It's the most wonderful time of the year again when we merrily spend cash at the movies, buy up sequined sweaters, and ignore our stuffed Facebook events page. And then, right before the holiday, we escape our adult lives and head home for Christmas. But while home may promise you all the wrapping paper you could dream of, there is also the prospect of spending an intense period of time with your folks. To get you through Christmas unscathed, here is our guide to spending the holidays with your family.
ACT Like a GROWN-up
Home is comfortingly, chronically unchanged. The only disturbance to the stillness in my house is that my step-dad has accumulated another pair of reading glasses (one on his head, one on the side, one perched precariously now on the TV guide). It's all too easy to forget that time—as it has a habit of doing—has pushed on. We're no longer angst-ridden kids. We're now angst-ridden adults, deep into our overdrafts, but with our own hairdresser.
It's easy to descend, in all that resplendent comfort, into a proto-teenager, all strops and blu-tacked posters and shouting at your mom that she used the wrong butter on the sandwich she bought you. It's easy to run ten, 15 years backwards through puberty again, furious to be woken up before 12 PM, using up all the hot water with a massive, 40-minute shower.
Just remember it's fucking gross to witness a twentysomething having a meltdown, pouting their lips and making their lower arms go floppy. If you find yourself eating all the chocolates, putting the wrappers back in the empty box, and blaming your stupid younger sister then it's time to take control and act your age. Be a grownup, make your mom a cup of tea, and try and coax her through backing her phone up via the iCloud.
GET USED TO BAD TELEVISION
Your parents are watching TV. They have premium cable and a DVR, but still, somehow, watch TV shows in real time. No, you can't watch Netflix in your room alone, because we're spending quality family time together and we'll be watching Inside Edition on a loop for the next week.
Luckily, you'll never be awake for more than two hours. The plush carpets, constant central heating, plentiful food, and regression back to your sleepy juvenile self means that if you don't like the show that's on just close your eyes and dream of a white Christmas. Hopefully you'll come to when something better is on, like Chopped.
SEE YOUR OLD MATES
To break the monotony of Christmas on the sofa, head to the local bar with your old school friends. Just be warned, though: You won't have anything in common anymore. You live in the big city. You've eaten a lahmacun more times than you can even remember. They know the names of all the barmaids and still go to home games at the tiny battered football stadium! Your lives have diverted down wildly different paths.
As the night draws on, you'll slowly realize that they are all much happier than you.
Last year I got seven things with Audrey Hepburn's face on them because I happened to mention I'd seen Breakfast At Tiffany's once. This year I'm hoping my dad doesn't run wild with the information that I saw the Minions film on DVD. Two years ago I got some "fancy honey" and a mug that said "SASSY" on it. Appalling, yes, but if your family doesn't have a clue who you are, it's probably your fault for not calling home enough.
The best thing to do is fake it. "Oh my God, I really loved Audrey in those Galaxy adverts, thank you so much!" You can always nip back to the store and get a gift card in exchange for the chessboard shot glasses you received. And if it's not worth the pain of lugging it back, just leave it under your bed with those adult-sized bear foot slippers and a novelty book about things cats might say if they could talk.
NO POLITICAL CHAT
It would be a Christmas miracle if you avoided fraught chats about immigration and ISIS over turkey and sides. Look at your parents, with their USA Today-reading, Trump-voting opinions. We, the next generation, who have suffered under austerity, need to show these ignorant bigots the light, right?! But there's a problem. Don't you only read the Times headlines, not the full article? Didn't you skip the Syria march because you had brunch with friends?
Do yourself a favor: Instead of getting your parents back by saying "I'm left... because... it's right," and "Donald Trump really is an idiot though, because... well look at his hair!," just steer clear of politics completely.
KEEP IT BRIEF
Family parties can be stressful. You have a long-standing resentment about your godfather not getting you a Baby G that time and your cousins being more attractive than you. Your auntie, who's not technically your auntie, asks questions—"How's the city?" "D'you like it there?"—that she doesn't want to know the answer to because the truth is too depressing to endure over vol-au-vents. "Well, I live in an apartment with a 38-year-old named Peter and sometimes I think he might have put hidden cameras in my room, I haven't had sex in a year, and the only time I don't feel anxious is when I'm watching MasterChef." The kindest thing, for both of you, is to give short, generic answers like "The public transport is very efficient!," before complimenting her on her hair color, then stuffing your face with another cheese straw.
Just remember, your parents have given up the best years of their lives to raise you and give you a better life than they had. And it's not looking good, is it? Not with your inability to stop spending 30 percent of your wages on eating out, your firm belief that you were better than the last person you were seeing, and your need for at least two holidays a year because of all the vitamin D you're lacking.
So that's why you should give your folks the magical Christmas they deserve, and stop being a dick.
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