It's that time of year when you are deemed naughty if you fail to be your family's idea of nice. No matter how functional your family is you are guaranteed to be disappointed by the holidays in some way, and also to disappoint. But you can get ahead of all this with my help; forewarned is forearmed. Here are some easy do's and don'ts to help you navigate through the Helliday minefields and to even possibly have a good time.
- Don't forget that SNL Adele Saves Thanksgiving sketch!
- Don't attend the event that will make you feel unsafe, unloved, or unsupported, even if that is where most of your immediate family will be.
- Don't react aggressively to questions that take you off guard. (See the "Do" list for alternatives.)
- Don't talk trash about other family members (see my article, TrimYour Christmas Three), or talk about politics, or the news, or anything other than food or other things that everyone present enjoys (like Adele).
- Don't pick up the cards. Literally: Competitive games don't usually end well at family affairs. But also figuratively: Many of us have emotionally unintelligent relatives who tend to lay traps for us because it's the only way they know how to connect. Be aware of these traps and avoid them.
- Don't talk more than you listen.
- Don't stay too long.
- Keep that SNL Adele Saves Thanksgiving sketch in mind and reference it whenever necessary.
- Attend the event where you will feel most safe, loved, and supported, even if it does not include anyone from your immediate family.
- Breathe, give yourself a moment before answering any questions, and smile.
- Stand your ground and correct people who get something wrong about you--e.g., calling your husband your "partner"--but only after you breathe, give yourself a moment, and smile.
- Stick to basic etiquette; nothing more nothing less. For example, ask your host what you can bring, or your guests (if you're hosting) about their dietary restrictions, and then accommodate their requests in the simplest way possible. Obvious, minimal gestures of respect will go a long way, and in fact be more effective and more appreciated than going overboard (or doing nothing at all...), given how distracting and potentially overwhelming this time can be.
- Ask each person with whom you visit at least one question, and then smile patiently as they answer.
- Plan an exit strategy ahead of time--including time of departure and form of transportation--and stick to it.
- Leave early if someone makes you feel unsafe in any way.
- Plan something indulgent, just for you or for you and your significant other or a good friend, before and/or after your holiday visit--e.g., a massage; a movie; a bath,with salts and candles, followed by some time alone in a fluffy robe with a cocktail and a good book; etc.
Remember: This is simply a time to celebrate who you are in relation to the significant people in your life. Try to find the few, brief, opportunities where that can be possible.
And then step away and treat yourself.
This post first appeared on Mark O'Connell, LCSW-R's Psychology Today column, Quite Queerly