The Snarkist’s Guide to Surviving Holiday Gatherings Without Physically Harming Anyone (Including Yourself)!

December 22, 2011 § 5 Comments

“[W]hen Christmas rolls around, so too do the requisite family gatherings, events which unfortunately involve your family.”

-Russ Nickel

Winter Solstice has passed, Christmas is just around the corner, and Hanukkah is already here. My friends over at Reasonably Ludicrous recently published a helpful post about how to survive the family holiday parties that your parents/spouse/guilt will force you to attend by identifying “The 8 Types of Annoying Relative (And Tips to Help You Avoid Them)”. Russ and Sam provide a list of defenses against your ego-tast-ical uncle who will blast your ears with loud announcements of the many accomplishments of himself/his law firm/his children/his Airedale, Howard, who understands commands in three languages and uses a human toilet; your political firebrand great aunt who thinks that Herman Cain had the right idea with that whole “electrified fence” thing, and that Sarah Palin is a great political mind of our time; and your advice-spouting grandfather, who simply wants to help you by pointing out that every decision you have made thus far in your life has been the wrong one.

I heartily agree with Reasonably Ludicrous’s inventive tips, but I think that there are a few awkward holiday scenarios that they failed to cover, as well as few they did that could use a female perspective, since I can’t usually deter my advice-giving relatives by wearing a suit. That would simply lead to a conversation about how gender roles are deteriorating in this country and how apocalyptically horrible said deterioration is, along with confusion if I don’t respond or shocked fury if I reply that I actually think the deterioration of gender roles is probably the best chance our society has for survival.

So, consider the following guide as an appendix to Russ and Sam’s tips. Or retroactively categorize theirs as an appen-dicks to my more gynocentric guide. (Yay! Puns! That one’s for you, Russ!)

Rather than identifying types of people you might encounter, I’m going to lay out some hypothetical scenarios that will have you gulping your wine whilst silently screaming, “Oh gods, get me the spork out of here!” — along with my advice for surviving the party without breaking off the bottom of your wine glass to use the stem as a shiv. Thus, I give you “The Snarkist’s Guide to Surviving Holiday Gatherings Without Physically Harming Anyone (Including Yourself)!”

Note: I heavily advocate lying in the following scenarios. You may have a moral problem with this. My parents always tell me not to lie to my relatives (well, they tell me not to lie in general); they are more fans of selective omission and careful wording. However, they don’t want me to tell the full truth because that would cause a lot of grief for everyone. (I got into trouble a year or so ago when I told my grandmother what I was actually studying — queer theory — in one of my classes. “What is this LGBD thing?”) While you can certainly navigate the mine-field of holiday parties and family gatherings without lying, I have to say, I think a few creative fibs make the whole thing more entertaining.

Note: Your first line of defense against any of these attacks should always be alcohol. However, drunkenness should be avoided, as it will only give your relatives more ammunition for detailing all your personal failings at the next family gathering. A buzz is a fine thing to cultivate.

Special Note: The Snarkist is not legally or ethically responsible for your choice to employ any of the following advice, nor for any consequences thereof.

The Snarkist’s Guide to Surviving Holiday Gatherings Without Physically Harming Anyone (Including Yourself)!

Situation #1: One of your relatives/your significant other’s relatives/a family friend/a complete stranger asks you about your career/life goals.

Solution: You are employed in a respected industry or vocation. You tell the truth. You wait for him/her to be impressed or express his/her support.

Alternate Scenario: You are employed in a vocation of which this person will not approve. My best friend K has chosen a career in social work, and her relatives never get tired of telling her how the residents of the girls’ home K works at are worthless delinquents that are ruining our society. She just loves seeing her extended family.

Solution: Tell the truth. Immediately launch into a story that will induce shock and horror, such as the crack dens you routinely spend time in so that you can get to know the girls’ parents. Mention your friend Da’shawn, who is a dealer that was arrested twice on counts of assault, but Big Jon totally jumped him first, and he had to make use of the weapon at hand to defend himself, and if that weapon happened to be a hatchet, so be it…

Alternate Solution: Tell the truth. Immediately launch into an explanation so filled with jargon and elevated-sounding terminology that you will sound as if you’re speaking Martian. Wait until the other person’s eyes glaze over, then excuse yourself to get more wine/help your father with the dog/use the restroom/get the fuck out of here.

