My partner and I discussing the true meaning of Vaffeldagen, aka Waffle Day, aka March 25th:

Me: Vaffeldagen isn’t about the waffles. It’s about the friends we can’t see because of the pandemic.

Partner: The real friends are the waffles you made along the way.

a collage of a gingerbread house

This is a thing that still exists in my dining room. When I made this gingerbread house over a month ago, my brother was making his own gingerbread house. His was the gingerprison known as “Santatraz,” while mine was the safehouse set up by three of the escaped inmates: a cylops and a walrusman who were the victim of experiments, and a permanently scarred soul who survived an endless conflict known only as “The War.”

The unfortunate truth about the safehouse’s south-facing bay window is that it’s also the mouth of the cannibalistic safehouse. No one mows the lawn on that side of the house and comes back alive…

The Devastating Real Life Effects of HOME ALONE’s Booby Traps

This video explains why the traps in Home Alone would actually be lethal. This is something we all know to be true, but the video explains it with engineering and physics. And silliness.

Kevin McCallister is still my role model.

8 Ways to Destroy Someone with OCD this Holiday Season

If you’re entertaining in your home this year, there are many reasons why you might want to utterly destroy a guest with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the technical differences between a frenemy, a nemesis, and a cousin who drives you to murder with a turkey baster are beyond the scope of this article, all are bound to show up at your door this holiday season, and one of them might have OCD. By taking the words of Sun Tzu to heart, and learning these actionable techniques, you can deal with that person.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

OCD comes in many forms, and this guide is not meant for all of them.
But if you know your guest has OCD, and you know that their OCD intersects with germaphobia or health anxiety, you need not fear the result of this holiday season.

Greet your guest at the door

Holiday collage of Christmas lights, mixed nuts, and rolls with colored sprinkles.

Start off on the right foot! Or rather, the right hand, where you keep a great deal of germs. A hearty hug or a handshake is the perfect way to warmly welcome your OCD guest into your home while also saying, “Nothing is safe for you here.”

This one is especially great if your guest is female! No matter how many gender norms we see fall by the wayside, the norm at gatherings of friends and family is still to hug women while men shake hands. If you are warm, effusive, and sweater-wearing, you can hug everyone.

Once you’ve mastered the basic greeting, next year you can pull out of the hug and cough demurely. Something is going around!

Make space for everyone

Do you need to make space on the table for another side dish or for another guest’s plate? Does your OCD guest have a cup full of water that they’ve been sipping from? This is a two-birds-with-one-stone situation, like when you have multiple turkeys and kill them yourself with the molded plaster “Welcome to our home!” tile that you scooped up from the walkway.

Wait until your OCD guest glances in your direction. Then pick up their cup by the rim–the part they drink out of–and move it two feet or so.

Remember, don’t pick the cup up by the base; this method is less effective less of the time, and you should make sure you know your guest is suitably sensitive before trying it.

Take more mashed potatoes

Curses, you’ve run out of mashed potatoes! You scoop up more potatoes, but they are hearty and thick, and they stick to the spoon. Don’t panic; you can get out of this situation with subtlety and panache, and you can destroy your OCD guest at the same time.

Now, do you have the serving spoon in hand? Clunk the spoon onto your gravy-swirled plate. This action will free your desired serving of potatoes, while also leaving a subtle seasoning of your mouth-germs on the spoon, which you should then stick back into the nursing-home-yellow casserole dish.

Burn those holiday calories

Going for a post-meal walk or run either to burn off some calories or for a good reason? For convenience, place your sneakers soles-down on the table before you sit down to put them on. Make sure it’s not a side table, an end table or a coffee table: you want to use the kitchen or dining room table.

This will send a clear message: “All the germs from every public restroom I’ve walked in with these shoes are now on the table where we eat!”

Keep up your dental hygiene

Is your guest staying over? You have a great opportunity here! Make sure they’re around when you brush your teeth, and do the following: squeeze out your pea-sized ball of toothpaste, scrape your wet, used toothbrush over the opening of the toothpaste tube to get the paste off, and hand your guest the tube. Make sure to tell them, “All set! Here you go!” in your cheeriest holiday voice.

