Almost everyone who has a family loves them, in the I gotta love them because they’re my family sorta way, but still thinks their family is strange and uncool. Why is that people who seem like functional members of society to everyone else become complete wierdos when they are a member of your family? Maybe it’s because my aunt wouldn’t actually bust out her spirited rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” after knocking back a little too much spiked cider in public. Or my grandpa wouldn’t spend an hour reading the paper on the only toilet at the office. Or maybe my bratty little cousins only act like brats when locked up in the house all night with 40 of their closest family members.
While I can’t explain these clan conundrums, but I can help you cope with it. Lucky for you (and everyone else in your family) the holidays only come once a year. So follow these golden rules, and you won’t end up slaying Santa or roasting your uncle’s chestnuts on an open fire.
Prepare yourself. If my brother-in-law is coming for a visit, I know to keep air freshener spray on hand because he’s going to stink up the bathroom. If I’m going to my butch bestie’s family gathering, I know to bring lots of snacks because everything they serve will contain animal products. Identify what is going to annoy you or be an issue, and come up with strategies to avoid or deal with them ahead of time so you can keep these holiday headaches to a minimum.
Pick your battles. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to my extended family Christmas party and everyone asked me when I was going to find a nice young man? Did I also tell you I’m not straight? Yeah, I didn’t tell them either. Needless to say I awkwardly laughed off their probing and changed the subject, because that wasn’t a conversation I was ready to have with them.
I’m not suggesting hide everything about your life from your family—if you feel safe and comfortable coming out to your relatives, then more power to you—but for me, it was the right decision to keep this to myself. I only see these people for a few hours, and then I don’t deal with them for another 364 days. It wasn’t worth their disapproving looks, annoying questions and “ruining Christmas.” Besides, everyone already had their hands full because my recently knocked-up second cousin’s deadbeat baby daddy was en route to the party and my aunt was threatening to shoot him if he stepped foot in the house. Seriously.
Leave politics to the pundits. There are certain kinfolk who try to bait me by saying things like, “That John Boehner sure is going to put America on the right track,” or “Sarah Palin is such a maverick. I wish she were our governor.” I try to ignore comments like these because I honestly don’t care what my stupid cousin thinks, I’m just trying to survive the “family fun,” and if our politics are that drastically different nothing good can come of me trying to argue with them. Besides, I don’t really want to be the one to break the news to my family that John Boehner is really an oompa loompa in a suit.
Follow the don’t ask, don’t tell policies. There’s an unwritten agreement that my family won’t mention my “roommate,” vegan diet, and piercings and tattoos anymore, if I keep quiet about their alcoholism/fifth wife/credit card debt/paternity uncertainty/etc. We’ve already been over these topics anyway (The theme for Christmas 2007 was “Jamie, what did you do to your beautiful face? Why did you put all that metal in it?”), and it just sparks a wildfire of rage between everyone involved. Besides, we all have dirt on each other, and would rather not explain ourselves over and over again.
Seek solace in your chosen family. A fair amount of queermos have a strained relationship at best with our families, but lucky for us, we have a chosen family of close friends that we see year round. It’s a built-in support network of people who love us and know exactly what we’re going through because they’re also the outcasts in their blood family who point out the hypocrisy of Thanksgiving and call bullshit on that whole immaculate conception thing. Or at least mutter it under their breath. (See above note on picking your battles.)
Keep these strategies in mind, and your holiday get-togethers should at least be bearable. I’m not promising a Christmas miracle, but maybe you can avoid an all-out family fued.
Alone this year? Your holigays guide is here.