Last year, finishing up chemo, my family started getting random Christmas cards. Which put me in a bit of a bind, because, what are survivors going to write; “I put my entire life on hold, bankrupted myself, strained all my relationships, BUT, I am still alive?” I mean, we could, and it would be accurate, but it hardly stacks up to “…And then Jack was made sub-associate deputy Vice President, and our attorney has reached an excellent deal with the SEC that will only require us to return a third of the employee pension fund!”

Then I actually read these letters. They aren’t letters, not any more; in some cases, they’re literally just list of bullet points of accomplishments and brag points. From there to the realization that they’re almost certainly lies is a minor leap of logic. Which then lead me to completely abandon any semblance of truth in my own letters (if they don’t hesitate to bend the rules, I’ll break those same rules)(it’s the Chicago way). Once you free yourself from the thin veneer of civility and decide to test the outer limits of preposterousness, life gets more interesting. Certainly, I feel that sincere spite and sarcasm are vastly preferable to unfelt cordiality. Feel free to revise, reuse, and steal shamelessly from it. Also, this is not for the faint of heart (but it’s hardly worse than any of the standard boasts you see in Christmas cards).

Greetings, near-stranger who is somehow in our contacts list, and we feel obliged to send a cheap card to, but don’t hate enough to send a mail-order fruitcake to;

2019 was a great year for our family. I’m writing this from the veranda of our winter home on our private Caribbean island. Sotheby’s recently appraised the property at $250 million; we were able to acquire it in February for just $120 by kidnapping the previous owner’s children and demanding he use the property for ransom.

Dan was recently promoted to sub-assistant to the deputy Vice-President of Human Resources. There wasn’t a significant pay increase, but he was offered stock options. Some might argue that there’s an inherent conflict of interest in an HR representative sharing corporate profits, as the SEC did when Dan cut the hours and benefits for 55% of the company staff.

We wanted a traditional Christmas, so, at sunset on the solstice, Dan and I sacrificed out two youngest children to a pagan god of Winter. Which is a shame, because Timmy just made First Trumpet in his sixth grade band. Julie just won the fourth grade spelling bee. Needless to say, we are deeply upset and disturbed by this random, senseless, easily-preventable tragedy, but our fear of nonexistent deities far outweighs our love for our children.

Dan and I also finally fulfilled a lifelong goal of sky-diving onto both Everest and K2 in the same week. We decided to do this to celebrate our 428th anniversary, which has not happened yet, but we’re certain our ableist sense of entitlement will see us through the coming centuries.

Our son, Steve, was recently admitted to MIT after an entirely benign, innocuous seven-digit donation to the alumni fund. He’ll start attending next Tuesday, so he can matriculate before any pesky ADAs start asking questions. Truly, if you work hard, dream big, have familial connections to the undelying power structure of the country, and have a massive trust fund, you can still make it in this country.

Our other children are being raised by a series of poorly-paid nannies and tutors, but I trust they’re all doing well.

Hope your 2019 was great.

Insincerely yours,


Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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