Ugh….Holidays. (Open Thread)

[Video: A French bulldog puppy rolls around on its back trying to flip over]

If you’re not feeling this time of year, this is your place to commiserate with others. I am not sure I’m getting to any more “holiday” questions this month, so you may want to post the short version here instead for others’ feedback.

Regular commenting policies apply, with some reminders:

  • BE KIND.
  • This remains a “No Diet/Weight Loss Talk” zone.
  • If you’ve got a lot to say, it’s okay to give a brief intro to a topic & then link to a longer version on your own site.
  • Don’t yum other people’s yuck. If you love the holidays, your thread is over here.
  • If you find yourself arguing back and forth with another commenter about their own experiences….why? Why are you doing that with your time?
  • BE KIND.

589 thoughts on “Ugh….Holidays. (Open Thread)

  1. Normally very “yay” holidays, but now that I’m weaved into the to-be-stepmom role, it’s been tougher. Particularly as BF will lose custody time with the kids for a whole week over Thanksgiving while the Ex takes the kids on a cruise with HIS family! (Mom, Dad aka Gram and Gramps, HIS sister, and her husband and two boys). The kids are excited and I want to be for them, but I cannot WAIT for this particular part of the holidays to BE OVER.

    1. wait – what? Your BF’s ex is going on a cruise with your BF’s family? Whaaaaat. I can see why that would make this holiday rough. -jedi hugs if you want them-

  2. My fiancés family is joining my family on Boxing Day. This will be the first time for them meeting my grandparents and my brother, and they’ve only met my parents one time briefly before. Any advice on how to not make it too overwhelming for them? My family is super-welcoming but a little…unusual, and can be overwhelming even if you know them. Main concerns are: 1. my nan (accidentally) making them feel bad about not having much money; 2. My grandfather (who has dementia) asking insensitive questions about where my fiancés dad is; 3. my everyone not being chill about the future sibling-in-law’s gender presentation.

    Should I prime folks for this? Be like, hey, nan, don’t buy them an expensive gift just get them something small and nice, hey in-laws here is a signal to use if you need a break from grandad, and hey everyone sibling in law is working through some stuff about their gender at the moment so don’t you dare say shit about how they’re dressed or make up or anything. Or should I just let it go naturally and handle anything as it comes up? My family and my fiancés family are both genuinely nice sets of people so I am probably over-thinking it because of nerves.

    1. I would definitely give the in-laws the info about your granddad. I’m sure it depends on how your families are but I think you can deal with the other stuff if and when it comes up.

    2. In my family, we let things happen naturally, but I had redirects prepared. Like if someone makes a fuss about sibling in law’s gender presentation personally I’d go “yeah, that’s who they are. Can you pass me the beans?” However – in your case I might give the inlaws a heads up that grandad’s dementia means he kinda forgets where “the line” is and crosses it.

      good luck. It will probably not be as bad as your nerves are telling you it will be. -jedi hugs if you want them-

      1. I would follow up the warning about grandad with a discussion on how to handle it. Politely ignore? Signal [persons X Y and Z] to step in? Smile and nod before excusing yourself? Conversational redirect?

        Also, you can ask you fiancé to brief his family on these things, and he will be there to help bridge things with you, yeah? 🙂

    3. I feel like most of this stuff would be no big deal to talk about. I think it’s fairly normal for people meeting new folks to ask a few questions about who they’re meeting so it would be fairly easy to drop into conversation ahead of the visit, ‘oh btw, fiance isn’t in touch with their dad any more (or whatever the situation is), so it will just be xxx coming’, and even ‘it’s a bit of a sensitive subject though so please don’t bring it up’, without it having to be a major intervention. I would definitely give the in-laws a heads up about your granddad, it will make the visit kinder and nicer for everyone if they know about and can accommodate his illness.

      What does your future sibling-in-law prefer when meeting new people? Some trans people like their friends to have given new people a heads up first, e.g. about pronouns, while others would be really upset if anyone else divulged that information about them. Maybe asking them what they prefer would be a good option here?

    4. Does your fiance know your concerns? If so, I’d encourage them to let them know anything they deem necessary. If not, I’d share this list with them so they have that chance. If you’re worried about your nan getting them an expensive gift, you could always point her in the direction of someone you think they’d like.

      As for your future sibling-in-law, I think that depends on them and your family. Some people experience heavy dysphoria in situations like being called the wrong pronouns, other people aren’t as bothered by correcting at first. My family is not at all accepting so I would have to be ahead of the situation and put a heavy lock on it. If your family is significantly more open-minded, then I like Manattee’s suggestion of going by your sibling-in-law’s preference.

    5. You must be female, because its all up to you to make this happen perfectly. 🙂

      Don’t try to manage everyone’s feelings or actions, and don’t take on the responsibility when someone manages to insult someone else. It’s going to happen, and its for the adults involved to sort out. Start as you begin to go on — your job is now to stand behind your fiance, and to protect his rights and preferences from be infringed upon by your family, should they insist that, for instance, he sleep in a tent in the backyard. Expect your fiance to do the same, policing his family’s treatment of you. Let everyone else sort out their own problems, they’re grown-ups. Your entire involvement in any inter-familial friction should be, “You should talk to the person involved/that’s not my business.”

    6. A couple of years ago I was in Tucson AZ and stopped at a Circle-K for some beer. The person at checkout needed a shave, but was wearing make-up, which is fine by me. Whatever, right? I’m inclined to chat, so I do, and IIRC I probably used male pronouns at first, because she needed a shave. Then I noticed the name-tag was Alice, so the last thing I said was “Thanks, ma’am. You take it easy when you get off.” Which got me a big smile, too.

      Most people just want to be accepted and for folks to treat them OK, whether they have gender issues or not. So I try to be good to folks who don’t seem to be trying to piss me off.

      A heads-up may make things a little smoother, but if your folks are easy-going probably won’t be needed depending on if sibling-in-law presents strongly one way or the other. If SIL is vague about gender, people can get by without using gender at all until they figure it out, right?

  3. My Mom was always the biggest Christmas go-getter in the family. Her birthday was in early december. She hosted the holiday gatherings. She loved the novelty christmas music. She died in June.

    With my brother and I both having moved out, I don’t think my father’s even going to put up a tree this year.

    So, I’m not just going to be mourning her, I’m going to be mourning how she shaped our family holidays.

    1. *hugs* if wanted. My family’s time-honored Christmas traditions also fell off when my grandmother died. I hope you find peace and in the future can enjoy the memories without sorrow.

    2. killiara, all my sympathies – for your loss, and for a time that emphasises her absence. My mother was the holiday lynch-pin, and the first few holiday seasons after she died were … not awful, but very different (such gathering as we did was at someone else’s house, instead of everybody at hers where we grew up) and that was hard in itself. I hope you all have the support you need.

    3. Jedi hugs to you.

      My first Christmas without my mom was really difficult for similar reasons. She didn’t host the extended family gatherings, but we had a lot of “just us” traditions and we got each other through the extended family holiday tensions with humor.

    4. That is so hard, and I’m so sorry.

      We will never hang stockings again, because my dad was always the one who made it so silly. We’ll never take another Christmas Eve photo, because he was the photographer, and all the photos are of us laughing while he tried to make it in front of the camera in time.

      The first year after he died, none of us put up a tree. We went to a place we’d never been before, just to look at something different.

      The next year, when we were all at home, was actually a little harder – we were over the shock.

      Six years on, we still cry about him every Christmas. But last year, I was standing in a store with my mom when she said, “Oh! I have Christmas spirit! I thought it would never come back!”

      It never gets *easy*. But it gets easiER.

      I hope you’ll find ways to be gentle with yourselves, to let yourselves mourn in whatever way you need to. And I hope that amid the pain, you’ll also find memories of your mom that can make you smile.

      1. Thanks for saying this, Virginia. I’m three years out from my dad’s death and my mom doing something bad enough for me to cut off almost all contact (right before the holidays, too). The first year I was in shock, the second year I was really busy and traveling a lot, so this is the first year I’m wrestling with how to make new traditions, and it’s been tough.
        This is what I needed to read today.

        1. I’m so glad. Take tender care of your dear self, stayce. The waters of grief are rough, but they don’t stay rough forever. You’ll find calm seas.

    5. Hi long-lost sibling? Mother’s birthday in December, died in June. Well…different religion so different holidays, but we can still be siblings?

    6. Oh, all the Jedi hugs you can handle. Christmas hasn’t been the same for me since my dad died — 22 years ago — so I know exactly where you’re coming from.

    7. Sad fistbumps of solidarity. Mom died in August and was pretty much the only reason I had for loving Christmas, because I spent it with her. Hasn’t been the same since she’s been gone.

      Be nice to yourself. It’s ok to spend Christmas just doing nothing much.

      1. My mom died in September. She normally started her “what do you want for Christmas” emails about the time she died. She was a fervent Black Friday shopper and bought pretty much every present for everyone ever in less than 4 hours in a military style assault on retail establishments.

        She wasn’t always easy to get along with and for many years that email was dreaded because it meant I had to deal with her. This year I actually have something I’d like (crockpot, mine died) but no mom to bother me about it or to buy it.

        I’m so heartbroken I don’t know what to do.

        1. I’m so sorry. What do you think of this? Buy yourself a crockpot and have the store wrap it up for you. Get a card and write all the stuff on it that you wish she had said to you. Seal it all up and open it on Christmas. If I lived near you, I would actually do this for you! ❤

          1. that’s an incredibly kind and thoughtful suggestion. thank you so much. I’m actually considering it pretty seriously!

        2. Oh hun. I’m so sorry. I know it’s hard. I hope there are loved ones near you to give you the bear hugs you deserve. You’ll find your footing again.

    8. Hugs. The first Christmas after my mom passed that August, it helped us to get together, make a big holiday event, but do almost everything in a completely new/different way. In the years since, we’ve kept some of the new stuff and brought back some of the old stuff, but that deliberate break was wonderful permission and acknowledgement of the weirdness. I hope you find what helps you.

    9. Yes, hugs to you. I had the same experience. When my Mom died, I lost not only my Mom, but my family, too, asit had been. And Christmas. Mom did it all, the cookies, the tree, the gifts. Dad moved on quickly with a new wife and neither of them were interested in Christmas.

      It was really painful. I can’t see there’s any way around it. It must be felt fully.

      Ten years later the holidays are better. They’re less stressful for sure, and more about the solstice, friend parties, and food!

      So I wish you strength and endurance for this journey, and many shoulders to cry on when you need to.

      Very sorry for your loss. 😢

    10. My sympathies. My mom was like that, too; she had nativity scenes all over her house.

      For years, we had a set pattern for Christmas — Christmas Eve at my dad’s, Christmas morning with my grandparents, Christmas afternoon at Mom’s. My grandparents died, and we kept the rest of the pattern. Then Dad and his wife died and the next year Mom died, and we had no anchors any more.

      In the ensuing years, we’ve established new patterns. Two of my sisters have in-laws to visit. My daughter likes hotel buffets so we do that on Christmas Day, with her boyfriend who has no family near. My other sister hunkers down with her family, and then we all gather at her house the Saturday after.

      These are good patterns, too, but we wish we could share them with our parents. Mom would love the Saturday gatherings.

    11. Its a good idea to do that. My mum loved Christmas and she died nearly five years ago. Now that I have my own little family who will never know her, I had a conversation with my partner about how we could do Christmas so that Mum’s memory could be incorporated. I decided I would cook her signature dishes and this would be how my kids could learn about her. I always thought you didn’t grow up until you had your own kids, but it turns out you don’t really grow up until you lose a parent. My condolences to you and everyone.

    12. I’m so sorry. My mom died about four years ago, and she loved Christmas. I am in the process of becoming Jewish and struggle to find a special way to feel close to her this time of year without violating my beliefs. I hope the holiday memories can eventually become a source of comfort to you even if that’s not the case right now.

  4. I love this time of year, I just don’t love the frantic socializing, drunkenness, and consumerism. I get awfully Scroogey, which I try to hold in because my sweetie loves the holidays. But bah.

  5. I love the holiday season (which consists of… Christmas, as I am a Brit) but the fact that I only buy for one person now reminds me of how many people I’ve lost. Dad: gone. Brother: dead. Grandparents: dead. Partner: gone. Closest friends: no longer doing gift exchange and in one case gone. I will still be surrounded by family and having a great time, and I know I’m very lucky, but it still stings.

    1. I feel for you (Brit here, too). Mum’s gone. Aunt & Uncle have gone from tolerable to outright offensive (racist, UKIP-voting, IDS fans). 2 formerly closest friends have stopped talking to me (after I called one of them out for being outrageously homophobic; I was tactless, but absolutely stand by the content of what I said). Being surrounded by “CHRISTMAS IS GREAT LOOK AT ALL THESE PERFECT LARGE FAMILIES HAVING REALLY EXPENSIVE FUN” really really, hurts.

  6. Tomorrow night, for the first time since Xmas ’13, I fly out to visit Dad, siblings, and my racist, classist, fat-shaming, poor-shaming, homo-antagonistic, invasively nosy, r*pe apologist, victim-blaming, misogynist, objectifying, Catholic guilt-tripping, Evil Stepmother.

    This is the first time I’ve paid for my own plane ticket, so I’ll only be there for 2 days and 3 nights instead of the usual 9-day Xmas trip that inevitably puts me to tears. This is the first time I’ve made arrangements to stay with “friends” instead of at the family house, and I know I’ll catch no end of shit for it. The city has both Lyft and Uber, and I can afford not to rely on family for transportation. I registered for a Turkey Day 5k so I have something enjoyable to look forward to, even if it’s freezing and I can’t actually breathe at altitude. Team FieryMon knows what’s up and is prepared to triple the volume of Snapcats. I’ve no reservations about raiding the family liquor cabinet, and with ice on the ground, I’ll not likely be permitted to drive anyway (native southerner). My Friday flight is early enough that I’ll not be roped into that horrible shopping holiday.

    It is entirely possible that the trip will be pleasant only because it’s so short (though with no shortage of guilt-tripping for not staying longer), but I am not hopeful. I am barely managing my anxiety.

    Jedi hugs and snapcats (and other floofs) welcome (same handle), and I am happy to reciprocate. *Katniss solidarity salute to you all*

    1. Hey, it sounds (ish) like you might be coming to my neck of the woods (people don’t usually worry about altitude in very many places!) and if that’s the case I’m happy to provide a convenient coffee excuse or something if needed!

