Mall Santas are a weird tradition. You take your child to a bathhouse of consumerism, wait in a colorful line full of uptight angry people and then pay money so that your son or daughter can sit on
Santa’s Lap the lap of an elderly, bearded stranger and (probably) cry.
I have never been able to get used to this. Not that I have anything against portly men with beards– some of them are great. Actually, lots of them are great. I sort of wish we had the option to let our kids sit in the laps of other bearded guys, but none of them are sitting around in malls surrounded by people in elf costumes. If they were, however, here are some of the other laps I’d consider for my kid.
George R.R. Martin’s Lap
Are there any parents who wouldn’t let their children sit on George R.R. Martin’s lap?
Ok, yes. Yes there are. Maybe this was a bad place to start. I’m sure at least one parent is going, “No, that’s weird.” And yes, having your kid sit on George RR Martin’s lap is a little weird, but at least you know who he is, which is more than you can say for this guy in the velvet pants at this mall in Paramus. At least in the case of Martin you can have your child practice saying the phrase, “Hey, when is the next book going to come out?”
Jeff Bridges’ Lap (circa The Giver, Crazy Heart, True Grit, RIPD or The Big Lebowski)
Anyone else remember when Jeff Bridges was the guy from Starman? Yes? Well enjoy being one of three people on the planet who remembers “Exposed Facial Skin” Jeff Bridges because since 2006 or so (when his face suddenly got really cold) that guy became a distant memory. Jeff Bridges now only accepts roles in which his face looks like a medium-sized terrier. But the question, once again, is would you let your child sit on Jeff Bridges’ lap?
Of COURSE you would. It’s Jeff Bridges! And then when Jeff Bridges is like, “Ok, what would you like this year for Christmas?” your child can say, “I’d like Jeff Bridges’ autograph!” And Jeff Bridges will go, “Have you been good all year?” and your kid will go “Yep,” (even if it’s not true) and Jeff Bridges will give your kid a brand new, autographed iPod! And when your child awkwardly goes, “Mom, Dad, some of the other kids in school said there’s no such thing as Jeff Bridges,” you can sit that kid right down to watch The Fisher King fourteen times.
Ian McKellan’s Lap (in full Gandalf Costume)
I don’t know why this isn’t an actual option, since I know plenty of parents who would probably KILL to have their child’s photo taken on Gandalf’s lap. Honestly, even just typing this sort of makes me wish this were a real option. Is there a mall somewhere that would do this?
Willie Nelson’s Lap
Even writing out the option for my child to sit on Willie Nelson’s lap required the all-too-well-known Google search, “Willie Nelson Alive?” which informed me that contrary to a hoax earlier this year, this guy is still kicking. Also since writing the above I saw him on the finale of the Colbert report standing next to Bryan Cranston and Doris Kearns Goodwin, so clearly this guy is up for doing stuff.
Zach Galifianakis’ Lap
The perfect option for boys who think they’re too old for sitting on Santa’s Lap, although honestly maybe a better option might be if Zach Galifinakis just dressed up as Santa in a mall somewhere (sitting, obviously, between two ferns) and wreaked havoc with everyone’s attempt to have a normal Christmas. Parents can place their children on his lap and Zach Galifinakis can go, “What do you want for Christmas, boys and girls?” and then regardless of what they answer he can hand out undissected owl pellets, or popcorn balls held together with earwax, or possibly, his own scabs.
For those children who love magic but aren’t quite ready for Gandalf, why not a mall where you can sit on Hagrid’s lap? He can ask what they want for Christmas in that super-endearing Hagrid voice and then accidentally blurt out what they’re actually getting, followed by the phrase, “I shouldnt’a said that,” which will make your child squeal with delight. Hagrid can give your child a gift from a velvet sack filled with dragon’s eggs and spiders or possibly his gift to your child can be his saying the phrase, “You’re a wizard, Harry,” but subbing in your child’s first name in lieu of the word “Harry,” i.e. “You’re a wizard, Caitlin,” “You’re a wizard, Dennis,” “You’re a wizard, Brian.” Magical fun for the whole family.
Tom Hanks’ Lap (Circa Cast Away)
The perfect choice for the overly materialistic child, bring your young one in to sit on Tom Hanks’ lap while Hanks is dressed as his beard-sporting, loincloth-wearing character in Cast Away. Your child will rattle off a list of things he or she wants only to have Hanks exclaim, “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ALL THESE MATERIAL THINGS CAN BE TAKEN FROM YOU IN A SECOND? ALL THESE THINGS YOU THINK ARE SO IMPORTANT CAN DISAPPEAR AND YOU’LL BE FORCED TO CONFRONT WHAT’S REALLY MEANINGFUL. LIFE AND THE COMPANIONSHIP OF OTHERS IS A PRECIOUS GIFT THAT SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. PLEASE DO NOT SQUANDER YOUR TIME ON THIS EARTH. He then quietly reaches into his sack and hands your child a FedEx package containing a volleyball.