You finally get to that last unopened present – the one from Uncle Joe and Aunt Patty who live in Nebraska. You haven’t seen them in upwards of 10 years, so at their arrival you were met with high-pitched coos of how much bigger you’ve gotten. Once you got past the unnecessarily nostalgic greetings, they handed you a box with snowman wrapping paper but said you weren’t allowed to open it until the next day.
Tearing through colorful wrapping paper and unearthing what lies below is typically exciting and full of surprises – that is, if what you find underneath the wrapping is something you wanted. The inevitable awkwardness ensues when your fake smile and poor acting skills show how much you dislike the lumpy and itchy sweater Aunt Patty knitted you. Do you pretend to love it or risk breaking your aunt’s heart by being honest?
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, more uncomfortable family encounters are sure to happen. Here’s how to navigate the worst parts about being home for the holidays – tough questions, running into people from high school and terrible presents.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, uncomfortable family encounters are sure to happen.
Tough questions: Are you dating anyone? What are your post-graduation plans? Why do you only call me when you need money? The best solution to answering any of these questions is to not answer them. The art of deflecting definitely takes practice, but it will save you so many stressful and uncomfortable conversations. When prompted with a question you would rather not answer, start talking about something you’ve been doing that is either a) taking up a lot of your time, b) something you’re really interested in. Yes, even Netflix can work for this. For example: Mom: “Why do you only call me when you need money?” You: “I’ve been so busy analyzing all nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother for my communications class that I barely have time to cook or go to the caf. I’ve been ordering from Seamless a lot so it’s really draining my bank account. The money I’m asking you for is for sustenance! You don’t want me to starve right?” Maternal “my-child-will-never-go-hungry” senses will start tingling, and you can go back to watching Netflix in peace.
Running into People from High School: This is arguably my least favorite experience about going home for the holidays. Considering the main attraction (besides having some quality family time) when I go home is to hit up all my favorite food places, I inevitably always run into people who were less-than-nice to me in high school. These people aren’t hard to spot either because they’re typically wearing one of their zillion brightly-colored sorority tank tops. My suggestion to you: if you see someone coming who you really would like to avoid chatting with, stage a fake (or real) phone call. At most, you’ll have to smile and maybe wave at them, but it’ll totally get you out of an awkward and trivial conversation. If you, unfortunately, get blindsided by someone, tell them you got your wisdom teeth out and your mouth is really sore, therefore you would prefer to remain silent.
Terrible Presents: For Tess Fahey, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ‘16, honesty is the best policy, but only sometimes. “If it’s a gift from someone I’m really close to, like my mom or my brother, I’ll be very upfront with them and say I hate it or I’m not going to use it and that they should spend their money on something better,” Fahey said. However, if it is a gift from an extended family member who she hasn’t seen in some time, she will typically feign excitement and then re-gift it later. The trouble arises when it’s that lumpy sweater from Aunt Patty – you can’t re-gift it or return it. My course of action would be to put the sweater on, take a selfie, send it to your aunt and uncle, then bury the sweater in the depths of your closet.
Seeing old high school rivals or re-gifting presents from friends are the inevitable low points of being back home for the holidays. But, when it comes down to it, the best part is spending quality time with your family. Despite all the interrogations about your non-existent boyfriend and the endless grandma sweaters you receive, remember that all of these things are just ways your family shows their affection for you. So put on a smile, give Aunt Patty a hug and try and focus on the good parts of the holiday season (apple pie, anyone?). Having all of your family together doesn’t happen everyday – enjoy as many moments as you can with them.