      1. Thanks, @Pumpkin. From your linked Twitter profile, I’ll actually be in a different state but same region.

        1. Hahah okay, coffee not a possibility but my thoughts will be with you in this difficult time!! 🙂 I don’t have snapchat but I’m on IG. I’ll do a bunch of kitty pics over the break! I will also be live tweeting terrible movies on Netflix for sure all day Wednesday!

    2. Sending Jedi hugs to you! It sounds like you’ve done your damnedest to prepare for the worst. I hope that the visit is tolerable!

    3. That sounds like a terrific self care plan.

      When I visit my very stressful family, I make sure to take the day I come back off (if I come back in the evening, I take the next day off), and I schedule a nice, small, thank-god-I’m-back party/brunch/dinner with friends. That way, even if spending time with family sucks, I have my party/brunch to look forward to with my close friends.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion. I’d been hoping to hit an orphan thanksgiving over the weekend after I return but haven’t seen any invites, so I’ll plan my own shindig.

      1. I think it’s French, there’s snapchat and snapchien 😛 (I cannot take credit for the amazing pun, I saw it on tumblr with a snapchat of a cat titled “snapchat” followed by one of a dog labeled “snapchien”).

    4. Ha! I’m in the same state as Pumpkin dePie, so my mind immediately went where hers did! Best of luck to you, fierymon. I’ve heard the entire time zone will be neck-deep in snow by tomorrow, so if you can find a way to use that as an excuse to minimize stressful contact (make plans to bail out early, due to fears of what the flight pile-ups will do by the weekend, perhaps?), go for it!

  7. I’m much more of an “ugh, Christmas” person right now, even though I don’t have anything particularly painful associated with the holidays.

    – I will be very lucky if I manage gifts for all the people I care about.
    – I am going to spend more money than I want to.
    – Dreading the rounds of “so what are you doing with your life?” from various relatives. Maybe it’s just my branch of the family which is incredibly judgmental about how all the other cousins are doing! . . . right.
    – my sister-in-law is very “into” the holidays, which to me says “There is nothing you can do that will be good enough for the magical idea in my head.”
    – the religious stuff makes my blood run cold. I was unpleasantly surprised last Christmas during the Christmas Eve service when I realized I didn’t believe in it anymore. I used to think of myself as nonpracticing rather than a nonbeliever, but it’s now closer to the second.
    – the only good gift I can think of for my niece (starting a savings account for college) fills me with fear for the future.

    1. I don’t really have anything helpful to say, but I can offer jedi hugs. I also hate the rounds of “what are you doing with your life”. Seriously, if I knew, I’d be off doing it, now wouldn’t I?

      I don’t know how religious the rest of your family is, but I’m sure it will be stressful to have all of them believing and you not. Is there any way you can politely excuse yourself from the religious things, or have something else to do? You could be very apologetic that you have to miss this religiousy thing, but really, you need to do this other thing.

      1. Thanks for the Jedi hugs, Kadence! I have extra rounds of anxiety because my family’s not awesome at dealing with failure, and while I have some pretty good ideas for what I want to try, all of them come with a pretty high risk that I will crash and burn.

        As for the religion thing. . . it’s not so much that my family is religious, but more that I’m sad for how I’ve changed. The Christmas Eve service used to be make me feel connected to my family and my town and my region — it happens in the church where my dad grew up, after a family reunion with all the cousins on his side in the church kitchen, and we’d always sit with all the cousins in the same part of the balcony that we’d sat every year of my childhood. But last year it was in the new church gym, we didn’t sit with any family, and I guess that was enough to jar me into realizing that the religion I was raised in doesn’t have any meaning for me anymore. Which, you know, is fine, except for the attendant feelings of alienation and loneliness. 😛 Blerugh to myself for navel-gazing.

  8. I’m a longtime reader but this is my first time commenting.

    I’m really struggling right now–I’m going through a divorce as a single parent to a toddler with no local support system. I have an awesome job which is great. My ex is a dirtbag. I’m going to be alone on Thanksgiving. And my therapist just went a week without responding to my requests to see me in crisis mode, and when she did respond, she told me to find another therapist. Oh and I just pretty much had a breakdown in my boss’s office.


    1. Would you like some Jedi hugs? If so, have them all! This first year will be the hardest, there’s no way around it. I hope that the day goes by quickly, and that you’re able to find a new and amazing therapist soon.

    2. Jedi Hugs. I’m a divorcee too, had no local support during my divorce, so I know what you are going through. Do try to do something for yourself on Thanksgiving. Go out to eat (there are some restaurants open!). Rent your favorite movies from your childhood. Phone all of your friends. Maybe cook a mini-thanksgiving dinner for yourself. Or my favorite during my divorce: Oreo cookies and milk for dinner. Or, simply celebrate being out of a bad relationship and celebrate the new start you are giving yourself!

      1. FWIW, my experience of finding restaurants open: Hotel restaurants, in particular, are likely to be open so the hotel patrons have someplace to eat.

        My wife and I had a really lovely Thanksgiving meal at the hotel restaurant at a small-but-fancy hotel in Chicago a few years back. (And, as a bonus, the room rates were about 1/3 of usual — $130/night instead of $400 or so — because of the holiday.)

    3. Wow, thank you all for this! I would love Jedi hugs. This is really helpful. I’m going to bone up on self care because I think that’s what’s lacking and what will help right now!

      My 2 year old is on a sleep strike so that’s really mitigating my ability to cope.

      1. ALL the jedi hugs for you. I hope you find an awesome new therapist soon.

        Do you have a way of getting support from non-local Team You? I’ve sometimes asked my best friend if it’s okay to keep an open channel with her via texting on important holidays. I don’t know if this is a solution for you, but it has really helped me to know that at least there’s someone listening if I need to talk.

      2. More Jedi hugs!

        I’ve also had a therapist quit on me because I went into crisis mode. It sucks a lot. Glad you’re getting some help here and I hope you can find a therapist who’s a better fit.

        And I have a 2 year old who doesn’t like to sleep either. What worked for me (yesterday and the day before at least) was putting up a baby gate on her room and letting her play and/or fuss until she fell asleep on the mat on the floor. Good luck.

        And I have breakdowns in public too, so you’re not alone in that either. Don’t know what else to say about this aspect–you’re not alone, though.

      3. All of these comments are so helpful and uplifting! I got in for an emergency session with my therapist today, my sister found me a new one and got me an appointment in 2 weeks and I’m seeing my GP for meds tomorrow to get me through.

        Reading this is helping me power through and be strong for my child. What an awesome community.

        1. Glad things are looking up a bit for you. I hope you find ways of making the holiday more-than-tolerable.

    4. I’m so sorry. I hope your boss was supportive.

      I am in awe of anyone who can be a single parent to a toddler, let alone hold down a job at the same time. They are exhausting, even when they’re lovely. Add the stress of separation and the holiday period – well, you should be very, very proud of yourself.

    5. That sounds like a lot to be dealing with so you are doing super great to be doing what ever you can manage. lots of *jedi hugs* Also seconding the yummy things treat plan. Cake in a Mug and rice crispie cakes are so tasty.

  9. This is the first holiday since my spouse left. The kids will be with her for Thanksgiving, and it makes me terribly sad. No family picture this year. It’s like the first official marker that my family is broken.

  10. This will be my first holiday after my divorce, so I’m sort of dreading it. I also have this weird illusion that once I get home (In December) somehow being back in my country with my family will make everything better, but I know it is not the case so I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment,

  11. I am sick with pneumonia. I’ve turned down a bunch of invitations and will probably spend thanksgiving the same way I’ve spent most of the last few months, drinking soup in front of my computer and going crazy from loneliness. Actually now that I mention it, I wonder if there is an open chatroom for people who are isolated on holidays due to illness, so I could at least hang out with people online? Anyone know anything like that?

    1. Nothing comes to mind but sometimes forums exist for specific conditions? A thread with that topic might fit there.

      1. The FoCA forums are good for this! You are definitely not the only one who will be physically alone on the holidays. I used to play MMOs and that was my go-to.

        But if you want an actual web-based chat service… hmm. Idk. Maybe someone downthread will have an idea? If someone knows of a client and wants to start one up, I mean, that’s basically how the forums came to life.

    2. Following hhhhhhhhhh’s comment, it seems like the Captain Awkward forums might be a good place for such a thread, for people who are isolated for whatever reason.

      I am home sick with the flu, and really missing being able to do all the running-around Thanksgiving preparation that I usually do, so I offer virtual-hugs of solidarity (or other non-hug forms of solidarity if preferred). I’m sad that your illness is not as short-lived as mine hopefully will be. 😦

    3. I feel you, multicoastal. I had flu one Christmas and was much to ill to do the travelling-to-family thing that I do most years. Plus I would have just slept and croakily demanded Lucozade, so it would have been a washout. I spent Christmas completely alone and it was a bit rubbish, but the internet is always there and you definitely won’t be the only one. Take good care of yourself, watch a favourite movie, and have blankies. Lots and lots of blankies.

  12. I work in a retail-ish job and already customers are getting demanding, more overly entitled than usual, and super, super nasty. 😦

    Please, everyone – (though I am probably preaching to the choir here) remember that retail workers are people too, with feelings, and no one deserves verbal abuse, even if we don’t have what you need in stock or you don’t like our products. This has been my PSA.

    1. I have NEVER understood why people get so irate at retail or service employees in general, let alone over the holidays. Like, it’s not that serious people! Hugs!

      1. At my last retail job I came to realise that some people deliberately antagonise retail staff because it gives them a thrill. It’s awful but true. This can happen at all times of year though. I’m just glad my current retail job doesn’t seem to attract these people.

        It is true that holiday crowds can cause stress, especially when queues are long. I wish people would cut us some slack though, and stop blaming us for things no one has any control over. My personal PSA to customers over this season is PLEASE, think about what you say to us. If you feel like having a long rant over long queues, or your opinion of the current state of our business, and then following it up with ‘oh, I’m not mad at YOU’ …..just don’t do it. Please. That last part you threw in doesn’t change the fact that you subjected a relatively innocent, definetly powerless low level employee to a rant. It hurts. Please understand that listening to your ranting is hurtful and exhausting, and we have enough on our plates already.

    2. I have had that too, and it sucks and is really draining/upsetting to deal with. To anyone dealing with that at the moment, it is not your fault, you have not done anything wrong and you deserve to be treated with respect and decency.

    3. I did that for a year too, and I feel your pain. I’ve noticed that in general most people want to be decent human beings, but sometimes they.. forget, this time of year. And some people just enjoy being nasty. (I don’t know if it will help, but if I have someone particularly awful, I tell myself, “Jackalope, you have to put up with them for 5 [10, 15, whatever] minutes. They have to put up with themselves ALL. THE. TIME.” That helps, since I can’t imagine that it’s FUN to be that awful to people. So I got the better end of the deal. But they should still know better.)

    4. Oh man, I really hated the years I worked in retail. And, not surprisingly, I was also terrible at it. I do understand customers getting tired and cranky because they’ve had a long day, but the person they’re taking it out on is also a person who’s had an equally long and stressful day… who usually had nothing to do with whatever problem they’re having and/or has no power to fix it anyway. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for many people to treat those in public/service jobs like actual humans. Extra holiday hugs to get you through the season!

  13. Three days to go and my mom has already:

    1. Told me that I am going grocery shopping for her before she gets here and given me a list. (I did not agree to this but my husband did, so this is now between them. She is not staying with us.)
    2. Scolded me for not RSVPing to my cousin for Thanksgiving. I believe her when she said she told me to do this. But the tone of her comments were not appropriate for her relationship. And since there is a whole history of her mis-reporting what other people say to her in ways that enable her to tell me I’ve totally screwed something up and must remedy it, I do not believe her when she said that my very easygoing cousin, who is hosting, was extremely bothered by this.
    3. Sent packages to my apartment for herself and other relatives who she will be seeing while she’s out here.
    4. Informed us that our plans for how long we were going to stay at Thanksgiving were not adequate. Well, they are going to have to be because I’m not disrupting my kid’s bedtime.

    Some of these would not be so bad, but we just don’t have a close relationship and she’s so demanding about them. Like, if she’d actually asked about the groceries or if she could send packages, that would be ok. Just telling me, like she has that kind of authority, is not ok.

    1. I’m so sorry. I don’t know if it will help at all but sometimes when the overbearing people in our life do this, my sister and I text about them until we feel better. Any chance your cousin would understand a “my mom is… “my momming” again and is making me feel like you’re mad at me. I’m pretty sure you aren’t but I just wanted to double check and apologize if I did anything to cause it” text? you might end up being able to commiserate a bit. Just a thought to go along with my mental support. ❤

  14. Normally, I love Christmas, mainly because I get to see my maternal family (grandparents and cousins) which happens only once or twice a year. They live quite far away, most of them are AWESOME and I love them so.
    This year, however, everbody has decided to stay at home – or at least, their respective cities – because the travel is always quite stressful. It’s kind of a bummer, but I totally understand everybody’s decision. It’s also not the first time we have celebrated Christmas “apart”. That means partner and I will travel to my mom’s and spend Christmas only with her and my little brother. Oh yeah, and my mother’s terrible boyfriend.
    It’s a long story but I loathe him and the fact that he’s in a relationship with my mother. I try to be supportive of my mom’s happiness but have expressed to her that I do really not like him and why. The fact that they’re still together after all he’s done frankly baffles me and puts kind of a strain on my relationship to my mom.
    My mother expects me to spend Christmas with her as I have done every Christmas up until now. But with her BF there and the rest of my family elsewhere, I’m really not sure anymore. I do want to see my mom and my brother and I don’t want to make her decide between me and her BF. But it’s very stressful for me to spend time with him. And especially Christmas, which, as I said, normally is so special and fun to me.
    Unfortunately, spending Christmas with my grandparents is out of the question.Travelling there is considerably more expensive and it would also really upset my mother. She already ‘joked’ that if I wanted to see the rest of my family I could only go there after spending Christmas’ Eve with her.
    I’m so annoyed at having my favourite holiday of the year ruined by this guy. Ugh.

  15. really wrestling with the fact that my wife’s safe space (her folks) is my least safe space. Have compromised and will only be there 2 out of the 4 days, but it was a tearful compromise.

