Aren’t holidays wonderful? If your perception of reality is shaped entirely by Hollywood movies and department store sales displays, yes. Personally, I prefer the low-expectation, low- reward reliability of regular ‘ole Tuesdays and Saturdays – the indistinguishable, meaningless days that make up our lives. Wake up at noon with a blistering hangover and spend the first five hours of your day apologizing to everyone listed in your cell phone’s contacts? Well, at least it’s not Christmas! Spend the night in the fetal position, reading Hemingway and Googling “STD + holistic medicine”? At least it’s not Valentine’s Day!
Holidays bring an overwhelming pressure to have a normal, happy, healthy existence. That’s great for normal, happy, healthy people – they can go around flaunting their properly functioning emotional states and their fashionable haircuts, laughing and getting their mirth all over everyone. But for me, holidays associated with positive cultural values are a time to be reminded of how screwed up I am. I can handle holidays that revolve around blacking out and trying to deny the cruel reality of existence, like New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, or Mother’s Day. I also don’t mind holidays that have strange and distracting traditions, like the 4th of July or Halloween. But on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter, when people ruminate on their lives and see their families and smile a lot? That’s just so depressing.
This makes the upcoming Easter weekend quite the dreaded occasion, and I’m assuming Jewish folk are suffering the same trepidation and anxiety – though I know absolutely nothing about Passover, I’m guessing it’s not a “let’s get blackout drunk” kind of holiday.
I hope for their sake I’m wrong.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that my family always gets into colossal arguments on “major” holidays. It’s like we all secretly want to ruin the day in an attempt to nullify what it represents and our inability to match up to it. There’s always a lot of yelling and screaming and altering of wills (the legal kind and the philosophical kind). In fact, we usually invite a notary for such occasions. It’s definitely more Kafka than Capra, I’ll put it that way.
But, your holiday doesn’t have to be like that! At least not if you follow these handy tips, crafted from years of formative hostility and avoidance of costly therapy:
1. Leave the Mothers Out of It
More explicitly: do not, under any circumstances, invite your mother to family gatherings. Or anyone’s mother, for that matter.
2. Just Kidding
You can invite other people’s moms.
3. Stick to Beer
We all know what happens when the liquor cabinet gets opened. That’s a Pandora’s Box of feelings best left repressed.
4. Speaking of Which, Bury Those Feelings Deep Down Inside
The holidays trudge up a lot of negative memories and associations, like the time your parents got you a geological rock kit for Christmas. These negative memories are deeply rooted, unresolved emotional scars that you probably shouldn’t be picking at. So, to leave them where they belong, I recommend drinking between 9 and 15 beers (but no hard liquor – all in moderation, my friends), taking some deep breaths, and focusing all of that hatred and despair deep down inside. Just completely bury it. This is what psychologists call “Self Medicating,” and it is a prudent, cost-efficient method for dealing with emotional distress.
5. Don’t Bring Your New Girlfriend/Boyfriend
I think most “relationship experts” would agree that bringing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to a family gathering could be overwhelming and potentially disastrous. If your family is dysfunctional, drunk, and/or intolerant, this is especially true. That’s why I, and all creditable experts, recommend putting this off till at least the third or fourth year of marriage. Conveniently, most relationship experts recommend getting divorced around then anyway. At the very least, remember this – your new girlfriend/boyfriend’s family is better than yours. It seems statistically and quantifiably impossible that this is true, but I
promise you it is.
6. Do Invite the Black Sheep
It may not be pretty, but someone has to be the lightning rod for your family’s ill will. Got a recently paroled uncle? A cousin who came out of the closet as a gay man, got a sex change, and then came out of the closet again as a lesbian woman? That was weird, right? Well, invite him (her?)! It’ll really throw your family for a loop, and they’ll be so caught up gossiping and being hateful, that there will be no time to reminisce about that Thanksgiving when you brought over “that whore girl you ran around with.” Score!
7. Avoid Sensitive Conversational Topics
Here is a list of topics that I would strongly advise avoiding during family get-togethers. But be forewarned – in no way is this list comprehensive. All families have their own subjects that should never be brought up under any circumstances. In mine, it’s Speed 2: Cruise Control and WrestleMania XI.
Topics to Avoid: Politics, War, Race, Opinions, Religion, Employment, Relationships, Sex, Life, Death, Current Events, the Economy.
Also, you never want to talk about the past (or the future, for that matter). In fact, just keep all conversation rooted strictly in the present tense. Note the following hypothetical conversation between two brothers, seeing each other for the first time in five years at an Easter picnic. Watch how references to past events quickly derail the conversation, threatening to put a damper on the entire day.
Brother #1: Hello, Artie. Happy Easter.
Brother #2: Thanks, Bill. Remember that time when we were kids and you told me that if
I ate a raw egg, the Easter Bunny would convince mom to come home?
Brother #1: And you wouldn’t do it! It’s all YOUR FAULT, you selfish bastard!
Brother #2: Oh yeah? Well, I guess that’s why I slept with your mechanic!
Brother #1: You slept with Ned? You slut!
(Brother #1 punches Brother #2 in the face and they start wrestling to the ground, falling
upon the children of the family and inadvertently pushing grandma’s wheelchair down a
steep, grassy hill.)
This incident could’ve been avoided by ignoring past (or future) events, and focusing strictly on rote observation.
Brother #1: Hello, Artie. Happy Easter.
Brother #2: Thanks, Bill. I see that you are wearing pants.
Brother #1: Yes. I am standing here, next to you. We are both standing here.
Brother #2: It is Easter. Today is Easter.
Wow! What an improvement. Holidays, by their nature, are a deeply unpleasant time. But by following these seven simple rules, you can minimize that unpleasantness, as well as property damage, court fees, and internal bleeding. Happy holidays, folks!