The Pie-For-Breakfast Boxing Day Open Thread

Pumpkin & Lemon Chess pie slices on a plate.
Photo by AlyssssylA on Flickr, used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. (Recipes at link!)

Good morning. I hope everyone had a nice December 25th. I spent the day playing computer games and hanging out with the Gentleman Caller, trying to shake this disgusting sinus infection that’s laid me low for the past two weeks. A phlegm haiku to start your day off right:

lung-butter sculptures

land in the porcelain bowl

morning-time splendor

I’d love to hear from people about their holidays so far. Any awkward encounters? Tales of boundary enforcement/subject changes/shutting down of bullies? Really thoughtful or really unthoughtful gifts? Highs, lows, mehs? See any good movies this week? Thoughts on the Dr. Who Christmas special?*

Ooh, also, check out this piece by Sady at Rookie: Fight Like A Girl, recommended by awesome blog reader Megan M. So much great stuff in here about how being direct and using your words is better than suffering in silence or becoming passive-aggressive.

*Mine are: “Seeing characters I like again, yay!” + “Souffles. YES.” + “I love that image of the staircase to the TARDIS. Magic.” + “The tears of a family crying together on Christmas” = BARF CITY.

316 thoughts on “The Pie-For-Breakfast Boxing Day Open Thread

  1. I haven’t seen the Dr. Who yet, because such things are disapproved of in my family of origin, but before we came to family-of-origin Christmas, my partner and I went to a lovely (fifth annual) solstice celebration with our queer family where we had a vegetarian meal and spent time with people who love and support (and share) our weird/veggie/nerdy ways.

    Now I’m at my aunt’s house doing Christmas with people who are mostly nice, mostly clueless, somewhat snarky about our weird/veggie/queer/nerdy ways.

    All in all, it could certainly be a lot worse.

    1. I won’t be in Massachusetts for New Year’s this year, but my friend group out there has a three-day nerd slumber party that would be right up your alley.

      I’m sure the “jokes” about your veggie/queer ways are “hilarious.” “You’re a VEGETARIAN. HARDY HAR HAR RABBIT FOOD HARDY HAR.” :facepalm:

      1. Heh. It’s gotten better in recent years because one of my cousins is now also vegetarian. I think my aunt gets target confusion and just forgets to make remarks.

      2. Finally saw Dr Who today! Me and my sweetie had the most awesome post-family-craziness day. We got up only long enough to go get burritos, and otherwise spent the whole day in bed watching Dr Who, playing our new board games, and sleeping.

  2. Loved the Doctor Who Christmas Special. I loved that The Doctor actually referenced that he had seen Clara before (this should not be a spoiler – it has been over the net for a looong time).
    As for Christmas – in Aus, it is now Thursday 27th (just), so I officially have a 2 week old in the house! Because of this, we had both my and my husbands’ families over for Christmas day, and then again for leftovers on Boxing Day. Just a bit overwhelming at times.

    1. Congratulations on the new addition to your family! I hope no one brought frankincense or myrrh (Gold is ok, though).

      1. Being child #3, he got practical things – nappies, wipes, new bibs and a couple of teddies of his very own πŸ™‚

  3. My Christmas was incredibly low-key, as I was coming off a 23-hour trip to get home that occupied my Christmas Eve. I slept until 9 AM (glorious!) and later in the day we had my grandmother over, as she has been sort of bouncing around all the kids’ and grandkids’ houses since my grandfather died last week. On Thursday I will celebrate being a New Auntie with my almost-a-month-old niece, brother, and sister-in-law, and the next week I will spend trying to see all of my Home Friends and get a little bit of work done before embarking on another 19-hour trip to get back to school. I feel tired and really happy and sad and overwhelmed.

  4. Hi! First time commenter! =3

    I’ve been really stressed out this year, working like crazy and stuff, but I actually got Christmas day off, so yay! And I planned on spending it with my partner’s family, for the first time, and my brother kept complaining about how he’d miss me and I kept calmly telling him that this year I wasn’t going to be home for Christmas and that was final.

    And then with my partner’s family it was only a little awkward, but someone already brought up babies! And I was all “Not happening,” and they changed the subject. And then my partner and I played video games and snuggled! =D

  5. Had an awkward phone conversation with my mom two days before xmas. Did you get my package? Good. Discussion of pets. Discussion of health problems. More discussion of pets. Bye! With lots of long awkward pauses.

    Then yesterday we went to my Sweetie’s family’s xmas dinner and I got to overhear essentially the same conversation when S’s step-mom called S’s step-sister. That is, the content was somewhat different, but the tone and the pacing were just the same.

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has to go through those.

  6. I notice that the articles here seem to be (almost?) exclusively about the problems of western (mainly USA-an)s in their 20’s and 30’s, mostly never married and mostly childless.

    I couldn’t help wondering if this is due to (a) the kind of people who send in questions or (b) the kind of questions that the CA staff feel competent to answer.

    + + +

    On a related note: I have _never_ seen the second button from the left on the top of the page show anything but “Hold Your Questions”. Is this because the Inbox is (almost) always full? Or is some interaction between my browser and your server causing the button to erroneously say (and link to) “Hold Your Questions” even when it’s not full?

    1. 1) Probably both. As you may guess from the Captain’s clever appropriation of the Captain America star for part of the site logo, her readership skews heavily to the geek. “Childless single Americans in their 20s and 30s” is also the largest demographic that is likely to be reading an advice column on the internet in English, be comfortable with the idea of sending in semi-anonymous questions and requesting advice from a complete online stranger, and have sufficient typing and spelling skills that the Captain can decipher what the hell it is they want. There are a few guest columnists that Cap hands questions to from time to time, but AFAIK they also fall largely — although not entirely — into the given demographic.

      2) became accidentally internet-famous in August with a post about how to detect and thwart exceedingly creepy people, and since then her inbox overrunneth with questions. She’s still digging her way out of the pile.

      If you’re desperate, there are a few other bloggers around who will take a crack at dishing out advice to strangers now and again. I’m one of them; I’m sure the others will be here anon.

    2. The questions box system is new as of a couple months ago; the Captain replaced email submissions with it because we had hundreds of questions in backlog. So, short answer: it’s not your browser! Longer answer: maybe I’m just cranky, but I can’t figure out the tone of your comment. Are you complaining about the quality/frequency/subject matter of this blog, whose contributors are all employed elsewhere and do this as a labor of love? Because my answer to that complaint would be a hearty bah humbug. But again, I’m cranky today.

    3. The ‘hold your questions’ box is to avoid the situation that arose before, where the Captain had an overwhelming, guilt-inducing backlog of questions she could not possibly ever get to all of (and more pouring in every day); I think she felt like it would be better not to invite people to submit questions in expectation of an answer if, as a practical matter, she just wasn’t going to be able to fulfill that expectation. The other part of that was the impossible decision, of ‘do I answer older questions first, on the first come first served principle, even though the crisis may have passed, or do I answer the one where someone is crying out for help right now, and the advice will be a lot timelier?”

      And yeah (duh?) when she forwards questions to us guest bloggers, she shoots for ones she thinks we’d be comfortable answering, and we can say ‘I’m not sure I have any relevant insight to offer…’ ‘Cause isn’ it better to pass than to offer advice you’re not qualified to give?

      Though actually, I think a lot of the issues (about communication and boundary-setting) are pretty universal.

      1. I think the above comment was meant that the commentator had never seen the “hold your questions” tab set to anything else (aka being open to questions). Neither have I. So I guess the question/comment may be more along the lines of “when does it open/how often does it open”. I realise that there might not be a clear answer to that. But for example, I am wondering if it has been set to being open to questions recently and I just missed it… A more interesting question would be “How long is it open for?” which indicates how often I have to check the website (rather than the RSS feed). #curiositykilledthecat (p.s. great job, guys! I’m really just curious how the system works in more detail so I can get a question in at some point.)

        1. Both times I’ve opened up questions I’ve gotten 50+ in one day, so I’ve closed it back down within 24 hours to give myself time to triage questions into ones I want to answer, ones that will never get answered (usually because they have already been answered), and ones that I delegate out to kind guest bloggers. I open it back up when I’ve worked through the current backlog or am looking for something new to be inspired by. I never, ever want to let it build up to hundreds of unanswered questions again.

    4. I’m going to say it’s mostly (A), in your first question, because I’m married, 40, and CA answered a question having to do with my child quite promptly. I am from the US, though.

    5. As a married, mid -fourties woman with two teenagers, I find a lot of relevant advice on this blog. In general, the Letter Writers seem to have to have the same types of issues I, my children and my friends have, regardless of age. For example, the recent applying for work/ resume question was great for me as I am re- entering the work force after a long absence.

    6. Like Sweet Machine, I am reading this with cranky goggles. AMM, if you’re trying to figure out if you should send in an actual question, I cannot promise that I will answer it, ever. Or that it will get answered in any kind of timely manner. I do know that I no longer want a giant backlog of questions. I do know that I do not want to read giant essays full of backstory. So yes, I drastically limited the way that people can send me questions to make it easier to work through them at my own pace. What’s your actual question here?

      1. I’ve been reading your blog a long time because I am a geek who is somehow addicted to advice columns and your reason for starting it got me here, your great advice kept me here. I think maybe you are reading with cranky goggles, he/she didn’t have any snark in the question that I could see.

        I think the initial poster was seriously asking if maybe no older people write to you and my response to that is that it does not matter, I’m 50+ and many of your letters give me insight and help me anyhow. Some issues are universal, age matters not.

        second part of the post, well, I kind of wondered about too, cos I haven’t seen any time when a question could be submitted since you re-vamped. Maybe he/she just wants to know when or if it would be possible to submit a question to you.

        1. Thanks for the not-cranky translation. πŸ™‚ CRANK AVERTED.

          I don’t know when I’ll open questions back up. There are 30-50 unanswered in the hopper currently.

          1. Thank you. I think what people maybe don’t understand is that even if I don’t answer a question right away, I still READ it. And think about it. And know that it’s sitting there, unanswered. It takes up brainspace. So I’m trying to be nicer to my brain.

          2. totally understand, I’d be worried about everyone that I couldn’t answer. I’m sure you’ve thought of this, is there anyone that could scan the letters and respond to some with a link to old letter that addresses their problem so as to filter them down? I mean before you actually read them? I so wish someone would hire you to write advice so you could have an assistant to help you manage this awesome thing you created! I keep posting your link everywhere – I’m probably making it worse!

          3. Oh man, now I’m thinking about how you could farm out questions to like ten or fifteen people like the Internet Oracle and they could code the questions, and then you could know that you should answer something from category B because you have like twenty of those waiting, or you could decide you want something unusual. Then, too, you could have a nice pile of data that (if you document your method of coding) could be interesting for someone to look at, without having to to release any of the letters themselves.

            I….. I like technological solutions to social problems?

          4. Delegating is time-consuming! I *like* reading questions and picking which one to answer, but it is definitely working for me to keep the pool small at any given time.

          5. I think what carbonatedwit was saying is, could you get a team of people (or an algorithm) that sorts/codes messages for you *before* you read them, so you only read the ones you want to? Like, obviously you still can’t answer every question that comes in, but you could get someone to ignore some of them *for* you – the ones with truly vomitously unreadable language, or impossibly long, or what have you. That could shave off a few miutes of hassle, at least. πŸ™‚

    7. As far as demographics, I was born during the Kennedy administration and have been with the same partner since 1984 (yes, we’re married). I know for a fact that at least one person older than me has posted a question here (not from the Captain, the poster is a friend of mine and mentioned it elsewhere).

      1. Same demographics here – Kennedy baby, married in 1984, two kids. I find a lot of the column and the comments highly relevant.

    8. 40, married, 3 kids (one a newborn – see my what I did for Christmas comment above), Australian. The Captain and her crew are all completely relevant πŸ™‚

    9. Some clarifications (hope they won’t trigger the cranky glasses):

      When I asked about the “hold your questions,” I was mainly concerned that my various browsers might be showing “hold your questions” when the question box was in fact open. I’ve had an awful lot of bad experiences with various combinations of browser and web server doing weird things, so I wanted to check. It sounds like the box is, in fact, closed most of the time, so I guess I’ll just wait until Durin’s Day to check again.

      As for the demographics: I do find the posts here interesting and often relevant to my life (I wouldn’t visit if I didn’t.) But I’ve noticed that different advice columns seem to address different distributions of issues, and I wasn’t sure whether some of the questions I’ve thought of submitting would be the sort that the Captain Awkward team handles.

    10. 61, grandmother of 10, New Zealand. I am so pleased to have discovered this site! The great advice of ‘using your words’ and examples of what to say are really helpful.

  7. I had delicious food and good conversation with my awesome family of origin. They even got me a toaster oven, which means I will meet my new goal in 2013 of cooking more (I’m mildly disabled and toaster ovens are safer to use than the regular kind). They also got me new pictures of them for our apartment to supplement the old ones they gave me when I left for college, so they win at thoughtful and loving consumerism. And they gave us no crap about husband needing to go back to work today, so really, I am very lucky.

    My poor husband, on the other hand, did not even get a call back from his parents on the 25th, and is confused as hell by his Italian journal/photo album, since he doesn’t keep a journal and all of our photos are digital. I am focusing on the positive that at least this year I got a “fashion scarf” from his mother instead of some totally useless jewelry I can’t actually put on myself. And she never has topped the antique coal scuttle I got for my 22nd birthday, anyway.

    1. ‘And she never has topped the antique coal scuttle I got for my 22nd birthday, anyway.’

      That sounds about as fun as the year I got a butt-ugly painting and when I didn’t like it enough to cry tears of joy, the gifter started screaming and crying about how I wasn’t nice. Well, don’t give away art to virtual strangers, then.

      1. Wow. Just wow, to both the coal scuttle (WTF???) and the art with accompanying rage/drama reaction! WOW.

      2. I got lucky with the coal scuttle because I didn’t have to open it in person; otherwise, who knows what would have happened. I am oddly grateful for its existence, though– it’s a nice short anecdote that helps introduce the idea that my in-laws are unpleasant.

        1. I personally would love getting an antique coal scuttle, but only because I use coal for heating so it would be really handy and also because I’m weird that way and love strange little things like this, so someone who gives something like this to me probably knows me and my questionable likes rather well and put much thought into it. But what kind of gift is that for a person who doesn’t have a soft spot for this kind of things? I mean, seriously? Just like that? “Oh, I don’t know what to get GrouchyABD for Christmas.” – “Ha, I know the perfect gift. An antique coal scuttle! They’ll surely like it because everyone likes, you know, antique coal scuttles.” Some people and the thoughts they have, tssss.

          1. Yeah, I’m an historian with lots of friends or colleagues who do more museum studies/material culture stuff than me, so it felt a lot like a gift for them rather than me, pretty much exactly how you put it..

          2. I’m in a group of women who have a ‘bad gift swap’ party in January. Now when I get things like this I can smile and imagine how much laughter and WTF it will generate with my friends.

        2. Fellow historian(ish) ABD equivalent here, I use my antique coal scuttle as a wastepaper bin. πŸ™‚

      3. I got a dead potted plant for Christmas once, although to be fair it was part of a White Elephant thing. Still, I don’t think “dead plant” is really in the spirit of the game.

    2. Word to the toaster oven. I miss having one. Although I do love my crock pot. I haven’t cooked in a long time for health reasons, but I have been doing better so I did a lot of cooking and baking over the past couple of days. I had to laugh because my dog (got him a couple months ago) was so unused to me fiddling around in the kitchen that he got anxious and was whining.

      1. Oh nooooo, it appears to be shut down! Well, you can still see some of its hipster glory in the Google cache.

        1. No, it’s not shut down, they just post quite infrequently. I’ve been following it for a while, and it’s still great πŸ™‚

      2. I tell the coal scuttle story so often that there are lots of friends who could find me here based on it–my MiL is memorable like that. πŸ™‚

  8. Hope you feel better soon, Captain!

    I have my lodger’s girlfriend over here from the States. She’s lovely, but I must admit I thought it was going to be awful, because Lodger is high-functioning autistic and not a good communicator, to put it mildly. He means well, but he upsets people, then he gets annoyed because he thinks they shouldn’t be upset, since he didn’t intend any harm. He then tends to conclude either that they’re being silly and dramatic or that they’re out to get him.

    So on Christmas Eve he upset me, and Lodger Lady Love was very sweet and kind to me and tried to get him to back down and apologise. He wouldn’t, because he couldn’t see that he’d done anything wrong. Typical so far. But then on Christmas Day itself he upset *her*, at which point I went and comforted her and then talked to him. He was standing in the middle of the kitchen wondering what the heck he’d done wrong. I said, “Listen. You don’t have to know what you’ve done wrong right now. All you need to know is that you’ve upset her. I know you didn’t mean to, but you have. Go and apologise.” Turned out he had been afraid to do so in case it made things worse (um, what?!). I assured him it would actually make things better.

    So he did, and it did, and she was able to explain what he’d done wrong, and he was able to take it in. And I said, “Great. You’ve now learnt something. Do you think you can remember to treat other people that way too in future, not just your girlfriend?” He demurred a bit, but the girlfriend immediately jumped in and said, yes, that would be a really good idea, he should definitely keep that in mind. She and I, we are a team. Team Sensible. πŸ˜€

      1. Sounds like getting involved was a really good thing for her to do? She and Lodger’s Lady Love got to explain some social things to Lodger, Lodger got to learn a tricky detail of social interaction things that he hadn’t picked up, everybody wins!

          1. I just want to say how awesome you are for having noticed that and actually caring enough to say “oops”.. and how awesome The Cap ‘n’ Crew are for maintaining a space where this kind of consideration is common. GOOD FEELINGS ON XMAS, yays!

          2. You were quite right – I am female. (Mostly!) The icon does rather suggest it. πŸ™‚

            Many thanks for your comments – you’re right. Everyone is winning here. πŸ™‚

  9. Oof! My condolences for your newly-minted lung-butter factory! Have you tried a facial steamer? I love mine, it works wonders. (If so/not, please feel free to ignore this part of my comment).

    My holidays were surprisingly lovely! I think due largely to me NOT going to my immediate family and spending it with like-minded people who wanted to enjoy themselves and relax. I did speak to them and my brother and I both realized we’d never had any pleasant memories from the holidays. So going to my parents’ house, I have to mentally prepare myself and the trip is rarely relaxing if at all. It was really really nice to have an actual break and feel happy! Boundaries. I like them so.

