This is the story of how I came to believe that Santa Claus is real.
My parents never told me there was a Santa Claus. They didn't want me finding out that Santa Claus wasn't real and then think maybe Jesus wasn't either. So one day, they sat me down and told me two things: 1) Santa Claus is "pretend fun like Bert and Ernie," and 2) if I told the other kids about No. 1, they'd spank me. (As it turns out, I got spanked a lot.)
But even if they had told me there was a Santa Claus, I don't think I would have believed them. I was a nerdy child who believed the real world was actually more magical if Santa Claus didn't exist. After all, which is more impressive, that Santa Claus and his elves made toys in a workshop at the North Pole and delivered them all in one night or that millions of strangers around the world living in different countries, speaking different languages, and worshiping different gods all peacefully collaborated with each other to make a toy, which my dad bought with money he made at the Charleston Naval Shipyard? I was like the atheist whose lack of belief in God causes him to appreciate the wonder of the universe even more. Who needs Santa Claus when you have the Invisible Hand?
But even if Santa Claus were real, it was never clear to me why the other kids liked him. What exactly did he do that was so great? Once a year he traveled around the world delivering toys to children based on how much their parents made. That didn't sound too nice to me. If your parents made a lot of money, he gave you great gifts. If your parents didn't make a lot of money, he gave you crappy gifts. And if your parents made no money, or you didn't have parents, he gave you nothing. You had to get all your gifts from Toys for Tots or Debi Chard. That's right. You were Debi's Kids now.
So I never believed in Santa Claus and never wanted anything to do with him. But then, three years ago, I met Stephanie. Long story short, we fell in love, and two months ago we got married. She's the love of my life. Not that we always see eye to eye. She leans socialist, I lean libertarian. She's Polish, I'm white. She's Catholic, I'm going to heaven. We're very different. But nothing — not politics, race, or religion — has divided us more than Santa Claus.
You see, for Stephanie all of the above is true, and yet the magic of Christmas is that once a year we all pretend it isn't. People don't want to live in a world without magic, where toys are produced by selfish strangers and purchased with money your parents earned by selling their labor on the free market. We'd rather live in a world where old magical men — whether it's Santa Claus, God, or Uncle Sam — give us free stuff without our spending too much thought about where it comes from.
For most of our relationship, we agreed to disagree, but after we got married, the question of Santa Claus grew larger: What if we have kids? How should we raise them? At first I was opposed. How could I lie to my children? But the more I listened to my wife's heartwarming stories about growing up believing in Santa Claus, the more I realized that my marriage would go a lot smoother if I just pretended she was right. And isn't that the real meaning of Christmas? Lying to those we love about what we believe so they'll stop bothering us all the time?
So like most things in our relationship, we've decided to compromise. If and when we have kids, our plan is to tell them there is a Santa Claus, and once they're old enough to ask if he really exists, we'll tell them that he's just pretend fun. You know, like Bert and Ernie. The beauty of this compromise is everyone gets what they want.
Oh, and if you see my wife, please tell her I believe in Santa Claus. Tell her I'm on board with our plan. That way, she'll leave me alone. And when we do have kids, I can wait until she's out of the house, sit them down, tell them their mother is a liar, and by then it'll be too late for a divorce.
Jeremy McLellan is a two-time winner of the Charleston Comedy Festival Stand Up Competition and was voted Best Local Comic in the Charleston City Paper. He will be opening for Todd Barry at the Sottile on January 23 during the Comedy Fest and headlining the 2016 BrewHaha at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in June.