A guide to getting through Xmas day
Clementine Ford writes.
Christmas may be the time of giving and receiving, but for some of those forced to spend time with their families the exchange may have less to do with mid-range hand creams and box DVD sets than it does thinly veiled insults and deliberately cheap perfume. Personally, I'm of the opinion that December 25th is the one day of the year where familial interaction should be completely prohibited. But then, I also bought nine presents this year and six of them were for me.
Personal reward systems aside, despite our best efforts we are sometimes forced to spend time with the people from whose gene pool we belly flopped into. And although it may be tempting to spend the day under the anaesthetic haze of gin, we also have a responsibility to put our Big Kid pants on and suck it up. But just in case it all gets to be too much, here's some handy advice for dealing with the less palatable of your relations. Print it out, fold it up and put it in your pocket. It's my gift to you.
1. Handsy Uncle Reg is once again excited to see you
Handsy Uncle Reg starts the day with a Jim Beam and coke and by 1pm his shirt's hanging from the back of his trousers or tied around his head in a poor interpretation of a jaunty turban. He greets you with a frisky bottom squeeze and spends all afternoon talking to bosoms that involuntarily shrink in revulsion whenever his eyes set upon them. His idea of good comedy is pretending to roger Busybody Nanna with the pepper shaker when her back is turned. He's basically what would happen if Chris Finch and David Brent had a baby. Your best approach: Spend all of Christmas Eve ingesting all the wind producing food you can find - chick peas, curry, lentils, carbonated drinks - and every time his hand even flickers past your derriere let out a ripper of a fart. He'll soon get the message. Downside: No one else will come near you (which is also sort of an upside).
2. Passive Aggressive Cousin Betty
Passive Aggressive Cousin Betty went to the Mean Girls school of insults, and boy is she good at it. She won't ask you why you're still single - she'll wait for Busybody Nanna to quiz you on it (about three minutes after you arrive, give or take a few seconds) and then she'll say, '[INSERT NAME HERE] isn't single Nanna. She/he's going out with [INSERT NAME OF PARTNER FROM THREE RELATIONSHIPS AGO, THE ONE WHO CHEATED ON YOU WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND AND THEN LATER HAD A BABY WITH THEM]." After you correct her, she'll fix you with a sympathetic smile and simper, "Oh, you're not with them anymore? That's a shame. Still, I can't say I'm surprised." As she says this last bit, she'll be sure to cast a critical gaze over your outfit while shaking her head in the so-slight-it's-almost-imperceptible manner of someone who can have only attended an all girls boarding school. Your best approach: Fight fire with fire. Tell her you love the new padded underpants she's rocking under her maternity jeans. Oh, she's not wearing padded underpants? Still, the look is very 'now'. Downside: She might be wearing padded underpants. She sounds like the kind of dingbat who'd buy them.
3. Busybody Nanna
Everyone has a Busybody Nanna. Whether or not it's waiting until 10pm at your cousin's wedding to tell you that your dress makes your legs look fat, or admonishing your childless status by reminding you 'you're not getting any younger', Busybody Nanna is up in everyone's grill offering unwanted advice on baby-making, careers and fashion. Christmas Day is no different - in fact, it's worse. Busybody Nanna will bail you up in the kitchen to ask you when you're going to get a real job, and tell you that if you'd only lose a few kilos you might not find it as difficult to land a man. Your best approach: Wait it out. She's got 6, 7 years left in her tops. Sorry, but it's true. Downside: Strong constitutions make some grandmothers live forever (or at least until well into their 90s).
4. Evil Stepmonster
In the Age of Divorce, it's rare to find families that don't have some kind of fractured marriage within them. It may even be your own parents, in which case you'll be left dealing with the Evil Stepmonster your mother or father have chosen to remarry. They may want to pretend you don't exist, and will choose to highlight that to you by gifting presents that still bear their Cheap As Chips price tags while their own children are lavished with the best that money can buy. This is especially difficult if your parent has remarried someone young enough to be your sibling. Not only do you have to deal with a Stepmonster, you have to also confront the fact that your parent is a sad, middle aged cliche who should have saved everyone a lot of bother and just bought an anthropomorphised dick vehicle to make them feel better about their impending death. Your best approach: You'll never win this one. You may share your parent's genes, but their new partner shares their bed and that can be a powerful motivator. So you can either lavish them with affection, deflecting their flaming arrows with confusing kindness. OR you can make a point of buying them equally cheap crap to let them know that you at least know what's going on here. Downside: Your parent will still be married to them next year.
5. Men's Rights Activist Next Door Neighbour
Technically not a family member, but he had no one to go to this year so your parents invited him over. He was married once but she 'shot through and is living somewhere up in Coffs with the kids and all his money'. He talks about feminazis and immigrants with the same level of scorn - in his mind, they're both the reason he's living on a pension and the country is going to hell in a hand basket. He will still try to kiss you on the lips when he leaves. Your best approach: Watch, fascinated, as you observe the MRA up close and personal. It may be horrifying and degrading to your intellect, but the anthropological experience will be second to none. Make sure you flash him your hairy pits (which you've grown out to annoy all of the above) when he sits down to eat. Downside: He lives next door to your parents, and those dudes are Cray Cray.
So there you have it. Other than a secret supply of box wine and a set of worry beads, there's not much else you can do. Be comforted by the fact that it's but one day of the year, and we're all in this together. Merry Christmas soldiers.
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