Make holiday cookies

You’ll want to get the kids involved with this one! The smaller and more heartless they are, the better!

Even though flax is a flawless egg substitute when it comes to cookies, make sure you use raw eggs in your cookies. After you’ve rolled out your cookies and put them on trays, but before you wash your hands and tidy up, make you sure touch a lot of things. Chairs, doorknobs, and refrigerator handles are great options which are all in close proximity of your kitchen.

If you really want to be a maverick, combine this with the next tip.

Put out the guest soap

You know those shell-shaped soaps that sit ambiguously in their dish, making guests fret over whether they’re supposed to use them or not?
Don’t use them. That kind of holiday anguish is old-school, and definitely not on-trend. These days, there’s a better way: have bars of moisturizing soap at every sink, and turn off your hot water. The slippery, difficult-to-rinse nature of the moisturizing soap draws out the oft-repeated hand-washing process of your OCD guest, making it as long an excruciating as possible.

Keeping your hot water off ensures that if your guest needs to wash hands multiple times—and they will, if you’re following these tips!—their fingers will be too numb to unwrap presents or pretend to eat your dubious food.

Share some comfort and joy

Is there a flu going around? Has your guest expressed concern about the flu, or about the sick children you invited because child germs are different from adult germs? Remember to make vague comments about upset stomachs, then assure your guest that it’s indigestion.

Does your guest think the meat seems undercooked? Make sure you dismiss this silly concern! Even if you used a meat thermometer, even if the pink occurs naturally in that cut of meat, even if you’re an experienced cook, don’t say any of those things. Don’t explain how you know the meat is fine. Simply say, “there’s nothing to worry about.”

Remember that dismissing legitimate concerns isn’t holiday gaslighting; it’s sharing comfort and joy.

As Sun Tzu said, that’s what the holidays are all about.


The Story of Våffeldagen

Every March, my partner and I host a brunch and tell our guests to bring a bowl of waffle batter. We invite all the friends and family, geeks and hippies, awesome, quirky, intelligent people we can, and they all co-mingle over a chaotic five hour feast of every type of experimental waffle you can imagine.

Ok, that’s not true. I can imagine a lot of waffles. Snozzberry waffles. But we’ve had chocolate waffles, chocolate mint waffles, blueberry waffles, jalapeno corndog waffles, taco waffles, bacon waffles, peanut butter banana waffles, pumpkin waffles, and all sorts of regular old waffles, made with everything from Bisquick to home grown goose eggs. We’ve had four waffle makers going at a time, and we always end up with batter-globbed counters at the end of the day.

Here’s how that started.

In Sweden, yesterday was Våffeldagen. The Waffle Day.

Have you not heard of Våffeldagen?

I first learned about Våffeldagen from Craig Ferguson, during a time in my life when I watched The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with zealous obsession on a regular basis.

He starts talking about Våffeldagen a bit around 5:20. The embed function isn’t working right now, so here’s the link:

Craig Ferguson on Våffeldagen.

Needless to say, my partner and I celebrated a slightly belated Våffeldagen the very next day. Nothing extravagant, just a batch of waffles with some leftover Santa chocolate chips thrown in.

The next year, when March 25th rolled around, we had the following awesome conversation, which planted the seed for what Våffeldagen would become:

“Hey, isn’t today Vaffeldagn?”

“I guess it is.”

“Let’s have some waffles.”

“Ok.”

“Can they be chocolate?”

“Ok. Can you find a chocolate waffle recipe?”

“Ok.”

You see, at this point, Våffeldagen wasn’t yet Våffeldagen. Except for in Sweden. For me, Våffeldagen was still on the level of President’s Day. As in, you have to ask, “Isn’t it President’s Day?” Then, whatever the answer is, you go about your life and don’t really do anything.

Except with Våffeldagen, we didn’t really do anything, plus we ate a waffle. From what I’ve read, that’s basically how it goes down in Sweden.