    1. Ah, the steaming. Both my brother and I have chest infections this holiday season, so we’ve been setting up our steaming equipment side by side to chat while we steam (’cause otherwise it’s BORING). Have been having a pretty good holiday. Last year I felt pretty sad when relatives got me completely innapropriate gifts, feeling like they didn’t know me at all. So this year I made a proper list and thus got a bunch of things I *did* want and didn’t have to spend the holiday feeling a bit sad/angry and trying to sound peppy on the phone! Books mostly. People were apparently afraid to give me books before because I have a lot already, so they didn’t know what I already had. It was a bit awkward drawing up the list and telling all my relatives about it (some of whom still didn’t listen, but *sigh* you can’t win them all…) but totally worth it. Will be doing this from now on!

        1. Also, consider a neti pot! The saltwater works well as an antiseptic for infections, and it’s also helpful for allergies.

          1. YES! Also a happy member of the Club of Neti. If I feel a grossness coming on (I sing, so lung-butter is death), I put on an episode of something fun and watch it whilst steaming my face off. I then Neti before a really hot shower with peppermint and lavender oil and then straight to bed. I feel all pampered and clean after. πŸ™‚

    2. Steaming. Probably the main reason I’m still alive and breathing after all these decades of asthma and multiple respiratory infections :-). It’s free, and it doesn’t even involve any pills, so it’s a rare doctor who’ll explain why it’s so good for you, but it is. Mind you, sick people still have to wait for their immune system to get the worst of the virus out of their system, but here’s to all of you victims of holiday cooties, wishing you a prompt recovery or at least less misery.

      I had a delightfully low-key Christmas myself. Dinner with a few friends, orphans and widowers and exiles and atheist curmudgeons. No Christmas music, no decorations of any kind (OK, I did hide a few cardboard boxes) and no presents. Just good food and fun and interesting talk, not a single mention of calories or arteries or anything like that, very well-behaved guests. The one person who drank too much ran off when she realized it (on foot, don’t worry), and was possibly more cheerful than usual before. Discovered what Christmas pudding could be like when it’s done right. Aaaaah. Still finishing off the chocolate :-).

  10. I’ve fought off multiple impulses to start conflicts with my MIL and the extended family. All their opinions on how I raise my dog, how my home looks, did I really really really like that gift they gave me? I’m not just saying it to be nice?

    Gaaaaaaaahhh! Collecting Hermit Points as we speak.

    1. Hermit Points! To be traded in for one cosy quiet room, walk somewhere outdoors and secluded, or other uninterrupted activity of your choice. Bonuses include that blissful feeling when you close the door behind you and hear… absolutely nothing at all. Or the wind in the trees. And take a lovely deep breath and let it out with a smile.

  11. Awkward encounters: my cousin’s partner pushed right past my outstretched hand (I was trying to head off the compulsory kiss) to kiss me on each cheek. She also flat out ORDERED me, TWICE, not to cut my hair. This is a woman I have met maybe twice in my life.

    I tried the flat “Wow.” followed by an awkward silence, and discovered it’s significantly less effective in a family where silence never falls as everyone is waiting for everyone else to draw a breath so they can jump in and say their piece. Way too subtle. I have made plans for not letting this happen again next year.

    Really thoughtful gifts: my sister gave me a toolbox. I love it. One of those great cases where I didn’t ask for it or know it was coming, but it was something I really needed and welcomed. And it’s black and orange and has a sort of Tonka truck aesthetic, and is easily the most lesbian present I got this year. Also, one of my friends gave me a silicon dinosaur cake mould. I had been walking past this mould and coveting it every time I went to KMart all year, and this friend didn’t even know that, she just saw it and thought of me!

  12. Have spent since the weekend with my family of origin and it’s mostly been fine – Mum has a habit of pushing out all her stress onto everyone else, which is never a lot of fun but I’m getting better at setting boundries, even just inside my own brain and both my Dad and Brother have issues with using their words and then get grumpy when people repeat things to them because it’s pretty much like talking to a wall, but again, getting better with boundries and I’ve only been reduced to tears once (that’s a strong victory for me, it’s been a REALLY stressful couple of months and that definitely didn’t help me there, so the fact that it was once and that it was over quickly and didn’t ruin the day itself is good).

    Tomorrow I go home though, to some splendid isolation, and I cannot WAIT. Then I have to deal with my less than overjoyed feelings over my BFF getting himself a girlfriend (we’re honestly more like siblings than anything else, and I’m pretty sure that what I’m feeling is jealousy over wanting a relationship myself – not with him but, you know, I’ve been single too long and I’m lonely for romantic company and one of the people that’s most important in team me now has a different and probably more important focus). I’m going to need to fake it until I feel it, I’m happy for him in a purely intellectual way, but I have a cold hard knot of UNFAIR kicking my grown up, appropriate response right now.

  13. I’m rattling around my place-of-origin – sort of – but without my closest family, which is cuddled up on the other side of the world. And that’s a bit odd, though I could have theoretically chosen to fly out. On the other hand, I’m hanging out with my little nephew and have spent more time with an under-10-year-old in four days than I have in the past… ten years?

    Strangest moment so far: getting unaccountably ill at a friend’s dinner yesterday (achy joints, tremors, nausea, the lot!) in the space of, like, half an hour, and being shooed off to go lie down and cuddle up with an escapist novel about pegasi.

    1. Ris, this is interesting to me. I’ve discovered that when I’m on human interaction overload I start feeling like I have the flu – it took me years to figure this out. Could this be what happened to you?

      1. I do exactly the opposite. I can tell when I’m about to experience another bout of the dreaded Sinus Plague before my nose even gets stuffy, because I suddenly turn into an angry emo-goth teenager and have to resist the urge to stomp around the house going WOE IS ME all the time. Mental and physical exhaustion aren’t so far apart.

        1. Oh no, there’s a plethora of us! The Sinus Plague got me really bad this year, but provided an excuse to not hang out with family, including the borderline abusive brother who is so very good at flipping out. May I ask- do you feel 100% okay the rest of the time? Because I feel about 70% – and then I miss an hour of sleep and the Plague, it returneth. WOE IS ME, indeed.

          1. Physically, status quo for me is feeling fine. Mentally, I have bouts of depression and have all my life, but the Plague-Emo is completely unconnected to that — I recognize that it _is_ the Plague-Emo and not the start of a horrible downhill trip because sooner or later the monitor voice in the back of my head steps in and goes, “Er. Nothing has happened. Why do we hate the world today?” The only thing aside from plague that’s ever provoked that sort of mystifying, unprovoked mood drop was Vicodin, which is mercifully much easier to avoid than the common rhinovirus.

            Upper respiratory things are the bane of my existence. They do eventually go away, but it takes them foooorrrreeevvveeeerrrrr, and I have constant headaches and post-nasal drip until they do. I have sworn an oath that if I ever find out who invented sinuses I will find a way to sue the bastard back to the Cretaceous Period. The rats — Rattus norvegicus as a species are also prone to chronic snuffles — are invited to register as co-plaintiffs.

            Sinus plague never worked as an excuse with my family. I came home from college one year for Thanksgiving with a month of laundry and a hideous head cold. My father got me some decongestant in an effort to help, but it turned out to be time-release tablets that didn’t. I was up literally the entire night, pacing and blowing my nose and grinding my teeth and resisting the urge to scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush. By the time dinner rolled around, I had been up for probably 30 hours and couldn’t finish a sentence or walk a straight line. I suggested to my mother that maybe I ought to stay in bed. She gave me one of the top ten most hateful glares I’ve ever seen in my life and told me that if she had to sit through dinner with my crazy grandmother, so did I.

          2. Epiphany! Oh man, it’s the Plague Emo and not the general Emo. Oh man, I have had a lot of Emo going on in general and the Plague Emo is easy to confuse with the General. Do you neti? I neti and take cold and sinus pills and borderline abuse codeine, which means I then emjoy the hours and hours and hours in bed watching unchallenging movies. I just got off the phone with my mum. I believe we are going with the polite fiction that I was too sick for Christmas, not that we prioritized my brother attending with no conversation about boundaries after I made it clear it was him or me. I can save that conversation for 2013.

          3. I’ve tried a neti pot once or twice, and it didn’t really do anything other than make a horrid mess, because I’m not good at adulting when I’m sick and that includes having any kind of motor coordination. Codeine does diddly. Opiates in general don’t work right on me; making me cry over nothing — not overreacting to small things, literally NOTHING — and itch in places I didn’t know I had are the only things any of them have ever done. (I have a theory about this, which I will probably never test, as it involves a genetic test I think it would be silly to shell out for.) I use a combination of diphenhydramine and pseudoephedrine, which I suspect doesn’t clear my sinuses out so much as it eats holes in my brain for the extra oxygen to whistle through. Add dextromethorphan if I’m coughing. On the plus side, this combo also renders me unable to concentrate long enough to care.

            You’re not the first person who’s gotten an epiphany off my snark about sinuses, and in fact you’re not even the first one to have _that_ epiphany about the Plague Emo. Some weeks I just wander around being the Epiphany Fairy. It’s kind of interesting to watch from this end of things.

        2. I also get Plague Emo and it is no fun. The last couple of weeks have been a bounty of Plague Emo, PMS Emo, Winter is Dark and Cold Emo, and actual stressors. At one point last week I burst into wretched heaving tears and sobbed, “These feelings are all FAKE! This is SO STUPID!” I haven’t felt that sort of emotional vileness inflicted on me by outside sources since I learned that Augmentin turns me into a screaming ragebeast. Whee.

          But plagues and PMS go away, winter goes away and in the meantime there is a light box (and my girlfriend scolded me until I sat my ass down and did half an hour of light therapy), and the actual stressors are not so bad without the fake emo amplifiers. And I am surrounded by loving, kind people, so that helps a lot. I just have to keep wading through it and treating the treatable things until it all gets better.

      2. I don’t usually get those symptoms, but then again, usually my reaction to overload is to retreat to my own space and I haven’t been able to do that. Hm! That does make sense, thank you.

    2. I also came down with temporary unpleasantness after much holiday celebration (which involved no alcohol, per usual, but plenty of rich food). Meant I curled up on an out-of-the-way couch with Pepto-Bismol (in the first instance) and fell fast asleep by 8 PM (second instance). AFAIK, nobody took offense, so it was a low-impact sort of thing. But kind of odd. Thankfully I work from home the rest of this week, so I can rest a little extra.

    3. Ooh, mind sharing the title of the escapist pegasi novel? The last one of those I read was titled Pegasus, written by Robin McKinley, which was entirely too long ago.

      Sorry about the sudden-onset ick. I hope it left just as quickly!

      1. Haha, it is Pegasus! So cute. I can ask my brother if he happens to know of any others, he definitely came through with this rec.

  14. Spent the holiday by myself. Noticed I still do not miss attending family Christmases AT ALL. Decorated a rat cage, ate too much (fed the rats in the decorated cage too much! although, being rats, they contend there is no such thing as too many treats), started watching random medical documentaries with foreign-language subtitles on YouTube and stayed up all night accidentally teaching myself what I think _may_ be Slovenian, I’m not sure. Eventually finished something like my fourth completely unnecessary cup of cocoa and went to bed right around the time a light snow began to fall.

    So, not bad. πŸ™‚

    1. I spent it alone, too for the first time. I was sort of worried I’d turn into a big, drepressed ball of barely suppressed tears sometime around 4 o’clock on the 24th but instead I spent a very nice evening with myself and some old Charmed re-runs.

      1. I started refusing to go to family holidays some years ago, even when I still lived near them. I tend to sit around petting animals, being crabby, and drinking a lot, but I did the same thing when I attended the family dinner, only now I don’t have to listen to my mother and my sister running dueling monologues from opposite ends of the kitchen. Plus this way I get to pick the food, the booze, the company, AND what’s on the TV.

        I had some prior experience withstanding the guilt and the whining and the “but we’ll miiiiiiiiiiss you,” however. My parents like to drive into the countryside (well, desert) and ramble around outdoors in hot, dusty, unfamiliar, tetanus-filled places. I am a city mouse, not a country mouse, and my personal travel policy involves not vacationing in places that do not have central HVAC and WiFi. I put my foot down when I was about twelve and have not been on a family trip since.

      2. This was also my first Christmas alone, and I thought I would have at least three breakdowns. But I stayed in my jammies all day, cuddled with the dogs, watched Nightmare Before Christmas, and took a nap…it was wonderful!

  15. Had a really lovely day yesterday with my daughter and husband; got one awkward call from dad where he talked to my husband, but not me or our daughter… WEV? then he called again later; another awkward talk but at least he agreed to talk to my daughter this time. Whatever, I’m so over his weirdness! We had a really low key day with lovely gifts and hanging out doing whatever we wanted. No travel, no weather drama, it was great.

  16. Met my nephew for the first time in person and he is a Jedi in training – we played swords with sticks while the rest did the football thing and I can’t wait to have them for mini Christmas at my house cos I know now I picked the right gifts. I got them lightsabers, we are going to have an epic duel soon πŸ™‚ I had a nice Christmas day for the first time in a long time.

  17. I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling under the weather. My Christmas was fairly awesome, thanks to you and this blog. This is the first year I’ve refused to go to their weekend home with them, so instead of spending a week in the middle of the nowhere with the Terrible People they call friends, cringing every time they said something appallingly racist/sexist/homophobic/political (which happened over thanksgiving), I just overnighted with them in my home town and we watched movies on netflix that they let me pick out (So, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, The Rifftrax Christmas Special, James and the Giant Peach, Nightmare Before Christmas, Black Adder’s Christmas Carol, and Raising Arizona, which was my dad’s pick). I got a lovely set of kitchen knives and pots I needed for the new apartment, a video game from my brother, and some other things that will languish in my closet forever because asking mom not to get them for me will result in yelling and hurt feelings.

    Still, I am glad to be out of there. There we still a couple of yelling fits, offers to go halvsies on a breast reduction, and hurtful comments from my mom on how means that no man will ever love me. Pennsylvania Dutch helped a lot. I am going to be throwing a Friendmas party later in the week that will hopefully be a lot more fun.

    1. Oh, man. Your Christmases sound like my extended family’s. I’ve always been super dedicated to going home at Christmas, even though I’ve stopped for Thanksgiving. But this year, I’m overseas and missed it…and it was awesome. I was a bit sad about it at first, but then there was this whole drama over the family gift exchange (they left me out without talking to me about it, I said, “Hey, that kind of hurt my feelings.”, and they yelled at me for being so selfish to leave and also to give away gifts I got years ago when I downsized my life to two suitcases to move abroad and to have the audacity to have a negative emotional reaction that was politely/positively communicated…). After that, I was so totally over it. I bought one Christmas present this year instead of dozens, a board game for my flatmate, and got a lovely bottle of bourbon (hard to find overseas) in return. I traveled to the capital city, had a lovely Christmas lunch with my flatmate’s family (all the tasty food, none of the drama! emotionally healthy families exist?), and then touristed around on Boxing Day. Way more delightful than navigating the “How do I express disapproval of that outrageously racist/homophobic/anti-Muslim comment without starting a giant fight?” or “How do I advocate for my own needs and emotional responses in a house full of people who are bad at communicating feelings without getting yelled at or crying or giving up and being the peacemaker at the neglect of my own well-being?” minefields.

      It was totally awesome. Did not miss family Christmas AT ALL.

  18. I’ve been spending the last couple days with extended family, watching their pets get older and thinking about my new cat who is currently in a kennel so that her scent doesn’t make my aunt’s cat pee all over the place. I’m also working on finishing Angela’s Ashes, partly because I think the Captain wrote about how good it was several months ago. All in all a fairly good holiday. My extended family is more invested in the status quo than I am, but I can pass as conventional for short periods of time and so far I’ve only been asked twice about if/when I’m going to get a boyfriend. Could be a whole lot worse.

    1. Hah, my family stopped asking this question (well, substitute ‘boyfriend’ by ‘girlfriend’) after I gave them the side-eye a few times. And they stopped asking for me to cut my hair after I told me repeatedly that it was extremely rude to give unsolicited fashion advice (‘you are bad now, but I know how to fix you!’). Yay for boundaries!

      Well, I still facepalm when the first thing they say to a newly arrived relative is a comment about their weight. These kinds of comments are never adressed at me, so I never know how to react…

    2. Angela’s Ashes is better than any polemic could possibly be for “Why Feminism and Birth Control are Important and Theocracy is Bad.” How are you enjoying it?

      I hate questions that suggest that relationships are like Unlocking an Achievement in a videogame.

      1. Yeah, I was pretty sure it was you who said that Angela’s Ashes is way more powerful than The Handmaid’s Tale because it actually happened and is just as devastating. And that is so true! She just keeps having babies and it’s the saddest thing ever! I’m really enjoying it, but it also makes me sad and angry.

        The relationship questions probably aren’t as bad as they could be. I’ve been asked if I’m seeing anyone, as though maybe I’m just keeping it a secret. But, if I were seeing someone and keeping it a secret for some reason, asking me wouldn’t magically make me tell the truth. I think they’re mostly confused because I’ve been single for many years and people often seem to think that having a boyfriend is a compulsory part of being an adult woman. But at this point I kind of enjoy showing up single year after year, letting them all wonder what my deal is.

      2. Angela’s Ashes is truly heartbreaking. I read that book years ago and it was beautiful, but hard to finish. One of my father’s colleagues had a similar childhood in Ireland, and when that book came out he gave it to his children and told them that it basically exemplified his life. It was too painful for him to try and tell the story himself.

        (Incidentally, that is one one of the best examples I’ve personally seen of why diverse literature/art is an absolute necessity, but that’s a hard topic for perhaps a less light hearted thread.)

  19. Had an Awkwrd Encounter with my aunt while I celebrated Christmas with my mother. I have had brightly colored (blue, purple, pink) hair since July but I had to go into traffic court to fight a speeding ticket, so I dyed my hair black to cover the color and look more presentable and all of that. Right in the middle of my sentence explaining that to my cousin, my aunt broke in to ask if that wasn’t a little “hypocritical” and “where were my principles” and if I wanted pink hair why didn’t I just suck it up and go to court with pink hair. When I admitted that sometimes you have to play the game and make yourself “presentable” to increase your chances of not having to pay a $300 fine and have a speeding ticket jack up your insurance rate, because the system sucks, she was all smug like she had won some sort of argument. It was quite out of the blue, I don’t think we’ve ever had some sort of debate to that effect. I mean, I vehemently think it shouldn’t matter if you have unnatural hair colors or tattoos or piercings, and those things shouldn’t affect how people treat or think of you, but I am under no delusions that with some people they do (and that sucks). So I don’t know where it came from, and it was kind of awkward to handle, nd I don’t think I ever got a chance to finish telling my cousin what the deal was.

