By Caitlin Sloan
Christmas means a lot of things. Cookies and carols, lights and presents. I know for a lot of people, it’s a magical time of year full of beauty and joy and goodwill. And the food… So much food. I basically survive for a whole year by thinking about the next Christmas dinner.
It’s not called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. Above all else though, the holidays mean family. And family can be.. Well, messy. Michael Buble’s velvety croon of “from now on, our troubles will be miles away” is a bit too optimistic for the holidays. What the heck are we supposed to do when our troubles are right down the hall, second door on the right?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve developed a couple of strategies to avoid dealing with the pains of family functions – especially when it comes to political discussions. If you aren’t like me, however, you might be wondering, “How can I possibly survive this again?”
Well, fear not. I’m here to tell you to put down the Christmas cookies, step away from the eggnog, and rethink that “inconveniently timed business trip” that’s coincidentally to a sunny, tropical locale.
Christmas with your family can be done, and even done without drinking the whole bowl of punch… Probably. Let me be your guide to surviving the yuletide free of homicide.
Option One: Strike While the Iron is Hot
It’s bound to happen, so why not just get it all out there at once? Just air all the familial & political grievances you can think of right from the get-go. Walk into the house and immediately state your dissent. Open with the worst possible idea, just like I am by suggesting you do this.
Good For: If you just want to watch the world burn.
Drawbacks: “Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas!’ like a
screaming match.” …Said no one ever.
Key to Success: Not doing this. Like literally just do anything besides this.
Option Two: Divide and Conquer
Separate every family member from any and all devices immediately upon gathering, so that they can’t read the whole family that political article they read the other day. Spoiler alert: we all know it’s a Facebook post, Uncle Frank.
Propose a game of “whoever looks at their phone first has to do the dishes so that grandma doesn’t have to” – no one wants to do all those dishes, but someone will inevitably cave. As long as it’s not you, you’ve won twice over.
For a bonus, remove all batteries from TV remotes or just remove all power cables from the TVs! Maybe the power cords from the computer, too. While you’re at it, just cut the power to the whole house. Outside inspiration for political discussion? Cancelled!
Good For: The family that’s too plugged-in.
Drawbacks: You can’t distract yourself with your phone, either.
Key to Success: Strategize ahead of time. If there’s a backup generator, you’re screwed. A hiding place for everything you take is important, too.
Option Three: Sick as a Dog
You know that scene from Mean Girls that you always imitate? The one where Karen says she’s sick and fake coughs? Yeah, this is your moment. You’ve been training for this your entire life, now it’s time to sell it. I mean honestly, you should just go for the full pestilence experience.
No one will want to talk to you if you’re busy hacking up a lung – I mean have you seen how uncomfortable that makes people? You’ll be golden all night, especially if you utter the four magic words: “I think I’m contagious.”
You’ll have enough breathing room to make the landed aristocracy jealous, and no political discourse in sight.
Good For: The family with a moral objection to germs.
Drawbacks: You might actually develop a sore throat. And if your family includes at least one medical professional, you won’t be getting away with this one.
Key to Success: Practice your cough ahead of time, it needs to be convincing enough for a casting director to at least name you “understudy to Plague Victim 1.”
Option Four: Ignorance is Bliss
Nothing like baiting Uncle Walt into mansplaining the economy to you! For this, just basically pretend your education level stopped at the third grade. Let’s be honest, he treats you like it anyways.
The goal is to see just how well you can fake believable engagement. Time to bust out your best “yes teacher, I’m paying attention” head nods and your most doe-eyed encouragement. Extra credit for attendance at the Q&A session afterwards… Wait, what?
Good For: Uncle Walt and company. Oh, and anyone looking to adapt conversations with relatives into a drinking game.
Drawbacks: You could be doing literally so many other things besides listening to this dude talk. Eating, sleeping, underwater basket weaving…
Key to Success: The ability to sell “right, yes” after already saying it 52 times in a row.
Option Five: Grin and Bear It
Is it really worth inciting Great Aunt Edna’s ire for the third year in a row? Some might argue yes, but Great Aunt Edna’s not as young as she used to be, and it just doesn’t feel right arguing with her anymore.
