the year, there are plenty of electric opportunities to e-mail or text photos. But keep the holiday cards full of good cheer; and hold the contrived holiday theme photos.
Frank Szivos is a freelance writer who will only send generic e-cards without personal photos. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.