    1. That’s hard, yeah. My wife’s family is … not an unsafe space for me, just an awkward and tiring space, and the compromise that we’ve come to is that we spend a reasonable bit of our holidays with me at my mom’s and her with her family. Of course, that’s in a situation where the two families live an hour’s drive apart and we live on the other side of the country from them, so “we have limited time and this lets us spend as much as we can with our respective families” is an obvious excuse for it. After a few years for us to get used to it, it has made things much less stressful, and I hope for a similar outcome for you.

  16. We usually have a huge Christmas Eve feast with my husband’s family. I am really not sure what we’re going to do this year, since his brother has decided not to attend our daughter’s wedding (she is his goddaughter) this Friday.

    This is only the last of a decade long pattern of breathtaking self-absorption on his part and a decades-long family pattern of just-not-giving-a-damn about us; my husband, my children and myself. We are very handy to have around in a crisis – like taking in the dying mother for her last years of her life – but the rest of the time? We get ignored.

    I think my six adult children (the only kids out of the four siblings) have Just About Had Enough and may stage a rebellion and refuse to attend Christmas Eve this year. I won’t blame them, but it’ll be hard on hubby.

    1. Oh, ugh. If you don’t want to burn bridges, now might be a time to take the initiative: can you invite his family to your Christmas celebration? And if they don’t want to come, well, y’all just enjoy yourselves?

  17. I’m going to TGiving with my mom, stepfather, and a bunch of other steps who I don’t know well and don’t feel like I have much in common. My sister and her family are going to be out of town so my only blood relation will be my mom. I think it’ll be ok, but I get quickly drained from dealing with people I don’t feel entirely familiar with, so I’m planning to be sure and take some time away if I need it and also hang out with an old friend in the evening after the festivities are over.

    It’s not a big ugh, but I’m sad not to see my sisters on Thanksgiving (my other sister lives in another part of the country).

    1. Oh I hear ya! I’m planning on sending people real life letters on real paper, and maybe.. get some back! Real mail with feelings in it makes me so happy.

  18. I’ll be alone during Christmas and New Year’s. I get to see my parents and sister next week, which will be the first time we’ve all been together in over two years (we all live in different countries; we’ll all be India to see my sister, after which my parents will spend a few days in Spain with me), but Christmas and NYE will be spent all by my lonesome. Hopefully, I’ll find a Christmas and NYE get-together to attend.

    1. Also, this is my third november in Madrid, and the first in which I wouldn’t have had to practically search around and beg for an invitation to a Thanksgiving get-together. Unfortunately, all the invitations are for lunch or dinner on Saturday, and I’ll be on my way to India. I’m not complaining about that per se, but I’ve been struggling trying to really make friends the entire time I’ve been here. I’m possibly-irrationally-but-not-entirely worried about not being able to go to events and never being invited again.

      1. I’ve been the American living in Spain before. It can be lonely. I hope you find a way to make this holiday feel good for you.

  19. I’m fairly certain I’ll be filing for divorce after the holidays, but until then, I just feel so f*cking awful. I’m going to all of these family parties, smiling, knowing this is very possibly the last time I’ll see this extended family (which I do like and will miss dearly) and thinking about how fake they’re going to think I was when they find out. I’m waiting because I won’t have a stable job or a place to stay until then. Plus, he’s made it clear he can be reckless so I have to make sure I’m ready for sh!t to go down. To me, this waiting makes sense; It’s what’s best. But still, when my husband realizes that I bought him gifts while having my lawyer draft up documents he’ll have good reason to say I used him while hiding how I felt and that’s Not What I Want. I don’t want to be that horrible, user of an ex wife. I’m just so f*cking conflicted.

    Plus, I keep getting all nostalgic about this being The Last Christmas the family spends together. The Last Christmas my kids will have mom and dad together and its breaking my heart.

    1. I’m so sorry. Since your extended family sound like good folks, I doubt they’ll think you’re being “fake”, but just trying to keep it together for the holidays before everything’s final. They should understand that.

    2. Oh honey. I’m so sorry. All the hugs in the world.

      You aren’t being duplicitous, you’re being smart and careful. From what you’ve said about him before, I think it’s pretty obvious that he started behaving in a way that most people would recognize as bad and disrespectful and duplicitous quite a while ago. Please don’t feel bad about doing what you have to do to be safe and secure. Also: I hope your lawyer is an impervious destructo-bot!

      I believe in you.

    3. when my husband realizes that I bought him gifts while having my lawyer draft up documents he’ll have good reason to say I used him while hiding how I felt and that’s Not What I Want

      You could just as easily frame it as you wanting him to have one last Christmas together as a family or that you wanted to spare him (and yourself, and the kids) the stress of holidays and divorce at the same time. I don’t know if that’s helpful, but if I personally ever had to get divorced I would really, really appreciate not having to explain over and over at every holiday party that my plans for the new year involve divorce paperwork and feeling like I’m ruining everyone’s good time with the news. Not that you would be a bad person if you had been able to start proceedings before the holidays, just that anything you do can be either The Worst or Totally Reasonable depending on how well the person deciding that likes you.

      Oh, and like I said in reply to another comment, if he wanted to hear your real feelings right away he’d make it safe for you to share them. If you have to keep things under wraps until it’s safe, that’s on him, not on you.

      All the jedi hugs, that sounds really hard. I hope you’re able to get through the holidays okay and maybe get a chance to do something nice for yourself.

    4. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t in the exact same position as you – no marriage and no kids in my case, praise FSM – but the day I told myself, “I can’t go through this facade anymore,” was two weeks before Christmas three years ago. Which means nothing to me, being a Jewish atheist and all, but did to my Gentile then-boyfriend. You have to do what you have to do, though, and the timing, it seems, is never right when you’re breaking the news that it’s over. I wish you strength, courage, and support to get through the holidays as well as what’s coming after.

    5. On a very practical note: if his family are good folks, and your children will want to continue relations with them, make sure that you yourself have their contact details in your address book so they (and you) can send their own Christmas/Birthday cards next year. That feels like a detail that’s so often forgotten.

      1. Good call! Thank you so much for that. In the midst of trying to wrap up all the loose ends, that’s the sort of thing that may have been forgotten.

  20. My partner and I just moved cross-country; she’s flying home to see her folks and I’m going to a very awesome potluck with wonderful new friends and stashing away my barely-accrued vacation time. But in the time since we made that plan months ago, we’ve gotten engaged (to her family’s suspiciously underwhelming response), she’s gotten the go-ahead for major surgery, and her family’s plans have ballooned from ‘parents and grandparents, nbd’ to ‘dozens of extended family, most of whom haven’t seen her since before her transition.’ I just dropped her off to catch her flight, and I’m feeling some guilt for having all the fun when she could really use the back-up after all.

  21. My fiancee and I split up in January, so this will be the first holiday in ten years that I’ve been single. There’s also been a TON of rumours flying around (that appear to be fairly well substantiated) that he’s spending a lot of time with/dating a former friend of mine (she was going to be a bridesmaid in our wedding). So I’m not feeling super festive this year, and I’m a person who normally LOVES the holidays. But picturing him with her just makes me sick to my stomach, and of course I’m convinced that they are amazingly happy and laughing at me. I’m doing my best to focus on things in my life that are going well, and my own holiday plans (which are awesome, family is going on a cruise in the Caribbean!). But still, they suck and I can’t stand either of them right now.

    1. Jedi hugs if you want them. In 2012 my fiance called off our engagement after I asked him for a commitment about our life plans. I was gutted (it was a month before my birthday) and that first Christmas was tough. It was the right call because he wasn’t able to follow through on his promises but I felt humiliated and heartbroken. I made all kinds of assumptions about his life based on gossip from friends and tortured myself with it all. He wasn’t living it up or breezing through the break up like I imagined.

      Really, I was grieving the difference between what I thought we had and the reality; he could see a life without me and he wanted his freedom. So everything about his life stung because I had to accept that there was nothing wrong with him or me except that we were so wrong for each other, no holiday miracle could change that. He didn’t outwardly show his grief and that made me want to punch him in the face or cry alone in the sofa, full of gin aglow with the Xmas fairy lights.

      The next few years were good ones, I flourished, got happy with living alone, kicked career ass and one of the acquaintances I met through him is my best friend. In 2013 I (unexpectedly) met a guy who is awesone for me. We were both independent, cynical and we took dating slow. He had a broken engagement years ago. After a few years of dating, we live together, he is my true love and I can count on him – he is everything I never thought I could asked for in a partner. It’s Christmas 2015 and I am relieved I didn’t marry my ex.

      It’s going to hurt because you loved him and trusted him and you hoped for a future; those qualities make you awesome and you can hold your head up high because a broken engagement is not a failure, it’s a brave acknowledgement that your life and who you spend it with is a big decision you won’t compromise. I know that the sort of courage and character it takes to go through this loss will set you up for a brighter future than you could have imagined, whether it brings you marriage or not. Go easy on yourself this season. There is hope. Whatever ex and bridesmaid from hell are up to, you deserve your love and respect.

      It gets better.

  22. This is the first Thanksgiving since my husband died last January. We had 3 daughters; in the months since he died, #1 has moved from California to Florida (excellent move for her, happy about that, but I miss her), #2 has cut us off for what she sees as valid reasons, but the rest of us do not (long story for Not This Post), and #3 and her husband moved in the house so I wouldn’t lose it. Oh, and just signed Mom’s hospice papers…

    Over the past 10 years, the holidays have gone from massive but (to me) enjoyable gatherings with DH’s family (a lot of work, some stress, but a good well shared labor of love). So, I’ve gone from having 23+ people of the greater family to enjoy and share food with on Thanksgiving, to me, 2 daughters and 1 son-in-law, Mom-if-she-has-the-energy (she may not, and it’s a drive to fetch her and return her, so very tiring for her) – 3-5 people at the table. It’s depressing as hell.

    There’s less stress, in a way, due to no husband’s alcoholic drunken tirades and general crankitude and worry about what he’d say to whom. More stress – will Mom have the energy to come to dinner? And will I have to spend 4 hours on the road getting and returning her? Less stress – much easier cooking job, and we’re staging a lot of it.

    So yeah, LOTS of feels, but I’m having pie (already made it), stuffing (to do), turkey and gravy (T-day) and I WILL be cheerful. In spots. And morose in spots. Hopefully, mostly cheerful. I don’t want to spend the day in tears! Or drag down the people who DO come to the table.

  23. Not looking forward to hearing my brother rehash all his arguments and discussions of things I disagree strongly with him on. We live together, so I get cornered for his rants on the regular these days, but family gatherings are now becoming a special hell where I have to hear them all all over again.

        1. I heartily recommend the “going out for some air” escape. It works wonders provided the person you’re trying to get away from doesn’t try to come right along with you

  24. I’m fairly certain I’ll be filing for divorce after the holidays, but until then, I just feel so f*cking awful. I’m going to all of these family parties, smiling, knowing this is very possibly the last time I’ll see this extended family (which I do like and will miss dearly) and thinking about how fake they’re going to think I was when they find out. I’m waiting because I won’t have a stable job or a place to stay until then. Plus, he’s made it clear he can be reckless so I have to make sure I’m ready for sh!t to go down. To me, this waiting makes sense; It’s what’s best. But still, when my husband realizes that I bought him gifts while having my lawyer draft up documents he’ll have good reason to say I used him while hiding how I felt and that’s Not What I Want. I don’t want to be that horrible, user of an ex wife. And on top of it all it’s so hard to just keep pretending that I don’t feel sour towards him. I’m just so f*cking conflicted.

    Plus, I keep getting all nostalgic about this being The Last Christmas the family spends together. The Last Christmas my kids will have mom and dad together and its breaking my heart.

  25. Usually I am pretty YAY holidays. But this year is a continuation of the last two years of ongoing shitty luck for myself and most of my family. Not to mention we have the first anniversary of losing my Mother in Law coming up next week. (WHO I REALLY LIKED SO NO DEAD MIL JOKES PLEASE. I was surprised how often I’ve had to be like “no, I actually loved her and am super sad.”)

    I feel like just spending the next two months hiding in my house, but I’m sure it would fall down on top of us if we did that. So I’m going to try very hard to be grateful for what we do have, which is a lot, while we navigate ongoing hassles.

    1. My experience is that after that first anniversary, which is awful and horrible, everything does slowly start getting a little easier (not much sometimes, but a little), mostly because there aren’t many more First Since big days. I hope it is the same for you and your family. Much love.

      1. This is really reassuring to hear. Having my own year of First Sinces (in my case, my beloved grandfather died) and it’s good to hear it gets better when right now every holiday feels worse and worse…

        1. I had a year of firsts two years ago. It was just a really rough year, and all of the holidays were spent crying and raw. The second year was a little bit better, and I’m coming into the third year now, and things aren’t as bad. You get wistful. You remember something, and it makes you laugh and cry at the same time, but it isn’t the soul-crush that it used to be. Jedi hugs to get you through the first year if you would like.

  26. My children are going through many many rough patches, my ex is still on the crazy warpath (and I have to spend the holidays preparing for another court appearance), my friend at work is suicidal, my man is wobbly about us; I’m trying to figure out how to a) afford and b) get him to go to good counseling with me, and I’m stressed and worried about money. Usually I ADORE Thanksgiving, and I’m looking forward to the celebration, but my background has a lot of dark.

    1. Aaaaaand, now I get an email to both us parents that the (beloved, to me, very much) Big Kid needs an amount of money very fast to register for classes which will be quite painful for me to pay half of. Never mind I shouldn’t pay half, because I make a third. . . never mind all the other stuff about money and school and strings that has been visited on this kid — I don’t know what to do.

      I’m so sad.

  27. I’ve been kind of meh on the holidays for a few years. I live alone and don’t have much family (none of it close by). I appreciate the invitations I get from various friends, but sometimes they are also stressful. Sometimes being a holiday stray turns out really well, and other times, it is just awkward as hell (especially if everyone else there is super-close). And you never know what it’s going to be (Schrodinger’s Holiday Dinner.) Some friends who invite me already have fraught holiday tensions going on, being the stranger in the middle of that is even worse than simply not knowing anyone but the host.

    I’m perfectly happy with my plans to chill out at home with my dog for the holidays. It’s not lonely or fraught or stressful. And yet, I hate to tell people that when they ask about my plans. I don’t want the look of pity from most folks, and I don’t want to hurt the friends who are inviting me to join them. And I sure as hell don’t want people to think I’m fishing for an invite. I wish it were more acceptable to talk about celebrating solo in a low-key way.

