Generally speaking, I don’t do Christmas. At all. But when I see an ad in the classifieds for “Three female elves to work in a mall during the Christmas season”, well, I have to say something.
And the first thing I have to say is, I don’t think they’re going to find any – male or female. They may find three women to play the part, but I doubt they’ll find three elves.
Which brings me to the second thing I have to say: why do they have to be female? What must a Santa’s elf do that a man can’t do?
One, Santa’s elves are industrious; they’re notorious for being hard workers. Well, men are hard workers. No, seriously, some are!
Two, elves are pretty handy in the workshop, making all those toys. Again, I think men can meet this requirement. (Some men are even quite good with their tools, given a little instruction.)
But in the mall, Santa’s elves will probably have to stand on their feet all day long. I must admit that I think women have an edge here. At least they do if I’m to judge by all the checkout cashiers and bank tellers I see, all of whom are women, and apparently subject to some insane rule that prohibits them from sitting down on the job. (I’ve never understood that one: surely their work wouldn’t worsen if they were able to sit down; in fact, it would probably improve – freedom from chronic back pain would have that effect, I should think.)
And, well, Santa’s elves have to smile a lot. All the time, actually. And I’m afraid women again have the advantage. Unfortunately, smiling has become second nature for women; those caught not grinning like the idiots men like to believe them to be are often reprimanded.
Now I’m willing to grant that men, because of their much-publicized superior strength, would be able to handle the standing. And the smiling (I suspect that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to maintain that tough and serious look so many men seem to favour).
But can they handle the subservience? Santa’s elves get paid minimum wage, which is less than what Santa gets paid, and they pretty much play the part of Santa’s subordinates.
Despite that, Santa’s elves are really quite important. Ask any Santa who’s had to work with an elf with an attitude. (I can give you some names.) A good elf intercepts the sucker that will get stuck in the beard; a good elf tells Santa the difficult names so the kid won’t start bawling because Santa doesn’t even know his name; a good elf has ‘pee-my-pants radar’ and uses it at all times. And a good elf does all that while appearing to be merely ornamental. I’m not sure men would be very good at that. Most men I’ve known who are important act like it. (‘Course, so do the ones who aren’t important.)
Lastly, let’s not forget that Santa’s elves must be good with kids. And this one really makes me hesitate. Men can make kids, with hardly a second thought. But can they interact with them? Can they pay attention to kids for eight hours at a time?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes. Yes they can. Oh I know they don’t, most of them. I’ve read the stats on dead-beat dads who keep up their car payments while ignoring their child support payments. And I’ve read the stats showing that fathers spend, what is it, less than an hour a day with their kids (their own kids – it hasn’t escaped me that Santa’s elves have to pay attention to other people’s kids – to phrase it in a way apparently significant to men, other men’s kids). But well, just because they don’t doesn’t mean they can’t. After all, if women can be lawyers and mechanics, why can’t men be Santa’s elves?