A manual for the brave, strong and liquored up few who plan to venture out into the wild, hapless realm of holiday family-time.
Step 1: Alcohol
The social lubricant to any eventful family holiday, alcohol is your most essential tool for surviving the holidays. Here's what booze to consume feverishly, in what situation.
Morning Drinks: The early hours of family holidays almost always involve sincere bonding moments accompanied by mimosas or Bloody Marys. You love these individuals, always have and always will. For a brief moment, you forget why you went to therapy in the first place.
Wine/Beer: Perfect for the subtle drunk that allows you to handle your grandma’s abrupt foray into racial commentary, leading you to believe this positive interaction could be the end of the perpetual family dysfunction. Beer and wine serve as the gateway booze, pairing well with the shots, mixed drinks and family fights to come.
Mixed Drinks: The first offensive comment toward someone has made its appearance at the party, exposing years of repressed emotional damage for the whole crowd. Gateway alcohol is no longer an option; you need to move onto stronger reinforcements such as vodka, whiskey and ethanol.
Holiday Drinks: Besides the backhanded compliment turned passive-aggressive fight, the family time has proved productive. Fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers share memories, recount stories and rehash family disappointments regarding each other in a string of dysfunctional bonding moments. Everyone’s sharing in the familial roasting, so invite in some more pleasantly disguised cheer in the form of candy-cane shots.
Tequila Shots: The candy cane shots ran dry, and the buzz is running high. Family time transforms into personal confessions time, and Uncle Bob is on a roll. If there was ever a moment for tequila, the time is nigh when dad comes out of the closet and your sister accuses accuses him of stealing her thunder.
Step 2: Avoid inflammatory topics
Because in the end, you’re the one who will have to bear the brunt of the bullshit anyway.
Exhbit A: Your career
Situation: Your parents sat idly by saying nothing while their friends’ children flourished into outstanding, productive citizens. Now your flower-child ways have turned into their social
inadequacies. You’d better give them something to use.
Strategy: The key to winning any battle surrounding your career is to mention random “career” plausible terms, none of which come together to form any type of career.
Say This: “I’ve been studying the financial options of cultural viability in third world countries that provide political and social stability.”
Solution: They heard all of the key points talked about on any primetime news outlet combined with your somehow motivated involvement being at the epicenter of these terms. It’s enough to tell their friends.
Exhibit B: Politics
Situation: Inevitably politics rears its ugly head and, because it is your family, you already can see where this unavoidable shitstorm is heading. At this point, the only thing you can do is calm, console and capitalize.
Strategy: Stay bipartisan to gain an understanding of where the family stands, only bringing up the appropriate partisan comments that placate them and advocate for you and what you need at the current moment.
Say this: “I agree that the government shutdown destroyed the economy. It also wreaked havoc on my student loan payments, forcing me into a compromising financial position.”
Solution: You’ve just agreed with your dad, boosting his self-esteem, inflating his perception of you and avoiding a debate, all while tugging on his heart strings to provide you with more money to survive.
Exhibit C: Relationships
Situation: Your family is concerned over the fact that you’ve been single for nearly 10 years, haven’t brought anyone to the holiday celebration, ever, and continue to serial date. Everyone is worried about you … and wondering if they need to perform an intervention.
Strategy: Simply reiterate for the third Christmas in a row that finding a partner who you’d be proud to introduce to your amazing family is close to impossible.
Say This: “Our family is so close that if I were to bring anyone into it, they’d have to be as close to perfect as all of us.”
Solution: Even the most delinquent family considers itself to be the best. By reinforcing that point, you’ve redirected everyone to talking about the family and avoided the conversation as to why you’d protect anyone from ever meeting your family.
Exhibit D: Vices
Situation: No one judges harder than your family. Of course, it’s all in your best interest. Your parties, drinking and random partners appear to be a cry for help. It’s Christmas, everyone’s drunk and now they all want to help.
Strategy: Everyone needs to take a moment to find themselves on this journey called life. You’re young, ambitious and you are the total sum of your experiences. Build your experiences and you build your perspective.
Say This: “I know you care about me, but if I don’t explore what this life has to offer, how will I know what I’m truly best at and what makes me happy?"
Solution: After the tears are shed, their respect and amazement at your responsible nature will have them more proud than ever. Little do they know, you just justified your party habit.
Step 3: Become an instant therapist
Don’t deny the inevitable emotional calamity that is your family; take action before it’s too late.
Technique #1: Hunger Illusion. Sadly, the combination of eggnog shooters and Tuaca slammers has unlocked your underage cousin’s emotional inhibitions, and now you’re listening to a 30-minute rant involving threesomes, broken hearts, parental abuse and whether true love really exists. You — and the entire family — have always questioned the sexual preferences of your cousin, but you’re the unlucky bastard consoling this weeping sack of amateur drunkenness. Enter the hunger illusion. This technique requires bringing up something someone can’t do or cannot resist doing. Break into your cousin’s warped and damaged reality of relationships by questioning his habits.
Try This: “What would happen to you if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and to stop chasing the emotionally atrophied?”
Technique #2: Empty Chair. Without question, one of your in-laws will drag you into a circulating conversation lamenting about their small bonus and shitty boss. The Corona Lights your mom purchased are going down faster than your patience and you just can’t shake the sobriety. It’s one thing to hate your in-laws, but having to listen to their problems goes beyond pre-determined holiday obligations. Enter empty chair technique. The idea is to let your in-law release the pain, anger and frustration on an empty chair, imagining that the object of all of that hate is in that chair. But you don’t have the subject in question, nor any beer left before you descend into the depths of Smirnoff Ice. So bring that anger your way.
Try This: “If your boss was here and not at the vacation villa he supplemented with your bonus, what would you say to him?”
Technique #3: Paradoxical intervention. The proverbial drunk aunt has decided to drop the annual inspirational speech on you, hammering home that parents never stop pushing and the government never stops calling. You’ve heard this inaugural address of systematic rebelliousness at the previous five holiday gatherings, and one more minute in the zeitgeist of conspiracy and you’ll turn to harder mind-altering substances. Enter the paradoxical technique. This technique involves reverse psychology. Corroborate with your aunt’s distaste for authority, and she’ll stop fighting because you aren’t fighting back. It’s a reach, but stroke her ego, and you’ll never have to feel the wrath of justice again.
Try This: “The government is only out to get us. Who wouldn’t drink just to escape the injustice of the thieves in Washington?”
Technique #4: Miracle Question. Around the time you’ve succumbed to the fact that these people are your family and hard alcohol is inevitable, your mumbling, intoxicated sibling embarks on a depressing personal resume of failed accomplishments, you being the favorite child and why collegiate career paths are shit. Immediate family should always be priority No. 1 for family therapy — even following a night of intense therapy. Extreme measures must be implemented. Enter the miracle question technique. The miracle question requires you helping your sibling look past the obstacles and hopelessness, and focus on the possibilities. Actualize the possibilities by having him or her imagine the future and connect it to the present.
Try This: “Go to bed. You’re drunk.” Or “Say tomorrow you wake up and, by some miracle, you have all that you need. How would that make a difference in your life?”