    I’m really looking forward to my solo holiday time. I’m just dreading talking about it, ya know?

    1. I’m 100% with you on the spending-holidays-alone-is-the-best train. When people ask me about my plans, I normally go over the video games I plan on playing with great enthusiasm. If they ask about spending time with my family, I’ll make some glib comment about having done this for years and not wanting to break tradition.

    2. I suppose you could always lie and claim you’re seeing your family?

      Having been the awkward invitee at someone else’s family, I feel ya. I don’t quite have this issue at Thanksgiving, but nobody will take us for Christmas, so every year it’s something different and weird, mostly alone.

      1. I usually prefer giving less info than volunteering lies. “Sorry, I just won’t be able to make it this year” is harder to get ‘caught’ with.

        Broken record it the whole way.

    3. I’m doing the same (with partners but no other family), and tend to pitch it as “I can’t wait to enjoy a quiet day off at home!”.

  28. Thanks for this, Cap and co. I’m an ardent lurker, but just wanted to chime in to say thank you for the consistent and counter-cultural recognition and support I find here that family/holidays are not warm and fuzzy for everyone. I have dear friends and chosen family, but in a deep way also feel essentially alone (immigrant, unpartnered, bio-fam fractured and far away), especially this time of year. It’s like that for some of us, and invisibility obviously makes it that much more painful. Sending care and warmth to all, may we all feel held and connected in whatever ways are accessible and real, this time of year and always.

    1. You put that so articulately and I van relate to the gratitude of knowing that there are a lot of us to support each other. May this one be a blessed holiday for you.

  29. Sorry if this double posts, but it keeps getting deleted? Anyway.

    I’m fairly certain I’ll be filing for divorce aftert the holidays. I’m waiting because I won’t have a stable job or a place to go until then. And my husband has made it clear he can be wreckless so I need to have myself together before sh!t goes down. To me, waiting makes sense. But still, I feel so awful. I’m going to all these family parties, smiling, knowing this is probably the last time I’ll see this extended family (which I do like and will miss) and thinking about how fake they’ll think I was when they find out. And then when my husband realizes that I bought him gifts while having my lawyer draw up documents he’ll have good reason to accuse me of using him while lying to him – and being a horrible person is Not What I Want. I’m just so f*ucking conflicted.

    Plus, I keep getting nostalgic about his being the last Christmas the family spends together; the last Christmas the kids will remember mom and dad waking up with them to open gifts and make breakfast, and it’s breaking my heart.

    1. I’m so sorry this posted a bazillion times! The page loading kept failing and when I would reload the page it wasn’t posted! Uhg. Any way to delete these?

      1. I think it was the universe’s way of getting you some extra Jedi hugs. (((here if you want them))) And go easy on yourself – I recognize the tendency to apply perceived etiquette rules to your behavior when you are, in fact, in survival mode. Maybe instead of viewing you as “fake,” your extended in-law family will later realize how much f*cking effort it took for you to navigate these holidays with grace when your world was in turmoil. And that it was a gift that you were trying to give them. I recall reading some of your posts here, and I sincerely hope next year is better for you.

    2. That sounds really rough, a lot of pain to shoulder alone. I hope you have some downtime yo offload your thoughts to a journal or friend and that the new year brings you the beginnings of a life you want.

    3. this is the most heartbreaking thing ive ever read. cried myself to sleep that night. couldn’t even comment. my wife and I are in a similar situation. we both know that divorce is immanent, as I would imagine your husband is aware. no one gets here, on the threshold of life altering separation, by accident. As for his recklessness, I hope he can see past his pain and see yours. If hes anything like me, hes still madly in love with with his wife and words cant describe how hard this will be to hear.

      My wife and I have been trying (with varied successes) to mend. Like you she has no current means to support herself but shes dangerously smart and resilient. I cringe at the thought of her staying with me because she feels trapped. ive offered to help finance her next move because I feel ive failed to deliver on many promises. I don’t think she believes me. now, after reading this, I feel like I should be proactive and hand her the kind of papers she likely has been drafting in secret. To me, the thought of divorcing her is utter desolation, but the thought of my wife going through one more devastating ordeal for my sake is too much for me to handle.

      Theres no good time for your bad news. plain and simple. I would hope that you can use this last holiday of its kind to share something special with those you love. Don’t think of it as a false pretense to do something villainous. if my wife is where you are at, I wish she would be as thoughtful and compassionate as you. your husband is lucky to have a chance to stay together for now. As for his family, maybe they can understand that a failed marriage is impossible to blame on an individual. you’ll figure it all out and this will be just one part of your story that can and will improve.

      Merry Christmas for what its worth.

    4. this is the most heartbreaking thing ive ever read. cried myself to sleep that night. couldn’t even comment. my wife and I are in a similar situation. we both know that divorce is immanent, as I would imagine your husband is aware. no one gets here, on the threshold of life altering separation, by accident. As for his recklessness, I hope he can see past his pain and see yours. If hes anything like me, hes still madly in love with with his wife and words cant describe how hard this will be to hear.

      My wife and I have been trying (with varied successes) to mend. Like you she has no current means to support herself but shes dangerously smart and resilient. I cringe at the thought of her staying with me because she feels trapped. ive offered to help finance her next move because I feel ive failed to deliver on many promises. I don’t think she believes me that I will remain committed to her wellbeing. now, after reading this, I feel like I should be proactive and hand her the kind of papers she likely has been drafting in secret. To me, the thought of divorcing her is utter desolation, but the thought of my wife going through one more devastating ordeal for my sake is too much for me to handle.

      Theres no good time for your bad news. plain and simple. I would hope that you can use this last holiday of its kind to share something special with those you love. Don’t think of it as a false pretense to do something villainous. if my wife is where you are at, I wish she would be as thoughtful and compassionate as you. your husband is lucky to have a chance to stay together for now. As for his family, maybe they can understand that a failed marriage is impossible to blame on an individual. you’ll figure it all out and this will be just one part of your story that can and will improve.

      Merry Christmas

  30. Single for 8 months (no sex nghhhgfff) moving to new country just for December, then another one in january, then another in March… when will I ever get time for kissing?? Excited about travelling and doing all this great stuff, but sad lonely xmas times + just sads. eugh!

  31. Over the weekend, “let’s stay home for Christmas morning this year” spiraled into a Festival of Suck, and I have a Monday morning bad-feelings hangover. Anyone got a cure for those?

      1. This is so wunderful!!!

        Years ago we had a litter of kittehs, born on wife’s pillow one morning. Wonderful, too!

  32. I’m unemployed, not broke by being careful with my money, and far away from family whom I don’t get along all that well with anyway. I’ve never been a “Christmas” person, I’m always a bit relieved when it’s all over with and life can get back to normal. Just hoping for some decent snow so that I don’t have to drive 100 km out of town to cross-country ski.

  33. Feeling kinda anxious about the holiday season this year, especially since we actually are spending Thanksgiving with the immediate family this year, which means seeing my SIL who is back with her ex-husband who most of us want nothing to do with anymore. I’m not sure if she’ll bring him–he didn’t come to any of the recent family-stuff that’s happened–but I can’t help but dwell on how to deal with if he DOES show up to something. We don’t really have other family to visit for these events, so it’s basically hope things go well or spend the holidays by ourselves. And I mean, I want to see my SIL, and I especially want to have a relationship with her kids, but we are just. so. tired. of their yo-yo relationship.

  34. I know I’m not the only one being forced back into the closet over winter break because my family has no qualms about threatening the last year of my college tuition whenever I mention lgbt things… but it’d be nice to be reassured that I’m not a horrie human being for lying to them about half the things i do at school.

    1. I’m sorry that your family isn’t accepting and that they threaten your future because of who you are. I can relate; I recently graduated from uni and was forced to move back home and back into the closet full-time. It’s never an easy place to be, especially around the holidays, and you’re definitely not horrid for lying to them.They are the ones not allowing you to be yourself.

    2. You are absolutely not a horrid person for taking care of yourself in the ways that you need to. Being queer-antagonistic and making financial threats are horrible behaviors. Lying to keep yourself (mentally/emotionally/fiscally) safe in this situation is a good thing. *Jedi hugs* if desired.

    3. I don’t know whether the site ate my comment or will post a duplicate.

      You are absolutely not a horrible person for doing what you need to do to take care of yourself, Zofie. Queer antagonism and financial threats are horrible behavior. Lying to assure your mental/emotional/financial safety is a good choice. *Jedi hugs* if desired.

    4. Internet Stranger here, saying hell yeah its OK to do what you have to do to keep yourself safe and finish college. You are not a terrible human being for controlling the information you share with people who might use it to hurt you. Jedi hugs if you want them.

    5. You are not a horrible human being. You are doing what you need to do to be safe, and it sucks that you have to do it. Suck to have to hide the real you, who I bet is pretty damn excellent.
      One day, sooner then you think, you won’t have to do that anymore.

    6. You are not a horrible human being for lying to people who make you unsafe. You do what you have to do to be safe. You can make it. ❤

    7. You are not a horrible person. You are taking care of yourself and your future, in a way that makes things easier for both you and the bigots in your family, by not talking to them about things they don’t want to hear about. You don’t owe the rest of the world to sacrifice yourself on some altar of honesty.

    8. Re-framing exercise: you’re telling them what they want to hear. You’re making them happy while keeping yourself safe! Making people happy is good, right?
      Other mental exercises can include adding a “bazinga” in your head or fitting off into a day dream about future awesome job and awesome partner you will one day have when you are safe and free from having to worry about relatives being awful and loving you conditionally.

    9. If they’re threatening your tuition then they’re forcing you to lie. That’s on them, not on you. If they wanted to hear about what’s really going on for you, they’d make it safe for you to tell them.

    10. I think the theme for family dealings ought to be, “You gotta do what you gotta do.” You’re not a horrible human being for making choices that keep you safe in the moment AND set you up for financial independence in the future.

    11. It’s a damned shame that your family is behaving that way, but you’re handling it exactly right. Graduate from college, get a job, and then be as out as you wanna be!

    12. You’re being held hostage by their threats. You wouldn’t feel bad if this were a person with a gun demanding you claim that you’re straight, try to apply a similar principle here.

    13. I hope that one day you get to celebrate your holidays in a space where you feel safe and respected and loved- the way you deserve! Until then, a friend of mine pointed me toward a site that helps me (and others) imagine a space like that… not sure if it will help, but it may be worth a try? Look for “yourholidaymom”. It’s bittersweet to read sometimes, but it’s nice to see what a real safe space might look like in the future.

      Jedi hugs if you’re up for them! Rock that last year of college, do some things that you’ll be happy to talk about one day, and remember that pretty soon their financial threats will not be able to hold you back or dull your shine!

  35. Folks, how do I make it through these holidays without being quietly drunk all the time I am around my family? I use this method to avoid dealing with others’ bad behavior, to activate the brain cells of Not Giving a Fuck about queer/ace erasure, being in the nonmonogamy closet, etc etc… and while maintaining a well-behaved exterior. Looking for suggestions that will help me cope with the time that I am spending with my family – I’m already good at the disappearing part. Thanks…

    1. Sometimes I pretend I’m on the outside looking in. “Oh, Dad is launching into his standard schpiel about ‘yadda yadda blah blah everyone else is the problem and I am definitely stirring shit so I have an excuse to flip out on everyone’. Let’s see what thing he decides is ToxicNudibranch’s ONE TRUE PROBLEM this year.”

      1. I second this. If I can view my family’s behavior through the lens of Novelist Gathering Material for Hilarious, David Sedaris-inspired Memoir, it makes it less personally painful and more entertaining.

      2. Seconding! Or thirding, whatever. I like to imagine David Attenborough is narrating the occasion, nature documentary style. And here we see the Rednecked Southeastern Racists in their natural habitat…

        But if I’m going to take the bait and I know I’m going to take the bait, I switch to Steve Irwin narration. And here’s a Rednecked Southeastern Racist in the wild. I’m gonna wrestle it! 😀

    2. 1) Think of yourself in the future where you don’t have to see these people for months. Imagine how nice it will be to sit in perfect, undisturbed silence.

      2) Ask worst offender, or second worst offender to describe something immediate to your surroundings in great detail. Ask follow up questions. Act like an idiot to prolong conversation. Example, “So how does football work again? What’s that yellow line? Why are people cheering?” “What is it your cooking? Where’d you learn to make it? Do you like that cook book?” Assholes like to show how smart they are. You can also ask them about their job.

      3) Ask loudest person to tell their favorite story about how awesome they are. “Hey Dad, do you remember that time you did that really clever/impressive thing? How did that happen again?” Bonus points for getting some small detail wrong so they have to tell the story to communicate what really happened.

      4) Change conversation partners frequently. “Oh, I really wanted to catch up with So and So, but I’ll definitely swing by to continue this conversation with you later (you won’t).” When you’re ready to leave, “It was so nice talking with you, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you on hilarious story. Happy Specific Holiday.”

      5) If someone starts asking you about personal details, go into the most boring description of your life possible. “So are you seeing anyone?” “No, but I work with a lot of interesting people. John has a great sense of humor, the other day, we were cutting sandwiches and, normally we use this one knife because that’s the best knife for cutting sandwiches, but it sort of looks like a hacksaw, so anyway…” They will get bored and learn not to ask you questions about your life. Other good topics include, the neighborhoods you like in your city, good dog parks in your city, the details of your commute, this one book you want to read but haven’t, but your friend says it’s really good, see it’s about….

      1. I shall use all of these, you gave me a festive gift right there with the above. They made me smile and that is no mean feat in my seasonal sulk.

      2. Thank you, thank you. I am putting all five of these in my pocket to use at my crazy Fox-News-watchin’ aunt and uncle’s pre-Christmas gathering. When uncle starts ranting about me about my politics that do not match his politics, or other crazy aunt gets drunk and starts ranting at me about my life choices that do not match exactly the life choices made by HER children and are therefore invalid, I am just going to start talking about sandwiches. Tasty tasty sandwiches.

    3. I have a competition with my (chosen) bro and sis as to whose extended family is worse. I haven’t been told I’m going to hell yet, so they won last year’s competition.

