December 4, 2008

Red Shoe Diaries, Non-Pr0n Edition

The Big Weep

Please do not judge me harshly. I am a woman of a certain age, and prone to sniffling at southern bell commercials and velvet paintings of big-eyed children with a single tears hovering on their lower eyelids, and, conversely, inexplicable rages and, on particularly bad days, stress murders. By which I mean, sometimes, people reallyreallyreally get on my last raggedy nerve and bounce – for example PEOPLE WHO LITTER when I can SEE a trashcan less than 30 steps away AND THEY SEE IT TOO -- and then I kill them.

Oh. Not really. But I see it play out in my mind’s eye, perfectly, how I will pick the litterer up in my mighty hands and crumplecrumplecrumple them and throw their destroyed remains IN THE CAN instead of down in the grass while saying, “AND DATS TAHHHKIN OUT DA TRAAAASH!” with lots of German accent and ZERO inflection, as if I were Arnold Swarzenegger, circa 1989. So, yes, weeping at schmaltz and killing the inconsiderate. I LOVE being 40. No, really. SO MUCH.

BUT WE ARE NOT JUDGING HERE. This is important to remember, o best beloveds, as I am going to share the deep ugly secret hidden in my ugly guts.

For three years now, I have burst into tears whenever Christmas Shoes came on the radio.

I am HIDEOUSLY shamed, shamed beyond all mortal ken, to admit that such a pernicious and wily perpetration of manipulative SAP AND TWADDLE could WORK on me and make me squirt with the weepies.

Do you know this song? It is a nightmare. I only heard it ONCE when it first came out, and I wept until I was close to puking and every since the opening bars undo me and I have to flee the song WAILING like the Sabine women. In the song, it’s Christmas Eve, some guy is in line at a shoe store, and this KID ahead of him is buying some shoes. For his mother. So she will look PRETTY WHEN SHE MEETS JESUS AS SHE IS DYING HERE ON CHRISTMAS EVE.

And if this is not enough, the kid doesn’t have enough money. He and the clerk sort through all his crumpled ones and change and there is NOT ENOUGH for the Christmas shoes. Also it is snowing, I am sure, and somewhere a sad kitten expires of hypothermia pressed against cold, dead side of the starved and frozen The Little Match Girl, but NO WORRIES, because the singer ponies up for the shoes, and then, just when you think it cannot get worse, the singer shuts up, and this WARBLEY LITTLE FLEET OF BIG EYED-SOUNDING ORPHANS sings the final chorus while the music goes all TINKLEY with SAD SAD bells.

BY the way, strictly to make myself feel better, I will tell you that professional cynic and red head Amy-Go BAWLS LIKE A LOST SEAL PUP whenever she hears the opening bars. SO. I am not alone in this awful madness. Whoever wrote that song, whoever perpetrated the singing of it, down to every child in the chorus, when at last they slip their mortal coils (or I get them for littering) they are ALL going directly to HELL, and they have earned it. OH, and last year I found out some heinous creature made a MOVIE out of it, and HE is going to the special hell. That is all.

It’s a manipulative awful song that plays SHAMELESSLY on every twinging heartstring it can find. AND YET, every Christmas, it starts to come on, and I find myself flailing into immediate bawlage, driving blind, desperately whanging my fist at the radio to change the station. YARG.

Until THIS year. Friends, I have defeated Christmas Shoes.

Here’s how: I actually listened to it. For the second time. I listened to it, and the Spock part of my brain, the lizardy piece that lives just under the occipital bone and takes care of fight or flight and my autonomic functions said, “WHOA, Nelly. This song makes no SENSE.”

I sniffled a little, and then started actually PAYING ATTENTION.

It’s Christmas Eve, and this kid with the dying mom is IN A SHOE STORE. His FATHER has sent him. Um, no. Who says, “Hey, kid, your mom is about to kick it, take a fast run over to Pay Less?” No one. And then the crumpled bills and all?