    1. Don’t worry it, she got you in defensive mode over doing what you could do in a situation over which you have no control. Doing all the things you can do and letting go of what you can’t control is admirable, don’t let her calling you hypocritical bother you – you were being practical. I found out the hard way that looking good and confident and well dressed in family court gets bad results first time I went, after that I looked sad and pitiful with my hair back etc, it’s was the only thing in my control, I used it. It’s fine to do that when you recognize the system is rigged, you will be judged and you want to mitigate the punishment for being you.

    2. Also you may be the Example of Awesome that cousin uses when trying to justify her awesome/radical behavior to Aunt, and now Aunt has you on record saying that sometimes it’s not the best choice. She ‘won’ that ‘skirmish’ against the cousin, not against you. In reality, as /you/ know, one can have principles and a preference for brightly colored hair /AND/ be practical, all at once. ; )

    3. With that kind of thing I have to wonder, “Are you confusing me with somebody else? Like, is there someone else in your life who has wild wacky hair, and who values individuality, so you think they and I are all part of the Wild Wacky Hair Hivemind and whatever that person thinks, I must think also? ‘Cause you’re sure not getting it from me.”

  20. My family decided that because we’re taking a trip after the New Year that xmas just *poof* wasn’t happening this year. So this holiday was a big helping of nothingness. No tree, no gifts, no sweets, no family- just like it was any other regular weekend. It was a very strange experience to say the least. I didn’t mind the solitude, except for that niggling feeling that something was just wrong.

    My folks went to visit some relatives in another city. I was invited, but I declined so fast is nearly broke the sound barrier. Honestly, I really didn’t want to spend my holiday in my grandfathers rest home. The truth is, that person isn’t my grandfather anymore- he just wears his face. And my aunt is a ten-headed hydra with no respect for anyone and no manners to keep her comments to herself. I figured staying home was the kindest thing I could do for myself.

    When the folks got back, mom wanted to know why I wasn’t all holiday spirit. Kinda hard to be the Ghost of Christmas present when you’ve spent the past several hours realizing that you’re basically estranged from your family, and you’ve just experienced the prototype for what could be a long string of alone-xmases. Of course there’s no easy or gentle way to communicate such revelations, so I just pretended I was really tired and hid for the rest of the evening.

    It wasn’t the solitude that bothered me. I actually enjoy being alone. It was just the crushing realization that my family doesn’t *hear* me. Haven’t *heard* me for a very long time. And will probably go to their graves not *hearing* me at all. Not a great day, but certainly insightful for whatever that’s worth.

    1. *jedi hugs*

      It’s always hard when you feel so very disconnected from your family of origin. I’m sorry.

    2. That totally sucks. Here’s hoping you find some people who do hear you, so maybe next year can be a new prototype.

    3. Yikes. Really sorry to hear this. As staranise says, I hope you find some people who hear you. One great thing about being an adult is that you do get the option to choose family that you want, rather than having to be stuck with the one you came from… but it isn’t always easy or quick to do that. *Jedi hugs*

  21. With the exception of my son, my entire biological family has been brawling since Sunday. Whee! Fun! We are on the other side of a large mountain range from them, but I think we might need one more. Just to be sure.

    DS’s partner has been awesome at using her words with her father, who stood her up and then threw a tantrum when he showed up the next day and she politely refused to change her plans. She very calmly responded to threats of not spending time with her on Christmas with “I’ll miss you; some other time, then” and went off with DS to spend Christmas Eve with his bio-father and his family. When her father started an argument on Christmas she said “If you won’t stop shouting, I’m leaving”; five minutes later she and DS were on their way to see “The Hobbit” with friends. DS calmly responded to pleas and growling with “She said what she needed, you chose not to listen, and I am okay with things being awkward (yes, he’s a fan of the site).” So I suppose I’m proud of both of them.

      1. The Brom and I did receive text messages saying “Thank you both for being such awesome, non-drama-bringing parents; we love you and you are the best!”, which I clutched to my chest as I read the latest update from my grandmother on the ruckus going on back East. She’d been waiting 50 years for my mother to lose her temper, and it seems to have perked HER up no end.

  22. Oh man, I got to use some stuff from the food shaming thread over the holidays! My sister was telling my dad “should you really be eating that?” and I turned to her and went “Wow, that was really rude.” She looked a little flustered and apologized but also explained that he’d asked her to do that. I apologized as well, and we went on our way — not a terribly awkward interaction and one that I’d feel comfortable repeating with someone else trying to shame someone’s food choices.

    1. Moments of boundary-setting glory:

      My mom is an incorrigible body shamer. She bought my grandmother an article of clothing in a medium, which I knew was going to be too small. I told her that, and she kept complaining that grandmother had gained weight since she moved into a nursing home. I told her again it was going to be too small and took it to the mall myself to exchange it for a larger size. When grandmother unwrapped the article of clothing and tried it on, it was still a little too tight, to which my mom said, “Guess you better start going to the gym.” The woman is 84 and arthritic! I replied, “Or we could exchange it, which is a much more appropriate suggestion,” to which my mom huffily didn’t respond. But at least it happened.

      Volley back to my grandmother who, showing me pictures of her friends’ babies, said, “That’s your job,” to which I replied, “That is not my job.” She kept repeating, in various ways, “No, no, that’s your job, you’ve got to find a man to have babies with,” and I stayed as calm as I could and just kept repeating, “That is not my job. That is not my job,” until she dropped it.

      1. β€œGuess you better start going to the gym.”

        Holy shit, that is just plain *appalling*. To an arthritic 84-year-old? Really?!

        1. Whole family is like that but she is the worst. I have always been the pudgy “indoor kid,” but as I have been gaining more weight in my early 20s I am increasingly realizing that one day I am going to have to cut them out because I will have become “too fat” for them and won’t be able to deal with their increasingly-hysterical shit. Like they will act like it literally kills them to be related to someone fat.

  23. We’re far away from our families (both official and chosen) and don’t really have a social group locally, so not much in the way of awkwardness in that regard. The weirdest was when I was at a lunch last week for the org I volunteer at, and one of the staffers–in an attempt to be “helpful”–quizzed me about what we were doing for the holidays and then A) suggested that we go to church (we are so very decidedly NOT church people) and B) pointed out everyone else in the room who is married and childless (which we are, by choice) and said we should get in touch with them about spending the holidays together (which is so full of mistaken assumptions, on every side, that I don’t even want to spend the time unpacking them all).

    I was also a little disturbed that my husband’s parents basically gave him toys as gifts, not because I have anything against adults getting toys, but because the stuff they gave was reflective of who he was as a teenager, not really who he is now, and it’s part of an extended pattern of them treating him as if he’s never grown up, which leads to things like my MIL asking ME to run interference every time there’s bad news to relay, or just not telling him at all, because they think he can’t handle it (please note that husband is a combat vet and in law enforcement; he’s “handled” things most of us will never even see), along with an apparent belief that I as the wife am supposed to be the one who makes him do everything unpalatable (so that, for example, when we visit they’ll do stuff like waiting till he goes to the restroom and then lecturing ME about why hasn’t done something or other that he “ought” to be doing). He’s done a pretty good job of stepping up to address a lot of their behavior towards him, and I address things as tactfully and productively as I can, but we can’t *make* them see him as the adult he is, nor single-handedly overturn their sexism, so it’s an ongoing issue.

    Anyway. That was a bit more ranty than I intended. As for Doctor Who, I enjoyed it with very few reservations; this was the first Moffat-era episode in awhile where I didn’t have any significant issues about his handling of the female characters or cultural tropes, and I thought it was fun overall with some enjoyable hints of darker things. And I am a massive Richard E. Grant fangirl, so anything that allows me to watch him is worth my time.

  24. My holidays were less awkward than I worried they would be. Christmas Eve driving up to see my dad, Christmas my mom drove down to us. Mostly pleasant, very little guilt. Phew!

    We saw This is 40 the other day and I was underwhelmed. So much of the conflict in the movie could have been avoided had the two main characters oh, I don’t know, BOTHERED TO USE THEIR WORDS FOR EVEN ONE SECOND. But then, there wouldn’t have been a movie to make. That makes it sound like I didn’t like it – it was entertaining and funny, just didn’t wow me, and I think I was expecting more. The Apatow kids are keepers, though.

  25. My elder daughter was Christmas Czar this year, and she decreed it to be Bookmas – everything had to be a book or be related to books. This entailed visits to bookstores (oh woes!!) and online secrecy and (in a fit of brilliance) locating some books at the library and wrapping those for gifts as well. (We DO return them – the library books are things we want people to read but don’t want to give money or house-space to.) In the morning we opened things and passed things around, and a sudden silence descended on the room. A half hour later, someone roused enough to say “Bookmas – great idea! huge success!” and then we all lapsed into silence until well after lunch time. I count the morning hugely successful.

    Also successful: sudden onset colds and flu, necessitating resting at home instead of traveling (too far, in nasty weather) to visit my family or origin. It is a sad commentary on family when phlegm is a more bearable option.

    1. Library gifting sounds like the best idea EVER. I may steal it for next year. (This year, in the wake of our wedding, my sweetie and I agreed to get each other work shoes — hers secondhand with employee discount and mine repaired — and other things that did not cost money. Swagbucks and e-Rewards points were craftily employed.)

      1. Christmas Czar is a short running tradition. I think three years ago, I started fussing to people about creating a Zero-money-spent Christmas (borrowed from friends who used to do Scrounge Christmas every couple of years – scrounge, borrow, build, return [one present consisted of all the coffee cups they’d taken home over several years worth of visits carefully wrapped and returned] which I thought was brilliant.) This worked really well for me, and for the younger daughter who makes things, but caused endless frustration for the elder daughter and the spouse. Spouse fixed it by renting videos he wanted to watch with specific people, elder daughter baked and kvetched, and so I said someone else could design Christmas the next year. So the younger child took it on, and it was sweet, and we hit all the traditions, and this year was the elder child’s turn. It is Spouse’s turn next year, and we are not sure if he will simply cancel the entire operation or take us someplace completely elsewhere, or default.

        I am really liking other people being responsible for things, like who will be coming for dinner (I love cooking Christmas Eve dinner, but getting people to respond to invites is like herding cats) and which traditions we are extending. I also love trying on different people’s Christmas ideas, like Scrounge Christmas, or Make it Yourself Christmas, or Bookmas.

  26. Oof, I’m getting over a pretty bad case of the Sinus Ick as well. I’m feeling mostly all right now, but Sunday morning I spent four or five hours motionless on the couch with a migraine-level headache, which I didn’t even know was a thing sinus-y colds could cause!

    My partner and I stayed home and managed to have a nice and relaxed holiday; we hosted a small board-game party Saturday, went out for fancy sushi with friends Sunday night, and spent Xmas eve/day huddled up inside playing video games, watching Die Hard and roller derby, and snuggling the cats while it rained outside. I may not have had pie for breakfast, but I did have a slice of leftover fancy holiday bread filled with almonds, sugar, and bourbon-soaked cherries, which works just as well.

    Right now I’m feeling pretty thankful for having a good relationship with my immediate family; I just called my mom to talk since my parents were out when I tried to call yesterday, and was able to thank her for the comfy new robe I’m wearing and talk about her upcoming bike trip with no weirdness or drama intruding.

  27. Xmas Eve with the extended family (~25) was quite pleasant; we had roast beast sandwiches and the usual gift exchange. My sweetie had to work until 5:30, so missed dinner (we saved her a plate) but made it in time for prezzies. We held a small slumber party with my younger sister and watched Enchanted in the festive living room, and then opened stockings and more presents on Xmas morning with parents, sister, and visiting uncle. Then we made brunch and went to an early showing of Les Mis (and did NOT sing along, by sheer force of will!). After that, we bid farewell to the fam and drove back homeward to spend the early evening with friends who had a Chinese potluck and at-home Christmas-themed karaoke. Snuggled the baby in attendance (who took his first steps!) and then napped for a bit before bringing everything home.

    A good low-key newlywed holiday! No family drama (yay! no food-shaming, mostly ignored the most troublesome family member), good gifts (stayed on budget and got creative with gift wrap, the package to the in-laws arrived in time), yummy treats (accidentally crashed a cookie-decorating party at the neighbors’), and fun extras (toddler time and puppy snuggles). And lots of sleep!

    1. Oh, I forgot about one bit of potential unpleasantness. With the family gift exchange, people draw their Secret Santa names at Thanksgiving. Two of the adults weren’t present at Thanksgiving, so the slips with their recipients’ names were set aside to be delivered later. Somehow that never happened — and they didn’t ask for them, probably thinking that their names hadn’t been included — so what happened on Xmas Eve was that they both got presents from their Secret Santas, and two people didn’t get presents from anyone. 😦 One of those was the boyfriend of a cousin, so a bit more hurtful that he was “forgotten”. He did get at least one present from the cousin’s parents, though.

      I was out of the room when this was discovered, but from the tense conversations that were addressed to me (as one of the people who handed out Santa slips, I had to recollect what had happened at Thanksgiving and eventually pieced together that the two slips had been reserved by the host — absolving me and my sister, at least — and were still stuck on the refrigerator) I gather that several people felt bad about it. I found it interesting that my primary response was to escape blame.

  28. I deliberately booked a short visit home this time–only 5 days, including travel-days. This kept things snappy, brisk, and not-so-excruciating. I have seen and hugged nearly everyone I wanted to, kissed enough babies, and am home before my cat forgets who I am.

    i did Yuletide this year, which was awesome. I got lovely stories (like post-apocalyptic worldbuilding with women and PoC!) and I’m pretty happy about the story I wrote.

    I also booked tickets to an 8:30pm showing of Les Miserables on Christmas Day. This was because my maternal relatives were coming for dinner, and oh god, HOW did my mom surivive an entire childhood with these people? My grandmother is just run-of-the-mill haughty, critical, and dismissive; my uncle is a glib, superficial, educated right-wing asshole. His favourite hobby is bringing up really contentious political issues to make people argue on them, so he can beat them down with his superior intellect. I mean, they showed up and sat down, I brought out a plate of cookies, and he cracked a rape joke and asked what we thought about it.

    After repeated attempts to make the conversation less awful, my brother and I just went about kicking his ass verbally, keeping him distracted enough that everyone could sneak off to the kitchen.

    And then we were able to leave right after dinner (in the middle of a racist discussion about immigration), because OH GOSH SO SORRY, FREE TICKETS, OPENING NIGHT, HAVE TO LEAVE.

    1. Les Mis just made Christmas so much better this year! Also, Yuletide sounds marvelous. Thank you for the heads up for the future!

      1. Check out the archive, too! There are over 2,000 new stories in all kinds of fandoms that don’t usually get fanfic.

    2. You had a racist discussion too, huh? I had to leave the room repeatedly to keep from angerexploding on my extended family. It was an awful blend of everything from ‘thank god we have immigrants so that we have pizza places’ to ‘wow, the n***ers really get to much slack ‘ to ‘you don’t see any white people around anymore’.

      Yeah, I said my peace and then walked the dog 6 times in two hours.

      1. To sarcasticquote: My uncle isn’t racist, you must understand. We’re past all that! No, he’s just concerned that white people will be deprived of their natural privilege disadvantaged by all those overperforming Asian immigrants.

      2. Just another spin on “you don’t see many white people around anymore” (seriously, what is that.): We took a family trip out to West Virginia recently, and something was feeling odd about the weekend…then I realized that there were precisely *zero* people of color at the place we were staying. It was kind of surreal — having lived in the Northeast Megalopolis for almost a decade, I’ve just gotten accustomed to all of the people looking slightly different from me. (I avoided pointing this out to the extended family because I didn’t want to *begin* one of those discussions.)

  29. Oh, the Christmas Lurgy. It really does enhance the experience of having to keep your patience around extended family, doesn’t it?

    Aside from my own disagreements with unwelcome viral guests, I’ve been having the most wonderful Christmas. Me, my lovely family of origin, an assortment of friends and neighbours, and heaps of amazing food. And today every gloriously introverted one of us have retreated to curl up in our respective corners with our new books (we always end up gifting books. Because we love them), stacks of chocolate and pies, and mugs of tea or glasses of something a little stronger. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Jedi hugs and jedi glasses-of-something-a-little-stronger if desired for those of you in.. less delightful situations this week. Holidays’ll be over any day now!

    1. I have jealousy, no having to explain it’s time for me to go, I need to be alone, I need my fire, my book, to look at my tree alone. Yes I had a great time, NO I don’t want to spend the night – it’s not you, it’s MEEEEEEE. You are wonderful, I enjoy being with you, bye.

  30. I spent Christmas Eve at church with my grandparents and extended family (which was awful, but mostly because I am Jewish and hate church, not because my family did anything wrong). Then we had a massive dinner at which I hung out mostly with my sister and cousin talking about feminism and queer politics (because the older generation of my family is VERY conventional but the younger generation makes up for it!)

    Then Christmas proper, my parents and sister and I went to see Les Miserables, which was great, had dinner with the next door neighbors, which was fine, and then took a massive nap instead of going back out to the extended family, which was good, because I was dangerously low on socialization points. All in all, one of the more successful Christmases of recent history!

        1. It’s okay. Usually I think of it as “yay family togetherness!” because it’s the one uncomfortable thing that my very Presbyterian and otherwise AMAZING grandmother asks of me, and she so supportive of my religion all the other times. I just needed to vent in a space where relatives would not construe it as “You must hate Nana!”

  31. My parents and grandparents have all died within the last ten years, leaving us without a habitual holiday hub. We’re gradually establishing a new pattern of a Christmas Day buffet at a hotel for me and my daughter and her boyfriend, followed by a movie. And a blocked-number hang-up-call from my daughter’s mother (a thousand miles away and mentally ill).

    For extended-family stuff we have a video call to my daughter’s other relatives, Christmas Eve with one of my siblings, and Saturday-after-Christmas at another’s house with all my siblings and spouses and kids. We all get along rather well; my siblings are all stable married religious people and I’m not any of those things, but I’m the big brother and they love me anyway.

  32. Workplace only gave us Christmas Day itself off, I explained to Difficult Relative, and what with time, distance, etc. I was really going to miss seeing the Relatives. I sorta-kinda forgot to mention that I was taking Monday as a vacation day.

    Had trouble not singing along with Les Miserables, but managed to behave myself.

