Family Gatherings: A Survival Guide

The holiday season is a time of joy, togetherness, and all-around cheer, but to me it is a futile exercise in civility–a time when I am forced to endure one dreadful family gathering after another. Ordinarily, they’re not so bad; but sometimes it’s the same old shit, different year.

The usual suspects are there: the party’s host family, who are like restless little chickens running around, making sure everyone’s having a good time while they themselves don’t; the aunt or uncle nobody can stand; the family who unfailingly brings inedible food; second or third cousins you try to like but still end up treating like complete strangers; the boyfriends and girlfriends who awkwardly try to fit in but ultimately can’t; the pariah family that everyone surreptitiously avoids; the nephew who clearly isn’t enjoying himself, and makes it painfully obvious to everyone by sulking in a corner, mumbling to himself. While some might consider these characters archetypal of family gatherings, in my personal experience, they are as real as they get. This is why I’ve devised some sure-fire methods for surviving these annoying get-togethers that I hope you can use in your own adventures:

Arrive late. Unless everyone is watching the door as you walk in, no one would ever notice if you arrived late to a get-together. The biggest benefit to arriving late, of course, is that you would significantly decrease the length of time you have to stay at the party. Try to enter through a back door, if at all possible.

Keep mobile. Don’t be committed to any one spot for too long. Keep moving through the crowd. In this way, when you see an annoying relative heading in your direction, you can easily evade his/her attack by changing your geography, and he/she would be none the wiser.

Always have an exit plan. Spread the word that you’ve got another engagement “in an hour” even if you don’t. In this way, you’ll have a completely “legitimate” reason for leaving before you’ve reached your breaking point. If possible, have an accomplice call you on your cellular phone thirty minutes into the party, and make it seem like an emergency. Try to have the most convincingly concerned look on your face and mumble something about “ER” and “ambulance” in your gibberish while quickly walking out.

Bring alcohol. When all else fails, you can always turn to the bottle to make all your troubles go away. Additionally, alcohol decreases anxiety and helps you to deal even with the most annoying relative as he/she ruthlessly attempts to sell you life insurance. Stash your supply in the garage, an outdoor deck, or any spot where you know you must step away from the crowd in order to replenish. In this way, you can do some breathing exercises to calm your nerves in privacy before heading back to the banality of it all. Also, you can drink yourself senseless and end up with nothing to worry about. This is, of course, a last resort inasmuch as it is pure genius.

Of course, some of these get-togethers can end up being more enjoyable than you might expect. In those cases, be prepared to go with the flow. But try not to kid yourself into thinking that such family gatherings will always be fun, because they won’t. So, keep these tactics in mind, and you will survive this holiday season and beyond.

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