[Originally published December 21, 2012.]

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Dear Elf on the Fucking Shelf,

You’re a book, a doll, a keepsake box. You’re an iPhone app, a newsletter, and a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. You’re everywhere.

You’re a fucking nightmare.

When I was pregnant I made a list of things that I was going to ban from my house upon my daughter’s arrival: Barney, Crocs, Tickle Me Talking Elmo, all other battery-operated toys, and light-up sneakers—to name just a few.

If I had known about you, Elf on the Fucking Shelf, you would have been right up there at the top of the list.

But I was blissfully unaware of your felt trend sweeping the nation, as I waddled around gorging my face on lemon bars. Being out of the loop gives you a certain sense of liberty. It is the same liberty that I felt when we recently moved into an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. There was no way my daughter would hear about you while riding her princess bike in circles around a synagogue. In fact, we could skip all the holiday hoopla and she would never know. A fallen Catholic and a non-practicing Muslim found utopia. It was perfect!

Well, it was perfect. Then last winter my mother showed up—with you! And, before I could stop her, she gave you to my daughter, which ignited a ridiculous new family tradition. I think it was a secret ploy disguised in an act of kindness to torture me for being a stay-at-home mom. Staying home to raise a kid means having all the time in the world to waste on monkey brain bullshit—or so my mother thinks, which is why I believe it was a ruse. But that’s okay, I would play the game. I mean how long could it really last? My daughter was five, and at two she was already questioning the Jolly Old Man. I figured I’d have one more year of decking the halls and screwing around with an you. Figuratively, of course.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really not a Scrooge. I admit that I feel a tinge of warm and fuzzy when I look at the you, Elf on the Fucking Shelf. You remind me of the Annalee knee-hugging pixie elves my mom collected and lined up on the mantle every year when I was a kid. But now, when I have to set my alarm to playact your creepy spying on us in the dark of night, in the middle of a freeze-your-ass-off New England winter, I don’t feel so nostalgic.

I’m also not feeling creative. My daughter recently expressed her disappointment in you. She doesn’t think you’re very “tricky.” You are a dud—which, indirectly, means I am a dud. Thanks for that. But then there was the time I had too much spiked eggnog and left you and Barbie in the 69 position. I hope you had as much fun with that one as I did.

I am out of ideas and refuse to go on Pinterest for elf-posing tutorials. Actually, I refuse to go on Pinterest, period. I would bet a bag of reindeer food that there is a direct correlation between Pinterest account holders and Elf On the Shelf owners. If you’re the sort who virtually pins wallpaper patterns and dream kitchen sinks to a bulletin board in the sky, you are definitely posing your Elf to drink from a syrup container through a straw.

It was so much easier when I was a kid. Santa came down the chimney, filled your stocking, and went on his merry way. Throw in A Charlie Brown Christmas and call it a day. Now I have to worry about not taking the magic out of you, our “friendly scout” Elf. Now I have to leave sparkly reindeer food and cookies and milk out for the big man and his team. I have to hide gifts, disguise my handwriting on name tags, secretly wrap gifts, and prostitute myself to get my hands on McKenna, the American Girl Doll of the Year that is, ironically, sold out. Like I don’t have enough shit to worry about. I’m trying to catch up on Arrested Development on Netflix. I mean, how much can one woman handle?

Thanksgiving passed, and I didn’t take you out, Elf in a Fucking Box. I am getting emails reminding me to activate “Diamond Snowflake.” But I am not caving in. I am tempted to tell my daughter we converted to Judaism and Santa doesn’t come to us anymore. She will probably need Elf therapy for this, but we can just bundle that with her college savings plan. I’m sure she would forget all about you if she were sipping virgin piña coladas on a tropical beach come next December. Now that would be a merry fucking Christmas!

Sincerely,
Jennifer