In late 2010 and early 2011, a series of events turned the Waffle Day into a Big Deal.

Here is the timeline:

  • August 2010 I find a job after a long stretch of unemployment.
  • October 2010 As a productive member of society*, I move into my first apartment with my partner.
  • December 2010 At Christmas, our relatives mainly give us things we need for our apartment. My brother buys us a square waffle maker. Dan’s brother buys us a Belgian waffle maker. We do not tell either of them that we already have a waffle maker, and could the gift be returned for something else we need?
  • Winter 2011 We remember Våffeldagen in advance instead of on the day itself.

And here is the math:**

2 waffle makers + 1 apartment + remembering in advance = inviting people over for waffles

Inviting people over for waffles x the idea of looking up different waffle recipes on the internet x “We are lazy and don’t want to cook a bajillion waffles.” =

“Let’s have a Våffeldagen potluck and invite other humans and tell them to each bring their own waffle batter.”

And that’s the story Våffeldagen, at least our Våffeldagen, and why I’ll be having a ton of people over this weekend cooking a ton of waffles. One day, it shall be the stuff of legend.


*Society still hasn’t sent me a membership card.

**If my brother (he of the square waffle maker) sees waffle math, he will hate it. Greg, I’m not sorry.

Santa’s little telescreen

Even if the decorations are still up, we’re past the time period when it’s socially acceptable for me to put up a Christmas post.  But does anyone else find the concept of Elf on the Shelf a little sinister? Elf on the Shelf creeps me out, and not just because of its plasticky 1950s smile, or its overall vibe of cutesy, overbearing innocuousness.

The basic idea of Elf on the Shelf is that it’s a minion from Santa, sent into homes during the Christmas season to track children’s behavior. Sure, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and probably a lot of other things that aren’t specifically stated in the song.

As a high level wizard, Santa has made it his job to know these things. With all the power at his disposal, he chooses to sit in his fortress at the North Pole, gazing into his crystal ball at children’s behavioral problems and tracking their circadian rhythms.

When I was a kid, if I fought with my brother near Christmas, I would be told to behave because Santa was watching. But that was ok, because I knew that Santa had been watching all year and would account for all data, even if it seemed like my parents weren’t. Santa knew all. He knew when it was really my brother’s fault, which was always.

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The only elf on my shelf.

Santa watches you the way a parent watches you, albeit with better magical surveillance equipment. He’s tall and distant, authoritative yet jolly, a benevolent giver of gifts. He’s part of a long tradition of telling kids to behave because a magical creature will know if they don’t.

Stories about bad things happening to wayward children have been around forever. “Stop your shit, or that fanged shadow-demon-thing in the forest is going to emerge from its lair and harvest your kidneys.” In our consumerist culture, it only makes sense that the horrible, bad thing involves deprivation of material goods.

New traditions appear, and old ones fade away. That can be for the best. Traditions also reflect the culture they come from, which is why I believe it’s worth looking at them with a critical eye and asking if they reflect something good. The story of Santa watching isn’t a perfect one. I’ve already mentioned the consumerist aspect, and those who are so inclined wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find other criticisms as well.

Elf on the Shelf is some combination of a snitch, a security camera, and a telescreen. It looks like a friend, but it’s there to do a job. It will betray you the instant you do something wrong. The intimacy of it, the fact that it’s up on a shelf in the living room, makes all the difference. I’m not exactly losing any sleep over it, but this is the kind of thing I find disturbing at a cultural level. While I don’t have kids, I am still invested in the health of the friendly little surveillance state culture I live in.

So, if you are the type of person who doesn’t take down their decorations until March February January, know that your Elf on the Shelf sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows what you do on St. Patrick’s Day Valentine’s Day Martin Luther King Day, and he watches you watching TV.  And he eats nachos while watching you watching TV, eating nachos.


 

Coincidentally, a friend of mine posted this article about a day or two after I wrote my first draft on this post. At first I thought it was coincidence, but who knows. Maybe she snuck an elf on the shelf into my apartment when she helped us move.