I’m not a parent, but I was recently parented and I have a ton of questions about the whole raising children thing. Here’s my most seasonal question: why does our culture tolerate and encourage the photographing of our smallest countrymen sitting on the lap of a stranger dressed in a costume? You all realize that’s not really, Santa, right? Regardless of our cultural attachment to St. Nick as an adorable, gift giving Arctic dweller, that’s not him. That’s some dude named Franklin who’s hiding bottles of supermarket cooking wine in his fake beard.
I’ve been suspicious of mall Santas since I was a child, possibly because my lifelong anxiety gave me an especially refined creep-o-meter. Everyone was an enemy, and any interaction was an opportunity for molestation and abduction. You should have seen me as a seven-year-old at Disneyland, accusing everyone of “being in violation of their parole.” I was an absolute joy.
Mall Santas only served to further refine my already finely tuned creep-meter, which I employed to tell my parents I was not comfortable around our across-the-street neighbor, who was later arrested! Mall Santas were a yearly exposure to creepers, and set my alarm bells off before I was old enough to know what those alarm bells meant. It’s a sense my parents were happy I was born with, because it instinctively told me to run the other direction.
As a toddler, my parents tried to go the mall Santa route, but I patently wasn’t having it. I threw a full blown fit only to calm down as soon as my parents relented and said I didn’t have to sit on that drunken stranger’s lap. It’s like I just knew. Something is not right here. I recoiled in terror at the lap-sitting. The idea of an adult in costume terrified me. Everything about it seemed wrong. I wasn’t the only perceptive child–whenever I see lines of families with children, I see about and even split of children wide eyed with excitement and wide eyed with terror, clearly being dragged by their parents. I love Santa as much as the rest of you, but why was it so important to get this picture? Every other photo involved a crying child.