Time to extend the olive branch and smother all of that white-hot rage you’ve been simmering for the past few months. Tack on a smile and try not to make it look ironic – easier said than done, I know.
If it helps, you are allowed to look at the camera like you’re playing Jim on a 2017 revival of The Office. And by “at the camera,” I mean literally anywhere other than Great Aunt Edna.
Good For: Discomfort with confrontation. Emotional exhaustion. People who can’t stop the political discussion once they start.
Drawbacks: How much fun is it to actually smother your opinions?
Key to Success: A genuine smile – no condescension. Practice in the mirror until your cheeks hurt, and maybe some more after that.
Option Six: Blessing in Disguise
Ever want to be someone else, or live a more glamorous life? Now’s your chance! With just three easy payments of… Wait, that’s not what we’re doing here. With zero easy payments of exactly zero dollars, you, too, can be Mrs. Iglesias.
Or, maybe not her, but you can be someone else. Tell everyone you’re a Danish princess, and you were shipwrecked at sea. That might be a little much, but it’d be fun to see if anyone calls you on it. Work on your improv skills, experience what it’s like to be famous for three hours, generally play it up to your heart’s content.
Yeah, it might be a little awkward once the jig is up, but did you really think polite small talk about politics would be that comfortable either?
Good For: Meeting your SO’s family, a massive family reunion, or generally any event where you can pretend you don’t know anyone.
Drawbacks: You could get trapped talking about Aunt Debra’s semi-topical tchotchke collection and looking at pictures of her dogs. For hours.
Strategy to Success: Commitment is key.
Option Seven: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
You’d be hard pressed to find an option more golden than this one, if I’m being totally honest. Hours alone in your room? Where there’s Netflix, and a phone charger, and tons of other cool stuff? Score!
The great thing about this technique is you can combine it with others. Everyone realized you’re not actually a Danish princess? Cool, time to binge Great British Bake Off and tweet about how much family parties suck.
It’s a win-win really. Who needs seething anger, when you could just have some great bakes? I just don’t recommend watching the Baked Alaska Fiasco, it still get me heated even on my best day.
Good For: When you’re just so done with everything that you want to lay in bed and never get out again.
Drawbacks: I’d love to say FOMO isn’t one of them, but I like honesty. The fear of missing out will still be real. As well as being branded “anti social” for the next year and a half.
Key to Success: I hope you have fun stuff in your room. If your parents turned your childhood room into a home gym with a futon you’re gonna be in for a real boring night.
Option Eight: Crying Over Spilt Milk
“Remember that time Cousin Sheila slept with Cousin Tanya’s ex-boyfriend? Don’t you remember? They didn’t talk for months! Oh, wasn’t that a hoot?”
Yeah, this one might not be totally above board. Pitting your relatives against each other just so you don’t have to listen to politics all night? Seems a little… Manipulative. And it is, you’re totally right about that. But, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Good For: Boxing fans and people who are just really tired of their family.
Drawbacks: You’re gonna go down in family history as the one who started ChristmasGate 2017. If you can live with that, then by all means.
Key to Success: Hope you have a good memory, because details are what’s gonna fan those flames.
Option Nine: Bottoms Up
When all else fails, it’s time to engage in the age-old tradition of drinking to forget… Where you are.
Is it really Christmas if you don’t chug a bottle of moscato and spend the whole night wondering when the Christmas tree started spinning? I mean yes, technically it is. But would it really feel like Christmas if you were totally sober?
Sorry to those of you who don’t drink, and to all you kiddos out there who aren’t allowed to drink yet, suffering through it is your rite of passage into the world of cynicality. Your turn is coming soon.
Good For: Almost anyone. If you want to bypass the need for any other strategy, this is where you should go.
Drawbacks: If you’re underage, this is a no-go for you. Also, gingerbread tastes a lot less pleasant coming back up. Drink responsibly.
Key to Success: Make sure you have all the alcohol you need on hand, and don’t plan to go anywhere once you start. You’re here for a good time and a long time.