My Spock brain, listening to this poor sap concluding that the Lord sent the future motherless boy to remind him Christmas is and hope, or something? No. NONONO. My reptile brain said, Dude, it’s a SCAM. There is no MOTHER. There is no DYING. There is some Fagin-esque teenage brother in an alley waiting to see what the kid’s TAKE is going to be so they can go to the pawn shop and get money for the ARCADE. Next the kid will go to WOLF and not have enough for the camera his mother needs so she can get a photo of heaven;s golden roads. Then they will head off Best Buy so the kid can warble, “Sir I want to buy this 42 inch flatscreen, for my mother, please…”

It is SO CLEARLY a scam. Anyone who has ever been approached by the guy who needs 3 bucks for the train to get to the interview for the job he needs to be able to support his 4 starving babies that he was on his way to catch when robbers took his wallet and he will miss the interview OH HALPS HALPS…yeah. I have met that guy a hundred times, and he NEVER agrees to walk to the subway or Marta with me and let me buy him a ride. He just wants the cash. For Meth. SO, I buy him a sandwich and tell him to get help, but I do not BUY HIS DRUGS FOR HIM.

Christmas Shoes is the same thing, and if the fellow in line had ANY sense, he would grab that kid by the scruff, drag him out, round up the mastermind teenage brother, take his cell phone, flip through for the inevitable entry that says MOM N DAD, and CALL THEIR TOTALLY ALIVE NOT DYING AND WELL SHOD PARENTS to come PADDLE THE BUTT of con-the-younger and ground con-the-elder for the natural born rest of his LIFE.

Well played, Christmas Shoes, well played. But this year? I win.

Posted by joshilyn at December 4, 2008 8:49 AM

OK, its official. My co-workers definitely think I am nuts, and its all your fault. I sit at my desk and laugh until I cry while reading your blog. Thanks for starting my day in such a great way. :)

Posted by: Erin at December 4, 2008 9:07 AM

I hate that song. I end up blogging about it every year because it pisses me off.

Can I just say that you blogging about something that I have blogged about and hating it too make me feel all happy inside. Like when you find out a famous person has the same favorite color as you or favorite Ninja Turtle...

If you are interested in my various commentaries on that song you can find them...

Posted by: Aardvark at December 4, 2008 9:10 AM

Thank you for that. I'm quite sure I WOULD cry if I ever listened to that song, but no more!

I WOULD ask you how to defeat the tears brought on by The Gift song -- the one where the girl with the gorgeous voice sings about taking the first nightingale to the Christmas eve service as a gift to the baby Jesus, but I actually kind of LIKE crying to that song.

Posted by: Leandra at December 4, 2008 9:21 AM

I HATE that song! I hate radio stations that play it! It is an evil song, designed to get you into car accidents when the tears blur your vision.

Why does Christmas seem to inspire so many stories and songs about death? WHAT is Christmasy about dying? In what way, shape or form does this contribute to the joy of the season? Because I gotta say, I don't look at the Christmas tree, with its pretty red bulbs, the shiny, shiny lights, and the toilet paper roll soldiers that my children have made, and say, "Oooh! Look! Death! Yay!"

Posted by: AJenTooMany at December 4, 2008 9:28 AM

There is indeed a revolting Hallmark special of a movie that further denigrated Rob Lowe with its revolting schmaltz. It's evil.

Also on the evil list is the song about Santa Claus visiting the soldier in Iraq, because it has nearly caused an accident every time I hear it and start bawling like a pregnant woman with a side of incoherent estrogen.

I actually actively detest these songs because really? There are better ways of reminding me of the spirit of Christmas and the plight of the lonesome soldier than MAKING ME CRY. I mean c'mon, even "A Christmas Carol" has the good grace not to make me cry. Granted, the bit with Christmas future and the orphans scares the bejeesus out of me in the movie, but it never makes me cry. Sheesh.

Posted by: Alix R at December 4, 2008 9:35 AM

Yeah. . .the one that gets me is Maria with her nightingale. SAP-EE. I don't even attempt the shoes.

Posted by: Roxanne at December 4, 2008 9:41 AM

I HATE THAT SONG!!! I did not cry at first hearing, but puked all over my car because, as you say, it is a DESIGN to make people feel bad. Oh, and from what I know of Jesus new shoes are NOT going to impress him. Just sayin'.
Whew, so glad to get that off my chest. I'll crawl back under my rock now...

Posted by: Tequila Cookie Chris at December 4, 2008 9:49 AM

OK, I'll blame my almost 45-ness for weeping at the mere DESCRIPTION of the song I've luckily never heard (though laughing at the same time). Unfortunately, I cannot blame my age for killing-people-in-my-head, as I've been doing that as long as I can remember. Yes, I am an angry, angry person.

Posted by: Brigitte at December 4, 2008 9:50 AM

Thank you for that analysis. I am safe from the Christmas Shoes, now.