    1. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget to tell people about that extra day, isn’t it? I did the same thing, and had the quietest, most peaceful Christmas after a year of turmoil that included the death of my father.

      That turned out to be the best decision ever, as the family pretty much imploded after the Christmas Eve gathering due to events that began years ago and finally came to a head. It’s a shame, but it will mean more peaceful gatherings going forward now that our family missing stair has finally gone far enough to alienate everyone.

      I’m going to wait for DVD for Les Miz; if I saw in the theaters I’d cry my face off πŸ™‚ Easier to do that at home with far less embarrassment and far more teddy bears to hug.

  33. Christmas day was nowhere near as awkward as I expected to be – my mother is known for throwing all-out childish fits on Christmas day if she doesn’t get all the gifts she want / if we don’t act sufficiently overjoyed with our gifts / just because. It was actually…almost pleasant. The alcohol helped, and keeping myself busy πŸ˜‰

    But earlier in the week…oh my. While decorating the holiday cookies, she first tried to pick a fight over gun control. Then she tried to get me to join her in judging and condemning this stepdaughter of a friend of hers. Quick backstory: the friend is an angry-old-white-man-Fox-News-glibertarian who I can’t stand because he also always tries to pick fights with me. Oh yeah, and because he abused my sister and I when we were young, abuse that my mother continues to laugh off to this day. So this stepdaughter has had a very rough life (probably, in part, at the hand of this guy), and is now on disability, and my mother’s glibertarian friend has convinced my mother that she’s taking advantage of the system and it’s all a scam and blah blah blah OFFENSIVE!

    I’m happy to report, though, that I put some of the Captain’s scripts to use and it took a while, but they finally worked! I had to escalate from refusals to engage, to repeated calm statings of my opinion (I believe in kindness, I won’t judge someone I don’t know), to “Wow…[awkward pause]” to, finally, Using My Words to ask her to stop, and she did. It was hella awkward for a while, but it worked (so far). Thanks!

    On a happier note, I went to see “Life of Pi” in 3D the other day. WOW!! The visuals were amazing. Go see it if you get a chance.

    Also, too, Amy Ray’s new solo CD (Lung of Love) is INCREDIBLE! I saw her live in concert last week, and she and her collaborators Blew.Me.Away.!

    1. Excellent work with the scripts! And ooh, new Amy Ray solo album. I’d better check it out. Her album ‘Stag’ has given me many happy times driving down the freeway hollering LUCYSTONERS DON’T NEED BONERS.

  34. The Good: I love gift-giving and am fortunate enough that I can afford to do so. All my gifts this year were extremely well-received, and that gives me the warm fuzzies. I was invited to go on family vacation with a good friend and my parents financed it as my Christmas present. Spending a lot of quality time with my dog, who I miss humongously when I am away at school.
    Had a long discussion with my constantly-dieting grandmother about food and HAES and the ~obesity epidemic booga booga~ since I’ve been doing a lot of academic research on it. Now every “I shouldn’t/it’s fattening/I won’t fit my clothes” as she eats some treat gets a “Christmas is only once a year”. I don’t know if that counts as food policing, but it makes me feel better about my own eating around her?

    The Bad: Discussion over Christmas dinner of gun violence that involved a lot of mother-blaming and ignorant “it’s the crazies!”. Puzzling out that maybe I feel physically sick and exhausted around my family for real reasons and my dad’s behavior is often actually not okay (like, I related an anecdote to a friend and she said “oh god I’m sorry I didn’t know he was abusive” sooooooooo).

    The Who: Whoever is writing this episode is trying to be too clever for their own good (see: Pond) + “smaller on the outside” was unexpectedly cute + ugh did they have to kiss when he is clearly not into that and also heteronormativity + also love the staircase + well that jossed all my ideas about how Clara’s story would go*! = enjoyable but still not sold on this season.

    *I thought she’d start in this episode, do her traveling, and then the ship would crash (like we saw in Asylum of the Daleks) and the Doctor would realize what had happened and tears all around.

  35. I adore my girlfriend but I think she’s a terrible gift-giver.

    Last year, it was a sweater she had originally bought for herself but then decided she didn’t like so she gave it to me. This year, it was a gift bag with freebie samples from her work and a small tin of tea. It’s the same sort of thing with birthdays.

    Let me stress that it’s not the content of the gifts but the lack of thought behind them that bothers me. GF got pretty offended and said I was being ungrateful when I tried to talk to her about it this past Christmas though. Maybe I should have hidden my disappointment and held my tongue?

    We’ve been living together for almost three years and neither of us are hurting financially. GF loves to shop for herself so it’s not even that she doesn’t like shopping. I honestly do not care what she gives me, I just want to feel like she put more than five minutes thought into it. How can I make her understand that though?

    1. That is tough. I have a friend whose parents are like that, and after years of therapy she’s just decided not to try to do Christmas with them, so she headed out of town with her partner this year. But harder to do that when it is your partner at issue…

      My parents have a little bit of this, but there are so many factors that can be at play. My parents will spend money on gifts without blinking, and there are a couple categories, mainly books, that they do a good job on. But creativity really isn’t their thing. I do give them a list with a couple things on it, and then whatever books they find in addition round it out and make it feel like they did put thought into it. There have been years, though, when I definitely felt disappointed not in the material aspect but that they hadn’t put so much thought in.

      Would it be productive to have a conversation with her about it that’s not “I’m disappointed” as much as “I feel like we have different expectations and should talk it through so we’re on the same page”? Does she buy gifts at other times but not like to do it on specific occasions? Would she prefer to be able to take you out for an experience rather than buying an object for you? Even if gifts aren’t something that make her feel loved and cared-for, it seems like it should be possible to convey to her that they are for you, and give her ways to fulfill you that don’t feel oppressive for her.

    2. I find figuring out what people would want to be really stressful. Very occasionally I will see something that makes me think of someone and I get it for them, and with my dad there are a few authors that I know he likes, so I just have a tradition of getting him the latest Gibson or Bujold every Christmas, but other than that I find the idea of choosing and giving gifts really stressful and I hate doing it.

      I’ve dealt with this by basically making agreements with my sister and partner that we don’t get each other gifts. They know I love them, I know they love me, and none of us has to stress out about presents. Occasionally one of us will get something if someone is inspired, but yearly reciprocity is not expected and mostly there are just no gifts.

      Maybe you need a no gifts agreement with your girlfriend? You might find just not getting a gift (and therefore not having expectations and being disappointed) to be easier than hoping for her to get a clue every year, and being disappointed every year.

      1. This is effectively my family: mostly we suck at figuring out gifts, so eventually we developed a sort of wink-wink nod-nod letting each other know what to buy for us system – problem being that this sort of destroys the point of gift-giving, but at least it meant less “…a mug. Hooray. Just what I always wanted, a wider gene pool for the mug army.” upon present-opening, and occasionally you can arrange it that family member A tells you something family member B needs so that at least B doesn’t know what you’re getting them (my mother is very good at coordinating like this). Last year we discussed doing away with presents altogether except for my five-year-old niece because it was getting sort of pointless, but decided to keep Christmas as we figure it’s good for her to see the adults getting presents too. We did away with birthday presents, though! (Not something I mind much, seeing as I’m the only member of my immediate family *not* born during the Christmas period and as a result I’ve been giving but not getting bday presents for years anyway…)

        Something else I did with my mother last year was go shopping for clothes as Christmas presents for me together, then have tea and cake and talk in a cafe somewhere – sure, it meant I knew exactly I was getting, but at least it also meant I *liked* the clothes and they *fit* and also meant we got to have some bonding time. So an option can be to replace gift-giving by something else meaningful for the two of you.

    3. My husband also sucks at gifts, which is a pity, since they’re important to me. We have agreed that we will generally get ourselves something we can both enjoy–art one year, a trip to a wedding in NYC the next, an expensive framing job this year–and not worry about giving each other stuff. I handle gift-planning for family because I enjoy it and because I run the money.

      For my birthday, we talk about the available cash and he is responsible for figuring out dinner and a show, with my input.

      I do sometimes wish he did gifts, but he hasn’t done very well in the past and it stresses him out a lot (all those expectations of Doing It Right). He has a disability that has affected his memory and his ability to judge time, so there are some real practical roadblocks to traditional gift stuff, but it’s also not that important to him. His religious practice emphasizes simplicity and frowns on excess, while I love excess, particularly with shiny wrapping paper.

      I found it was much, much easier for me when I stopped putting a bunch of effort into figuring out gifts for him. That felt crappy, because it felt like a referendum on our relationship, in which I cared and he didn’t. Figuring out something wonderful for us to share fills my need to plan cool things and respects his preference for less gift-centered holidays.

      1. Like you, I’m someone who likes finding thoughtful, awesome gifts for people. I’d rather give someone nothing but hugs than a gift card (“My love for you is valued at $X!”).

        My husband, on the other hand, has so much stress-and-issues about gift-giving (“Must Get It Right” among others) that getting something off of a *wishlist* freaks him out. But that’s the most I can do from my end – any more input than that and it feels like I’m just shopping for myself *through* him and that’s just icky.

        Yesterday, I suggested that we stop giving each other gifts in front of his family so that he can stop feeling stressed about getting me something to make it look good. We’ll just tell them that we decided to do our gift giving privately, if anyone asks (which would be really rude anyway, you know?).

    4. I personally find buying presents fairly stressful. There can be a lot of pressure, so I put it off as long as I can while worrying about what to get. I am warming to the idea of straight out asking what people would like and telling them what I might want. There are downsides – there are fewer surprises, and obviously people aren’t putting quite as much thought into choosing things. For me, the lower pressure outweighs the need for a more thoughtful present, but I can see that other people might value things differently. However, this does mean that people get something they like and are hopefully less stressed by present shopping.

    5. Honestly some people are not good at the gift giving. As someone who puts a bit of thought into trying to get people something they’ll love, I struggled with that concept but have more lately come to accept it.

      Geranium have you tried asking for what you want? You could do a fun santa list and just ask her to pick something from the list so it’s at least somewhat of a surprise. If she actually likes shopping this could be quite fun for her.

    6. My family (husband and kids) also *suck* at gift-giving. it used to really hurt that I’d spend hours and hours over a course of weeks or even months thinking about what would please them at Christmas — and then they’d get me something showing no thought. I read that as “their happiness is important to me, mine is not important to them.” And that thought hurt. But you know what? That’s not true, and I know that. They show it every day. So why would I impose that value on what is essentially a regrettable personal failing? Choosing to let that go is something I do for me.

      1. Yeah, I think that’s a good way to look at it. Similarily, I’ll spend a lot of time/energy on a Christmas present, but Christmas has a fixed, very obvious date. I am total crap at remembering or acting on birthdays and anniversaries. Someone relying on me to make a big deal out of those could be very hurt and disappointed by me, even when I did try.

    7. I personally love giving and receiving gifts, and consider it one of my favourite ways of showing affection, and often get hurt by thoughtless or clueless gifts too (father’s first wife who gave teenage-me a SELF-HELP BOOK with a card saying “I hope this helps,” THAT MEANS YOU.)

      But I try to keep that well in check, because the problem with ‘it’s the thought’ is that sometimes it turns what you got for Christmas into a referendum on whether this person really knows you/loves you. And for the giver, if they were already not great at present-choosing (which is a skill that some people have to a greater degree than others) this raises the stakes so high that they do worse at it than they would anyway. It’s like a surprise exam.

      And… just to channel Miss Manners for a minute, there is never a requirement to give a gift, or a requirement that it be a particular sort of gift.

      Does your girlfriend show you that she cares in other ways? By doing things for you, or spending time with you, or by being physically affectionate, or by using her words? Those might be her preferred ways of expressing affection. And for that matter, that might be something she wishes you’d do more of, rather than give her the perfect present.

    8. Commenters above have been kind in trying to see your GFs side of the story. But I’m cross with her on your behalf.

      Its not about the crappy gifts but that you told your girlfriend that you were hurt by the lack of thought and her response was to guilt trip you. That’s not fair. Christmas is a bad time for this conversation because everything gets built up too much. But in the new year I think it’s reasonable to say “GF I love you but sometimes it feels as though you don’t put much effort into things that mean a lot to me. For two years you’ve given me gifts that were regifts of things you didn’t want. I find that hurtful. It’s not about monetary value but I’d rather have nothing than your castoffs.”

      And if she gets mad at you, stay strong. She gets to have her feelings and she should be encouraged to use her words to explain them. But her feelings don’t invalidate yours. Whether she’s lazy, or feels too much pressure, or isnt interested in shopping for you, or (sorry) isn’t into the relationship – she needs to say what the deal is.

      Doing hurtful things and then blaming yu for being hurt isn’t cool.

    9. Thank you, Awkward Army! I also had a slightly disappointing Christmas gift from my new bf, and you guys have seriously helped me feel less guilty about being a bit disappointed and also given me some good ideas for what to do next year, if we’re still together. This open thread is amazing πŸ™‚

    10. A relative of mine got offended when someone of the older generation just gives money, and told him that she doesn’t need money, that he should think of something that’s a gift, that the thought and the effort counts as love. We’re different, I say, he genuinly loves us, but things and gifts and planning and initiatives is not his thing. He’d do anything for us though.

      I sort of think of this in relationships – if you want her to understand you, that you want a gift, but not just any gift, a special gift that shows how she’s been thinking of you – maybe do the same thing back at her – understand her to be the sort of person who shows her love in other ways and appreciate that, respect the type of person she is.

      (Of course, if she doesn’t show her love in any way, this will not work. That would be a different problem)

  36. I acquired a new dog a week before Christmas. A sweet, biddable, housebroken dog who adores me deeply, and turns out to have /serious/ separation anxiety. As such, I spent most of the holidays in a state of weepy despair, as I tried to figure out how to get any sleep at all when the dog cries hysterically if left alone for more than thirty seconds, but can’t be trusted around the cats yet.

    Things have improved somewhat! But my god, now I have even more reason to support the “don’t get a pet for someone as a gift” thing. This dog is driving me batty, and has pretty much consumed the entire holiday, and this is a dog I picked out and wanted.

    1. For nights, dog in crate near your bed. Since the dog is housetrained, it can be a crate that is “too big” (like, say, a 55-lb husky in a crate big enough for a 110-lb Newf). It will probably take a couple/few nights of trying very very hard to ignore the pathetic “if you loved me you’d let me ouuuuut noises”, but hopefully dog will learn that you’re right there and crate is Dog Cave.

      One of our dogs sleeps in his crate 95% of nights, with the door wide open. The other one prefers the floor at the foot of my bed, but as long as he spends a night in the crate every week or two so he doesn’t “forget” that he’s crate-trained, he doesn’t complain. πŸ™‚

      1. Also, try covering the crate with a big blanket you’ve slept with for a few nights first and shove a few old jumpers in there. The smell of you should help your dog calm down.

  37. The holiday was a reminder of how amazing my parents are. I’m not saying having them stay in my little city one-bedroom apartment didn’t have its challenges, but these are people who, when I offered them the bed, voluntarily took the couch. Who happily got up, went out and got the paper, ate breakfast, and sat around reading until I woke up. Who didn’t act offended if I went into my room for an hour to lie in bed reading. We had excellent meals, excellent conversations, they gave me good stuff, they seemed happy with the stuff I gave them, we took a couple long walks, we went to an interesting costume exhibit.

    All in contrast to when I’d talk to my partner and he’d be all frustrated because he had tons of work he really needed to get done and his mom was offended when he went into another room and would express her offense by interrupting him constantly.

  38. I am going to take advantage of the open post to get a family situation off my chest. I checked out the policies and they didn’t ask for trigger warnings but I’ll stick one on here anyway. TW: body shaming, miscarriage, pregnancy, Alzheimer’s, infertility

    Okay. So my family is going through rough times. My Dad has advanced Alzheimer’s and lives in care, doesn’t talk, doesn’t move independently. One of my brothers is struggling with infertility. I went through a miscarriage earlier this year and am pregnant again now. No one is at their best.
    Unfortunately my brothers decided to let off some steam this year by going on (and on, and on) about how filthy and nasty it is that their sister has sex. Many jokes about my “huge hairy vagina.” A hiLARious impromptu skit about miscarriage (with ketchup for effect). Many inappropriate and unwelcome questions about my sex life. So much fun.
    Now, I wasn’t drinking because of pregnancy, but everyone else was drinking. Lots. So I figured that there was nothing to be gained by trying to have any kind of a serious conversation. I tried changing topics, I tried saying that I didn’t enjoy the topics. I would have been happy to go home at that point but I wasn’t able to see my Dad until the next day so I wanted to stay in town until then. So I went to bed (wonderful supportive husband came to bed too. He had also tried topic changes, and put a lot of effort into helping me escape my brothers within the house).
    After we had been in bed just over an hour my brothers decided the best thing in the world would be to strip down to their underwear and invade the bed. I chased them out and then gave them the angry, swearing, yelling lecture that I had been trying to avoid. In front of the rest of the family. The response from the family at large was a lot of “okay, enough” and “stop now” and “they’re just being silly” and a lot of “go back to bed.” Basically lots of “shut up and go away.” One brother tried to derail by telling me how “cute” my pajamas were. While I was yelling at him. I also got “but we’re you’re brothers!”
    Gold stars all around.
    One of the brothers has since apologized in just about the best way that any person ever can apologize (specifically saying what he had done wrong, saying that he was sorry for it, asking me if there was anything I needed him to do, and then doing exactly what I asked for) but the other brother will probably never mention it to me again, and will probably turn it into a “funny” pregnancy hormone storyjoke for his friends.
    I should mention: these two were the only males there other than my husband. I completely understand my female relatives avoiding getting involved.

    So I guess I “ruined Christmas” this year. It’s interesting that this is the first time I’ve gotten mad at my brothers, told them I was mad, and have done nothing to smooth it over. I don’t feel guilty. I did not contribute to the awfulness of this situation in any way. At least part of my lack of guilt is thanks to this site and sites like it that have given me more comfort with myself and my rights as a person.
    And now that I’ve been able to share my frustration with someone at least I’m going to go back to enjoying the remains of the holidays with my husband and our friends.

    1. Oh my god. 😦 I am glad you (read: we) have these sites, too, because it makes me happy that you put that you “ruined Christmas” in the faux-scare-quotes because holy s***, and you are absolutely right:

      You did not contribute to the awfulness (AWFULNESS!) of this situation in any (ANY!) way.

      And enjoy the heck out of the rest of the holidays.