    4. – go for a walk often.
      – I try to take the perspective of a 1900 anthropologist (minus the racist parts) while dealing with the customs of my family etc. Normally I do this at weddings (Oh, look, a ritual with white dress and rings! How interesting! ), but you can also do this at christmas (Oh, a green tree! What do those balls on it *mean*?)

    5. I have a long-standing tradition of bringing a book with me wherever I go. Even if I cannot actually focus on the book because people are being too loud/annoying/obnoxious/reallycanyoushutup, I can look up and be really disoriented. “I’m sorry, I’m at a really intense part of this. What’s going on? Do you need me? No? Okay, I really want to get past this story arc.”

      This works well, I assume, because there are many people who have never seen me without a book in hand/nearby. I’ve been doing this since I was about 8.

    6. I’ve found my mobile phone helped me tremendously: it provided a good way of checking out of an environment (you might have to develop a weak bladder to take full advantage of this.)

      If your brain tends to obsess, give it something to obsess over: learn mathematical formulae or programming algorithms or Japanese Kanji: anything that you can go over and over in your head but which is productive. Best of luck!

  36. TL;DR version: I have a choice between 2 things for Christmas, both of which will result in my depression worsening. Self Pity abounds.

    Mum died 2 years ago and so last Christmas, and this, we’re going to my sister’s for probably the 24th-26th. “We” is me & our father; Sister is married with 5 year old daughter.

    Dad & I have a tense relationship. £££ on therapy has helped me accept that I’m genuinely justified in being miserable and fucked up as a result (emotional neglect, temper flares, super-critical perfectionism expressed unkindly, but No Violence, which somehow meant that it should have been ok…) but that isn’t really helping now. I have pretty severe depression (off work but not hospitalised) and Dad;s behaviour is contributing to that. He has mild Parkinson’s and undiagnosed (because he won’t admit it) depression, has isolated himself almost completely since Mum’s death, and is (to quote Sister) a bottomless pit of negativity. I have enormous sympathy for him, but I’m just not well enough to be supportive, and the endless misery is noticeably making *my* depression worse. So I’ve explained all this, both tactfully (“When you say that, I feel this”) and bluntly (“Your behaviour is making my depression worse” – which I hated saying, but was desperate enough to try anything that might get through to him). he’s ignored everything I’ve asked.

    So I told him I needed a complete break from him (why hello, guilt!) in order to try & recover enough to be able to be with him and to be more supportive. He *said* ok, but continued to ignore those boundaries, too. Therapist is very proud of me for sticking to my guns throughout this, btw, because 41 years of putting him first no matter what (i.e. he does what he wants and the world bends over backwards to accommodate) has done me all sorts of damage.

    Having finally realised that these are just symptoms of the larger lifelong problem, I’ve had a very difficult conversation with him, explaining that I *absolutely can’t* spend time with him if he continues to prioritise his wishes over my needs.

    Great. Except Christmas. And a 2 1/2 hour car journey with him, twice over three days. Tellingly, he behaves himself a whole lot better when other people are around (I used to refuse to be alone with him, because without fail he’d choose a subject and criticise me until I was in tears. Every time.).

    I’m knotted up inside, am dreading the holiday, and am full of guilt over (a) contributing to an elderly person’s isolation over the season and (b) having put Sister in the horrible position of running interference between us.

    The alternative is spending Christmas alone, which would (and my therapist agrees) be catastrophic for my mental state. Argh.

    1. I have mental health issues too and I know that toxic family vs alone xmas pain. I wanted to tell you how much I admire your strength in seeking therapy and looking after you. That takes some serious courage to do. I hope the season brings you friendship from people who can honour your recovery.

      1. Also is there a little tradition or aspect of Xmas that your Mum and you enjoyed that you could do this year as a private remembrance moment for her and reclaim the fact that you are grieving? I don’t know if that is helpful. I lost my grandfather this year and I will be doing something to remember him.

        1. Thanks, that’s so lovely of you. I really like your idea about traditions – Mum was really into needlework and had made oodles of ornaments for the tree – I’ll try to find something similar I could do.

          I’ll be thinking of you over the season. Jedi hugs if you’d like them.

    2. That sounds rough. Could you travel separately from your dad? Like, if you were going to be driving him could your sister arrange a minicab for him?

      1. I *could*, but I think it would actually make things worse. He lives 40 mins drive from me, and is directly en route to my sister’s, so making other plans would be enormously and obviously convoluted. besides, I can’t help thinking that even on his worst days, 2 1/2 hours of Not Telling Me How He’s Dying (he isn’t) should be possible.

        Therapist has suggested taking headphones in the car and, if he breaks his promise (again), plugging in & drowning him out (& telling him why). Rude, but unfortunately that’s all that has an effect. I think it’s going to be one of those situations where I just have to take a deep breath, accept that it’ll suck, and keep telling myself that it’ll be for 3 days (of which two will have beer).

        Thanks for the sympathy 🙂 It helps.

        1. I don’t know if this is at all practical, but the headphones idea made me wonder about turning up the car stereo to actually drown him out. It would be rude in a different way. It might be better at getting the point across that he needs to stop talking.

          “Jenny, why don’t you just…”
          “… after all, it’s only…”
          “… very disappointed…”
          “… I think it’s the least you…”
          “… don’t understand…”

          Even if you can’t do this, I hope at least the thought of it brings a smile 🙂

          1. That’s probably the version I’ll do, if only for the road safety aspect of not fiddling with earphones while on the M25 🙂

            However, I’ve just snapped (he’s just ploughed straight through my boundaries again, less than a week after having them restated, again) and said that I will, actually, drive down separately if he can’t learn, petrol costs be damned. Amazing what being pushed past my limit will do.

        2. My partner and I get bored in the car, and so we’ve learned to do other things to keep focus and attention going. We’ve found some “choose-your-own-adventure” books on our phones from a company called Choice of Games. We spend pretty much all car rides these days having the not-driver read, and jointly making decisions. Could you try to get him on board with something like this? “Hey Dad, I found these really cool games, and I thought we could play, and then tell Sister when we arrive about the crazy adventure we gave our character!”

          I do not know if this would work, but it would give a very definite focus on something Not You.

        3. Maybe try listening to an audio book? I find people are willing to talk over music but not as much over an audiobook as there is a story and if you’re talking, you can’t hear it. I think with audible, you can get your first book free (not sure if this is still running) or you could see if there are any at your local library. If you could find something that would interest you both, it might be a good way to keep him focused on something while not driving you crazy.

          1. Podcasts can work well for this, too – if you have any that you like to listen to, you can download them on your phone before the drive and play them in the car. There are podcasts about a huge array of topics, so I’m sure there’s at least a few that might be soothingly distracting for you.

        4. The advantage of the separate drive is that you’ll have your car – which is an escape route and a means to get some quiet time if you need it, even if you’re only going to the supermarket and doing the dreaded shopping ON YOUR OWN. Best of luck!

      1. See above – I could, technically, but the headache it would cause (sad puppy eyes! You-don’t-love-me sighs!) would make me feel super guilty (moreso than I do already).

        I think reminding him at the outset of the Protect Jenny Rule (even though it annoys me that he needs such frequent reminders; his memory is fine, usually) and then relying on headphones is the best (least bad) option.

          1. Thanks. This is really helping, actually – Therapists’s suggestion of headphones was a stroke of genius, but talking it out with no-invested people is letting me accept that it’s reasonable to be upset, and also to remember how helpful just offloading to a sympathetic ear can be.

        1. If my choices were travel with dad who will pick away at me until I am in tears, or travel separately but feel guilty afterwards, I’d pick travel separately. Because either way I’d be left feeling miserable, but at least there’d be a nice quiet ride before the misery. With dad in the car, I’d be miserable on the whole ride out and the whole ride back, and probably miserable dreading the ride back as well. I’d take the choice that keeps my misery to a minimum, allows for the fastest recovery and doesn’t require my presence/participation to occur.

          1. Yes. Despite yesterday’s comments, he’s just pushed me to the point of saying “If you can’t learn, I will travel separately”.

            There’s always been *some reason* why threatened consequences for his behaviour never happen. I’m trying really hard to break that pattern.

  37. I tend to get cranky about the “holiday season” in general, because it means two (these days nearly three) months of being bombarded by all the trappings and messages of a holiday I don’t celebrate (I’m Jewish). No, I don’t want to get into the “spirit of the season,” and can you please play some better Christmas music if you must play it at all? I know good Christmas music exists, and the uber-date-rapey “Baby It’s Cold Outside” ain’t it. Also, my “holiday season” was two months ago, and Chanukah is really a pretty minor holiday in the scheme of things. Like, it’s nice and I enjoy celebrating it, but it’s not even in the top five Most Important Jewish Holidays.*

    The worst part is if I dare to complain about having other people’s holidays imposed on me (THANK YOU, Captain, for that “don’t yum other people’s yuck” stipulation on this post), people tend to get all up in arms about how they’re just trying to be nice and I should lighten up and take any holiday wishes offered to me. Except, how many people are actually walking around offering indiscriminate holiday wishes about Chanukah or Solstice or Chinese New Year? And I think if I walked around telling everyone “Shanah tovah” during my own holiday season, I might get some side-eye, too.

    In conclusion, being part of a minority religion sucks during this time of year in particular.

    *I realize some individual families make a big deal about Chanukah and that’s fine, but I’m talking in terms of Jewish law here.

    1. Yep. I’m with you – I have a severe case of Not My Friggin Holiday every year at this time. I give extra side-eye to my fellow atheist/agnostic folks who, in reclaiming Christmas as a non-Christian holiday, give crap to people who don’t celebrate it. I have secular Hanukkah/Solstice/New Year and have never ever celebrated Christmas nor do I ever want to start.

    2. I dunno if it helps, but despite being a Christmas-celebrator I strongly agree with you about the Christmas music that gets played all the time.

      Sympathies on all the imposed-on feeling; that is pretty crummy.

      1. I went and burbled in the happy thread, but here’s my holiday gripe:

        IT’S ADVENT. IT. IS. ADVENT. Actually it isn’t even that when the stores and so on start in with the Christmas music. I worked a 5 1/2 hour shift as a vendor at Wal-Mart this week and got to hear “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” twice. No, they’re not singing yet, because IT’S NOT EVEN ADVENT!

        Also hate it when I get to hear 50 different renditions of “Jingle Bell Rock” by 50 different fading pop stars in the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The Holidays start on Thanksgiving Day. Quit putting turkey and tinsel in my trick-or-treat bag, dang it!

        1. My husband and I always joke that it’s a good thing neither of us will ever be president, because we’d end up being tyrannical dictators. One of my first acts would make it illegal to put Xmas decorations in stores before November 1st (except craft/fabric stuff, because making stuff takes time) or play Xmas music in malls/stores before Thanksgiving.
          I don’t celebrate Xmas because I just don’t really care (lotsa reasons) but those two things make me absolutely HATE the whole season.

        2. Given our druthers, my mother & I would tree/decorate etc. on Christmas Eve, because Christmas STARTS on Dec 25th (all right, midnight 24th). We usually compromise to the weekend before Christmas day. Christmas is a 12 day festival that starts on the 25th, not a 25 day festival that ends on the 25th.

          I love Advent, I love the Advent hymns, I love the Advent services, it’s possibly my favourite season of the year, maybe even just edging out Christmas itself, and I hate that it get ploughed under from…well, freakin’ OCTOBER these days.

          *Advent ftw fistbump*

        3. The Holidays start on Thanksgiving Day.

          My family always followed this rule when I was growing up in the US. Problem is that they seem to follow this rule here in Canada too, only Thanksgiving is in mid-October here. Yep, I’ve been hearing Christmas music and seeing displays at stores for weeks already. Now that it’s snowy outside and looks Christmas-y I don’t mind so much, but the first week of November when there were still a few leaves on the trees and pumpkins on porches? Nope!

        4. THE HOLIDAYS START ON THANKSGIVING DAY. I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year and feeling nostalgic for the days when Santa riding past at the end of the parade was the official start of the Christmas season. Remember that, Americans? Now Santa is anticlimactic, because we’ve been seeing Christmas stuff for a month already.

      2. Yup. The radio stations here start on the dot of December 1st (I have even heard earlier) and I end up missing important traffic reports because I just. Cannot. Stand it.

        Stupid thing is, we’re a relatively secular, multi-cultural country so no-one even gives a crap, it’s pure commercialism.

    3. Yuuuup. Why is it that all the “I just don’t see what the fuss is, I’m fine if people wish me a happy Chuanukah/Solstice etc! So why they are offended by Merry Christmas” is always said by people who celebrate Christmas? It’s so frustrating, because nobody I know gets offended by somebody saying the words “merry Christmas” but pretending that’s what it’s about is so missing the point. The culture is steeped in Christmas; from the music, to the names of things, etc, and while those people might not get offended if somebody wishes them “happy Yule”, I bet they sure wouldn’t like it if everything culturally Christmas was suddenly replaced, so they were hearing only Jewish music on the radio, Starbucks had a Solstice Blend but no Christmas references etc.

      1. My theory is that the people who say “I’m fine if people wish me a happy Chanukah/Solstice” are people for whom that is purely hypothetical. I’ve been Pagan for 12 years and never once has someone wished me a happy Yule/Winter Solstice who wasn’t aware of my religious beliefs or wasn’t in an explicitly Pagan(-inclusive) space. I don’t go around wishing people a happy [my holiday] because *at best* I’m going to have to explain what it is.

        1. Yeah, exactly. It’s all about privilege: the privilege of being part of a dominant culture and never having had to be in a position where people will wish you a happy holiday without knowing whether you celebrate said holiday.

      2. Aren’t these often the same people who get all bent out of shape at “Happy Holidays”? Or am I conflating two different species of obnoxiousness?

    4. Oh god, Christmas music 😦 Once upon a time I worked in a mall and it left me with a serious aversion to almost all Christmas music. Just because it’s seasonal doesn’t mean it’s good!

      1. I may have told this before, but I don’t care I’m telling it any way.

        I worked in a clump of four cubes. One year there was a Christmas music hell.

        The man in the cube to my right and the man in the cube in front of me both had the little drummer boy and what child is this on endless loop. Not synchronized.

        I brought both of them into my cube. They stopped

        1. D: D: D: (that’s the best I can approximate jaw-dropping horror with smilies). Christmas carols on endless loop? Who even does that?! I’m glad you were able to get them to stop but oh dear lord why would they think that was okay in the first place.

