You have been a dud at holiday gatherings recently. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you are just going through the motions. I’ll give it to you straight - only a flute will get you out of this rut.

I can already hear you protesting. Your voice disgusts me. Stuff your mouth full of pheasant and Christmas spices and absorb my knowledge.

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Ok sure you brought some nog the last few years. You’re the nog lady! You’re the nog boy! You’re the gender-fluid asexual nog boss! That is so tired and played out. Nobody wants to tell you that you are just the nog jester in a court full of frowns. Stop pouring nog into your disgusting hands and trying to spoon it into your Uncle Kevin’s mouth he hates you and he hates the nog!

I don’t mean to shatter your dimension and shove you into my dimension (reality), but the person you THOUGHT you were at holiday gatherings isn’t real. You THOUGHT you were the moody cigarette cousin who matured gracefully into the fun uncle-figure who isn’t too cool to play scream ‘n chase with the anarchist children until cousin Jason loses his cool about all the shouting and gets in a brutal verbal argument with his wife in the bathroom loosely about parenting but mostly about the micro-aggressions and petty nothingness that pools up in the moldy foundation of every marriage.

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The parlor tricks you use every year in an effort to cling to your identity are so transparent now. The children have aged another year and they all hate scream ‘n chase. The only way to connect with them is to hand them your iPhone and go sit outside in a snow bank until they’ve bankrupted you by purchasing every game in the app store. Cousin Jason is divorced and floating at the bottom of a deep well of depression you’re neither willing nor emotionally able to confront directly in conversation. You thought you had it all figured out.

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I can help you become more. All you need is a flute.

Any flute brand will do, but I would go all out and get a nice big shiny metal flute. Go to the good flute store in town and get the one that is the shiniest tube with the best buttons on it. Do not be fooled by cheap flute lookalikes. If you bring a simple plastic recorder to the holiday gathering, be prepared to see your mother cry. If you bring a wooden pan flute the police will be called and they will not go away until you are safely behind bars. Get the good metal flute tube with the high definition buttons. Just trust me.

I know that you do not know how to play the flute. You do not have to know how to play the flute. You just have to HAVE the flute. But I will suggest that you at least familiarize yourself with playing the instrument. Learn which end is the end you dump your foul breath into. Press the various buttons. See if you can cause musical notes to drip out of the far end of the tube. Whisper your sins into the mouthpiece, finger the high-definition buttons. There. If it sounds like a clown’s nightmare, you’re doing it right.

Look, people are going to ask about the flute. This is exactly what you want to have happen. This is your new Christmas brand. Let them ask the questions and answer as best you can. Here are some questions you can expect and some answers you may want to provide.

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Q: When did you start playing the flute?

A: Today!

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Q: Why did you bring a flute?

A: *wink, tap the flute to your forehead and walk away*

Q: Can you play me a song?

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A: No.

Q: Can I try it?

A: No

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Q: Lemme just hold it.

A: No, it’s mine. *adopt an aggressive physical posture and prepare to defend your flute*

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Q: GIVE IT TO ME!

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A: *defend your flute*

If the children you used to scream and laugh with detach their faces from the phones of their fathers long enough to notice you, they may demand a tribute in the form of a song. For them, unlike the adult you just wrestled with for control of the flute, you must pay this tribute. Blow into the receiving end of the tube and dance your fingers randomly about the buttons. Children’s vision is based on hearing and music confuses and blinds children. When they are dazed and disoriented, flee the room and hide beneath a pile of coats until dawn.

If you spend then extra money on the good kind of flute, if you stick close to my game plan, you’ll walk away from your next holiday party with a refreshed image. You’ll be someone to remember. You’ll no longer be the sad nog clown. You’ll be the guy with the flute who got in a fight with Larry for some reason. People thirst for new and exciting traditions and that’s what you can become.

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All you need is a flute.