    2. Phew! That sounds truly, surreally hellacious! Good for you, though, for recognizing that your brothers were the ones behaving appallingly, and for getting angry rather than internalizing their “don’t you have a sense of humor?” crap. That is a really big step — and it’s great that you got at least a partial payack, in the form of one of your brothers acknowledging that they had behaved badly. That’s actually not bad for a first effort at boundary setting with family. It suggests that in future years you may be able to
      redirect him sooner, short-cutting a lot of the crap (since a lot of that garbage is excerbated by having a partner).

    3. Wow. You win just by surviving that awful mess. Nope, not you ruining Christmas! NOT.AT.ALL.YOU.

    4. This is absolutely horrible and inexcusable behaviour on your brothers’ parts and you have every right to be angry! As if being pregnant the second time after a miscarriage (I’m so, so sorry, my dear. All the jedi hugs if you want them) weren’t stressful enough you also have to put up with that kind of crap – I can’t believe it, I’m truly outraged!

      However, it’s great that this site got to help you through this. I also have regular confidence boosts since finding CA and hearing others experiencing the same makes me very happy. It’s wonderful that you Used Your Words against them and not feel guilty about it. I’m convinced you’ll do wonderfully in the future. All the best to you!

    5. Good for you. Drunken jackasses ruined Christmas, and you seem to have acted with great restraint and aplomb. (I might have committed assault.) I’m glad that one apologized and sorry that the other is a doink.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy.

    6. Hooooooly crap. Your brothers are so far out of line that they can’t even see it from where they’re at. The rest of your family is out there, too. They’re the ones “ruining Christmas”, not you.

      I think I would’ve lost it the first time anyone said “dirty hairy vagina”. SO NOT APPROPRIATE. (and the hairy parts are the vulva anyway, damnit.) I don’t have enough caps or facepalms to convey the NEVER APPROPRIATENESS of miscarriage jokes, much less ones with *props*.

      Best wishes to you with your pregnancy.

    7. Oooooh – I think the angry lecture was the NICEST thing you could have done all things considered. Miscarriage humor? During the holidays? With immediate family? And then INVADING YOUR BED to top it off??? You were downright kind.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  39. I went and saw The Hobbit with my family (second time for me, first time for them), then watched the Doctor Who Christmas special right afterwards. As soon as the snow started talking I went WELL THAT VOICE SOUNDS VERY FAMILIAR. It made me really happy. πŸ™‚

    Also making me happy: the semi-long text conversation I had about the Christmas special with this guy. I finally worked up the courage to Use My Words and ask him out right before winter break, fully expecting him to say no thanks, but apparently he’s interested! πŸ˜€ And then I was worried we wouldn’t talk at all over break and things would get weird (or more weird, anyway, we are both super awkward people so I expect a certain level of weirdness), but we can still chat comfortably about Doctor Who, so. Things aren’t bad at all. πŸ˜€

  40. I had a very lovely holiday with my own family. My partner went off to see his with the kids on Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas day we all gathered at my aunt’s house to open presents and relax and watch television. I watched Brave with my mom, which was wonderful, and got kitty cuddles with my uncle’s cat, which was fantastic, and got to spend time with the marvelous and fantastic people I get to call family. I got three copies of The Avengers (SO EXCITE!), my children got enough games and puzzles and playdoh to keep them occupied throughout all of 2013. I feel very lucky indeed.

    I do have a bit of awkwardness on hand, though, to do with my in-laws, with whom I am not on speaking terms. For various reasons I have issues around being given gifts, and have asked them every past year to please NOT get me gifts because it makes me uncomfortable. Every past year they have ignored me (last year I got a “I went to the Asian grocery and picked out the most exotic thing I could find” gift) – and this year, they’ve bought us all season passes to a local amusement park. I feel very weird about having gotten a gift period from them, and even weirder because I know that it was not cheap, and now caught because if I return my pass, I won’t be able to go with my husband or children. And if I keep my pass, and use it, I know that my inlaws will use it as leverage. So now I don’t really know what to do.

    All in all, though, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer holiday. I even went to go see my Grandma, which is traditionally an awkward visit, and it was actually quite nice. We spent most of the time talking about Disneyland (she and my uncle have annual passes and go quite often) and watching ride-through videos on Youtube, and it was awesome.

    1. My partner and I had a bit of an argument when she — after we’d agreed on “shoes for each of us, and nothing else that costs money” this Christmas — presented me with something that had been on my gift list. Her reasons: I wanted it, she was going to get it for me sometime anyway, it wasn’t expensive, and it was “FOR SOLSTICE” so technically not a Christmas present. My reasons: I feel like a dick that she bought me something when I was sticking to the plan, I like to buy gifts for her and had been proud of resisting the urge, and she “broke the rules”. Ended up keeping the present, and even re-wrapping it and opening it on Xmas Day so I didn’t have to explain to the family why “she didn’t get me anything”. (Yeah, I know.)

      It’s awkward even if you really like the gift-giver. :/ I’m glad the rest of your holiday was enjoyable, though.

  41. “or becoming passive-aggressive.”

    I read once that people turn to passive-aggression when they don’t feel they can be direct. The more I contemplate it, the more I agree with it. People have many reasons for feeling they can’t be direct – eg, women are taught not to be direct, and many of us internalize that (and the societal punishments for being unfemininely direct). Many people feel that they can’t be direct with family b/c their family is batshit insane, and they don’t want to deal with the fallout of directness. Sometimes, we really can’t be direct b/c there is some kind of power relationship, as with a superior at work.

    With all this in mind, I started examining my own behavior, and asking what exactly was going on when I found myself wanting to underhandedly snipe at someone. I have found that I really don’t feel empowered to assertively state my position in most situations. Of course, now I need to work on that, but identifying why I become passive-aggressive was an important step.

    While everyone works on the lessons from Fight Like a Girl, also work on the motivations and beliefs that drive passive-aggression in the first place.

    1. I think people do resort to passive-aggression in situations where they feel like they can’t fight directly (imbalances of power & privilege, for sure!) but also it can become a bad habit and is extremely toxic if it’s the only way you handle conflict. I think we both agree that looking into one’s own motivations more deeply is a good idea – are you responding this way because you feel like it’s the only way you can in the situation? Or is it out of habit? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you responded more directly? – is a good way to go, both in improving one’s personal assertiveness and relationships and in being aware of how power structures affect you.

  42. So many conflicting feelings! This year was better than many years previous (actual conversations! retreating to cuddle with cousin when I got socially overwhelmed!) , but I got the sense that many relatives were only able to find common ground/interest in me this year because I’m applying to grad school. That, and they kept touching my head (shaved) without asking – probably ten different relatives did that. I didn’t have a good script in place for telling them not to, but I hope to next year. Also, the one uncle that comments dubiously on my physical attractiveness didn’t this time, but the one aunt that I’ve been having some issues with did. Basically I am just feeling like being the queerish WOC in a mostly white straight family is resonating in some creepy boundary-ignoring ways.

    Basically, solidarity fist-bumps with everyone on this thread!

    1. Fist-bump!

      Booh on your offensive boundary-crossing relatives! Body-policing (including hair-policing) is rude, why do some people struggle so hard to understand it?

    2. Oh, relatives and shaved heads. I have a story to share on that front:
      Ten years ago I shaved my head, and that Christmas when I went with my mom to visit her parents for a few days, my grandmother did NOT approve. She took one look at me when I arrived and said something like “Well! I won’t say ANYTHING.” and then spent the next few days inserting all sorts of little insults about my looks and fashion sense into conversations. (This is when I was starting to play around with my gender presentation but my family was all reading/treating/understanding me as a woman.)

      My grandparents opened some gifts and even though I wasn’t expecting any, Grandma appeared with a huge box for me. How exciting! When I opened the box it contained a mannequin head with an old wig perched on top. This was HILARIOUS to everyone in the room but me. I guess in some families it could have been a good-natured joke, but it was just nasty and mean-spirited given the tone of the rest of the weekend. Plus she later wrote me a mean letter when I came out to the family, so there you go.

    3. Usually I go with an icily polite, “Please ask before you touch my head”. If I’m feeling generous I expand–“If you ask, I’ll probably say yes, but I want some warning/to be able to say no.” Good luck! Random head-petting is no fun.

  43. I didn’t get to visit my home county all semester due to a) the cost of plane tickets and b) my duties as part of RHS at my college, so when I finally got home again there was a lot of hugging and ravenous eating of glorious, homemade, not-from-a-dining-hall food. Growing up in a lush agricultural area has really spoiled me food-wise, after a few months in an area with no good fresh greens I start to get anxious and fantasize about the things I could be cooking if I were home.
    Due to being old enough that I’m expected to start giving Christmas gifts to relatives but also being a college student with very minimal income, this year I gave every household a bar of nice chocolate (bought using leftover bits of my college meal plan money which is covered by my scholarship so I didn’t really pay for it – shhh, don’t tell anyone) and a little booklet I designed with my five favorite personal recipes in it and cute little hand-drawn cartoons of vegetables on the cover. Happily, my local family members also tend to give homemade gifts, so I fit right in. I got several kinds of jam, cookies, a calendar printed up with pictures of the lovely landscapes around my uncle’s house, really nice measuring cups, and a walnut wood spatula/scraper made by another uncle who has taken up woodworking.
    My girlfriend and I exchanged presents before leaving for winter break – I got her sparkly red nail polish, massage oil, and a book by Michel Foucault that she wanted. She preordered me a Parker dress shirt from the Saint Harridan Kickstarter campaign. It won’t arrive until March but I’m so excited about it that I don’t care.

    On the more awkward gift front – my girlfriend’s stepmom got me an excessive amount of jewelry, all of which was scarily expensive (she left price tags on several things) and none of which was really my style. I wear the exact same small hoop earrings about 360 days out of the average year, and the only other jewelry styles I really wear are cheap, simple pendant necklaces/chokers and political buttons and pins, and those only rarely. I’m not a great person to gift with amethyst bracelets or delicate necklaces with hearts dangling off of them. She also got me an entire outfit that was extremely feminine and slightly too small for me. I was startled by the excessive quantity of gifts and felt pretty awkward about how overly feminine everything was. I felt sad because she clearly wanted to get me some really nice stuff but her choices were extremely off base and not very useful to me. My girlfriend has promised to talk to her and try to get across the idea that a) the price range/quantity of things she got me was a bit excessive and b) if she buys me gifts again she needs to walk straight through the jewelry and women’s clothing departments and head for the men’s or at least the teen boy’s department, or else just go to a bookstore, because I am unshakably butch and even if I wore the bracelet she got me it would end up totally invisible under my long flannel sleeves.
    This gifting style appears to be a theme for that part of her family, though, because my girlfriend asked for one specific Nerf gun and received four, plus some clothes that don’t quite fit her. She’s making them return two guns and the clothes, which should also provide a decent format for bringing up the awkwardness my gifts.

    1. Even really great jewelry bought for someone who likes jewelry is a risky, fraught gift. Since the price tags are on, are you able to return them or exchange them? Maybe get a really great men’s watch that you love instead.

      1. And, hopefully, if she spent lots of money that means she really wanted to get you something great, so will be pleased that you are using said money to get something you will love! An amazing watch sounds like a good move.

      2. I can’t return the jewelry over break as it is in my dorm room and I am back at home, and I don’t know how soon things like that have to be returned in order for the return to be accepted, but I may try. I could use a good watch, or maybe a tie clip.

        My overall goal is to just make sure a precedent is set for future gifts so that she’ll make more of a habit of checking in with my girlfriend to get some ideas of what I might like before she goes on a vast holiday shopping expedition.

        1. I’m much like you with jewelry. My oldest sister got me a voucher for a site that does cuff links and tie clips though (the latter more relevant for me – my other sister is getting cuff links though), enough to get two of them, and I’m totally stoked. Tie clips rule. I’ve only picked one so far though, it’s hard to narrow down the options!

          1. That sounds really cool! What’s the website? I’d love to learn more about tie clips, frankly. I covet them conceptually but I’ve never owned one.

  44. Happy Almost End of Holidays to the Awkward Army, and a huge thanks to you all for saving my family’s Xmas! I found the Captain’s blog a few months ago when I was trying to figure out how to get out of a horribly horribly awkward relationship situation that involved emotional abuse and constant guilt and manipulation. All your stories have helped me identify exactly what was going on (when I was repeatedly told I was wrong, selfish and crazy, and that I had no right to any of *my* feelings or boundaries); and while the string is not 100% severed (many of my belongings are still in his house) much of the strength I found to tell him to gently fuck off I’ve gotten from you all.

    Since guilt was such a big part of my problem with him, trying to figure out how to get through the holidays (which included his birthday) was really causing me (and my family, with whom my son and I just moved in) a great deal of stress. We managed Thanksgiving with him, but everything continued to spiral into sucking guilt and demands and self-pity, and none of us could figure out how to not have to sit through what should be a fabulous Xmas dinner with him and still not feel like heartless uncharitable harpies.

    But somehow I managed to quietly uninvite him, cooked a fabulous feast for my family, took him a big plate, and spent the rest of the evening with only people I love.

    1. Good for you heathenbee! Those are big steps indeed. May the whole next year (wth, whole rest of your life) be like a lovely dinner with people you love..

  45. I got a super gross strain of flu. Had a fever, chills, a cough and I vomited blood because my throat was so raw. So out could have been better.

    I did get out of seeing my bitchy family and got some awesome presents. Like a stuffed bulldog as I have a deep obsession with them, steam games and the compete Nero Wolfe!

    1. You know you’re from a dysfunctional family when you say, “I vomited blood… but on the upside, I got to skip the family dinner!” πŸ˜›

  46. Had pretty awesome Christmas… Minimal awkwardness. Argument between my grandma and her BF, which was weird. My niece got on her twin sister about her vegetarianism, and my other grandmother got all concern-y about my cousin’s weight, to which I just shrugged, told her she was almost a grown woman and probably capable of taking care of herself and then politely changed the subject.

    This was boyfriends first year with my family. He usually doesn’t celebrate at all, and has been dreading this for weeks, but has wanted to support me. Despite giving him quite a few “outs” he came with me to both dinners. My proudest moment was leaving my sisters place at 1:30am (after we had figured on leaving around 9) and he said to me “you know, I surprisingly had a really, really good time.”

  47. Highlights so far:

    – My partner’s mother describing her other son’s friend as a “man-whore” … at the dinner table. Also, giving me crap about not letting her do something for me … a thing that I’m doing because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do for myself for years and am good at.

    – My mother, already drunk, asking in front of my dad and aunt why we hadn’t gotten pregnant yet (she knows we’re trying because I asked her about family history), including “maybe you two could go off to the bedroom here for a bit”. She was too drunk to get the hint from “So, when it happens, we don’t want to tell anyone for the first trimester in case something goes wrong”.

    – A nasty headache that was bad enough that I just threw up, because the only thing you can take for pain when you’re pregnant is Tylenol/acetaminophen … which does *NOTHING* for me for pain.

    – Being told by friends that Christmas has had a huge secular component for hundreds of years, so saying “Merry Christmas” shouldn’t be a big deal and makes other people happy.

    And it should go without saying, but … if you recognize me from that, please realize I use a unique pseudonym here for a reason and don’t say anything about it.

    1. You have all my sympathies on the pregnancy issue. We didn’t tell anyone we were trying, didn’t tell our parents we were pregnant until 12 weeks and then no one else until 16 weeks because we didn’t want to have everyone involved if anything went wrong. It is VERY hard to get by with all the restrictions while also trying to avoid giving anyone reason to suspect that you are trying (or just beginning) to be pregnant. I think it must be so much worse over the holidays while being crammed in with family. Your mom was totally out of line.

      1. Peeps, I feel you. My sister-in-law didn’t have any spicy mayo on her prawn-starter-thing and wasn’t drinking, so my partner was (privately, at least) speculating on the contents of her uterus.

        He was reminded that commenting on other peoples food other than “hey, that looks delicious!” is impolite.

        I’m sure the same thing will start happening to me as soon as we’re hitched.

  48. Oh no, sorry about the Holiday Plague! I was starting to suspect that I was coming down with something last night, until my partner (The Egyptologist) pointed out that I hadn’t slept much or consumed any non-caffeinated liquids, and that was a more likely reason for my sore throat than ten minutes in the company of a sniffly sister-in-law. Oh, logics.

    Other than dehydration, things went well. This is the first Christmas since Egyptologist’s dad died that nobody has cried, so achievement: unlocked. (The crying is partly for obvious sadness reasons, and partly because he was the primary social buffer in an otherwise kinda of tense family. I sense that I’m starting to be the buffer-person… yay?) There was a contretemps about the proper way to cook the brussels sprouts, but the squabbling parties were separated (as were the batches of brussels sprouts, resulting in one batch per competing method and a table full of satisfied diners). Apparently, both my MIL and I had been convinced that CHRISTMAS WAS RUINED because we fell behind on handmade gifts, but IOUs were exchanged without incident, and we used the opportunity to solicit feedback on our works in progress.

    And now the Collection of Puzzling Things:

    – Egyptologist and I are engaged to be wed, but because our wedding will be same-sex (though different-gender, but getting people to acknowledge that in his family…?) and highly non-Catholic, his mother is boycotting. She’s totally invited, mind you, and we’re really up-front about discussing it, but she’s made it clear that she cannot, in conscience, attend. AND YET… she offered to fix a tricky error on the wedding shawl I’m knitting, announced that she would be giving us her wedding china, and knitted me a Christmas stocking to go with the series she’s designed and made for the family. I have no idea what to make of these mixed signals, but I’ve decided to interpret them as cautiously positive.

    – Sibling-in-law’s wife (the sniffly sister-in-law) was the only non-knitter in the room last night. I realized that none of us know how to stop talking about knitting once we get started. (MIL taught her two children, one of whom taught me, and now it’s just de rigueur that at family gatherings, we whip out the sticks.) I tried to engage her, but I know better than to ask “so, what are you reading there?” more than once or twice if I get zero response, and questions asked when she wasn’t reading got monosyllabic responses. (Except for when we talked about health insurance, because that’s a part of my job that I can geek out about in ways that are often relevant to other people.) If I’m the new social buffer, I seem to have my work cut out for me.

    – Egyptologist’s grandparents called, at which point we discovered that they know I exist. That is to say, MIL mentioned them in such a way as to imply that my name was not new to them. Which means our previous Fantastic Excuse for not planning on inviting them to the wedding – that they wouldn’t necessarily know it was even happening – begins to look flimsy. The real issue is that, while my name is apparently known to them, my partner’s Real True Name (which bears no relation to the one he grew up with) is not. So now we get to have the “is it worse to come out to them or to not invite them to the wedding” discussion. I really have no idea which answer will prevail. Whee!!