Though if I was on my death bed, I'd want pretty new shoes to go in. But I'd order them from Zappos. My kids would totally pick the wrong ones if I sent them to the store. ;)

Posted by: Mir at December 4, 2008 9:58 AM

Sign me up for the "I'd like to kill the composer" on both the shoe and the bird songs.

I agree. I HATE when people PURPOSELY prey on my emotions. They should all eat cake - and acquire all my extra weight as punishment.

Posted by: Mit at December 4, 2008 10:26 AM

Since I have providentially managed to avoid ever hearing this song, I had to look for the lyrics. I discovered (via Wikipedia): "In Tom Reynolds 2006 book I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard, he names "The Christmas Shoes" as the most depressing song in modern recorded music history."

Posted by: Laura at December 4, 2008 10:28 AM

Yes, I've wondered why anyone would purposely write a song like that that is designed to make people feel bad AND makes no sense either. Heck, there are enough things in this world that are actually happening to make us feel bad and cry - why make up that nonsense? And even more, why do radio stations play it? Is it supposed to make us open our wallets and give? Doesn't work that way for me.

Posted by: Deborah P at December 4, 2008 10:31 AM

Oh my goodness... okay. Here's the thing. I LOATHE that Christmas Shoes song. The very first time I heard it, it made me mad. Not because I hate little children, or Christmas, or (lord knows) SHOES, but because the manipulation was the very first thing that struck me about it. The person who wrote that song was not trying to tell a story. They were trying to make us cry. And THAT is inexcusable and cynical and yucky. As a writer, I don't think you can EVER be thinking about how the audience will react. You just have to tell the story, and the audience will feel how they feel. It's like that awful movie "Pay It Forward." The writer(s) said, "I've got a great idea! At the end, let's KILL THE KID. And everyone will WEEP!" Gah.

The Christmas Shoes movie is also inexcusable -- it has Rob Lowe and Kimberly whosit from the "Father of the Bride" remake as the languishing mother.

I do like the nightingale song, because to me that is not manipulative. It's sort of like The Little Drummer Boy, only in Mexico and with a girl. Because it's about humble gifts humbly offered, I think it's lovely.

Posted by: Aimee at December 4, 2008 11:03 AM

I'm going to employ Spock logic for most the gushy stuff this time of year. I can't take the weepies.

Posted by: Lisa Milton at December 4, 2008 11:40 AM

Hate "The Christmas Shoes" song? Check. Hate the movie? Check. Can't abide people who litter when the can is RIGHT THERE? Check. How about the people who can't walk 20 ft to put up their shopping cart and instead leave it propped against the bumper of my car? CHECK! Wow I'm an angry person too! Luv the holidays, but cheese whiz, some stuff I can do without.

Posted by: Kathy at December 4, 2008 11:51 AM

I'm with Erin. I have GOT to stop reading your blog at work.

This post makes me smile and ask, "So, Joss, how's the BOOK going?"

I always feel bad passing homeless people (I work in Philadelphia) but I don't feel bad when they WALK THROUGH THE SUBWAY CARS haggling. It costs at least $2 to ride the subway and there is a Wendy's with a dollar menu next to the station. Whoever got them their subway tokens should've just taken them to Wendy's. I think I may be an angry person, too.

Posted by: Jess at December 4, 2008 12:30 PM

Someone should've told the kid to save his money--I don't think Jesus would mind if you show up barefoot! Am I wrong?

You are hysterical, Joshilyn. I snorted when I read that last sentence.

Posted by: Katie at December 4, 2008 12:53 PM

I too have been repeatedly brought to tears byt the Christmas Shoes song, but I have not yet heard it this year, probably because every time I dare to switch to the all-Christmas-all-the-time station the Bruce Springsteen version of Santa Clause is Coming to Town is on. Every time. I know I live in New Jersey, but really, enough is enough.

Posted by: Dani at December 4, 2008 12:57 PM

From the depths of my gratitude that I have somehow been spared BOTH the shoes and the nightingale songs I offer to your Spock-brains the information that nightingales are not indigenous to Mexico. Welcome.

Posted by: rams at December 4, 2008 1:04 PM

I hate that fiendish song too... and I also hate that Butterfly Kisses song. I bet the same person wrote them.

Posted by: jenn at December 4, 2008 2:06 PM

Such cynicism. Are you sure you aren't a Yankee?

I don't care for the one about the starving children in Africa where at the end of one verse, the guy sings - be glad its them instead of you. That one is just dripping in Christmas sprirt.