        2. Once upon a time, in an apartment I only lived in for three months (so, no relationship with downstairs neighbors or landlord to leverage), there was a music box hung in the tree right outside my bedroom window that would play a twenty second loop (I timed it!) of tinny Christmas music all night, every night for the entire last month I lived there. It was just loud enough to make it hard to sleep, but not loud enough to bother my flatmate in the next room over. I did try to figure out if it was grounds for a noise complaint, but I didn’t think it was enough decibels to be actually illegal — the city in question had ordinances about repetitive tinny music, but only in the context of ice cream trucks. I tried unplugging it! The next day, the plug was zip-tied together! I dreamed, literally, about cutting the wire. I eventually moved out. (I mean, I didn’t move out any earlier than I’d been planning to. But it still felt like capitulation.)

    5. Cranky Jew Club meeting starts now! I haaaaate being indiscriminately wished a merry Christmas or happy holidays when it’s clear that they mean Christmas.

      1. Whoohoo! I’m in for the cranky Jew club! Honestly, I hate hearing “happy holidays” because I know you just mean “Merry Christmas.” As the leader of this thread said, my holidays were some other time. Hanukkah is only a big deal around here to make people who want to pretend they are inclusive (and retailers who want to sell crap) feel like they are including Jews. Actually, I’m quite fine being left out. Thanks but no thanks on your “holiday” cheer.

      2. Whoohoo! I’m in for the cranky Jew club! Honestly, I hate hearing “happy holidays” because I know you just mean “Merry Christmas.” As the leader of this thread said, my holidays were some other time. Hanukkah is only a big deal around here to make people who want to pretend they are inclusive (and retailers who want to sell crap) feel like they are including Jews. Actually, I’m quite fine being left out. Thanks but no thanks on your “holiday” cheer.

      3. Can the club be non-denominational enough to accommodate Cranky Jewish Atheists? Because that label is the one I prefer to accommodate my lack of belief as well as the cultural hoopla that I (sometimes willingly) participate in while still explaining TWO reasons why I get all, “Bah, humbug,” around Christmas.

  38. My in laws went on holiday to punish us for Xmas 2014 which sucked but then our dog died so we were distracted. I think they plan an untreated dementia and threatened divorce this year, word is we are doing ‘nothing’ for Xmas bit I accept a dinner to be booked at the last minute and tears and gaslighting when my chronically ill hero of a partner uses his words and says no.

    He wants to go to my folks who make great food and are a different, alcohol soaked house of denial sort of festive treat. This year we will be pretending to ignore alcoholism, bereavement, grandma’s bipolar paranoia and the fact my biological father molested me as a kid.

    Fun times!

  39. Basically we are goin on holiday the week before to avoid the pre Xmas drama. We get back right before Xmas Eve after a good time in Amsterdam so we can be chilled enough to ignore the seasonal fuckwittery.

  40. My mom likes to use the holidays as an excuse to humiliate me in front of extended family/friends. She enjoys bringing up things in the past that were painful to me–even small things that upset me when I was a kid–or some struggles with mental illness that I’ve had in the past, and mocking me about them in social situations where she feels that I won’t scream at her. For example, she will do impressions of me crying about something that happened 25 years ago, or she will describe some things I did as a kid (that have to do with severe anxiety disorders) to others as though I’m not standing right there and tell them how I “put her through” that, as in, what a big hassle I was, and then turn to me and demand that I explain myself right there on the spot. Super awkward for everyone in the room! I think she does this as punishment to me for not wanting to spend time with her, although it is really a chicken/egg kind of question, but it’s really hard to derail because her entire purpose in doing this is to try to get a negative reaction out of me.

    I am also going to get a lot of shit for not staying as long as she wants me to. During the holidays, even more than during the rest of the year, everything is 100% about what my mom wants and she will do almost anything to get her way no matter who she has to trample in the process.

    The rest of my family doesn’t enjoy the situation but they are more willing than I am to humor her because they have a severe case of the “Faaaammmmiliesss!!!” Plus, most of the screaming is directed at me.

    Each year I experience anxiety-induced insomnia and nightmares from the end of Halloween until New Years Day. I can’t wait for this to be over!

    1. That sounds incredibly stressful and you are courageous to have become are calm and fair minded as you are given that level of abuse. I hope you do have some allies and some space to keep yourself safe.

    2. My stepmom does this to me, too. Except she doesn’t scream at me, she phrases it like it’s just playful teasing, even though her actual words are super hurtful, but if I show any signs of not liking what she says, “it was just a joke, gosh! You’re so sensitive!” (Yes, please tell more fun jokes about the worst time of my life, and how I’m such a loser, and how all my life choices are bad – you’re just sooooo funny! ugh). And yup, I also experience anxiety during this time of year leading up to the holidays.

      Hoping that the holidays pass quickly for you this year, and that you don’t get yelled at by your mom. Sending internet hugs!

    3. Ugh, that is terrible and I am so, so sorry you have experienced that.

      One of the fringe benefits of being a smoker (NOT that I recommend taking it up, mind you!!!) is that I have often thought, and occasionally said out loud, “I would literally rather give myself cancer than listen to this for another minute.” This is always followed by promptly exiting the building with a giant internal fuck-you toward those causing me to exit.

      Substitute any damn thing to leave the house for in place of cigarettes, and I think the main method still applies. Mocking starts? You’ve suddenly got an unstoppable and undeniable craving for ice cream from the corner store. Nope, gotta go now – bye! Crying impressions? You know what? I’m going for a walk. Alone. Right now. You kids have fun with the rudeness and mockery and all. The more cheerfully and calmly you can exit, the better. (Tall order when you’re being needled like that, true. But it does feel incredibly powerful to even pretend like you Just. Don’t Give. A Fuck.) Bonus points if you can grab an ally on the way out. “Wow. I super need peanut butter right this second. Hey, Safe Person In The Room, wanna help me pick out peanut butter? Like right now? Okay bye everyone!”

      TL;DR: You don’t have to put up with that, not even a little bit. The pressure to smooth things over Because:Faaaaamily can be huge and seem overwhelming and daunting – but walks to the corner store are a thing, and refusing to be in the same room as someone who is awful to you is a thing. Even if you don’t make it explicit to anyone else, just having the rule “If someone is awful to me, they don’t get to be around me for the next 5/10/15 minutes” can be really helpful. And on the plus side, you get some alone time during which you can look at the scenery around you, kick a rock or stomp on a leaf or shake your fists at the sky, and just generally remind yourself why you’re awesome. Because you are.

      1. I always envied the cigarette break until I just gave up pretending and deliberately stood in the garden with an MP3 player for one song. I called it a ‘mag break’.A small, non-phoning MP3 player can be hidden in a pocket or bra strap and taken *everywhere*, including the toilet for a loooong break.

    4. This sounds awful. I wonder if it would help to do one of the CA “it’s really weird that you are still bringing that up” or “you really haven’t gotten over that yet?” or something that makes it seem like it’s HER hanging onto these uncomfortable stories (because she IS, obvs!) and not you? I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

    5. When she turns to you after the scheduled tirade, just say, “Well, you emotionally abused me for my whole childhood, so I acted out a lot back then. Thanks for making me hard to be around as a child. Glad I’m over it now!!” Be blase about it, no screaming, just matter-of-fact. With a shrug, if you can pull that off.

      I bet she stops after you say that 2 or 3 times.

  41. So I have some mixed feels about this holiday season. On the one hand, yay family! I live 13 hours away (by car), so I don’t get to see them very often. On the other hand, negotiating the balance between seeing various family members has always been fraught with tension. My parents are divorced, and if I don’t balance time effectively, people wind up feeling slighted. To top it off, I’m bringing my dog up with me and staying with my parents during the winter break (which is almost a whole month for me). My stepdad and I get along fine, but he’s been really irritated with me in the past about some habits I have when I stay over. I’m working on fixing the stuff I know about (taking over the living room, my dog won’t stop barking [she’s a beagle, I’m trying everything I hear about to get her to stop], etc.). Unfortunately, he’s not great at communicating problems directly to me, and instead he usually waits until it’s all TOO MUCH and blows up at my mom, who then has to come talk to whoever he’s mad at. I’m spending Thanksgiving at my dad’s house this year, so that’s not going to be a problem, but I’m trying to get the three of us (mom, stepdad, and me) to sit down at some point during the break to talk about how to make winter break better for everyone. I’m a broke grad student, and someday I’d like to think that I could get a hotel for the whole time, but that day isn’t today, so while I’ll be spending some time at my dad’s house too, I’d like to spend some time at my mom’s without stressing everyone out. Part of the reason I really need to go up for a long time this time around is that I need to do research at a nearby archive (so this is a family/work trip), and the only reason it’s affordable at all is because I’ll be crashing in a guest room. I’ve also volunteered myself as younger sibling chauffeur and said that I would be more than happy to help around the house with anything that needs to get done (I’m a competent cook and can clean a bathroom like a pro!). My question is, do you guys have any other suggestions for what to do to try to smooth things over during winter break?

    1. Do you have some games for your dog to play indoors? We used to hide treats or freeze peanut butter and yogurt in a hollow rubber toy Kong and then let our dog ‘find’ it. Lots of walkies, catch and play times. Whatever your house rules for the dog re: areas people are eating in or around clothes and beds, try to be as consistent as you can to show respect and help your dog get the hang of ‘don’t beg for food or mums bed is off limits for dog nap time.’

  42. My family was never big on Christmas, we always celebrated New Year. My husband’s family gets together on the “high holidays” (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) for big family dinners. We all live in the same city, but never get together other than these big holiday meals. Now that we’ve had kids, my M-i-L is all about ***CHRISTMASSSSSS!!!!!!!***

    I really dislike all the pressure of consumerism that’s being pushed on my kids. That I can’t say anything to get the in-laws to stop buying toys (last year there were over 20 presents for a 4 and 2 year old) that are quickly ignored. And that if I do say something, it’s thrown in my face because I just don’t understand how important Christmas is to them. Don’t get me wrong, if they were religious, that would be one thing… but it’s not at all about religion.

    This past Friday, my M-i-L mentioned the Santa Clause parade that’s going on next weekend (in November!! ack!) and my F-i-L sarcastically piped up: “Why should you be telling them about it? They’re the parents, they should know when all the Christmas stuff is on for their kids. But they don’t *believe* in it.” Then he shook his head and walked away.

    I’m not the “bad guy” for not wanting my kids hyped up for the next month about one day. I just can’t get anyone else to believe me. Thank you for reading and for having a place for me to write this.

    1. You are not the bad guy. My B-I-L and S-I-L have a huge family that is lovely but go way overboard on toys for my two young nieces and my nephew. Our family features grandparents who are judgy, not into festive cheer but like asserting their control on the sort of grandparent Christmas they assume they are entitled to. The two sets of parents tend to make all sorts of assumptions about what convenient plans will be and any resistance is seen as war. Me and my fella (the child free ones) try to gently point out how a sit down three course buffet for a six year old is not fun. Of course xmas morning at 8am when SIL is cooking for 17 is not the time to drop in for coffee and hype up the little ones. Last year we ordered in pizza a few days before Xmas and my niece and nephew ran around playing and letting off steam while my BIL and SIL got to relax and eat some guilt free takeout. They loved it.

      We get clothes and books for the kids and while that’s not a shiny gift, it is well appreciated by my SIL and BIL.

      Materialism is awful when grandparents push it onto kids but enjoy the traditions you have with your kids that are simple and authentic and rest assured, us child free lot are eye rolling in solidarity at the pantomime of Christmas grand kid consumerism. You are not unreasonabe. Whatever happened to making cookies and a little gift, eh?

      1. Yes! Thank you! Exactly!!!! Getting bombarded with toys is so overwhelming for them. Before they can fully explore or play with a toy, another box is shoved at them to unwrap. Also, there’s the hurt in my in-laws’ eyes when the toys aren’t really played with at all… but the wrapping paper and bows are.

        This year, I told my m-i-l that she perhaps she could get presents that go with things the girls already have, such as new parts for their existing toys. She was shocked and actually said: “Oh, what a good idea! I didn’t think of that!” *sigh*

        I suppose, having never really celebrated it myself, I don’t understand why this *one day* has to have so much importance placed on it. The answer of “because it’s Christmas” doesn’t cut it for me. I truly want to understand, but no one can explain it to me. Is it a circular argument that I’ll never truly understand it because I haven’t experienced it?

  43. I’m not really sure how I feel about the holidays this year. Usually, they’re an extremely negative time for me, but this year is so radically different that I’m kind of having trouble processing it.

    Previous holidays of all sorts have included heavy pressure to spend time at my parents’ home, which has a gollum made of bees that we all call “Dad”. He believes himself to be loving and supportive, but is actually a hugely narcissistic fucknugget with a poor grasp of reality that has left everyone a deep fear of expressing our emotions honestly, and me with some pretty serious emotional scars (for full details, please see my upcoming, probably never-to-be-finished memoir The Identified Patient, or that time I was 14 and spent a month in a mental institution because my dad is a smooth liar. Possible alternate title: How to Self-Destruct Quietly in 10 Hellacious Years) He is also the price of admission to spend time with our Mom, who is housebound. For this reason, I appoint myself Chef and hide doing purposful work in the kitchen instead of having to play “happy family”. Dad usually fucks off about 10 minutes after dinner, and then my siblings and our SOs get to actually spend some time with Mom having an enjoyable holiday for a couple of hours.

    This year, however, I am traveling with my newish husband to spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws, which I am excited but also really anxious about. They are lovely and very intense people. This is also the first time I’ve met about 60% of them, and I’m a good bit younger than my husband, so I now have nieces and nephews that are my age. It will be stressful, but I think it should be mostly good stress. We have gotten a hotel room for the duration and I might “have” to work on Friday if I find I need to hole up and recharge for a few hours. We also decided that Christmas is being spent alone, just the two of us, in a hotel adjacent to a natural hot springs, in a room with a gigantic hot-spring-fed soaking tub.