    But I got a lovely IOU, a Stocking of Familial Inclusion, and a knitted-lace TARDIS shawl. And nobody cried.

    1. Your comment about separating the brussels sprouts seemed oddly appropriated. I live in Belgium, and our national sport over here is splitting federal competences into regional ones. We’ve already split education, roads, even election organising. This, right here, is advanced conflict solving!

      1. Heh. My favorite fact about Belgium: The World Federation of the Deaf has a “one member organization per nation-state” rule, which works, like, 99% of the time. And then there’s Belgium.

        The two national organizations of the Deaf (one representing speakers of Franco-Belgian Sign Language, and one representing Flemish SL speakers) set up a third, umbrella-type, organization to be the WFD member. The catch was that the leadership of the third organization (at least, as of the 80’s) was set up to alternate, rather than be shared, between the two national organizations. Which meant that, if your organization was out of power in a given year, your members got none of the WFD mail, or conference invitations, or renewal paperwork that you’d be held responsible for not having filled out next year, or any other communications. I believe there ended up having to be some mediation there, because the WFD higher-ups were getting cranky and confused about the whole thing.

        (The only reason that this otherwise kind of depressing story is my favorite is that Canada has the exact same Deaf-community language politics, but somehow, miraculously, has avoided this particular situation. And because the exasperated letters from the WFD heads got truly ridiculous after about Box 3 of the archive.)

        1. And then there’s Belgium.

          Haha, so true. I didn’t know about the WFD thing but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

          It reminds of the Ostende talks we had in 2004, in which the Prime Minister tried to make all 6 of our governments to agree on how to achieve the national Kyoto targets. The Belgian Constitution says that no government is above the other, not even the federal (That’s called legislative “Γ©quipollence” – I have no idea how to translate that in English. It means that if a region doesn’t like a particular federal law, it can simply choose to ignore it.). So, if they wanted anything done, the feds had to convince Flanders, Brussels-Capital Region, the Walloon Region, the French Community and the German Community to work together. The results were, predictably, a mess. No one wanted to limit greenhouse gas emission in their region, so what happened is that the feds just started buying lots of carbon credits from other countries. Half a billion euros a year. Problem solved!

          So yeah, things get pretty mind-screwy in Belgium.

          1. Oops, the And then there’s Belgium part was meant to be a quote, I think I screwed up the html!

          2. Actually, I think “And then there’s Belgium” is an excellent, all-purpose stand-alone statement. (Try using it as a mysterious intelligent-sounding reply to almost anything said at a humanities/social-sciences department party.)

            For what it’s worth, the literal English translations of “Γ©quipollence” are “equinumerosity” (in set theory), “equipoise” (in… physics, maybe?), and “equivalence” in logic, and I’m guessing in politics, too. ;c)

          3. “Equipoise” refers to taking a position equidistant from all of the possible extremes, or alternatives. You can use it in physics, but I’ve mostly heard it in the context of clinical research, where “clinical equipoise” refers to balancing patients in various treatment groups in medical studies.

          4. I can’t actually say “and then there’s Belgium” ’cause I actually live here. That would be weird. (Well I still can say it on the internetz I guess, but I wouldn’t be able to do it while meaningfully raising my eyebrows)

    2. As someone who’s recently been through a same-sex wedding with disapproving Catholic in-laws, I agree that the mixed signals can be baffling. It sounds like maybe your future mother-in-law likes you, and wants to be happy for the two of you as a couple, but thinks/feels that she shouldn’t (because of the religion aspect). Her offers of help and the Christmas stocking sound like they’re coming from a good place, though!

    3. It sounds as though your fiance’s mother has gotten tangled in some version of “it’s all right as long as they don’t call it a wedding,” either because it’s a same-sex wedding or because it’s not going to be a Catholic wedding. She’s doing things to help the two of you get set in married life together, even if she won’t call it that. (A wedding shawl sounds delightful, but probably doesn’t have the same capital-M Marriage overtones as wedding rings.) If so, even after the wedding she may refer to you as the Egyptologist’s girlfriend or partner, not his wife, while boasting of how good the two of you are to her.

      1. Yeah, I think you and Remy have both hit the nail on the head, there. Hence “cautiously positive.” :c/ (And frankly, I’d be down with “partner” – I’ll probably use it myself, if my track record with the slightly-weird-feeling word “fiancΓ©” is any predictor.)

    4. On your mother in law’s mixed signals: how about interpreting them as her personally liking you as a person, but religiously not being able to face an un-catholic wedding? I think personal like has more potential than polite tolerance in the long run

  49. It wasn’t actually Christmas, but last week, my friends organised a supper-thingy and it was really great!

    Since we’re all broke college students, we decided to do a special ‘crisis’ gift-giving. Each of us would give a low-key present to another person. I gave some correction tape and received three delicious sandwiches. Other gifts included some cheap beer, a pack of cigarettes and a lovely hand-drawn comic.

  50. God, we survived! The recap: Absolutely lovely Solstice party, fifth one in a row, where me and a small group of whatever besties are around drive to a really magnificant beach and throw fruit into the water and make wishes, accompanied by awesome talking, hot beverages and bakery treats. Then we drove home and two of my best queer fam friends were unexpectedly home, and we went and got sushi! The days leading up to Christmas were a lovely blur of catsitting and tea and writing dates and quality-Scotch dates and lots of food and yoga. Absolutely no Estranged Parent sadness, but a lot of peace (15 years in you get there!)

    Christmas itself was hard- it’s the first Christmas in 4 years I’ve spent without my recent best friend, and I found out the night before that a mutual close friend of ours had thrown a big party of the kind we were both usually invited to, invited the friend and not told me about the party or invited me or checked in about feeling unsure about how to invite both of us- but had invited some of our mutual friends to it, so I found out right after it was done. So- hurt feelings and The Sad, then the day itself was the most grizzly Northern California Dark Driving Rain day ever, and my very good friend who was visiting and staying with me was going through some hard things with a relationship. But there were lots of phone calls from friends and a small queer people of color party with tons of food and conversation that was a good balance between fun and real- not superficial, and not diving deeply into the fact that most of us don’t talk to our families of origin, but room to be emo if one wanted. It was lovely- and I ended up having a 20 minute convo with the friend who’d thrown the no invite party, where I was able to say dude! I wish you’d told me you weren’t going to invite me, or invited the ex-friend to come to half and I to come to half, or something! There was some safe emotion and tears, he apologized, and it’s not all better but it was a good talk.

    Oh yeah- and I talked to my date who is 3,000 miles away and said, hey, I need you to tell me you love and miss me! And it worked.

    So yeah- good times and Feelings Skills. (Also a giant dead possum right outside the car when I parked it, but it made for a good story later.)

    And I totally want to do Bookmas next year! Or just stay in and eat and read back issues of The Invisibles.

    Thanks, everyone, for making this space where we all get to be real about the good, the bad, the hard and the weird about this time of year

  51. My Christmas was alright. There was a lot of tension between my mom and her mom, as usual, and she took it out on everyone else, as usual. Plus my grandma is incredibly vain and a huge fan of body policing which is always stressful, but at least I gave and received some sweet loot.

    The award for Most Thoughtful Present goes to my little sister. I’ve been looking for a copy of Good Omens with the Crowley cover for MONTHS but could only find one with Aziraphale, so my sister gave me her copy. ❀ I also got a gorgeous necklace that looks like the heart container from Skyward Sword and a copy of The Machine of Death. I gave my sister a linguistics book and some Adventure Time comics. It was a very literary holiday!

    1. Maybe good loot doesn’t make up for icky relative stress, but at least it was *fantastic* loot! Enjoy!!

  52. My boyfriend had a severe mental crisis a few days before Xmas and threatened to kill himself. He apparently made a few attempts and then backed out, thank god. Called my parents in tears on the day we were supposed to get on the plane because he had just smashed a bunch of things in his room, flung his phone at the wall, and ran out the fire escape to get away from me, all while crying about how he wanted to die.

    Found him, calmed him down, got him on the plane with a combination of support and threats — I was going to have to have him put under watch if he didn’t come with me — and now he’s a lot better. My parents have been wonderfully understanding about the whole thing. He’s agreed to go to therapy as soon as he finds something he can afford, which is great because he’s been really resistant to the idea when I’ve suggested it in the past. And he found out that he got a job, which should alleviate some of his money worries.

    My parents got him some awesome cooking equipment and we are excited to make feasts when we get home.

    We had a lovely Christmas and I am very relieved.

    1. Ugh, fucking brain chemistry can fail people at the worst time. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that and glad he’s come around to the idea of getting some help.

  53. I had a surprisingly good Xmas Day. I’m an atheist and I don’t have family in Australia, and I’m estranged from them anyway. And I don’t dig holidays. So I had planned on spending it alone watching tv, but a friend invited me to an orphan’s Xmas with brilliant food and no present pressure. We ate, drank, and played a board game and listened to carols and I had a genuinely nice time.

    I think I enjoyed it so much because it was a group of adults around the same age and not me being tacked on to another family’s Xmas, which I’ve done before and was just awkward for me.

    The only shadows on the day was that there was another American guest which was nice, but she sort of made things a bit awkward racially. I’m black, everyone else was white, and this chick kept saying little things along the lines of, “oh no she didn’t!” after I’d say something. It was annoying but I made myself ignore it so I could keep having a good time.

    Also, last time I hung out with Host and Guest A, an interesting fact about my life came up. Host and I have been friends for at least four years and it hadn’t come up before. But it came up at this hang out last month, so I told them both about it then. But later that night, Guest A’s husband showed up with a friend of theirs/stranger-to-me in tow, and she blurted out this interesting fact. Then it came up yet again at the Xmas thing in front of Racial Guest. (Which probably reinforces Racial Guest’s racial views of me.)

    It’s like people don’t have the sense of a goose to think, “well, if Host and E have been friends for literal years, and this fact is new to Host, maybe it’s not something E wants bandied about within minutes of meeting new people.” Or, “Maybe E doesn’t want something that happened 13 years ago to define her to people she’s never met before.”

    Wow. That was long. But I really did have a good time, despite those two things.

    1. off topic, but you had me thinking I’d written this in my sleep until you said you were American.

    2. My absurd fantasy suggest is that you do an impression of Rob Schneider as the Saturday Night Live “Copy Guy” after everything she says. “It’s the copy guy….making copies….”

      And when she is like, what the hell? you say “I’m sorry, I got the impression that ‘vintage’ jokes were really important to you.”

      Real suggestion is that this is a problem for the hosts and one of them should step in and say “Um, why do you keep doing that every time Elikit speaks? It’s kind of weird.”

      1. HA! I would like to fulfil the absurd fantasy suggestion.

        I’m not sure the hosts had the tools to pick up on the vibe, as it wasn’t just the one thing the girl was saying or doing, so it wasn’t blatant. It was just as if everything I said confirmed to her my Sassy Black Girl status.

        Maybe I should have just come out and said, “Are you always like this, or are you just putting this on for my benefit? Either way, stop.”

  54. Had a lovely holiday, with lots of good food and nice gifts. No tension, because difficult/annoying relatives are thousands of miles and an ocean away. My one quibble? My sweet sweet husband got me an e-reader, and it won’t register for some reason. This doesn’t improve my suspicion of such gadgets. Paper books still rule, as far as I’m concerned.

  55. Hi this is maybe a derail but I just wanted to say that I am LW 270 from way back in June and I was like “how do I train my boyfriend to stop pushing all my boundaries” all y’all commentariat were like PROBABLY YOU SHOULD DUMP HIM and now six months later he is dumped. I have dumped him. I am a wreck and a half because Feelings but it is weirdly validating to have a whole bunch of internet strangers validating my feelings that our relationship was filling up with evil bees.

    1. *jedi hugs* I am sorry that you are hurting but also glad that you are feeling validated! Hopefully the coming months will find you in a peaceful and happy place.

      1. Thank you all very much. It’s literally only been four hours, so I am sure it gets slightly worse when I get out of my weird stunned fog and then gradually better as time goes on. There were a lot of reasons to leave, and it’s going to hurt until it doesn’t anymore etc. I’m okay, but I appreciate the well wishes very much

        1. Oh, man, four hours. Yeah, even cutting free of a House Of Evil Bees is a loss of sorts, and you’re right that it’s probably going to start feeling at least somewhat craptastic soon. All the kittens and Jedi mind hugs when it does, and all the crossed-fingers that the craptastic feelings are as brief as possible, and all the congratulations on what sounds like a hard-but-awesome decision. :c/

        2. It does get better! Then it gets worse, and then better, and then TERRIBLE, and then AWESOME OMG and then kind of bad and then pretty good and then eventually the intensity of your feelings — and the frequency of the changes — will go down.

          Major Important Things To Remember:

          0. Get your Team You. Tell them, now, even though it’s the holidays, because this is big news for the people who are Team You.

          1. It will suck. It sucking does not mean you shouldn’t have done it!

          2. He might try to get you back by being the really most awesomest wonderful guy you ever knew, hitting all your wonderful buttons and everything. It’s called Hoovering. Try not to fall for it if you can. Ask Team You to help.

          3. It will take a while for things to stop reminding you of him. In the meantime, finding new places and things can help, especially if they reflect the parts of you that he didn’t like.

          4. You’re gonna get really, really angry. This is normal. It’s better if you do not lash out in his direction, that just keeps you entangled.

          5. It is okay, and also recommended, to cut off contact for some time on the order of months. If you have to negotiate the Exchange of Stuff, have Team You on hand as backup or even intermediaries.

          6. If you have ever thought he might be violent, to you or your stuff or himself, CALL A HOTLINE. This is the riskiest time for you, statistically speaking. But trust your gut, you know best.

          7. You’re going to be emotionally unstable for a while, because when humans lose attachments (even for the best reasons), they struggle and suffer while they heal. I call it being temporarily insane, not everybody likes that metaphor. But I know I feel totally crazy after a breakup and like to remember that it is normal to feel that way. You may also want to be very careful about dating again because humans often try to transfer attachments instead of making new ones and that doesn’t always work out well.

          8. You are strong.

          9. You will get through this.

          10. A therapist might help.

    2. I am virtually high fiving your awesomeness and laughing at the impotent raging evil bees you have left behind.

    3. I am SO happy for you that he is dumped! I remember reading your letter over and over, and just being so helplessly furious on your behalf, because seriously interfering with someone’s sleep–on purpose!–is so freaking LOW. Gross, gross behavior on his part.

      Jedi hugs to you from me. It’s hard, it sucks right now. Once upon a time I too left a toxic relationship and doing so was painful, but from where I stand now the only thing about it that still occasionally twinges my annoyed-o-meter is the fact that I didn’t leave sooner! One foot in front of the other. You did the right thing. You are going to be okay.

    4. Congratulations and I’m sorry – breaking up sucks even when it is the right thing to do. Be VERY nice to yourself, and happy New Year free of a relationship that was making you tired (literally).

    5. Yay!

      I always wonder what happens with the letter writers, so it is lovely to hear from you. Especially with the happy ending. We’re with you in spirit as you ride out the inevitable feels.

    6. Oh wow, all the jedi hugs for you! Breakups are so shitty, even if you’re making a great choice for yourself and leaving someone who is objectively awful for you (which I did last summer – UGH, so upsetting, still!) but I am really happy for you.

      I don’t mean this in a creepy way, but I’ve been thinking about your letter from time to time and wondering and worrying about you. I’m really glad you’re out.

  56. I only had Christmas with my immediate family this year, because normally we spend it with our extended family but this year my mother put her foot down over Manipulative Aunt’s attempts to force people into things and said ‘if that’s how it’s going to be, then we’re not coming to Christmas this year.’ So we had a nice, peaceful Christmas free of emotional blackmail and subtle warfare, ate French herbed chicken for lunch, and had a lovely time. It was really nice!

    Also, I saw the Doctor Who, and I loved it! I thought it was better than the last few Christmas episodes, and the Sontaran’s imperfect grasp of social mores was hilarious.

    1. Your last paragraph is much more amusing to me than you probably intended, because I read it as Amy Pond herself somehow watching the Doctor Who special (in a very meta, wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey-alternate-universes way). I also agree that it was a lot better than the previous few Christmas specials.

      1. I seem to add a lot of extra amusement to any online discussion of Doctor Who, I’ve noticed. πŸ™‚

  57. Holidays with the family are somehow almost always stressful for me, even when nothing happens to overtly cause stress. I think there’s some residual tension from old family/cultural dynamics where as the youngest person in the room at any given time I felt ignored any time anyone higher up in the pecking order was in the room. I jokingly say that my older sister was the child my parents talked to, and I was the one they used for running errands. Now that both myself and my sister are grown the dynamic has shifted and it’s less of an issue, but I find around the holidays the old FEELINGS come back and my jerk brain runs with it.

    Currently going through some discomfort anticipating New Year’s Eve. I had planned on having a friends over. Now that we’re less than a week away and some close friends who had been telling me for well over a month they were looking forward to coming are bailing for other plans, and my default reaction is an anxiety/depression spiral which feels pretty awful. Logically, I understand that people should go celebrate where they wish, they aren’t having fun elsewhere AT me, but logic isn’t really helping me and I’m waiting for the, “I’m going to have a party and nobody is going to come except for a few people who might come and they won’t have fun because nobody else came and my friends all think I’m a loser.” narrative in my head to subside.

    I have a pretty competent feelings doctor/therapist, and I’ve made a note to discuss this with him when I see him next week, but in the meantime since there was an open thread and this seems vaguely appropriate, I thought I’d vent here. Any thoughts/advice from the regular commenters is appreciated.

    1. I’m waiting for the, β€œI’m going to have a party and nobody is going to come except for a few people who might come and they won’t have fun because nobody else came and my friends all think I’m a loser.” narrative in my head to subside.

      Oh man, I feel that. I don’t think there’s really that much you can do, except to keep telling yourself that you are a great person and your friends like you – look, they even told you how much they wanted to attend your party! It’s no one’s fault that they can’t come, especially not yours. Maybe ring a good friend and have a long chat, to reinforce this, and help shoo away the ‘sad and friendless’ feelings in your head. Maybe I’m wrong, but it sounds like maybe you have these feelings because of things that happened in the past? If that is the case, it might also help to remind yourself that that was then, it is in the past, and things are not like they were \ then – you are awesome, and you have friends who want to be with you and you are going to have a great time!

