December 19, 2004

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A Special Note To Those Whose Families Are Not So Idyllic

(This article is a repeat, but it still applies.)

While most of us (gosh, I hope it's most of us!) will be spending time with people we love and enjoy this holiday season, I am sadly aware that there are more than a few people whose families are more like armed camps, with nasty little arrows being fired back and forth, or even big, ugly bombs being dropped. If you are from such a family (and you're not in there being ugly with the worst of them), you have my profound sympathy.

One possibility is simply not to see them. Yes, you are permitted to do this, even at Christmas. You are not required by law, morality, or anything else to put up with people who deliberately try to make you unhappy. I know that we all hope for reconciliation, especially at this time of year, and sometimes it works. But I also know several folks I'm fond of who have had relatives that they have simply had to drop, for their own sanity, and for whom this was a hard, but very good, decision.

If it's someone you feel your kids need to see -- your parents or in-laws (their grandparents), your ex-spouse -- drop the kids off and pick them up later. Feel you need an excuse? Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or charity organization; they can use all the hands they can get this time of year. How can anyone give you a hard time for delivering Christmas dinner to shut-ins, without sounding like an ass?

Maybe there's just one or two family members who have to stick pins -- a sib, a cousin, whatever. Memorize this handy-dandy all-purpose comeback: "How very kind of you to say so." Got it? Not, "You jerk, how can you be so mean?" or "Yeah, well screw you too." No. "How very kind of you to say so." As in:

"Gee, you've gained so much weight!" (Little do they know you've taken off ten pounds in the last two weeks.)

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"Lost a lot of hair, haven't you?"

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"If you were worth anything, you'd have a better job by now."

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"I can't believe that wife of yours is such a lousy housekeeper."

"How very kind of you to say so!"

Isn't this fun?! You'll drive them absolutely nuts, while retaining the moral high ground, and looking like a class act to everyone else there.

Acceptable variations are, "How nice of you to notice!" or -- given the season and all -- "And a very Happy Christmas to you too!" This last is useful for loaded questions, where "How very kind of you to say so" won't quite fit. For instance, "Is that good-for-nothing dead beat husband of yours ever going to amount to anything?" "And a very Happy Christmas to you too!"

(If you're wondering why "Happy", not "Merry", it's because I learned this useful phrase from a British man I dated years ago. I rather like the English phrasing, but feel free to use "Merry" instead.)

Hope this helps. Next year, consider spending Christmas with FRIENDS!

Posted by HoldTheToast at December 19, 2004 12:14 PM