    1. Please! Where is this hotel you speak of?

      We love hot water to rest in. Hot springs are our favorite places…

      1. Lava Hot Springs, ID. There are a whole bunch up in ID, actually, but that’s the one we go to.

  44. Xmas is one of the worst times of the year for me. I grew up having a generally happy, chaotic, slightly OTT and sometimes a bit crowded atheist holiday with decorations, a tree, food and presents and all my siblings around. I just always assumed that my also-atheist OH would be into doing things in a similar way; however (possibly because while my family have been atheists for several generations and are laid-back about it, his family are still religious which might make him feel more sensitive about the whole thing) it turns out that There Must Be No Decorations – though there can be slightly nicer-than-usual food, which is fine – and contradictorily There Must Be staying up until midnight on the 24th (which was frankly a pain when the kids were little). Presents for the kids, however, were always fine – which is the really important thing, so there’s that at least. But it’s become this nightmare balancing act, trying to not have a horrible time while at the same time acknowledging-but-not-acknowledging that there’s a holiday and it’s a thing. Or not. (And I used to think it was so simple … to my mind, the midwinter celebration (which pre-dates modern religions anyway) doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion unless you want it to).

    It’s not so bad now the kids are older – we have a nice meal and sit up playing cards and charades, and the kids get presents. But it all makes me sad and usually very tense. I don’t give a monkey’s for myself, but I’d be glad if the kids had an alternative they could go to if they’d rather.

    1. I’d find that very difficult. I get the impression that you do care about this for yourself, and that would be absolutely fine. If he genuinely isn’t able to make any compromises on Christmas, is there anything he could do to give you and the kids a fun time (on your terms) on another occasion, like New Year?

      1. On their terms? Or on mine!?!!?!? … no. Just as well this is a space for ranting! :-s
        (there wouldn’t be enough room in the margins for my (not altogether justified or fair, I admit) complaints about this. It’s funny, we agree almost completely about the Big Things – equal rights/racism/homophobia, beliefs such as religion etc., politics – for which he has quite literally risked his life in the past, in his country of origin – but we clash over the everyday ones all the time.)

        I suppose it’s just that, as with any stresses and tensions, a holiday where everybody is supposed to be having a wonderful happy family time heightens the awareness that one isn’t and makes it feel worse.

        And I worry about the future for kid 2, particularly, who has Asperger’s and finds it hard-to-impossible to make friends.

        1. As an adult with asperger’s, who was the worried-about kid, it gets easier with time and practice. They might not find their niche and people until after high school, but those people do exist! There will be people outside your family who will love them and enjoy their company, because you are a good parent and will do your best to raise kind, generous, lovely adults.

          1. Thank you. It does, and it already has got immeasurably better than it used to be (kid is an undergraduate now – blimey, where does the time go). And you know, he really actually is a kind generous person! It’s just hard to see someone you love struggling (with some things) and being hurt. So it’s a welcome relief sometimes to vent in a place like this, where people tend to get it and say useful and helpful things!
            I hope so much that he will eventually gradually meet people who like what he can bring :-s
            Thank you for knowing what I’m worried about and saying what you did (and I’m sorry I didn’t see it until now).

  45. My family’s often really tense around the holidays, to the point where, two Thanksgivings ago, when I was dreading bringing my (now ex) boyfriend home for Thanksgiving I spent the whole night before just crying about it. I have some close friends who understand my family issues/why I hate holidays but I find that whenever I express how much I’m dreading going home/seeing my parents/etc they just assure me that “maybe it won’t be that bad this year!” And I know they’re just trying to be positive but I….don’t really find that helpful. It tends to make me feel like I’m not being listened to and I never really know how to respond.

    So if you’re dreading the holidays and are pretty sure it’s going to suck no matter how many well-wishes you get, I’m right there with you.

    1. I’m sorry that your family makes you uncomfortable and that your holidays suck 😦

      Instead of thinking “maybe it won’t be bad this time!” I find it helps me personally to think, “I’ve survived this before and I will survive again.” YMMV

    2. Hear, hear. Sometimes Optimism! is just not something you can realistically hope for or expect.

    3. Yes I have that too. I have a friend in the same boat and instead of wishing each other happy holidays, we tend to just hope for each other that it will be the least awful it can be. It being good, or even ok isn’t really a possibility.

    4. I’ve wanted to ask this on every single post that lays out this situation — why don’t you just nope out? I can promise you that a night with a good CD/DVD selection, a bath, a book and cheese toast will feel like heaven. Comparatively. Compared to days of abuse. I opted out, and it was the best decision EVER. The guilt fades. Its lovely.

    5. Maybe we could find an online place somewhere (not necessarily here, since I’m sure the Captain will have better things to do) where we can go and unleash a scream into the ether when it all gets too much. Sometimes just venting with no expectation of solutions helps.

        1. THAT IS ALMOST EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT! Thank you 😀 Have bookmarked and will be taking my laptop for almost-socially-acceptable hiding.

  46. I thought this holiday season was going to be great, and maybe it still will be, since partner is coming soon (I came out to my parents’ house a few days early but he is flying in tomorrow to join me). But my mom has decided to make my life really difficult by demanding that I go to a bunch of events I don’t want to attend to schmooze with people I don’t know (they’re mostly fundraisers for charity functions she’s very involved in, and they’re good causes that I support, but still). She’s a big-time extrovert and doesn’t understand that it’s draining for me and annoying when she springs it on me at the last minute (which she always does). If I protest or don’t go, she chooses to interpret this as proof that I don’t love her or care about her or something. I do! I just don’t love all these other people she wants me to talk to.

  47. I think my comment just disappeared 😦

    Eh, it was just about how xmas is stressful and sad because my OH and I have very (as in, almost completely) different ideas about how we’d like it to be (despite both being on the same page when it comes to religion, as in having none of it).


  48. My fiance and I recently moved across the country from all of our family and friends. We are staying here for Thanksgiving (and celebrating with some friends who coincidentally moved to a town 40 minutes away from us! Hooray!), but going home for 2.5 weeks over Christmas. Which — yay! I miss my brothers and friends, and I haven’t met my best friend’s youngest munchkin, as he was born a few weeks after I moved.

    But…ugh. My parents are divorced, and there’s a lot of shit to navigate there. And my mom is a perpetual victim slash martyr, something that has only gotten worse (spiraled out of control, really) in the past few years. I am (or rather, was, until I left her home rather abruptly in January and then moved across the country in July) her favorite punching bag. Right now, I’m trying to figure out where to stay for the break. Here are my options:

    1. Stay with my mom. This requires that I either sleep on a twin bed (which means that my fiance and I have to stay in different places), or displace one of my brothers. My brothers are tall, and they live there full-time. So I’m not going to do that to them. Plus: Evil Mom.
    2. Stay with my dad and his fiancee. This will piss my mom off a lot. Plus, I’m not close with my father, which is a whole other can of worms.
    3. Stay with my in-laws. This will piss my mom off a lot, maybe even more than if I stay with my dad. She has severe jealousy issues about how close I am with my in-laws. (Gee, ma, maybe that’s because they don’t treat me like shit? Just spitballin’ here.)
    4. Stay with my best friend and her husband. I would love love love to do this, but this will also piss my mom off a lot, because when I left her home abruptly in January, that’s where I went for 6 months.

    All of these scenarios end with my mother attempting to make my life a living hell. I only even realized in the last year (at the age of freaking 28) that she’s verbally and emotionally abusive, so I haven’t yet figured out how to Deal With Her. I get very emotional, I lash out, it’s bad, and I don’t want to do that. A hotel isn’t an option — we’ll be home for almost 3 weeks (hooray, academia schedule!). Spending a few days at each location might be an option, but I don’t really want to lug my shit around from place to place. Argh. Any tips, tricks, and Jedi hugs are very welcome.

    1. I think that it might be helpful to remember that your mom is the one who’s choosing to be pissed off. Your choice does not force her to behave badly, she is CHOOSING to behave badly.

      It might be helpful to think of your mother as a toddler. When a child is small, they’ll often try to get something they want by throwing a tantrum (or threatening to throw a tantrum). If you give them what they want, they’ll do it more. However, you can eventually teach them not to do the behavior by showing that tantrum = not getting what they want, but no tantrum = sometimes getting what they want. You have to use this kind of conditioning because toddlers will not decide not to throw tantrums because it’s wrong/socially unacceptable/etc.

      Your mother is trying to use the threat of bad behavior to make you do what she wants. You cannot win this game by giving her what she wants, just as you can’t get a toddler to stop throwing tantrums by giving them a candy bar when they’re misbehaving.

      No matter what you choose to do, she will be pissed off at some point. Even if you take Option 1, she will undoubtedly find something to attack you over. Moreover, Option 1 reduces your ability to leave a situation whenever you want. It’s your choice, but I would start setting boundaries by not staying with her.

      As to what option you should take, why not ask yourself “If my mother wasn’t a factor, which would I choose?” It sounds to me like #4 is the one you’d prefer to do, but you know yourself best.

      Whatever you do, I think you’re going to have to start enforcing boundaries. Remember, toddler.

      Let’s say you choose option #3. Here’s a scenario that might occur:

      Her: Why are you staying with your in-laws instead of me? *rantrantyrant*
      You: I would like to spend time with you over this break, but I won’t discuss this with you.
      Her: *rantyrantrant*
      You: *leaves*

      You will probably have to repeat this several times, and you might not actually see her that much this Christmas. However, it may help to remember that this is her choice, and she’s going to have to live with the consequences to her actions.

      1. This is really helpful, thank you. I’m unfortunately still SUPER SUSCEPTIBLE to the toddler tantrums. She spent a really, really long time grooming me for that very purpose, which is…oddly impressive, kind of? I just wish that her pushing buttons didn’t work quite so well on me, but that will take time.

        1. I’m impressed that you figured this out by 28! Go you! It took me a while longer to even figure out all of what my similar mom was doing and label it accordingly. Any tiny and ephemeral happiness of hers I contributed to by doing what she wanted was only used to pit me against everyone else. I can, in one breath, be the only considerate person in the family or be bragged about–and in the next, ruin the day/year/life. And she’s not the only danger in the beehive. But I did learn a new skill year by year and now pretty much nope out of holidays with them altogether. So far, a bit less guilt currently. In the spirit of a new Star Wars film (or insert your favorite tale here), can you imagine picking the battle of staying where you are most safe as a heroic epic?

          1. “I can, in one breath, be the only considerate person in the family or be bragged about–and in the next, ruin the day/year/life.” YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. She’s spent the last few months telling anyone who will listen how much she misses me and texting me nice stuff, so she’s lulled me into a false sense of security and I fucking know it, and yet…ugh. I just want my mom to like me, you know? Ugh ugh ugh.

      2. Also, I should add that I keep making the mistake of thinking that I can logic myself into a perfect sleeping arrangement that won’t piss off my mother or make me miserable. Which…is impossible. And I know this. But part of me keeps trying because my mother has worked so very hard to make sure that her unhappiness makes me freak the fuck out. Argh. 😦

      3. This is brilliant advice. It can be difficult to recast yourself as parent & your actualfax parent as a child, but it sounds as if this is exactly how your mother’s behaving. (NB: it can take a looong time for them to change their behaviour – see me sticking to my guns with my father above – so you’ll have to stick with it.)

    2. If your mom is going to be shitty to you no matter where you stay, then stay at the place that makes you happiest.

      Would your fiance and/or siblings (or a sympathetic cousin) be willing to block for you when you are around your mom? This can be done non-confrontationally. The blocker just keeps an eye on things and when your mom starts in on you, he or she changes the subject by asking your mom a direct (and innocuous) question. If people are still milling about and not seated, it works even better if the blocker asks a question that requires going to another room (or even a different part of the room you are in), but even if the blocker can’t get your mom to physically move, they can stand a little between you and your mom when asking the question, which allows you to excuse yourself.

      Other than that…when you have to be at an event that includes your mom, take walks or volunteer to run errands or come up with some task that gives you a socially acceptable way to get away for a bit. Develop a signal with your fiance that means, “I need to leave, please make an excuse.” If there’s someone there who inspires your mom to behave herself (a stranger, one of her work colleagues, a particular relative, children in general) find a way to stick close to them. Practice the non-committal response + subject change pivot until you find the version that works for you. “Interesting. [Subject change].” “I’ll give that some thought. [Subject change].” “Um, ok. So…[Subject change].” There are a zillion versions of this pivot on every CA thread about abusive relatives. Be kind to yourself. Take days off from mom. Just because you are back in town from being across the country does not mean you have to see her every day that you are there. Do something nice and relaxing (or energizing and fun–whatever makes you feel restored) after having to deal with her.

      Hold this thought in your heart: Just because she says something about you doesn’t make it true.

      Good luck!

      1. I probably should have perhaps been more specific…”events” with my mom are generally fine. It’s the subtle warfare over the subsequent weeks, months, years as she plays out her anger at me for not seeing her enough or spending enough time with her (although there will never BE an “enough,” so there’s that), etc etc. She’ll likely send me a pages-long email once I leave about how slighted she felt by [fill in the blank with meaningless bullshit].

        “Just because she says something about you doesn’t make it true.” I needed this; it’s the hardest thing for me to remember. Thank you. ❤

        1. You’re welcome! I’m glad that helped. It really is hard to remember, especially against a parent.

          P.S. The wonderful thing about email is that you don’t have to open it.

          1. “The wonderful thing about email is that you don’t have to open it.” Oh, how I wish it were that simple. 🙂 Thank you, though.

    3. I’ve got similar suggestions. If your mom is going to be unhappy and potentially abusive what ever you do then you might as well pick based on what is best for you.

      If you stay with your mom
      I don’t think she will stop being abusive if you give her what she wants and stay with her. I think it would just mean she has more access to you, and that you are more trapped with her. At least if you are staying elsewhere then if she is being awful you have somewhere else you can go and recharge/escape.

      If you are staying somewhere else then you have control over when and how much you see her. You can decide that actually its not good for you and leave [you can do leave at any time, even if you have only been there for 10 minutes. It may seem impossible but you and your wellbeing are the most important thing and you cannot ‘owe her’ you company/compassion/time]. Having a friend that you can run by the things she has said/done to you after each visit might also be helpful for figuring out what is her acting badly and recovering. For a while when ever I visited my emotionally abusive mother I talked through what ever she had said with a friend. It helped put things in perspective when I wasn’t really able to do that for myself. It was eye opening and helped me really begin to understand both that the things she said were abusive and not acceptable, and also that they were not necessarily true just because she had said them.

      *jedi hugs* as you said they are welcome

  49. My grandmother died last year right before Thanksgiving, so it’s going to be awkward and painful. I’m hoping to make fucktons of food and try to make the most of it, but I still feel sad and hope I don’t cry.

