The fun factor 

I've said it before, I'll say it again, there's just a little bit too much excitement at this time of year for my delicate little constitution to handle. I need some way to make sense of it all.

"You mean there are too many booze-filled candies, hot-buttered eggnogs and champagne toasts for your delicate constitution," says the Lizard of Fun, raising a glass of some sort of seasonal cocktail that involves a complicated arrangement of peppermint patties, cream liqueurs and overproof rum. "The only sense you need to have is that this is the best time of year, Freak Girl, and don't you forget it."

"Best for what?" I whine, feeling overwhelmed by the flash and dazzle of it all (or maybe that's just the neighbor's Christmas display).

The Lizard smiles, its teeth glinting red and green in the lights. "For having fun, of course. Oh, and for making fun, too, but that's a whole other thing."

Resisting the urge to hide under my desk until December is over and all the required seasonal obligations are past, I turn to the Lizard and ask the obvious question: "Making fun of what?"

"Well, of you, for starters," says the Lizard with a cocktail-sipping snicker. "But also of all those people who are taking this particular holiday season all too seriously. You'd think it was the first time they'd ever seen a new millennium."

"Ah, yes, of course," I say. "So what are you doing to celebrate without getting too serious, O semiplastered one?" "Shopping," says the Lizard with a giddy grin. "I've been shopping."

"I told you, I don't want any presents from you this year. I'm trying to cut down on my supply of beer hats and whoopee cushions."

"You say that like you don't appreciate them," it says, faking hurt. "Anyway, it's not always about you. I've been buying presents for moi."

The Lizard opens a shopping bag and pulls out a shiny new Sony PlayStation and a copy of the Resident Evil video game. "Do you have any idea how hard this was to find? I had to go to 12 different stores, and buy myself something at each of them. It was hell."

I glance at the video game's cover, noticing the Entertainment Software Rating Board's symbol. "Hmmm. It's rated 'mature.' Are you sure you're up for that?"

"Very funny," says the Lizard. "Actually, I've got a brochure from the ESRB that explains what those ratings refer to. In this case, I think it's the violent zombies."

I look at the brochure the Lizard hands me. It explains that the ESRB is an independent board that determines who should be able to play each of the video games on the market. It labels the front of the video game with an age rating, and the back with a description of why the content merits that particular rating — terms such as "animated violence," "realistic blood and gore" and "edutainment."

"Well," huffs the Lizard, "anything called 'edutainment' should definitely have a warning label on it."

"Especially any edutainment involving violent zombies," I say. "Anyway, this seems reasonable — it's not much different from movie ratings. Nobody pays attention to those, either."

The Lizard nods, and reads out more of the descriptors. "'Comic mischief.' 'Gaming.' 'Use of tobacco and alcohol.' Heck, this sounds like last night at the casino. Oh, maybe add some 'strong sexual content' too, at least until she dumped that Stoli in my lap. Never mind."

I look again at the list. "I guess these are meant to help people decide whether to play the games. Do you think if there were ratings on all these seasonal activities, I'd be able to make a more informed decision?"

"No, but what do ya have in mind?" asks the Lizard, licking the edges of its PlayStation box lovingly.

"Well, you know, maybe a 'strong language' warning for the religious services. An 'animated violence' warning for when Pokémon stuff goes on sale. A 'use of drugs' warning for the inevitable New Year's Day hangover ... "

"The only warning I need is 'Freak Girl may be present.' Now shush up, I need to practice my Christmas carols, my Ramadan readings and my solstice chants."

"All that?"

"Well, we lizards don't belong to any particular organized religion, so we get to celebrate whatever and whenever we like," says the Lizard, spinning a dreidel.

"So you just make up your own holidays?" I ask.

"Not exactly, but that's not a bad idea," it muses, and then grins broadly. "Say, what'cha doing next Saturday? I'm gonna declare it National Lizard of Fun Day. That'll get a 'suggestive themes' and 'comic mischief' rating at least."

I shrug, and look at the calendar. "That's Christmas."

"Um. So it is. Well, that'll do nicely," says the Lizard, wrapping a length of tinsel garland around its neck. "At least people will already know to decorate."

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