      These are things that I do with myself, and I have found that over time, reminding myself of this stuff so that my jerkbrain doesn’t go out of control, helps, even if it doesn’t feel much like it at the time, because part of what I am doing is trying change the way I think about these things on a long-term basis.

    2. And I don’t know if it’s comforting or not, but NYE turns people into the most noncommittal flakes and it’s a night that is absolutely fraught with expectations plans get changed and cancelled and thwarted for so many reasons that have nothing to do with you and how awesome you are (hint: you are pretty awesome).

      Just go easy on yourself, okay?

    3. I don’t know what your plans are, but I know for me it helps not to make big preparations for a party that may not happen. If I put up decorations or rearrange furniture or buy food or book tickets or anything like that, and people don’t show up, then I have a bunch of Cheetos or whatever going YOU ARE UNLOVED. Instead, I make plans that can be easily changed if a lot of people show up. The plans are things like, “If it’s only a few of us, the couch can stay where it is; if more than five show up, we’ll move it against the wall,” or, “We will order food from this place, which I have a menu for and have checked is open then; the final menu will be decided when I see how many people I have to feed.”

      Then, plan for a scalable activity or amusement that you can do with two people or ten–a movie you’ll enjoy, a game any number of people can play (or more than one game if you fill a table), or a place to walk to to pick food up or see fireworks from. That way if it’s just you and one other bud, you’re able to take a deep breath and say, “This isn’t what I wanted, but I’m still glad this other person and I got to spend time together and enjoy ourselves.”

    4. If you really want to spend NYE with other people then maybe taking your turn at being the non-committal, last minute decider would be liberating here? You could forget about hosting and find out what your friends are doing and what parties are going on that you might like to attend (and that don’t require much advance notice/ticketing) and then decide on the day what you fancy!

      If you are more solitary, then you could gift yourself with a peaceful evening of time for yourself. I don’t like social NYEs because there is so much pressure to have fun that it often ends in carnage or at least disappointment, so I usually plan a low key night alone with a good meal, a book or a film, and a decadent amount of precious sleep! Because it’s what I planned I never feel like a billie no mates and always really enjoy my special evening. Having that plan in place also takes the pressure off if you do get invited to any parties – you can go if you like the sound of it but it’s ok if you don’t want to or if you don’t like it and bail early or if people don’t show for your party because you still have your own plans to fall back on and aren’t dependent on the party for a good evening.

      I hope you have a lovely evening, whatever you decide to do. πŸ™‚

  58. Eww, the sinus blues! I got my own plague flu over the weekend. Had an episode of Plague Emo in my work break room after my manager was nasty about my need to go home early due to illness . He genuinely doesn’t care if I get my coworkers sick or feel horrible… it’s all about The Store.

    Christmas was OK. My dad was overbearing about how I need to make an appointment regarding the possible hypoglycemia that he didn’t want me to bring up ever again despite his having started the original discussion. He is also fixated on my stupid Venetian Blinds of Fail and genuinely was angry that I didn’t get them fixed over the weekend of the plague. Then he got drunk at my aunt and uncle’s and bragged about his politeness all the way back to my place. Gah. Could’ve been a lot worse, though!

  59. Christmas special…do I always look at Doctor Who through my filter-of-smoldering-protective-disappointment-towards-Stephen-Moffat? (Answer, yes: I wear that filter as sunglasses. They’re smoked chrome, the lenses look like tiny rusted screen doors and they have convenient pockets for dry ice.)

    I am waiting for more explanation to to come along, like did she recognize the Doctor immediately? Because otherwise that first scene in the alley where Clara and the Doctor meet and then she just drops her job to RUN AFTER HIS CARRIAGE THROUGH THE SNOW seemingly on a whim seemed like kind of lazy writing. All the other companions at least had actual plot reasons why they ended up meeting and having their initial adventure with the Doctor (attacked by manequins, hospital transported to the moon, etc.), but it seemed like Clara just went outside to empty the tavern slop bucket and ran off, because, ya know, THE DOCTOR! How could any tavern wench resist?!

    (It also dawns on me more and more that Matt Smith looks and dresses so very much like a whimsical boy whose heart I rightfully but regretfully broke. So every time he gets his little pouty-entitled-adorable-eyebrow-less face in a twist I feel like I am being reprimanded for refusing to be swept away in that boy’s own metaphorical TARDIS.)

    I am overthinking this.

      1. Being told that by Amy Pond is reinforcing my difficulty separating Doctor Who from reality.

    1. “…it seemed like Clara just went outside to empty the tavern slop bucket and ran off, because, ya know, THE DOCTOR! How could any tavern wench resist?!”

      Huh. I definitely read that differently. (For one thing, I assumed she was on break/at the end of her shift/otherwise not in dereliction of duty, which I imagine makes a big difference in how swept-away-by-the-Doctor she seems.) I also got the sense that, even though she wasn’t really aware (maybe?) of who the Doctor was, she could tell he knew more than he was letting on, and could perhaps be more useful than he was being, and she wasn’t going to let him shirk that easily. I guess I’m reserving judgment until I see whether she’s sensible or starry-eyed going forward, but I’m tending toward optimism with this one (especially since she’s got all the holding-him-accountable of Donna, with none of her self-deprecation).

      That said, I could also just happily watch a Vastra-and-Jenny spin-off forever. (Is it too much to hope for, now that Torchwood and Sarah Jane Chronicles are over and done with?)

    2. That bit bugged me too. I decided the whole Mysterious Mystery thing probably was supposed to account for it but I still find it a bit lazy, along with the plucky/beautiful/not what she seems/super amazingness, though I suppose Dr Who’s never going to quite get past that. Then I spent most of the episode thinking at least they’d have a companion who wasn’t a young attractive white girl from contemporary London (or elsewhere UK) until the last two minutes when I went RARRRR FUCKER! At least he didn’t put her in a box this time but I did start laughing inappropriately when she saved the world by dying (again) and making a family cry. No one else is ever sad Christmas Eve! The days surrounding an arbitrary stolen pagan celebration are MAGIC! Also, since when did losing all memory of your adulthood mean you no longer exist and your body is a soulless husk?

  60. My holidays went surprisingly well. There was some Christmas Eve drama. Christmas breakfast was to be me, my guy, my father, with my sister coming in later for presents with her boyfriend. My father hates sausage/pork. I’m vegetarian, my guy’s violently allergic to the peppers in it. My sister decides that there must be sausage gravy on Christmas or the entire holiday will be ruined. Forever. And threw a full tantrum over it, full of guilt trip that mom always had sausage gravy and we were disrespecting her memory. We didn’t engage.

    Christmas Morning came and we all had oatmeal and eggs and tea and it was a very nice breakfast. And then she came over and was pleasant and everything worked out surprisingly well.

    There’s a little sadness because outside of my father, most of the family is incredibly toxic and we have decided there is no obligation to attempt to play nice, even on the holidays. (For example, not allowing my father to participate in his niece’s or nephew’s weddings because he is Episcopalian and that means he is unclean and hellbound and pagan, not a good Christian Baptist like them. ) So it’s fairly small family gathering, but it’s a nice one.

    For Doctor Who, I am quietly boycotting actually watching until someone not so blatantly sizeist is holding the reins. Thankfully there’s still plenty of Classic I need to get around to watching, so I can be patient!

    1. For me with Dr. Who, it’s like, wake me when the Dr comes back as a black guy or a woman, with a companion who isnt a PYT. Until then, snoooooooooooooooooze.

  61. I spent Christmas Day (or as I prefer to think of it, Doctor Who Day) alone, as my parents are in another country and it wasn’t feasible to travel this year. I also had a raging cold, so much of the first part of the day was spent half dozing in bed with all the BBC’s Xmas telly on in the background (a general rotation of Shreks, Madagascars and IceAges).

    I managed to rouse myself in the afternoon to put my Xmas dinner in the oven (Nut Roast Wellington and honey glazed parsnips – all ready prepared, I am not a cooking person!) I ate watching Doctor Who, which I absolutely loved. The new title sequence, the new TARDIS, Clara and her mystery – it was all perfect to me. I am so excited for the 50th anniversary! It looks like it’s going to be an amazing year for Who.

    Then I Skyped with my parents, who greeted me wearing the scarves I had knitted for them as presents (my Dad chose to wear his as a turban). We chatted for an hour, then I retreated with a glass of wine to watch the rest of the Christmas telly (Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey). It was actually a really nice day, apart from the lurgy.

  62. Late to the party but…

    On Christmas Eve, dropped the game controller to drive over to my BFF’s house as she was feeling SAD and needed company. This was wonderful, not because she was SAD but because she is now able to call me and ask for help when she needs it, rather than hide in her room and cry and tell me about it later. Sat in her kitchen and watched her bake and talked shit until 1.30am which was cool.

    Did get home and have a cry about dead dad/estranged family until 3am but it was very carthatic and Husband was appropriately comforting and reflective listening-y.

    Woke up late on Christmas Day, but that’s ok cos the in-laws were late too, so cooked a veeeeeeeeery relaxed dinner, ate it and then me and F-I-L fell asleep while the Husband played video games and M-I-L advised on strategy. We did watch some MMA as well, including a women’s fight, and only had one ‘you wouldn’t want to marry those [muscly, athletic] girls, they’ve got no boobs’ from my F-I-L, which was roundly shouted down by Husband and M-I-L as I flexed my (softened by Christmas food but still pretty big) biceps. They left at 6.30pm to feed their cat and we played video games and ate chocolate until we fell asleep.

    Boxing Day is officially now Second Christmas and involves our friends who have stressful family Christmases (Christmasi?), coming over and eating another dinner, exchanging presents and then falling asleep in front of movies without any passive-aggressiveness, nagging, body shaming, racism, sexism and general fuckery.

    All in all, pretty fucking brilliant πŸ˜€

  63. I came home for Christmas (from overseas) to see my family. It’s been great, except for some emergency dental work, which ate up most of my money. I was going to spend the money on new work clothes, seeing movies, art supplies, cheese and wine after a generally tough and financially tight year. My very kind friends gave me a bunch of awesome hand-me down clothes and have taken me out for coffees and beach trips. My family is a board game family so we’ve been having fun playing lots of games. I have also been watching a bunch of YouTube videos and Adventure Time with my brothers.

    Just before I flew out I set some very clear boundaries with my Darth-ex, who is forming a habit of turning up whenever he feels a bit lonely and says whatever he needs for as long and persistently as he needs to (‘I love you, I made a mistake last time, you just misunderstood’ blah blah etc. etc.’) until I sleep with him and then disappears for weeks/months until next time leaving me in a state of ‘why does he keep lying to me/treating me so badly/but I love him’ etc. I used my words very clearly and told him to leave me alone just before I flew out (literally texted him from the departure lounge in the airport) because he can’t contact me while I’m away. I’m sitting here all nervous now and hoping I don’t go back to find my house broken into or something. I’ve never enforced boundaries like this with him before, so am not sure how it will go. But – YAY! Boundaries.

      1. Thank you! I’m sure it’s not the end of him, so will have to stick to my boundaries. Your encouragement is very helpful.

    1. Woohoo! Congrats. Is very, very hard. My Darth-ex only stopped contacting me summer before last (it’s been four years since we broke up), which was also about the time I got better at both setting boundaries and then reinforcing them by totally ignoring him. So there’s hope? Also, lots of high-fives for taking the first hard, brave steps, and plenty of Jedi hugs if you want them.

      1. Thank you for your encouragement. I’m sure this is the start of having to completely ignore him until he goes away – which hopefully won’t be too long or exhausting. Thank you for high-fives and Jedi hugs!

        1. I found it super helpful to change his name to DON’T as a helpful reminder on thing where it was impractical to block him and inadvisable to delete his information. (He is still that way in my phone, just in case.) Others in the Awkward Army change it to ridiculous and/or insulting things to get a good giggle + reminder. Good luck and again, good for you.

  64. Christmas Eve was spend at the frat’s Christmas dinner(all glory to the volunteer cookers), first day was spend with family on my mom’s side gossiping about old teachers and laughing at liberal arts studies(entire family is lib-art, so we have the privilege), second day was a bit rainy but ended going solo to an apocalyptic disco party-met a cute dudette who kept trying to barter for my horsehead mask. Will it have a follow-up? Probably not, but it’s good to know that if one sucks at approaching people, dressing outrageously enough and dancing like you have zero fucks to give will make them come to you instead(although half of them will try to acquire drugs from you-flattering in its own way).

  65. Awkwardeers, I need a script for telling my mother to butt out of how clean I keep my house. Since I moved in at the end of November, she has been haranguing me at least once a day to keep my house cleaner than I currently do (which I think is perfectly fine), and now that I am going to be hosting a Christmas it has gotten way worse. I have admittedly dealt with it poorly in the past, so I need someone’s idea of how to make her stop without being incredibly rude.

    1. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, I’ve had similar issues with my mum, although we’re mostly past them due to a combination of me getting irately shouty about it (not a tactic I recommend) and then having horrific quantities of awful building works going on for almost a year (not at my instigating) that meant my place was impossible to keep clean, so “not a filthy pit” was GOOD (again, not a tactic I recommend), and my brother still has the problem with her.

      What he’s trying (and it seems to be helping) is repeating “I’m an adult, this is MY space and I’m happy with it. As long as it’s not causing you health issues you don’t get to have an opinion here” (I introduced him to UFYH, so there are no mold or uber dust issues and then I introduced him to repeating sane, reasonable words and not getting angry. This would be the only instance where he’s actually using his words, but small victories!)… it’s definitely difficult, though, because you’re (I suspect) basically trying to get her to treat you like an independent adult when she still views you as a child. Good luck!

    2. Ahrg, ff ate my reply. Anyway, my brother (who is not a paragon of word-using) has this issue with our mum, and he’s been using a script of “I’m an adult and this is my space, I like it as it is and if it is not causing you any health issues you don’t get to have an opinion about it” (I introduced him to the idea of using his words, rather than arguing, and UFYH at the same time, so there aren’t mold or dust problems any more, and there are places to sit, eat and bathe in a sanitary fashion). It’s working but it’s not hugely fun and he has some issues holding his temper about it and then all hell breaks loose, but it is working.

    3. I think it might help to use the broken record approach here. Find a phrase that works for you, maybe “This is my house, not yours” or “That’s really rude” and repeat it every time she brings it up. It may also help to bring it up directly with her, in person or over email etc, that it makes you incredibly uncomfortable when she constantly criticizes your housekeeping, and that it’s not going to actually make you clean more, it’ll just make you resent spending time with her. Perhaps first the talk and then the broken record approach.

    4. From past advice I’ve seen here, the broken record approach maybe?

      “You need to dust more.”
      “I like my house the way it is.”
      “You should vacuum”
      “I like my house the way it is”
      “Yes, but dust mites/lint/midichlorians….”
      “I like my house the way it is.”
      and so on. Another option is stating once that you won’t discuss cleaning with her and then either ignore statements and change the subject, or end the conversation.

      A lot of it depends on the situation. Is she coming over and saying it? Living with you? Calling you up?

  66. I have a sad tale of boundary overstepping. We spend the Holidays with my husband’s family, whom we also own a business with and live not far from. In short, I see them a lot, not just once a year. Lately, as our child has grown older, the all-day Christmas Eve plus all-day Christmas Day plus other activities has just gotten to be too much. I’m stressed enough as it is.

    This year at Thanksgiving, I laid down the law. We would spend a few hours on Christmas Eve, leaving by 6pm at the latest, and come for dinner on Christmas Day. That would be it. No more, no less. My MIL said, “Oh, but I was hoping we could have a wine and cheese party with BIL’s fiancee’s family. And your mom and dad could come too!” I reiterated (again, this was back in November) that I would only do a couple hours each day, and I was NOT in favor of any kind of party which would bring me, my BIL’s soon-to-be-in-laws, my in-laws, and my parents together under one roof. I like my hair rooted firmly to my scalp, thankyouverymuch.

    I really didn’t think I could be much more plain spoken about my feelings, so I considered the matter dropped as I continued with my insane gauntlet of December activities–including planning and executing a self-catered sit-down company Christmas party for 50 with little help from the in-laws, a child’s birthday party, volunteer activities. By the time the week before Christmas rolled around, I was DONE. Frazzled to the max. When who calls the Thursday before Christmas but my MIL! She was speaking to my husband, but I got the word-for-word commentary later. “Don’t let your wife kill me, but I’ve already called her parents and they’re coming to my party this Sunday. Now you have to come. Ha. Ha.”

    I spent three days categorically refusing to go. My mental state at this point was more like an 8 year old. “No! You can’t make me!!” I finally decided to go because in the end, my absence would mostly only hurt my husband and daughter. I even put a smile on my face and acted happy to be there. But I’d made it plain to my hosts that I was not happy about being manipulated. That night I got a text from my MIL.. “So glad you decided to quit pouting and come to my party. Wasn’t it a blast? I can’t wait to do it next year!”

    Next year we’re doing Christmas in Mexico with just the three of us.

    1. Dear Claire,

      The control freak Christmas planning is the absolute worst. My father is the king of this. I didn’t make it home for the holidays last year because I was across the country in graduate school. This year i flew back home cheap, and have been staying several weeks until the next semester. Feelings have really been hurt by the marriage vote in Minnesota this year. My father agreed to abstain, which was the closest thing to compromise I have ever seen him pull off. All bets were off for the Christmas Eve church service, though. I refused to go to a church that is homophobic and vocally supported the marriage ban. I attended an ELCA church instead. The older minister retired (a soft spoken Midwesterner who understood the culture in Minnesota even in the most conservative Lutheran church) and was replaced by a young fire-breathing political activist who generally upset people with confrontational demands, and political meddling. One more reason not to go to this service.

      My mom asked my Dad to go to a different service this year while I was home, met with childish “we have always done things this way” and the refusal to engage on the subject. Our family went to separate services, I went by myself with strangers.

      Dad asked me weeks before to go ice fishing with him, but when I tried to arrange for a nice lunch in the city when they picked me up for the holidays he acted like entering the city would cause him to spontaneously combust. The museum exhibit I wanted to see was certainly out of the question, and denigrated behind my back to my brother. I should understand how he is and just accept it, but absolutely EVERYTHING is on his terms. Where to put the card table for whist in my grandparents home, whether or not to listen to bad talk radio for six hours in the car. Anyone else have relatives like this?

