The holiday season is an exciting time, full of bright lights, borderline homicidal tendencies, and high tensions. Whether you’re talking awkwardly with your distant relatives at Thanksgiving, attempting to show up whichever high school nemeses also happen to be home during Hanukkah, or just trying to make your parents love you this Kwanzaa, the holidays are a holly, jolly minefield. Good luck, soldier.
Minefield #1: The Work Party
Work parties are either the best or the worst, with no in-between. If there’s a gift exchange, it’s likely going to be the bad work party. If Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman show up, it’s probably the good kind of work party but you shouldn’t stick around long enough to find out.
Regardless, at some point you’re going to end up talking at length to someone awful. I find that carrying around sugar cookies is helpful in this situation, because I can stuff them all in my mouth at the same time and pretend to choke to end the conversation. The trick is to reach ideal choking levels. The red-faced, veiny forehead kind of choking (or what I like to call “recreational choking”) is much easier to get out of on your own than the blue-faced, my-airway-is-completely-blocked kind of choking (“competitive choking”). You may need to practice a few times before your party, so make sure you have a chair arm or a friend with first aid training nearby when you do.
Minefield #2: Awkward Chats with Relatives and Family Friends
This is a complex issue, because the method of escape really depends on who you’re talking to and what your own situation is. If you’re 20 years old or younger, most of the people you’re forced into conversation with will mainly comment on how tall/old/pretty/hygienic/in-existence you are. You’ll be expected to answer some basic questions about your education status, and then you’re excused. Since the bar is pretty low with this one, the best way to throw off your attacker is to use the word “like” a lot or look at your cellphone constantly. Looking at your cellphone in front of people age 45 and up is nearly as effective as Mace-ing a mugger. (Don’t Mace your relatives.)
If you’re older than 20, things get a little hairier. Now you have to chat about work and your family and listen to what the other person says about their own stuff. If you have children or a significant other, it’s easy to spend a few minutes on each one until your audience gets bored and moves on, but if you’re single or you’re applying to library school and are therefore a letdown to everyone, you’re going to have to defend this. You’ll need to prepare in advance. It may be possible to use a younger or more interesting relative as decoy by bringing their accomplishments up, but it’s best to have some strong talking points in your back pocket. I mean that literally. This Thanksgiving, I’ll have a stack of notecards with me the whole time, titled “Why I’m not dating anyone”, “I am quite serious about library school”, “I like this sweater, actually”, etc.
Minefield #3: Christmas Cards
At what point in your life do you start sending out your own Christmas letters? When you have your own home? When you start a family? When you care so much about your cats that you include them in your photo and sign their name? I ask because as soon as I’m officially of age, I’m going to stop updating this blog and talking to my friends and family members. Then I’ll write down everything that’s happened to me and my Christmas gift to everyone will be a 2,000-page book about my year.
Christmas cards are fairly simple to escape, as long as you don’t look at them too closely. If you read about how your dad’s coworker’s cousin had some weird surgery because he’s into body modification, you’re going to get hooked and you’ll end up realizing that the reason your grandma insisted you and your cousins all put on elf costumes at Thanksgiving was that she was taking pictures for her own card. (Not that my grandma did that.) (She did. She so did.) Then you’ll get sad and all 12 days of Christmas will be a bust.
Minefield #4: Gross Food
I don’t understand the holiday season. Suddenly, every single person starts pretending they like fruitcake and Jello-Cottage Cheese salad when clearly they do not. No one likes those things. The people that make fruitcake and Jello salad molds don’t even like them. But when your elderly female relative offers you another scoop of jiggly, lumpy death paste, you say yes, dammit. You say yes and you soldier on. Jello salad and fruitcake is what the holiday season is all about.