My Difficult Relatives And How I Will Deal With Them This Thanksgiving
Ah, Thanksgiving. When you’re a kid it’s all about the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. When you’re an adult, it’s all about rude inquisitions from your nosy aunts and your dad getting horrifically, embarassingly wasted. I don’t know anything about stuffing a bird or making a perfect cranberry sauce. But I do know a thing or two about dealing with family, seeing as I have a huge, colorful one. Gather ’round, children, and take in my wisdom from awkward family holidays past! (Also, I’m a full-blooded WASP, so take my stiff-upper-lip swamp Yankee suggestions with a grain of salt. Maybe in other parts of the country, you solve problems differently!) The One Who Makes Racist/Sexist/Bigoted Comments:
Every family has one — whether its the uncle who complains that he’s still single at 65 because women are only after one thing (money!), the grandma who doesn’t trust Obama because he’s black, or the brother using the word “f****t” — and it drives anyone with a heart up the wall. Typically, I’m not the type of person to back down from a fight, ever. But as I age into my late-20s, I realize more and more that these people are usually looking for cheap thrills to get some attention. When relatives come looking for a fight, I restrain myself. Yes, they are being super-immature and disgusting and I am not saying you should let sexist/racist/bigoted comments rain down from the sky and ignore them. But I don’t think you should engage someone who’s looking to start a lil’ Turkey Day drama by being flagrantly obnoxious. Usually a stern and pointed comment like “That language is unacceptable in my house” and then changing the subject will get your point across. It’s really hard for me to do, but here’s my advice: if someone tries to get a rise out of you, don’t take the bait.
The One Who Drinks Too Much:
Most of us want — no, need — a few to ease the tension of the holidays. But nothing quite ruins the holiday like a loved one with a drinking problem getting sloppy drunk. Whether they’re a mean drunk, a sad drunk, or a happy drunk doesn’t matter. Usually one spends the whole time thinking, “Oh, Lord, what is he/she saying or doing now?!” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from trusty Al-Anon meetings it’s that you have to practice detachment. While it’s sad to see loved ones making fools of themselves and bringing harm to their bodies, you have to remind yourself that it’s an illness. Gone are the days when I’ve tried to persuade loved ones from not drinking and felt hurt or annoyed when they didn’t do what I wanted. It’s only one day: get in, get out, let yourself feel the bad feelings about it, but don’t cling to them. I know its hard, but keep in mind you are not alone: millions of people deal with alcoholic loved ones every holiday season. When you get back home after the holidays, it might be a good time to go to an Al-Anon meeting.
The One Who Used To Drink Too Much And Is Now All Lecture-y About Drinking (Or Lecture-y About Anything):
Ah, the lecturers. Every family has one of these, too. Whether it’s the sober alcoholic who criticizes your third glass of wine or the uber-religious relative who wrinkles his nose when you mention living with your boyfriend (in sin!), there is always someone who will disagree with the way you live your life. While I don’t advocate engaging these relatives in arguments, either, I personally believe that if you can have a conversation with them without getting emotional about it, it can be educational for you both. If you are quick to feel judged, politely disengage; however, if you can have a calm conversation, maybe try talking to them about their points of view. They’re only human, after all, and entitled to their opinions, too. It can be fascinating, actually, to find out the finer points of why Cousin Joey is a born-again or why Grandpa suddenly became a vegan.
The One Who Allows Their Children Run Around Like Undisciplined Little Monkeys:
Babies are adorable, duh. Toddlers and older kids can also be adorable, too, but unfortunately they can also be little hellions. Even if they’re fun to play with or simply watch, the shrieking, jumping on the couches and knocked-over glasses of wine will surely grate on your nerves. Why isn’t their mother or father saying “Stop it!”?! Have these children ever heard the word “No” in their life?! I hate to sound like a creaky, crabby old person but it seems like some parents just don’t teach their children manners anymore. Alas, that is not your job — and some parents freak out if they feel like you are overstepping your bounds. First, try to empathize with the little kid. Remember how excited you were to be with your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents on the holidays? Second of all, politely and sternly make it clear to the kids — and their parents — that their behavior is annoying or rude by suggesting they chill out. Try something like, “Hold on, Katie. I am having a conversation with Aunt Miriam. When we are finished talking, you can show us your cartwheels,” or “Billy, why don’t you go outside and play? We can’t hear each other talk when you yell in the living room.” Making a polite suggestion is different from getting all Miss Manners lecture-y. Judging other people’s parenting skills — or lack thereof — is best done silently. (But definitely speak up if the kiddies are about the light the house on fire or spill your expensive glass of champagne.)
The One Who Makes Blatantly Rude Comments About Other People’s Weight, Haircuts, Clothes, Jobs, Relationships, etc. Or Asks Rude Questions:
It never ceases to amaze me how rude family members can be when it comes to making comments about other people’s weight, haircuts and things like that. (And if you are a pregnant woman who has to withstand “You’ve gotten so big!” or even, “Your rear end has gotten so huge!” comments, my heart goes out to you.) You might be the type of person who can let these comments slide. I, however, cannot stand it when someone puts someone else down, especially at a day that’s supposed to be about family, love and togetherness. When someone makes a snotty comment, I’m the type of person to say, “Wow, that was really rude” or “That was hurtful” — whether it was said to me or not. One of my siblings always picks on another one of my siblings about her weight and so I stick up for her. Likewise, if someone makes a rude comment to me, I can count on her to speak up if she is in earshot.
Personally, I think people who make rude comments are sometimes totally oblivious, so say something direct, hopefully they will apologize, and then drop it. They might apologize, they might accusing you of being “too sensitive,” but either way, there’s no need to start a long, drawn-out fight. You can bitch and moan about the “oh my gosh, guess what Nana said about my brother’s new girlfriend?” stuff with your friends later. When someone asks rude questions — “When are you two getting pregnant?” or “Isn’t it time to find a husband? You’re not getting any younger!” — it’s actually easier to deal with, I think. You can just force a smile and say, just a bit sarcastically, “When it happens, you will be the first to know.” Then deftly change the subject. Sometimes those questions just come from a place of curiosity, not rudeness. But you are not required by law to discuss the details your personal life with your aunts/sisters/grandmas over pumpkin pie. End of story.
The One Who Makes Unintentionally Rude Comments While Trying To Be Nice:
One of my sisters constantly asks me when I’m going to start working for The New York Times. It seems like every time I see her she’s asking me if I’ve sent my resume there yet. (Cuz, you know, the Times is totally hiring feminist/pop culture/sex bloggers, I’m sure!) While I’m flattered she thinks her little sis is Gray Lady material, it’s also pretty aggravating because I feel like she’s dissing she work I do for The Frisky. I’m proud of what I do at The Frisky, but more importantly, I am good at it and I really enjoy it! (My sis is a kindergarten teacher, so I think posts like 5 Moves Women Love In Bed, But Can Be Too Afraid To Ask For make her head explode a little.) I know she doesn’t mean to be rude, but it comes off that way, especially when she asks over and over again. Try to remember people can be accidentally rude when they’re really just well-intentioned and trying to be nice. It’s not worth getting upset about — besides which, if your family is anything like mine you will have your hands full with stuff to get upset about anyway!