You’re not exactly looking forward to the holidays. When you were a kid, at least you got presents.
That made it halfway bearable.
Now, you get socks and Applebee’s gift cards — along with questions about when you’re going to get married or have kids. And a full day of road rage. If you’re betrothed, you have twice the family to deal with.
(Betrothed, what a festive word.)
But maybe your problem isn’t with family. Maybe you’ve just been doing the holidays all wrong. Try a different approach this time.
Bring plenty of alcohol with you (and hide it in a mug)
It’s the universal social lubricant for a reason. You need something that takes the edge off fast and plants a genuine smile on your face for family photos. You can’t exactly lug a bottle of Wild Turkey around with you. The flask was invented specifically for this purpose.
If you don’t think you’ll get away with a flask: Immediately make a pot of coffee and hide your liquor in a mug.
The flask tucks neatly into your hand bag.
Or your fleece vest…
A mug gives you the thrill of hiding in plain sight.
The trick is to drink just enough that grandma’s sexist and/or racist comments slide right off. When she asks, “What were those women doing alone with Bill Cosby in the first place?” you can just laugh and go Oh, Grandma… But not so much you lose your balance.
Stash the bottle in your trunk, and refill as necessary. There’s always an excuse to “grab something from the car.”
Pretend to love everyone’s cooking
Practice your positive thinking now.
That marshmallow thing looks delightful. Oh, look. Shredded pig parts with a mustard-based sauce. Delicious.
Macaroni and cheese that’s mostly melted cheese…
A cauliflower bake. Yum.
There’s a simple trick to all of this. First, stop at a Taco Bell on your way in. Or a Wendy’s. Or bring a few MREs.
Either way, stash 2–3 days’ worth of alternate meals in your luggage. When everyone else is napping or watching TV, announce to the room that you’re going to take a quick little shower.
Enjoy your real food before and/or after the holiday meal.
Eat just enough of the botched macaroni to convince everyone you’re a normal girl who never eats more than a bird. Regardless of your gender, make sure 1–2 people are looking at you whenever you take a bite.
You want a holiday meal alibi.
Don’t talk about politics
Did he seriously just say that? Yes, he did. Put away your outrage. Save it for January 2nd. You’re a spy now, gathering intel.
Look, you’re not going to educate anyone today. The best you can hope for is making fun of Trump with lackluster neo-cons. I know, you think this is going to be the year. You’re going to make a political statement by disrupting the holidays and then tweeting about it.
No, you’re not.
Put away your flashcards with talking points. You go through this every December. In reality, you’re too exhausted by travel by the time you show up. You just don’t have it in you to explain basic math on Christmas Eve. Sharing DNA with someone doesn’t give you influence over them.
Besides, even your ultra-right uncle has a Trump joke. Focus on the handful of things you can agree on.
You might have to stomach a little Fox News in the background. It’s good practice for your brain cells.
Just relax. You’re not going to convince your in-laws to vote for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. There’s absolutely nothing you can say about Amazon, Facebook, Fake News, or any other topic to make them care. Just shut up and pass the gravy boat.
Learn to cook one incredible dish
This will make everyone like you so much more. It sends the faintest hint that you care about them, and it’ll smell good. Warning: Don’t cook something you like. Cook something they’ll like.
If it includes vegetables, make sure they’re fried beyond recognition, or drowned headfirst into a cream.
You get a little something out of this, too.
All your relatives will leave you alone for at least a full hour so you can make this legendary dish.
This gives you a little breathing room.
Plus, you’ll get to talk about the recipe. And if all else fails, you know where the knives are now.
Use your child (or pet or drone) as a distraction
Bring them with you. Set them in the middle of the floor. Make them perform tricks for all the strange people in the living room.
If you clap, they’ll keep going a little longer. Meanwhile, look around at everyone and smile.
Everyone wants to hold your pet and/or child and/or drone.
Meanwhile, you don’t have to fake conversation. You just make observations about the center of attention. For example:
OMG, look at how high it goes.
Excellent hand-eye coordination.
So smart for a baby/dog/cat/drone.
And so on…
Hold them in your lap, and talk about how old they are. What was their last visit to the vet and/or pediatrician and/or Geek Squad like?
Put some effort into Christmas gifts
They say it’s better to give than receive. That goes double for your in-laws. And triple if you’re new to the family.
You might get socks. But you can’t give them in return.
You probably have to go one step beyond ties, coffee mugs, and blue-tooth photo frames. This is your chance to prove that you have staying power— that you know how to hunt and gather.
Because that’s what you’re dealing with. Your tribe needs to see what you can go out and scrounge up, and that you actually listened to them for a fraction of a second this year. Honestly, if you haven’t picked up on the fact that your father-in-law likes westerns…
You can cheat. Ask your husband and/or wife and/or fiance all about them. There’s always a consumable commodity that fits their interest. A snack set? A bag of seasonal coffee? A craft beer selection?
Do whatever it takes. Nothing flips the stink eye off you like a thoughtful Christmas present that’s well-wrapped.
If you’re single, invent a boyfriend or girlfriend
That way, they’ll stop asking when you’re finally going to get married. Name him Brad — it’s appropriately masculine. Or if you need a girlfriend, Jennifer does well. Ryan or Amanda, they also work.
For the last name, always go with Lee.
Need a back story? Okay, Brad or Ryan or Amanda or Jennifer is pursuing a law degree at a university near you.
They have a pet turtle. It’s so cute!
Ryan or Amanda or Brad is a Mac person. You have little arguments about why a PC is better.
You go to the gym together twice a week.
Share some good news with everyone
Maybe you got promoted, or engaged. Or your favorite show got picked up for another season…
This is your last ditch effort. Save it for when everyone’s staring awkwardly at dessert. After that, your only hope is Christmas movies, followed by the absolute final option…
Act like you’re coming down with a cold
Everyone will keep their distance from you, because they don’t want to catch whatever you’ve got.
Nobody will expect too much conversation from you.
Plus, you’ll get to go to bed early.
Think about Christmas completely alone
If you’ve ever spent one Christmas or Hanukkah or Festivus by yourself, you know it’s even worse than spending it with your family — regardless of your differences. On holidays, you want to be around someone.
So be around them.
If you’re with someone — even if you don’t like them that much — count yourself lucky. Spending time with imperfect family is not the worst thing on earth, especially with the right booze.