I speak today in defense of tacky.
We are in the midst of the Christmas season, up to our jingle bells in parties and white elephant swaps and picking out just the right meaningless gift for those peripheral folks in our lives that we somehow feel obligated to recognize as the Yuletide progresses.
And as of late, it has become quite customary to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child by wearing tacky sweaters everywhere we go.
I myself host an ugly sweater contest each year on my Southern Christmas tour. The winner was a real doozy this year. It cannot be described. Only witnessed — my point being that tacky, like beauty, is firmly in the eye of the beholder.
A couple of years ago I was contacted by the New York Times — the NEW YORK TIMES — for my opinion on tacky Christmas decorations. I have no idea how the New York Times knew how I decorate my house at Christmas, but the reporter and I had a long and pleasant talk about Christmas decorations and the fine line between tasteful and tacky.
Now my mama always said that you cannot define tacky, but you will know it when you see it. I think the Supreme Court said the same thing about pornography, but that’s another story for another day. If truth be known, I probably have a little bit of the tacky gene, although I am not sure where I inherited it. If I ended a sentence with a preposition, noticing it would be normal. Commenting on it would be tacky. See how this works?
My lovely wife Lisa, for example, thinks that adorning a Christmas tree with multi-colored lights is tacky. My grandson, Sir Henley the Adorable, and I think that putting solid white lights on a Christmas tree is downright boring. And that’s when the fight started.
Actually, this issue was non-negotiable at our house, and if we had had a pre-nuptial when we got married, colored Christmas lights on the Christmas tree would have been the first item listed. Our tree has colored lights — along with every ornament we ever collected, including the ones our children made every year at elementary school. Honesty compels me to admit that all three of my children have white lights on their trees and, in the spirit of compromise, when I actually put up lights on our roofline, I use white lights only, to go with the wreaths on our windows.
Some folks would say that if I added a half-dozen blow-ups to the lawn, that would be tacky. I prefer the term festive. So far, I have lost that battle, but it has only been going on for 38 years. I’m still holding out hope.
In the spirit of the season and in the name of research, I asked several of my friends about their tackiest Christmas decoration. They all shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. One guy — it’s always the guys — said that he had a commode lid cover with a flannel Santa and that when you lifted in up, Santa covered his eyes.
I wasn’t sure I needed to ask anybody else after that revelation, but I did. An old gal I used to know up in Tennessee said that her husband projected those Star Shower Christmas lights onto their house every evening and she thought that was tacky. Hurt, I asked if it counted if you only projected them up into the trees around the house?
Another lady hated the Leg Lamp her husband puts out every year. We’re talking about a replica of the one from the iconic holiday movie “A Christmas Story.” Someone else said icicle lights. We are getting a little personal here. Someone else mentioned the wreaths that go on the front of cars and another person admitted to overdoing the tinsel garland.
I say, to each his own, and whatever you decide to deploy in order to make Christmas merrier and brighter at your house is aces with me. I’m reminded of the Dolly Parton quote. Dolly readily describes herself as being tacky and has often said, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”
Speaking of Dolly Parton, the winner of our most recent tacky Christmas sweater contest wore a red snowflake-covered sweater with “Nice” across the front in green sequins. Except that when she rubbed her hand across the front of the sweater a certain way, the green sequins spelled “Naughty.”
Merry Christmas, y’all.