Alternate Solution: Reply that you’ve taken a job with Amway and begin to make a sales pitch.

Situation #2: Your cousin/boyfriend’s sister/girlfriend’s actually-older-than-her niece has recently had a baby and the experience has TRANSFORMED HER ENTIRE LIFE THIS IS WHAT HER BODY WAS MADE FOR HER ENTIRE EXISTENCE HAS BEEN CREATED FOR THIS MOMENT. She expects you to regard her sticky offspring with the same near-religious ecstasy she does, and oh yeah, she also wants you to hold the thing.

Solution: Feign illness. Cough, wheeze, feign the urge to vomit, make any physical or verbal indication that you could transfer germs (!) to Her Precious Child, young and thus without a developed immune system. Try to include a story about recently being in a foreign country — not Italy or Switzerland, more like Guatemala or Thailand, somewhere she thinks of as third-world and imagines has children running around without shoes, licking the floor for scraps — and eating something suspect/touching strangers/visiting a village prey to an outbreak of Mysterious Fatal-sounding Illness. She will immediately pull Her Precious (Her preciousssss) away from your diseased fingers and run off because “I think I hear someone calling my name.”

Alternate Solution: If the new mother is not squeamish, or is well-traveled, or is a bad parent, she will not care about your purported illness and simply want to push her child into your arms so that she can run off to have her first 15 minutes of sleep in five months. In this case, you will need to hear someone calling your name. I suggest your mother, who, if she is anything like my mother, will have spent the last two days preparing a Christmas feast that could feed an entire battalion. Mention to your cousin/friend/significant other’s relative you just met that her strong, primal bond with her infant has touched you, and that you suddenly feel that you must find your own mother in order to give her a hug, thank her for all she has done raising you, and whisk her into a chair with a glass of wine so that she can relax while you finish the cooking.

Alternate Scenario: The person shoving the child at you is the child’s father, and he will be less impressed by your sudden need to go relieve your own father from his task of sitting on the couch drinking wine (even if he is having to talk to  your conspiracy theorist grandfather) than the child’s mother was by your tearful desire to assist your own mother.

Alternate Solution: You have something in your eye. Reach toward the child making a cooing noise, then recoil with a shout of pain, placing your hands over your eye. Blast! An eyelash/particle of dust/2×4 has become lodged in your eye, and while you would love to hold the Precious Child right now, you simply must rush to the restroom to discover the cause of this pain, as it is simply too much to bear.

Potential Complication: You are a female, and thus even if you escape holding the child, you will, at this time or another, be asked about your own child-bearing plans. That biological clock is tick-tick-ticking away, you know!

Alternate Solution: If the child’s mother/father is a sensitive and politically liberal person, pause, then begin to say something about a miscarriage/abortion, then become choked up and break off your explanation. Excuse yourself to regain your composure.

Alternate Solution: If the child’s mother/father is not politically or religiously liberal, and you don’t care about scandalizing or horrifying her/him, perform the same routine as above, then run, and be prepared to avoid this person like the plague for the rest of the gathering. (Potential Complication: this person might try to talk to one of your parents about your unfortunate reproductive issues. If this would be a problem, do not use this solution. If your parents are reasonable, simply warn them either beforehand or as soon as possible that this emergency lie had to be used.)

Alternate Solution: If you are at the dinner table with many, many people and don’t wish to break out your Kate-Winslet-in-Revolutionary-Road-style acting regarding an unwanted pregnancy, begin to give an explanation about your admirable future child-bearing plans, then suddenly get something in your eye! Rush to the bathroom to examine it and rid yourself of this excruciating pain! Wait a few minutes, and by the time your get back to the table, the conversation will hopefully have moved on.

Situation #3: Your grandmother/uncle/happily-married-cousin/snotty nine-year-old nephew asks about your romantic life and/or marriage plans.

