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OK, has anybody besides me noticed that Santa Claus is not getting as much attention as he used to get? At Christmas time when I was a kid, you could not throw a candy cane without hitting a fat guy in a red suit and beard. It seemed like every TV, magazine or newspaper ad featured the old boy peeking out from behind a Christmas tree, or holding up a bottle of Coke with a carbohydrate-fueled twinkle in his eye.


What happened? These days all we see are strangely-dressed pre-teen girls doing drumline dance routines, mannequins sliding across the ice in Rockefeller Plaza, and Geoffrey the Giraffe helping some little animated children loot a Toys R Us store. Santa has been all but forgotten.


Well, I've decided to do something about this situation. First, I came to the conclusion that here in the Information Age everybody should know a just little bit more about Santa. It seems logical that if people understand him better, they might like him more.


So I got busy and went to work on the problem with my new BFFs Angela and Jessica, blew off the surfing party on the Indian Reservation, dug around in some books of old Quileute legends, and came to a startling conclusion:


Santa Claus is a vampire!


I mean, think about it. He's like, what, eighteen hundred years old. We know that he is really fast, because he can get to houses all around the world in one night. He must be pretty strong, because he hauls around a bag full of presents for nearly seven billion people. And did you ever see Santa hook up with anybody who wasn't just a tad on the cute-but-angst-ridden-outcast side?


I didn't think so.


Now I'm guessing that Santa has always felt like he had to disguise his true nature and hide the whole vampire thing. And to be fair, that made sense. I can see people getting a little bit uptight over a blood-sucking abomination of nature, even a jolly one, breaking in through the chimney and wandering around the house. 


In other words, it's like for all these years the whole "bringing presents" and "sainthood" routines were just Santa's heartfelt attempt to fit in.


But these days things have changed. Being a vampire might actually help Santa's image - especially among kids like those drumline dancers in the GAP ad. We have always loved a bad boy, especially one who is not really all that bad. Maybe the time has come for Santa to let it all hang out.


Santa, here's what I suggest you do. To start with, why not drop a few pounds? Back in the day, fat and jolly was all the rage, but now you really come off more as a walking heart attack. Are those red cheeks holiday cheer, or essential hypertension?


Also, lose the beard. It's just not relevant any more. You should leave some sideburns and shave them to a point, which will also serve to visually thin your face out a little bit. A little chin stubble is fine. You can either stay with the white hair, which might get a kind of Richard Gere thing going for you, or go ahead and dye it - your call there.


That red suit definitely has to go. Not only do the fur collar and cuffs mess you up with PETA, you really should be doing black denim. It's hip, sexy - and slimming.


And as for the sleigh, I understand the need for cargo capacity, but a motorcycle has a LOT more mojo. I'm just saying.


So Santa, come on out of the coffin. Let us see the real you at last. If you follow my suggestions, I think you can get right back to being the most popular person of all time.


Unless, of course, the Easter Bunny turns out to really be a werewolf...


Copyright © 2009, Michael Ball     


What I've Learned So Far... by Mike Ball is a syndicated weekly feature. If you enjoy this work, please contact your local newspaper's editors, give them a link to What I've Learned So Far... and ask them to carry it.