How To Survive The Holidays Without Burning Anything To The Ground

The holidays, they are upon us. Most people in these United States, me included, look upon this time of year with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement because there’s family and dessert and wine; dread because…well, basically the same reasons.

But holidays don’t have to be stress-filled nightmares. That’s what the rest of the year is for. Keeping that in mind, here are my best hints for how to survive this silliest of seasons without committing a felony.

  • Avoid the people who give you stress-headaches. I don’t know who these people are in your life. Aunt who makes comments about your weight? Cousin who extreme coupons? Super-conservative grandpa with halitosis? Mother who has one glass of wine and weeps about how you’ll never give her grandchildren? Whoever! I DO know how to deal with them, which is: say hi, hug, then go and find someone else to talk to.

    It’s that easy, and it works for any size of gathering. For example, my brother would give me a migraine a day if I let him, and our holidays usually involve family parties of six to twelve people. I spend no more quality time with him than on any other day of the year. If he tries to engage me with nastiness, I smile and walk off to find someone else to talk to, or something delicious to shove in my food-hole. I don’t have time for bullshit; these deviled eggs won’t eat themselves.

  • Say the magic words. If you find yourself pinned down by one of these people, extricate yourself by saying “Excuse me,” and leave to talk to someone else. Will they think you’re a little rude? Maybe! I can’t read these hypothetical people’s minds! But personally, I think that being “a little rude” is better than “being made to feel shitty about yourself, potentially for a long time after the encounter is over.” Take care of yourself, even when you’re in the midst of family. ESPECIALLY then, actually.
  • Find a hidey-hole. Mine is always the guest bathroom on the first floor (don’t tell anyone). But if there are just way too many people and it weirds you out, or if stuff gets too intense–like it did the year I said that college football coaches probably shouldn’t get paid more than the President of the United States, apparently a controversial opinion–I run in there and just hang out for ten minutes. It helps. Sometimes all one needs to deal with lots of people or coordinated shouting is some alone time.
  • Don’t get too drunk. Sometimes the only way to make people tolerable is to drink about them. But you can drink about them without getting blackout wasted, and this is what I recommend. When you’re a little drunk, you can think “Man, Mean Aunt Agatha’s fake eyelashes are halfway falling off her face, aren’t they?” and we amused by it. When you’re TOO drunk, you’ll say something about it and possibly start World War Three. Plus, we are all getting older. Hangovers are not as easy to deal with as they used to be.
  • Wear something that makes you happy. This is the time of year that magazines and blogs start trying to sell you HOLIDAY DRESSES TO HIDE YOUR HIDEOUS MISSHAPEN BODY! And it’s like, sigh, we are all just brains in hermetically sealed fleshbags; why do we constantly have to be made to feel shitty about how our particular fleshbag is horrible? Oh right, because creating insecurity sells.
    Basically, fuck all that noise that tells you your ____ is too big/not big enough, or your ____ is flabby. Don’t feel obligated to buy a hideously unflattering outfit covered in cheap gold sequins because some editor called it “Festive.” Wear a dress or a suit or jeans that make you feel like a million bucks, and to hell with anyone who says it’s not “Dressing for your body type” or “Makes you look wide” (that last one courtesy of my own mother, four years ago). As cheesy as it is, the holidays are a time to be thankful. Hopefully you have a body that is healthy and strong, and that does all the things you need it to do. Big deal if one of those things isn’t “Looking like a Victoria’s Secret model in a bandage dress.”
  • Go into it with the right attitude. Do you know how often I’ve gotten in a fight when I was actively looking for one? One hundred percent of the time. It didn’t have to be over anything especially important, although sometimes it was–mostly what mattered was the attitude I brought to the table.You can’t go into any holiday, no matter how you celebrate it, by spoiling for an argument. Or you can, but I bet you one million dollars you won’t be pleasantly surprised by how nice of a time you have. If you look for a shitshow you’ll find one, and I’m pretty sure you can think of a better way to spend your time than by screaming about politics. That is not a fun way to reflect on all the good things in your life!

And that’s that! Don’t you feel less likely to commit a homicide now? I know I do!

In all seriousness, every single one of us has something to be grateful for–not just this time of year, but all the time. At the very least: You are reading this, so that means you have access to the internet. When I was a kid I used to daydream about a magic room that had every book ever written in it, so I could learn anything, anytime. Now we have that, and OH MY GOD THERE ARE CAT VIDEOS IN THE ROOM TOO. And every friend I’ve ever made, even if they live far away from me. And there’s music. And there are new friends to make. And movies to watch. We live in the future, people! And it’s fucking fantastic! At the very least, even if life is shit, that is something to be thankful for.

What else are you thankful for?

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