Posted by: Em at December 4, 2008 2:08 PM

I call those kind of songs, propaganda songs. They are written and recorded to make you cry. I will turn the station to avoid the drivel. I also hate the litterers. And if the homeless can stand on a street corner collecting money for eight hours, they could do a job! I am angry too!

Posted by: Jo at December 4, 2008 2:10 PM

Yeah, those songs have gotten me ever since I was first pregnant 4 years ago. My personal nemesis was/is a song about a daughter who is dying and the mother talks about the child being small, and asks "who will hold her hand as she crosses the streets of heaven?" Gets me every time, and the writer should be shot on sight, because it is drivel, and yet it makes me cry!

Posted by: amy at December 4, 2008 2:36 PM

I've always kinda wondered if the kid grew up to be a shoe fetishist :P

Posted by: Heather at December 4, 2008 3:21 PM

Joss...THANK YOU. FINALLY a venue to share my disgust of that Christmas Shoes song. Gag. I hated the sappiness of it the first time I heard it. (And Mir, of course you would get your shoes on love it!)

Another song I detest is Dan Fogelberg's called "Same Old Lang Syne." Basically it's about a guy who runs into an old lover at a grocery store. are the lyrics:

Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg

"Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totaled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car"

That just screams holidays doesn't it?? Beer in a parked car? Really?

Posted by: Andrea at December 4, 2008 6:59 PM

I love you and all your commenters. OK, I've never heard of the "Christmas Shoes" song, but I can relate. I first found out I was doomed to be weepy and could never cut it as a cynical journalist again was when I walked into a romm, 7 months pregnant, and saw some kid with a lot of hair crying on TV and bust into hystironic tears. It was "Curly Sue" apparently -- never saw any more than that).
After we send the "Christmas Shoes" song person to his/her fate, can we do the same to the person that wrote "Grandma got Runover by a Reindeer?" Sadly, that is a cartoon.

Posted by: JulieB at December 4, 2008 8:11 PM

Christmas shoes. UGH! Wept like wild the first time I heard it. Later I became curious about exactly what kind of shoes the kid bought. Hmmm?? I'm thinking he bought red sparkly Wizard of OZ shoes so his mamma could click her heels together and utter, "There's no place like home..." with her last dying breath.

Posted by: JeanEva at December 4, 2008 8:34 PM

I don't know, Andrea, I've been tempted to pull over and pick up a six pack a few times when Christmas Shoes has come on the radio! Maybe Dan (God rest his soul) was thinking the same thing! LOL! But to your point, when did Same Old Lang Syne become a Christmas song? I never knew it was one until they started playing it during the 24x7 holiday music shows a couple years ago. It was originally on The Innocent Age album - not a Christmas album. Go figure!

Em...I nearly spit Diet Pepsi all over my keyboard. The whole "be glad it's them instead of you"...nuff said!

The only other Christmas song that drives me batcrap c-r-a-z-y is a Beach Boys song. Not a sad one - just as annoying as all get out. "Christmas comes this time each year." Over and over and over and over... NO KIDDING! Come to think of it, maybe THAT'S why Dan went into that grocery store and bought the beer, Andrea!

(Geez, Joss, now ya got me going!)

Posted by: Charmi at December 4, 2008 8:55 PM

Yeah. . .the Dan Fogelburg song is an old, mainstream hit, and somehow it started being played at Christmas--I'm supposing because he mentions Christmas Eve. Somebody just wanted a break from all of the Christmas carols that are played 24/7 on some stations beginning Thanksgiving, so they went in search of ANY AND EVERY song that mentions a December holiday.

"Christmas comes this time each year." is from "The Little Saint Nick." Santa trades in his sled for a surfboard. My kids LOVE it. Me? Not so much.

Posted by: Roxanne at December 4, 2008 10:35 PM

OK, so there are two things. One is that I made the terrible mistake of watching this red shoes movie last weekend during an orgy of terrible Lifetime movie watching after Thankgiving. It was the stuffing coma, I could not move. And at the end? With the shoes? On Christmas eve? Bawling my cynical, suspicious, agnostic eyes out while all the while my cold-eyed intellect is going "you are being manipulated. Pull yourself together woman you are embarrassing us" in the back of my head.
Two is - have you heard the Christmas song about the cat? On the doorstep? In the storm? With the mouse?
I listened to it in the car by accident the other day and I almost had to pull over.
Is this the oncoming train of 40? It's going to make me a sniveling and sentimental drip? As if gravity were not insult enough?

