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by John Grant

It's in all the newspapers, so it must be official.


I guess this means she's finally hit puberty, or something.

Who is safe among our popular totems now? Who will be next? Can we expect to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer fronting AARP ads? Will the Backstreet Boys' voices collectively break? Will a comet crash from the skies and extinguish Barney the Dinosaur? Will Christina Aguilera sing?

The news about Britney may not mean much to most people — I mean, I can hardly imagine that Alfie's turning over in bed at night at the White House and saying sleepily "I hear you've hit puberty, darling, oops" — but it has had an utterly and totally transformative effect on Christmas as experienced by the one and only ME.

All those presents I got which before could have been regarded as the self-indulgences of a retarded adolescent with a wrist-sprain problem are now altogether something different and more respectable.

They are exercises in nostalgia.

Indeed, if I hang onto them for about six weeks and look after them carefully, I should probably be able to put them up on eBay as Fine Vintage Collectibles. You know, along with all those auctions headed BRITNEY SPEARS CD — NEVER PLAYED (HONEST).

Christmas began for me in very much the usual way. At about the beginning of December I sent out letters to all of my relatives, not to mention my good friend Dave Knuckle and his sister Jean Marie Knuckle, telling them that I'd put my Christmas wish list up online at www.thrustingfarmgirls.com, as usual. Over the next few days I tried to persuade the mailman that all those envelopes marked RETURN TO SENDER were in fact Christmas cards from my wide circle of friends.

Around December 15 I resorted to writing a little billet doux to Santa and hanging up my stocking. Well, it wasn't my stocking, precisely, because I was worried about stuff falling out through the holes. I got one by lurking around in the Macy's changing rooms pretending to be a member of the staff and then grabbing at random under the doors. That, incidentally, also solved the problem of what I was going to do for Christmas presents to send to Dave's sister Jean Marie. (She, as always, for some reason had already sent me a roll of quarters and the address of a nearby laundromat.)

Anyway . . .

I sent this list of mine to Santa, see, and you can imagine my delight and surprise to discover when I woke up on the morning of Christmas Day that he'd brought me great piles of Britney Spears goodies (although he seems to have done nothing about the first and mostest important request on my list, to wit, the crashing from the skies of a comet that extinguishes Barney the Dinosaur).

So here, in no particular order, are the presents Santa brought me.

Two Meal Vouchers for Britney's New Seafood Restaurant, Ella's House of Salmon™

I'm not quite sure what to do with these, to tell you the truth. I tried slipping them under my landlord's door as a little Christmas-morning peace offering, but I'd hardly got all the way up the stairs again when he was slipping them back under my own door along with his usual yuletide eviction notice. I think my best plan is to frame them and — yes, eBay in March or so.

The Britney Spears Patent FunTime™ Brassiere

This enticing garment is not actually for myself, you understand — I may be a suave, sophisticated man about town, welcome at all the most elite nitespots (well, probably at Ella's House of Salmon, anyway), but I am not an anodyne. Except for purposes of journalistic research, that is, and even then I draw the line at brassieres. This particular model is intended for me to give to my girlfriend, when I get one. Unlike most brassieres, which any sane man requires a stick of dynamite and a math degree to remove, this one actually is the reverse:

It's almost impossible to put on, and thereafter falls right off again whenever the wearer so much as blinks. The unique ergonomic design is, of course, based on Britney's own stage attire, and is incredibly clever.

In the meantime, I can use it as a tasteful double hanging flower basket. Thank you, Santa!

Britney's Book of Wit™ and Wisdom

I know, I know. I can imagine all the mindless gibes of the festeringly antiquated thirtysomethings among you: It's a very thin book, ho, ho, ho. Well, in point of fact it's an extremely thick book, and the pages are extremely big, and the print is extremely small so that the publishers can everything in, so there. And I'm very grateful to my good friend Dave Knuckle for having given this to me, even though it's a second-hand copy that seems to have been chained to something and then ripped away.

In point of further fact, sneerers and jeerers, the publishers weren't able to get all of Britney's wit and wisdom into this book, so they've had to use a special coding system — which, I admit, I have yet entirely to penetrate. You'll have heard the story about the guy who goes to a friend's drinking club and discovers all the regulars are shouting numbers at each other and falling around laughing? And the friend explains that everyone who goes there knows the jokes so, to save the time of telling them, they've numbered the jokes?

