I truly believe that tragedy can bring out the best in people… & that the holidays can bring out the worst. Humans are fucked up like that. In spite of everyone’s best intentions, sometimes holiday gatherings get tense or chaotic. No matter how hard you try, you may still end up feeling as though you’ve stepped out of reality & into one of those ridiculous Christmas movies where everything goes wrong.
We arrived at our destination in rural PA a day late. We got to see a few relatives – some that I had not seen in several years & that Olivier had never met. We had a great time – in spite of my occasional fits of choking on mucous & bleeding from the nostrils. While we had originally planned to stay in the area for an entire week, we decided to cut our stay a bit short & head out to Colorado 2 days early.
I could go into a lengthy explanation of why we decided to do this, but I won’t because this blog isn’t about my family shit. What I will do, however, is touch on a few basic rules of etiquette when hosting friends or relatives at your home for the holidays:
1. If a family member comes to visit you & is from another country – say France, for instance – it might be a fun thing to refer to that person’s country & its inhabitants as “snooty”. This is especially true if you have never been to said country, as it makes your insults more credible. Whatever cultural stereotypes you can use to zing people with, throw it out there! Your guests will be wowed by your wacky sense of humor.
2. If a family member is in some way involved in the arts – say writing, for example – show your support by saying something like, “No one wants to read anything that you write.” This is especially true if you aren’t very familiar with their work. If they don’t react as much as you would like to your verbal volleys, tell them that you’ve decided that you’re a writer, too. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written anything. After all, anyone can do it, right?
3. Religious beliefs, or a lack thereof, are personal & something that everyone likes to fight about. If someone’s beliefs differ from your own, an appropriate response would be: “I feel sorry for people like you.” Broach this subject as soon as possible after your guests arrive. After all – it’s Christmas!
4. Most importantly, if relatives travel 3,797 miles for 2 days through a fucking blizzard to spend Christmas with you, begin the gift opening without them when Christmas morning rolls around. Forget the tired tradition of waking everyone in the house & waiting until everyone is together to begin the gift exchange. You’ll have a lot more fun waking early & opening all of your gifts Ninja style – not to mention the fun you will have looking at your surprised guests once they see that you’ve just had Christmas without them!
5. After you’ve tried all of the above, just start screaming. It doesn’t matter what you scream about – it doesn’t even have to make any sense, it just has to be loud. The best technique is to simply abandon conversational tone & raise the volume on all of your sentences. Some families scream-speak regularly throughout the year. If you’re not already in the habit of doing this, give it a whirl!
6. Last & most important: if you need assistance with anything, do not ask your guests for help! This will make you appear as a weak & inferior host. If you require aide with any task or situation, find the nearest person & make an announcement about how little they care, being sure to tell them how horrible they are. This likely will not get the task accomplished, but it will take attention away from the fact that you failed to accomplish it & will put the attention on someone else.
Obviously… I’m being caustic & sarcastic. You get that, right?
Yes, all of these things occurred during our holiday visit. Olivier & I can take a hint – we’re extremely bright.
It wasn’t really the Christmas vacation that we were expecting, nor was it the one that we wanted. No matter – it was the one that we ended up with. The only thing that could be done was to cut it short, as much as it pained us to leave behind the family that we were having fun with.
Back in the peace & quiet of our rental car, we began making our way to the Greyhound station in Erie, PA.
“Well,” Olivier said as he tooled around with the GPS. “At least we’re together. The worst part is over & now all we have to do is sit on a bus for a couple of days. No stress.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I never thought I’d look forward to a 2-day bus ride as much as I do right now.”
Ok. Turns out we may not have been so bright after all.