Solution: You are in a happy relationship with someone your relatives would approve of, but he/she could not be present for this gathering. Happily tell the truth about this person. (Congratulations, bitch.)

Alternate Scenario: You are in a relationship with the boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife that you have brought with you. If your relative has forgotten/does not know/thinks that person is some third-cousin-twice-removed whose name is unknown, kindly introduce your significant other. If your relative does not approve because “Forget about Orthodox, she’s not even a Jew! What?! Are you trying to kill me?! If your grandmother were alive to see this, etc. etc.” Both you and your significant other should quietly eat/drink/sneak away while this person becomes too wrapped up in his/her own ranting to notice.

Alternate Scenario: You are in a happy (or unhappy) relationship with someone your relatives would not approve of, or you’re in an unhappy relationship with someone they would approve of and you don’t wish to talk about this person. Or you are single and are just f-ing tired of being looked at with pity and told that eventually you will find someone, or that you are an independent person who doesn’t need a boy/girlfriend, or that you will never be able to stay married because no one will ever love you (Wait, only my grandmother says that to me on Christmas? Oh…)

Solution: Make up a significant other that your family would approve of, but say that you have just started dating and don’t know how everything will progress. Be careful not to make this person sound too good, otherwise when you are forced to reveal at the next family holiday gathering that you’ve broken up with your fictional girl/boyfriend (you can’t keep the lie up too long, or your family will want to meet Henry/Racquel), you will continue hear about this failed relationship for years. “Why aren’t you still dating that engineer from Harvard? He sounded so lovely. I bet he has a nice girlfriend, now. Someone who appreciates him. Yep, you snooze you lose, don’t you?”

Alternate solution: You like to fuck with people, especially your relatives, so you say that you’ve been seeing a performance artist named Sven who is best known in the art world for building a nest made of his own hair and then sleeping in it for a month in the field beside a gas station. Say you are thinking of moving in together (into his nest?). Ask your brother to pass the potatoes, and then refuse to discuss your relationship further.

Alternate Solution: Announce that you’re gay. Ask your brother to pass the potatoes, and then refuse to discuss it further.

Alternate Scenario: You are gay, and your family approves. Employ any of the above scenarios without their heteronormative trappings.

Alternate Scenario: You are gay and your family does not approve. Tell them you’ve decided to move to Beirut with your lesbian girlfriend Shauna, a fire-eater in the circus, or to take up a nomadic lifestyle with your Hell’s Angels boyfriend, Rick. He’s forty-nine. You are not. Enjoy dessert while your relatives scream and moan about how you are ruining your life.

Alternate Scenario: You are gay and your family does not approve and you want to get through this goddamn meal in peace, for once, for the love of God! Tell them you’re in a heterosexual relationship with a nice boy/girl named Thomas/Laura, with whom you like to walk to the local lake and feed ducks.

Alternate Scenario: You are bisexual or pansexual and don’t want to have to explain to your family what that is. Announce that you have recently started a heterosexual relationship with one of your professors, or your boss if you are no longer in school. If your boss is of your same sex, announce you are dating your boss’s wife/husband.

Alternate Scenario: You are bisexual or pansexual and don’t want to have to explain to your family what that is, but you don’t want to scandalize and horrify them and deal with the resulting years of radioactive fallout. Announce you plan to enter a nunnery/monastery and take a vow of celibacy.

Alternate Solution: Say that relationships seem so futile in the world today, considering global warming, the economy, high divorce rates, etc. Stare sadly into you peas as you speak for a minute or two about the depressing state of the planet, then excuse yourself to use the restroom. Terrified the evening will become a downer, the host/ess will have changed the topic of conversation by the time you get back.

Alternate Solution: Excuse yourself to use the restroom/remove the eyelash from your eye; while in the bathroom, swig from the flask you have under your skirt/in your jacket pocket, or from the bottle you stashed under the sink.

Alternate Solution: Excuse yourself to use the restroom/remove the eyelash from your eye, then walk out the front door, enter your car, and drive away.

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