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Dear Santa,

Just so you know, I am always grateful for every gift I receive. But, OK fine. Sometimes I see something and think to myself, "Wow. I hope I don't get that."

That's how I felt when I saw those T-shirts in the latest Signals catalog. You know the ones I'm talking about, right? The "Downton Abbey" T-shirts that say "I'm a Mary" or "I'm an Edith" or "I'm a Sybil."

In case you've been too busy to watch, "Downton Abbey" is a PBS series about an aristocratic English family and their household staff living in the early part of the 20th century. Think "Upstairs, Downstairs" and you have the general idea. Anyhoo, Mary, Edith and Sybil are Lord Grantham's daughters. Mary and Sybil are the pretty ones.

Edith, the middle child whom everyone overlooks, is the plain one, although she does make up for her lack of beauty by learning how to drive a car, because that's what girls did in those days.

If they looked in a mirror and saw they weren't as pretty as Mary or Sybil they'd say, "Well, then, I guess I'll learn how to drive a car."

In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you, Dear Santa, that sometimes I feel like the only female in America who's over "Downton Abbey." My husband is more eager for the third season to begin in January than I am.

Oh, I thought it was fun to watch for a while. When it comes to producing great-looking period dramas, the British are peerless, don't you think? But some time during the second season, I lost interest. Lord Grantham suddenly lunging at a housemaid? What was that about? And Matthew suddenly leaping out of a wheelchair and announcing he felt a "tingling" down there? Ditto. I stopped buying it.

Also, I think the whole class system thing just got to me. Lady Mary can't dress herself unless Anna is there to button buttons and fetch necklaces? MARY! YOU'RE A GROWNUP! DEAL WITH IT!

However, I am still interested in the fact that "Downton Abbey" is so popular here in the colonies. Undoubtedly there are many reasons for this, but I do have a theory. Although the characters don't fully realize it, they are on the verge of seismic social and economic shifts that will forever change the stratified world they live in. We, the viewers, know this and we watch (in part) to see how they'll respond.


Because we're in the same position. Recent advances in technology have changed the way we do practically everything — communicate, recreate, make money. And the changes keep happening so fast and so furiously that we have absolutely no idea where things will end up.

(Although if the Mayans are right and the world ends next week, we won't have to worry about it. So there's always that!)

The point is "Downton Abbey" holds up a mirror where we can see a reflection of our own anxiety about the future.

But I digress.

The purpose of this letter is to tell you I don't want those T-shirts. Especially not the one that says, "I'm an Edith."

Dude. I already know how to drive.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas!

Ann Cannon

Ann Cannon can be reached at or

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