      1. My father isn’t quite as bad or quite as conservative but still on the scale for sure. He and my mother are always arguing and while she can get on my nerves too, he’s hypocritical and refuses to accept that he might ever be wrong, whereas she’s expected to know what he’s thinking and what’s convenient to him all the time, even though when you ask him a question he’ll often either completely ignore you or give a facetious response that doesn’t tell you anything. I’ve come to accept this year that I actually don’t really like him as a person, especially after he made my oldest sister cry in an argument about whether street harassment was a thing.

    2. How completely insensitive and tactless of your MIL! Not only the planning-things-while-clearly-hearing-but-ignoring-your-boundaries or the completely-overstepping-your-boundaries-by-forcing-you-to-come (though I still wonder why she thinks because your parents are going to be there you have to come, too?) but the super-happily-texting-you-afterwards part (which she either really meant because she’s clueless and can’t read the air or she realised full well that you felt aweful but wanted to rub it in how she “won”, I really don’t care). I simply cannot with people like that.

      What’s your relationship with your parents? Can you confide in them and tell them about the stress you are experiencing/the whole situation in general? If your parents had known about the whole mess and had declined the invitation she’d have lost a trump card (though she probably would have found another but it’s never a disadvantage to have more people on your side who know what’s going on).

      But in general I believe with people like this the broken record (“I can not handle more than I told you I can handle.” – “But it’s gonna be great!” – “I can’t handle more.” – “You are being such a party pooper.” – “I can’t handle more.”) or the “Wow, your demanding is really uncalled for. How rude.” are the best reactions.

      I’d simply say “Don’t back down.” but I know how hard that can be and in my experience, a non-wavering, steadily-repeated “No” in its various forms works the best.

      Jedi hugs if you want and good luck with future situations like this.

      1. Thanks for the Jedi hugs. I appreciate the commiseration, really. I’m ashamed to say that after the super happy text, I sort of went nuclear all over my rather wonderful husband. So, yeah, the text was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        I do have a decent relationship with my parents. And as soon as I found out about the going-behind-the-back-to-plan-the-party thing I went over to my parents’ home to explain the whole thing. They understood where I was coming from, but felt it’d be too rude to not show up to the party when they’d already said they’d come. I was all, “It’s not rude when she manipulated you AND me into coming,” but my mother’s got quirks of her own, and one of them is an inability to find a polite spine with two hands.

        It’s over and done with now, but it is NOT happening again. Fool me once, etc. etc.

        Thank again. It’s nice just to be reminded that I’m not the crazy one in this situation.

        1. You are DEFINITELY not the crazy one.

          Wow. Just wow.

          I’m amazed you didn’t find a way to send a text back that would metaphysically reach through the phone and strangle her. It’s also a bummer that the folks who care about you (husband, child maybe depending on age, and especially parents) couldn’t pull together to help you stand up to the manipulation. Understandable to certain degrees, but still a bummer.

          Here’s hoping next time you’ll have the resources and support to say a No that sticks. It totally sucks to be in those situations, especially when it makes you feel like YOU’RE the unreasonable one, for having those silly NEEDS and BOUNDARIES.


  67. I’m really not a Christmas person – it seems like just way too much stress and hassle for no particular point to me – but my family is pretty close and I live with my parents so I had to just deal. Luckily I got a minimum of useless presents I’d have to find somewhere to store though, which was good – I got instead three new books on Māori culture, a kid’s pizza making set that was a semi-joke because I always make pizza from scratch, and a couple of gift cards. And everyone managed not to get into any fights! But I’ve still been researching the rental markets in the capital since I’ll almost undoubtably have to move there after school anyway for work and may go sooner. (This city’s becoming somewhat unlivable even apart from my family due to post-disaster politics and bullshit. It’s been more than a year since the last quake that did any damage and things are still screwed up enough that there are shops right next to the busiest mall in the city on one of the busiest roads in the city that have been empty and boarded up for the last four months.) It looks like the major problems will be a) market rent prices are ridiculous compared to the amount of financial aid students get and b) apparently pets are banned through the entire city according to the rental listings, and I don’t want to give up my rabbits.

    Then I spent half of Boxing Day morning wrangling with the internet to get the Dr Who Christmas special, finally got it and watched it with many scathing remarks (I’m pretty sick of Moffat’s writing and repetitive tropes, I’ve actually given the show a two episode deadline before I stop bothering entirely), and then saw that one of the tv channels here actually managed to get it in time to air that evening for once. When I started on the internet we’d often have a three year wait for tv shows though in recent years it’s varied more with Dr Who often arriving in three weeks, but same day is basically unprecedented. So I watched it again and still didn’t really like it, though I can see how it would be enjoyable for people who don’t have my bugbears.

  68. Sending in a hit from North Africa! Haven’t seen the Christmas special yet, haven’t done presents yet either – sidestepping Christmas entirely is a Thing That I Wholeheartedly Recommend. ❀

  69. This Christmas I came out to my parents who were (somewhat surprisingly) very supportive. Thank you so much to the Captain and commenters for all the advice and perspectives throughout the blog which have helped me become a stronger person and to improve my relationships with them to the point that we could do it right. ❀

  70. Does anyone have any input on a situation I have with a couple of members of my family of choice? We all swap presents and decided several years ago to put a monetary cap on what we’d spend (thank GOODNESS!) and we meet the weekend before Christmas to swap. Most of us open them there and then (because half the joy is seeing how much people like what you’ve gotten them, which, I know, can cause some issues, but we’re usually pretty good at getting people things they like/want/downright NEED) but this couple don’t – which is fine, that’s not the issue – they take them home to open on Christmas morning and we hear nothing about the gifts, ever again. I feel like completely failing to acknowledge any of the effort anyone’s gone to get something appropriate for the price point we’ve agreed is just kind of rude? Especially given that we all text good wishes to each other on the day – so it would be easy to say thanks there, no fake gushing required or anything and it just kind of riles me up whenever I think about it… any input about either how to try to broach the subject or help to look at it from another angle? They’re my friends and I love them, so I’d really like to get myself past feeling so irritated.

    1. If I were in that situation, I would ask outright, saying something like “Did you like your swap present(s) this year? We all have such a good time, but I never did get to hear if your present(s) was (were) something you wanted/liked/needed this time. I heard from ( other swap-friends’ names) right after the holiday (or whenever) and was just wondering about you.” I think sometimes when people are clueless about ordinary manners, they need some polite, friendly bluntness. I know when I’m completely out of it about something, it helps a lot to have it spelled out to me by somebody who actually likes me.

  71. I gave up on Dr Who a while back – never liked the eleventh Doctor or Amy. Only movie I watched was Red Dog, which I thoroughly recommend. Pretty basic, lots of Australian stereotypes and humour and you. will. cry. during it. Oh, and Josh Lucas, who I’d never heard of before, is seriously easy on the eye (though I seem to be the only person who thinks he looks like Bruce Springsteen’s prettier younger brother).

    Otherwise, Christmas and Boxing Day were totally quiet and peaceful, which is all I ask of them. The weather didn’t get hot, I tooled around on the computer, had dinner at my sister’s on Boxing Day (and the telly was packed for moving, so no rubbish playing in the background YAY). And across the veil, Mr Kittehs’ and I had his sons, father, partners and friends over for a late lunch (roast goose and plum pudding!) and snowball fight and watching the furkids demolish their presents and wrapping paper. Literally the best of both worlds. πŸ™‚

  72. I just turned 59, I have one child who is now 28, and I’m married for the second time. I am currently residing in California, but came here from Upstate New York in 2979. But I haven’t been around the Captain’s blog for long. My daughter recommended the site because she loves reading all the responses and the controversy, as do I.

    My holiday was pretty good. My husband’s family is all dead; he is the last of his line. My family is all evil except me and my daughter and a distant cousin, so we made our own fun. My daughter works in retail so couldn’t travel to be with us, and this is my husband’s busy time of year, so we didn’t go see her, either, though we talked on the phone extensively. It was satisfying on all sides; she has a rich social life in her city and my husband and I genuinely love each other’s company to a ridiculous extent, so we were blissful, having some time alone together.

    My husband went for a huge amount of his adult life without any presents from anybody, so he’s really, really not good at it, but he managed pretty well this year, other than buying boxes and boxes of weird candy canes that nobody wanted. We’ll sort them out later. No harm done. He liked his presents and I liked mine, barring excess candy caneage.

    It was quiet, it was fun, we had a funny, scraggly tree that our pets adored, and we slept in as there are no small types who need to be up at dawn in our lives. We ate fancy food we both wanted and only did the traditions we thought were fun and didn’t have to answer to anybody.

    That’s how we did it. It worked nicely for us, thanks for asking.

  73. Also late to the party… (I used to be SadieBlake but finally got my own blog, yay :p)

    This year’s Christmas was a super-mixed bag for me.

    On the good side: Mr.Posh and I are now several states away from family, so got to create our own traditions with our lovely roommate. Christmas Day itself was quite relaxed and groovy. The financial hangover is rough, but not overly threatening – we were pretty good about not going bananas with the gifts. I knit our stockings and they turned out adorable, and are now lusted after by other family members.

    On the bad and weird side: Called my father a day or two before Christmas to discuss why it is inappropriate to ask your non-religious daughter to baptize her son as a Christmas gift to you. Waffled and equivocated more than I’d like (it’s my sister’s son, not mine, so it kind of felt like not-my-business but I also felt compelled to stand up for her). Got a lot of stupid justifications (I’m just worried for his eternal soul, Sister and Her Husband never actually told me they *didn’t* want that, they tend to procrastinate so I was just reminding them, it would really mean a lot to me). Conversation wandered into my religious choices (I am also non-religious); and from there to coming out to my dad as bisexual.

    Which led to the lovely “Well, it’s normal to have those feelings but wrong to act on them,” with a side of “You haven’t been having sex outside of marriage, have you?” plus a bit of “I’ll love you no matter what, and so does My Invisible Friend*, but you really shouldn’t ever get a girlfriend or you’ll be breaking your marriage vows and you’ll go to hell.”

    On the unexpected bonus side: I wasn’t disowned, I was able to set boundaries around whether or not my parents can evangelize to me (answer: you can tell me how much good it’s done for you, but don’t tell me I should do it too), and still had a decent Skypemas with the family.

    Overall, not a bad one, but it felt a bit lacking in tradition, a bit short on acceptance, and left me with a vague desire to burn a bridge somewhere. =/

    1. There’s so much wrong with what your father’s saying here, I can’t believe someone is still saying stuff like this in our day and age (I know, I know, I read almost daily about things like that but it surprises and outrages me again every time 😐 ). I’m so sorry you had to deal with that and offer Jedi hugs if you want.

      1. I will happily accept Jedi hugs, thank you.

        And thanks for the “That’s seriously not ok!” support. I’ve kind of gotten into a pattern of “Well, it’s the best I can expect from my parents” type thinking, and with that comes the whole “They’re good people, really, it’s just that religion has overridden the part of their thought processes that would make them realize how damaging that is, I should really make all kinds of excuses for them because they tried their best,” which leads to “I really have no reason to be angry at my parents and never want to see them again, why burn that bridge?” which in turn makes me realize I probably can’t burn that bridge anyway, which just leaves me with impotent anger that I try to minimalize because no one wants to deal with that.

        *SIGH* Ugh. Issues to untangle, much? =/

  74. Long time reader, first time commenter, etc. πŸ™‚

    Christmas this year was…okay. I only had Christmas Day itself off, unfortunately, for various reasons, and both myself and my partner’s family live very far away, so traveling wasn’t an option. We stayed in and cooked amazing food and cuddled and watched movies and that was it, and then it was back to work for me. Because of my work schedule (60+ hour weeks for the past month and a half) I haven’t had time to buy anyone presents and I basically feel like a bad girlfriend/daughter/niece/granddaughter/friend to pretty much everyone. Sad. I’m hoping to rectify it in January so folks will be getting New Year’s gifts I guess. Better late than never?? Heh.

    1. If I’d already missed the holiday window, I would even be tempted to push the gifting out to late February or early March. Christmas giving is a lovely tradition, but when everything arrives en mass it’s hard to appreciate each item as much as it should be. A lovely, thoughtful present arriving out of the blue during (arguably) the worst, nastiest, most blah time of the year would be doubly nice. Anyway, food for thought.

      1. Seconding this! I love getting late gifts! It reminds me that a) someone cares about me, b) there are others out there who are just as Not On Top Of Things as I am, and that’s reassuring, and c) PRESENTS YAY!!

        I would say call it a New Year’s Gift (or Waitangi Day Gift, or Because It’s Tuesday Gift, or whatever), don’t apologize for missing Christmas (you has shit going on! They probably got stuff from other people! Maybe you’re making a new tradition, and that’s way cool!), and remember that, in the best possible way, It Really Is The Thought That Counts.

  75. I’ve just got back from 5 days at my Mothers. My sister and her family were also staying there and I need to remember she and I shouldn’t be in the same place for more than a day. I don’t mind that getting up and meals revolve around her toddlers schedule but am apparently selfish for not wanting the kids to slobber on my ice block or give them half my mango.
    The food was good though.

  76. I’m sure nobody’s reading here any more, but I just realized I did really well this Christmas season and I sort of want to stick a flag in this moment so it’s here for me to look at later, with its flag all sticking out of it like a victory.

    I had a pretty nasty event happen to/around me a few years back and now I have middling PTSD, which is kind of spectacularly not awesome. I have good friends and a good family so I’m pretty lucky, but sometime things are just HARD.

    This year I managed to work Christmas Eve retail, then have a successful morning wakeup for a very enjoyable Christmas brunch, then a nap, then to a friend’s house for dinner. Then a Boxing Day party the next day, and since then I’ve also done even more socializing and shopping. And through all this I haven’t had one overwhelmed retreat to my/someone else’s room, I haven’t had any major emotional bottoming-outs as I came down off awesome presents/friends/parties highs, and despite running it close to the line for almost a week now, I have just generally not overextended myself at all.

    When I first saw this post I thought about saying what had happened in my Christmas, but then I thought “eh, it wasn’t hugely noteworthy (although very fun), I won’t bother people with it.” But it was noteworthy. I had a peaceful Christmas where I felt more like myself than I had in a very long time.

    It makes me kinda anxious to say all of this because I’m fairly sure that there will be a downtick somewhere in the near to middling future, and then I’ll feel like I’m betraying this happiness, like it would have been better not to admit to it because by having felt it, it makes my future misery a lie, or the misery makes the happiness I have right now a lie. It doesn’t though. I did very well and I had a wonderful Christmas and it didn’t even occur to me that that’s something that I should be damn proud of.

    1. Ah, very noteworthy, and I am so happy for you, and that is completely amazing. Go, you!
      You could bookmark your post here for that possible later when all you feel is misery, to remind yourself that even though it feels like misery is all you’ll ever feel while
      it’s happening, that’s not true:
      Happiness was not a lie in the past, and will not be in the future.
      And have a lovely happy today, too. : )

    2. Yes yes yes! Especially the last part. Serious props to you for not overextending yourself, and for recognizing how awesome you did. Huzzah!

    3. *Totally* noteworthy.

      (And there’s no sort of logical-entailment relationships with feelings, where the ability to be happy at time t requires that you be happy at all points in the set of times … t-1, t0, t1…. Jerkbrains are notoriously bad at logic, and set theory, and also at giving their owners half a second’s benefit of the doubt. But you’re allowed to have different levels of up-for-things-ness without any of those levels being a lie, because they have literally nothing to do with each other.)

      Meanwhile, A+ for not over-extending, and for giving yourself public credit for having a good time. You did good, and your Jerkbrain will have to just deal with being wrong.

    4. Xmas Eve in retail is difficult in itself. Go you for succeeding at all of that!

      Sometimes it’s quite important to acknowledge personal achievements (even small ones), both so you feel good in the moment and so you have something to point at later. I keep of list of Things Wot I Have Negotiated to bolster me when I am approaching such a situation, and have added Track Accomplishments to my 2013 goals.

    5. Congrats on a successful Christmas!
      I always like it when I can store a moment of happiness for later.

  77. Oh man, we had an interesting (but fun!) holiday. We knew we’d be splitting off to our own families this year, so had a lovely Solstice dinner, just the two of us and the cats, and spent the days running up to the holiday making home-made decorations to get ourselves in the festive spirit.

    Of course, then the day before we were each due to head off to our families, one of the cats decided now was the perfect time to start trying to pull the stitches from her recent surgery and made her wound raw and angry-looking, so my other half ended up cancelling his plans and staying home alone over the holidays watching her and keeping the wound dressed and inaccessible. He refused to let me stay behind with him, sweetheart that he is.

    My family were amazing, as always, and we all had a fantastic time laughing drunkenly at my sweet, eccentric uncle’s ridiculous gifts. I won, having received a framed, holographic 3D picture of several kittens in a flower garden, in soft focus. The eyes of the cats follow you around the room, it’s amazing. And slightly frightening. And then we played seemingly calm family activity games that immediately turned into frantic, laughing-so-hard-you-drool, screaming chaotic noise-fests.

  78. Overall, I had an awesome Christmas back East with my family-of-origin (the 6 of us), a nice visit with my great-aunt (104 this year, and still kicking!) and my dad’s brother and his crew, and then a fantastic second Christmas today with the Clan (my mom’s side of the family – there were 30 of us for dinner this year, which is actually a little low. πŸ˜€ ) And I have plans to see several of my far-flung friends over January, so life is pretty good.

    The only hiccup is my dad, whose complete unwillingness to wait until other people are ready to go is bugging me more over the years, not less. I had my favorite birthday dinner in years (me and my SIL both have December birthdays, so we celebrated together while I was home) based mostly on the fact that M+D left to run an errand as soon as he was done eating, and didn’t come back to pick the rest of us up until right around when I finished. But packing for the Clan gathering was still a nightmare, with him interrupting me and my mom every 15 minutes to ask why we weren’t done yet and demand we hurry up. My brother and sister escaped this somewhat by driving separately, but I didn’t want to leave Mom without help, or drive a fourth car the 5 hours between first and second Christmas if I could help it.

    It feels silly to have that be the one issue standing between me and a perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas with my families, but there it is. :/ Anyone know a good way to convince a 50-year-old that his family will be ready to go when they’re ready to go, and not before?

  79. I just want to say, Whoa CA and company! You guys are brilliant and funny and I cannot stop reading your awesome advice.
    Great stuff!

  80. I saw Wreck-It Ralph and it was great. I hung out with my family and they were great. I had Flight Drama and it was tolerable. Thank you for asking πŸ™‚

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