Posted by: Juno at December 4, 2008 10:59 PM

Okay, because you mentioned the Little Match Girl AND scam artists who ask for $3 for the train... you simply MUST go check out Striking 12, a fantastic Christmas music by Groovelily. They are your people, I swear; you will love them and love them and wonder why you never found them before. I don't *do* recommendations usually, but this entire post screamed "STRIKING 12! GROOVELILY!", and I think you would get a kick out of them :)

Posted by: Blue-haired Jessie at December 4, 2008 11:57 PM

I'm a Christmas Shoes crier too. But not no more! I win too.

Posted by: Nik at December 5, 2008 2:45 AM

Oh THANK YOU! It is such a relief to know the True Story of Christmas Shoes.

Those rascals.

Posted by: el-e-e at December 5, 2008 2:35 PM

I have to chime in on this one. I H A T E that Christmas Shoes song. The dude that wrote that should be shot. First time I heard that song, I cried so hard I almost had an accident, and I too scream at the radio to change it the second that hideous thing comes on the radio. Thank you Joss, for helping me overcome the pull of that sap-fest!!
And, when I was pregnant, I would cry at that coffee commercial where the soldier comes home at Christmas and surprises his mom and dad. Eegads - I wasn't allowed to watch TV for months!! :-)

Posted by: Nicole in WI at December 5, 2008 8:51 PM

LOVED your novel, "the girl who stopped swimming", While looking for the name of the other novel blurbed on the jacket, I googled up your blog in an interview article. First: Yay! I love your writing! Secondly: Yay! I love your blog! Thirdly: Eudora Welty! Harper Lee! YES!
Fourth: I heard "Christmas Shoes" on the radio tonight, driving home from a parade in downtown Chula Vista which was so small-town that one of the politician's cars broke down, and three guys from the crowd were just pushing his "classic car" along the parade route. I went because my son was playing in one of the marching bands, and because I thought that my 3 yr old would love to see a parade. (He slept through it, including his brother's performance.) "Christmas Shoes" was so cloying, so sappy and corny, that even I- me- who misted up over the Girl Scout troupe marching down Third Avenue tonight- with no child of mine in the troupe- even I, a champion sap, almost turned the radio off. I am so with you on this.

Posted by: Lisa at December 7, 2008 12:40 AM

Oh thank heavens. I thought I was the only one who saw right through this piece of crapola. I KNOW that kid is going to return the shoes to the store the day after Christmas and la la la away with the loot. And then Dying Mom will need New Year's Eve Jimmy Choos. I just KNOW it.

Posted by: Penny at December 7, 2008 1:57 PM

I despise the Christmas shoes song. With every fiber of my being and with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

My boyfriend thinks it's funny when I say, "GAH! It's the f*@/$#% CHRISTMAS SHOES SONG!!!!!" and immediately change the station. I am so going to make him read your post.

And while I'm at it? I HATE HATE HATE the song where Santa watches over the soldier. I'm not unpatriotic and I support our troops -- but that song makes me want to jab white-hot needles under the fingernails of the narrator.

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Tuli at December 8, 2008 12:17 PM

Yeah, But see the mom made a miraculous recovery because the mom in the movie is Kimberly Williams and now she is on According to JIm so she has to have survived. So now I don't cry when I hear it any more!

Posted by: Cathi at December 8, 2008 2:38 PM

I too bawl like a baby when I hear the Christmas Shoes song. However, I didn't hear the song until after I had read the book - bet you didn't know that? It's written by Donna VanLiere and I received it as a gift. I, of course, cried through the book.

Sooooo, when I heard the song, I thought of the book. Although, I do admit, the shortened is very depressing.

There is a sequel, The Christmas Blessing, where the boy is grown up that was quite a tear jerker. And, a third book, The Christmas Hope, which brings in new characters. I haven't read this one yet.

Yes - I know - I'm very sappy at times. And I hate my 40's - I cry at everything (soldier home in Folger's commercial - Yeah!)

Posted by: Pamela L at December 8, 2008 6:26 PM


Posted by: Heather at December 11, 2008 10:16 AM

Just a side note.... Red Sovine totally kicks the dying mommy shoes song in the posterior. Any one of his songs will reduce me to a sorry, sorry puddle.

Posted by: Heather Porterfield at December 12, 2008 12:18 PM