Well, this book appears to have been designed the same way. There are columns and columns of what look like names and New York addresses, but obviously aren't, and each one has a seven-digit number next to it.

Once I've cracked the precise code that's involved — the details must have been on the original cover — I just know this book is going to give me countless hours of mirthful merriment.

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Special Britney™ Edition

In the video of this mouthwatering adaptation the dwarfs are called Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Doc and . . . Britney. As far as I can establish, the movie remains otherwise entirely unaltered.

Britney Spears Musical Sox™

Imagine the envious looks you'll get from passers-by as you stroll out on the town wearing this elegant pair of neon socks that plays Britney's greatest smashes as you walk!

Well, that's what it says on the packet.

I did, so I'm not going to.

The Britney Fruitcake™

Prepared by O. bin-Laden, the chef par excellence at the exclusive New York eatery Ella's House of Salmon™ (q.v.), this exquisite fruitcake has, it says here on the label, been made according to a highly secret recipe developed in a Government Certified perfectly ordinary canning factory somewhere on the outskirts of Baghdad. Somewhat mysteriously, the label also gives the instruction that the best way to enjoy the flavor to the full is to drop the fruitcake in the nearest reservoir.

That's a bus journey away for moi, so at the moment the fruitcake resides on my Britney Gracious Dining™ Serving Platter in the kitchenette, surrounded by ever-growing heaps of dead cockroaches.

The Britney Spears Pays Tribute CD™

Yes, the musical highlight of 2002: classic rock tracks are given the Britney treatment! Moreover, since Britney sings all the songs extremely quickly, as is her wont, she's been able to get 53 songs onto a single CD and still have room to spare. What eye could fail to shed a tear as Britney brings raw commercial passion to her sensitive one-minute-seventeen-seconds disco mix of Bob Dylan's "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"? Perhaps the choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was a marginal error of judgement but, what the hell, there are 52 other golden greats to reminisce over, assuming your reactions are fast enough to identify them.

After a couple of Loreena McKennitt covers by way of appetizer, the selection really gets going with a track that's either "Wild Thing" or "Bring on the Clowns", I'm not yet certain, and then a lovely Enya medley.

Furthermore, as I proved to myself later on Christmas Day, if you do it just right you can get the CD to skip at least a dozen times on the surface of the Hudson River. It doesn't actually thereafter sink, unfortunately, because of the vast coagulative mass of other copies of The Britney Spears Pays Tribute CD™ clogging up that erstwhile waterway, but it sure does look appropriately festive.

The Britney Spears™ Tiepin

This has been extensively featured in the current TV ad campaign by Sears (not Spears, silly!) — you know, the one where the kid's noisily doing charades and Dad, nursing a hangover, says that what he wants for Christmas is, understandably, a chainsaw.

And then, of course, what the poor bastard actually gets is a Britney Spears™ tiepin.

In fact, however, this is a beautiful collectors' item, and I was suitably grateful and impressed that my good friend's sister Jean Marie had given it to me — albeit point first. Sumptuous colored plastic-like plastic in delicate shades of fluorescent surgical pink frames a jello-like figurine of our Britney falling out of a taxi-cab.

I haven't yet been able to wear this gorgeous item for the very simple reason that my only tie — the Britney Spears Hey Big Spender™ tie that my good friend's sister Jean Marie gave to me last Christmas, pre-noosed — is currently in use as a patch on my Buffy the Vampire Slayer inflatable action figure. However, as soon as I get my puncture kit back from my landlord, who borrowed it on Boxing Day to repair the inflatable Rudolf the Red-Nosed Festive Non-Sectarian Dinosaur in his front yard, I will proudly don my tie and my treasured Britney™ Spears tiepin!

Thanks a bunch, Jean Marie! I hope the belladonna I gave you comes in handy.

Wow! What a Christmas I've had! What a haul of goodies! What a fortune I'm going to make on eBay!

But I've kept one seasonal treasure until last — to be quaffed as the old year dies and, probably, I die with it. Yes, it's my bottle of appellation™ controllee Moet et Britney organic champagne, guaranteed grape-free.

So, at a guess, I'll be celebrating the opening hours of 2003 with a fun-packed visit to the Superbowl. What red-blooded Britney fan . . . er, devotee . . . could ask for more!

The End