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Especially here in America, the time between late November and January first supplies ample opportunities to put us in harm’s way.
And by “harm’s way,” I’m obviously referring to the various social events that include family members we usually have the “luxury” to enjoy from a distance—such as via Facebook.
Facebook is a luxury when it comes to relatives because all one needs do is tap the screen or click a mouse and in the immortal words of Jay-Z, it’s “…Poof! Vamoose, son of a b*tch.”
This is just not so when we are expected to attend Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas parties, and New Year’s soirées with these people we share nothing with, save for the coincidence of possessing the same last name.
What is most thrilling are our passive-aggressive relatives—and we all have them. Passive aggression is generally how codependent people process anger. They labor under the misconception that their toxicity is somehow disguised by their smiles and laughter, but we all know it has much the same effect as wrapping a pile of dog crap in a box from Bloomingdales. It doesn’t stink any less and it’s actually more insulting than just giving it to someone straight.
All is not lost though.
My holiday present to you, my reveling reader, is a few different ways to deal with these lovely people. Find the one that works best for you or, better still, mix and match different approaches until you achieve the desired result.
1. Call Them Out
Everyone’s gathered around the big TV. The intellectuals want to watch George C. Scott play Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” and the jocks want to watch the UFC 222 fight card from 2018. Uncle Bill, who has been a pain in the ass since you were in diapers, says something like, “Let the ladies watch what they want.”
It’s always an option to ask Bill why he’s being such a misogynistic dirtbag. This is almost guaranteed to get as many chuckles as his idiotic attempt to emasculate you for no other reason than the fact that watching men in bikinis throttle each other until someone has sustained irreversible brain damage is just not your cup of chamomile.
2. Or Don’t
Everybody knows passive aggression when they are around it. At one point, usually in our youth, it felt good to be confrontational with someone when they came at us like that. I have found, though, that it feels even better to be clueless and take people’s words at face value. It often packs a better punch than biting back.
One time, a family member remarked that “I was doing so well for someone with my history.” It got me terribly heated because I knew the things they said about me when I wasn’t around, especially with regard to my years of substance misuse. I just smiled and asked what history he was referring to. The room got very quiet, he felt really uncomfortable, and I had the satisfaction of knowing that I was single-handedly responsible for it.
3. Be More Passive Aggressive
There was one time I was attending a Chanukah party at a relative’s house when one of my uncles who, I’m fairly certain, wished he was Don Rickles said something about not really expecting me to have a date. All I could think to do was smile and explain that I was waiting to become as old as he was to live with someone who couldn’t stand me either. That about put that conversation to rest. I will, however, add one caveat: know your audience. Without the correct rapport, that could’ve gotten ugly fast.
4. Stick With the Winners
When your niece shows up with the crudité platter, complete with the soy ranch dip, chances are she’ll also have a partner in tow. If she’s the right age, there’s a really good chance that she chose someone highly inappropriate. I mean, we all go through that stage—some of us never outgrow it. All that aside, this is the person who you should spend most of the Christmas party with. First off, they will be highly entertaining and, more importantly, they will be a buffer. In fact, if they’re really off the wall, they’ll go from buffer to “shield of armor.”
Armed with these options, your holidays should be a lot more tenable than they might have been otherwise. The choice to simply stay home and avoid all family gatherings always exists, but I made this list specifically for two types of people: those who want to get out of the house regardless of the discomfort it will entail and those who feel too guilty to beg off. If you are in either of these categories, I hope I have provided a little assistance.