    1. I don’t know how comfortable you’ll be with this, but when we lost my grandpa, actively acknowledging that I was going to cry anyway, so why fight it? helped a bit. I had a good long sob in the shower that morning, slapped on waterproof mascara, packed some visine, then took a few strategic breaks when I felt like overflowing to retreat to the bathroom and sit on the toilet, lean my head back, and let the tears flow while taking deep breaths; keeping the head back and remembering to breathe helps a lot. I feel taking a few minutes for a pressure release, then taking another few minutes to put myself back together gave me enough breathing room that I didn’t just start sobbing at the table.

  50. 1. I’m broke and feel embarrassed that I can’t afford presents

    2. The family member hosting festivities this year (a usually progressive woman and a feminist!) apparently supports Trump for president – political arguments are a holiday staple in our family right along with turkey and pasta salad, and I’m already bracing myself.
    Also I’m just really disappointed 😦

      1. I know, right?? I will probably be the one to start an argument this year tbh because I just need to know What On Earth

    1. I had a year that I couldn’t do presents for my close friends [I am am largely estranged from my family, so that’s the closest for me], and instead I wrote them each a letter with some of the memories of doing things with them that I valued and remembering the kind things they had done for me and how much of a difference they had made in my lives, and some of the things I loved them for. I hoped it gave them warmth to see themselves loved and valued through my eyes. Obviously this isn’t that helpful if that is not how you feel about your family. I think I also made them each a paper snowflake, because it was fun.

      1. Just wanted to say I think that’s a really beautiful thing to do – if I got something like that I would definitely be treasuring it forever.

    2. I’ve been in the broke shoes!! I’m the oldest of five and my parents are divorced and remarried, so I have a minimum of eight people I HAVE to get presents for every year, and as an impoverished college student, I know how hard that is. I think in this season it’s the thought that counts, and showing how well you know your loved ones can help make that feel a little less awkward. I’ve gone on baking sprees before (everyone gets a couple of cookies out of a batch) and burned CDs for people with music I thought they’d like, both of which are moderately affordable. Are there any crafts/talents you can exploit for making something for them that is personalized and special? I also like the idea below about writing a letter to everyone. You could also find a way to do a cute IOU, like a movie date, or dinner, or babysitting, or lawn care, in such a way that it shows you’re interested in spending time with them or helping them out in some way. Presents don’t have to cost money to make people feel special.

  51. I have family here for Thanksgiving (US). Overall I have enjoyed my aunt who is loud, controlling, and hypercritical, but also generous, thoughtful, and loving. She’s made a conscious effort to go with the flow, and the kids adore her.

    But today as I was backing out of a parking space, she thought I was going to hit the car behind me and started shrieking so loudly, I almost hit the accelerator instead of the brakes. It was very upsetting to be unexpectedly yelled at by someone who once had authority over me, and I actually wet my pants in terror (thank you dark pants for sparing me the indignity of being grilled on my lack of bladder control).
    My heart is still racing hours later, and though I’ve managed to put the incident in perspective, I needed to tell someone that just happened.

    It will be a funny story someday, but not today.

    1. Ugh, that’s a real heart-attack-general-palpitations special, that is. You’re absolutely right, it will be funny – eventually! Wishing you the best possible survival of the season 🙂

  52. There’s nothing particularly bad going on this Thanksgiving–I get along pretty well with my family for the most part–I just don’t have the energy to deal with it right now. All I want to do lately is hole up in my room and work on my computer or play Fallout and NOT talk to people. Stuff in my life has been kind of up-and-down lately, and I just don’t feel up to making a bunch of smalltalk about “how’s the business going? Oh, you’re looking for another job now? So, does that mean it failed? And the jobs you’re looking at are the kind that we think are beneath you? Oh, that’s…nice, honey.”

    And if I have to explain to one more person who should know better that “no, the Syrian refugees aren’t trying to get into this country to blow us up,” I’m going to punch someone. Well, more likely I’m going to get super upset and cause a scene and then run off to go cry by myself, but same basic idea. My best friend is Syrian-American, I have a bunch of muslim friends including some who grew up in the middle east, insensitive comments about blowing the whole region up because it’s a lost cause or how all muslim men are totally irredeemable and really into oppressing women aren’t just “thought experiments” to me, they’re talking about my goddamn friends. My family’s actually really liberal most of the time, but for some reason talking about muslims just brings out the assholes in my family like nothing else. And, of course, lately I can’t get through an argument without feeling like I need to cry or throw up (thanks, anxiety disorder!), so it’s not like I’m going to be changing any minds any time soon.

    I live with my parents, I’m trying to get the funds together to move out but just finding a job has been slow as hell (got an interview tomorrow morning, though, so hopefully good news soon), and I just really need some space from my family right now. So…that’s a super great way to feel three days before a massive family holiday, isn’t it?

    At least the food’s going to be good.

    (Sending tons of love and good vibes to everyone else on this thread. I feel kind of whiny considering all the shit some of you guys are dealing with, but honestly just typing this out is making me feel a bit better, so I’m glad I’m writing here anyway 😀 Thanks to the Captain for giving us all this space to vent).

    1. Best of luck with the interview! Always remember that someone else’s problems doesn’t make yours any less valid. Best of luck with the racist politics discussions and the questions of how things are going. I feel you on both counts. If I hear my mom or uncle make another comment at dinner about how all muslims are terrorists, my brain might actually explode.

    2. Good luck with the interview! and seconding everything Kate H said, except that in my case there won’t be any big gatherings ever (a couple of years after my mum died everybody gradually gave up any attempt at keeping that going) and the arguments won’t be about politics – they’ll be about everything else.

  53. I can’t wait for January. I like the ‘getting together with people you care about’ aspect of the holidays, but most of the rest of it drives me up the wall. I hate going to stores, between other shoppers acting more entitled (as Tris Prior said), and hearing the same, few, exhausted carols for a month. I hate that stores have completely elided over Thanksgiving, for being thankful for what you have, in favor of Christmas, which generally comes across as BUY MORE STUFF (and some for other people). I hate that stores are pushing Black Friday ‘festivities’ earlier and earlier, meaning that their employees don’t get to spend time with their chosen families, and that shoppers are too obsessed with saving a buck to care about the costs to other people. And I hate the schmaltz-filled Christmas stories and narratives, and the expectation to play Happy Families because It’s Christmas.
    (I realize this is coming across as more bitter and hate-filled than I actually am; there are actually things about the holidays that I enjoy. I just wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to say these where the response will be more ‘I agree/sympathize/whatever’, and less ‘But but but Christmas!)

  54. This will be my in-laws’ 1st Thanksgiving now living in Cleveland. We’ll be having it at brother-in-law #2’s place and I’ve been assigned dinner roll duty (as well as pies & sweet potatoes — those, I’m fine with).

    Mind you, they’re expecting me to use the Traditional Family Recipe for the rolls. The one that has the list of ingredients — and no instructions on putting them all together.


    (Did I mention the husband really loooooooooooooooooves those rolls?)

    1. Good thing he loooooooooooooooooves them, because I’m betting there’s going to be at least two “trial” batches before this Thursday.

      1. Theoretically, the recipe makes 24 rolls. My one saving grace is that we’ll be baking them at BiL#2’s place, so he can’t touch them yet. Just need to proof them on Thanksgiving morning now…

    2. How does he feel about you deliberately being set up to fail? That isn’t okay. I wouldn’t even begin with the rolls. Just shrug, say, let me know when you have an actual recipe, and use your own.

      1. Well, I just had a talk with my in-laws actually (as in 32 minutes ago) about the recipe asking for specifics and my MiL was quite helpful, so they actually aren’t setting me up to fail. It’s just a case of them being so familiar with the recipe and what’s involved with it (and no one ever actually adding to the 2×4 card that the milk needed to be scalded first and cooled while the yeast is blooming during all those years).

        This isn’t to say I’m not going to add a couple flourishes on my end thanks to my copy of the 90’s edition of the Joy of Cooking and its recipe for Milk Bread for comparison.

        1. Oh, yay. That sounds much better! And, yes, that’s a critical sort of thing to know and pass along to the next generation.

          Sort of like how, with my grandmother-in-law’s biscuit recipe, that proper biscuits want what’s now called “cake flour”; with regular all-purpose flour they come out generally okay but not quite as fluffy and not tasting quite precisely right. That didn’t get passed along to the next generation, and my wife was extremely happy when I rediscovered it from a different source.

          1. Yeah, my husband’s folks are Good People — it’s just my own hypersensitivity about wanting to be a perfectionist (thanks to my own toxic family background) and my irrational fears about letting them down. And I have the reputation as “The Gourmet” in the household. Heck, my father-in-law is looking forward to me teaching him what I know now that he’s up here…

            …and there’s that pressure again. 😉

    3. Is there a reason why your husband isn’t making the rolls, since he’s the one who loves them?

      1. Fortunately, he’s not getting off the hook. I’ve pressed him into sous chef duties this week, so he WILL be learning the recipe with me.


    I decided on saying, privately, to my mom, “I will not be coming back for holidays if you make comments on what or how much I eat or my weight. I will come for Christmas Eve for a few hours because [grandad, her dad] will be having a day out of the hospital then (he’s in bad shape, his last Xmas most likely), but not after that.”

    1. Seriously! That is so uncalled for. Nothing ruins a holiday meal faster than some busybody relative policing what’s on your plate.

    2. Why do people do this? “We made more food than we could possibly eat! What are you doing?! You shouldn’t eat all that!”
      I think you should follow up on leaving. You deserve better treatment.

  56. I’m having T-giving alone again this year. I’m not really wanted at my sister’s (where my mother will be) and even if I tossed the invite out no-one would come to my shin-ding (past experience – they went camping, in November, rather than enjoy my hospitality). I want to be around my family, but they have made several things clear in their passive aggressive manner:
    1. My job is not to be talked about (can’t blame them on this, I work in a funeral home)
    2. Cats are not a subject for conversation, regardless of how cute they are. FYI – Mine are Beautiful and Spoiled.
    3. They like to harp on how cold and distant I am and how I will never find a man and settle down (and it better be a man, a real man) (I’m a woman BTW)
    4. (the dealbreaker) My father is not to be talked about at all. He was the holiday spirit for me, (in a stoic, USMC way) when he died so did my holiday spirit. My sister actually broke out and told me directly that he (her stepfather, my dad) hurt our mother’s feelings and she would not tolerate him being discussed in her house. And that she wasn’t going to leave the pecans out of the stuffing and if I didn’t like it I didn’t have to eat it. So we had a polite battle about cross contamination and I stopped at McDs on the way home because I could barely eat anything.

    I’m planning on roasting a chicken (enough sage and I can pretend it’s a very tiny turkey), cooking a bunch of sides and sharing the day with my cats. That’s the plan anyway. Chances are very good that I will make green bean casserole, and cry and cry and cry. Depression is an ugly m-fucker.

    1. Sure you can blame them for #1. I’d be interested. And lots of people will disagree with them about the cats, of course.

      Gosh, I can’t imagine why you’d be cold and distant around these people.

    2. Wait, you mention cross contamination? Does that mean you are allergic to pecans and your sister is going to put them in food anyway?

      I am so sorry. Jedi hugs. Her behavior to you (all of it) is not acceptable.

      1. I am so severely allergic to pecans (and walnuts and other tree nuts) that just touching the dust from the nuts or sap from the trees can give me ugly itchy hives.

        1. Whoa. I know there has been a tendency around these parts to cry ABUSE! about any negative behaviour, but that is actually abuse. It sucks that you have to be by yourself but it’s better than being in a house of Evil Bees™.

          Anyway, chicken is much tastier than turkey OH YEAH I SAID IT

        2. Yikes. Your sister chooses Pecans over your company? Stay safe and nut-free for the holidays.

    3. If I were at that get together I would be the annoying person wanting to know all of your best funeral home stories during dinner because I think that’s fascinating. You absolutely can blame them because you have a really cool job and don’t get to talk about it. Also cats are amazing and endlessly entertaining.

      1. If my favorite nephew is there we can sometimes slip off and share stories (He’s a former prison guard, now a cop). He’s a sweet kid who promised at a tender age of 8 or 9 to call an ambulance if I went into anaphalaxys because he understood allergies even if his mother (my sister) and his grandmother (my mom) didn’t believe in allergies. They wouldn’t believe in allergies (mine in particular) for the next decade.

    4. You’re allergic to pecans and they put it into the food???? I (allergic to some things and also a vegan) have the hard rule that I won’t be anywhere where there is no food that I can eat. The family changed their holiday meal practises pretty fast after they realized I would just not be there.

  57. I used to be “yay holidays” until I became an adult and my family stopped hiding the deterioration of their relationships for the sake of us kids. I’m outright dreading Thanksgiving this week and I don’t even want to think about Christmas. Several hours trapped in a house with my conservative, racist, homophobic family who all think the world is heading for the apocalypse. I really don’t want to deal with the questions of what I’ve been up to (I can’t get a job, I didn’t get into grad school last fall and I can’t afford to reapply this fall like I told everyone I was, have to hide my two-year relationship just because we’re both girls). I haven’t even been to Thanksgiving dinner with them in a couple years, because I was using the long trip from uni as a defense not to come home. A part of me was actually hoping that I could get a job before Thanksgiving and volunteer to work the whole holiday.

    1. That sounds like a nightmare. I guess you’ll be using all the possible socially acceptable means to get a moment of respite when you can, like volunteering to nip out to the shops for anything last-minute? Or can you maybe hang out with any little kids involved? Volunteer for potato-peeling duties (or whatever similar things they do) and keep your head down …

      I really sympathise. I would hate this with a passion, and I’m sorry you have to endure it 😦 – and I hope you can escape as quickly as possible.

    2. Oh wow, I empathize with this from top to bottom. I can’t count the times someone (like my mom) has exclaimed “You don’t want to do holiday thing x? But you LOVE holiday!” And of course the only answer is “I did love holiday, and then all the kids grew up and now everyone hates each other.” Best wishes getting through.

  58. Okay, here’s my petty complaint, and I’ll just state for the record that I’m an asshole and I know it.

    1. My mom and I are pretty much alone in the family. My dad died, his relatives don’t talk to us any more (which is fine, believe me), but my mom really wishes she could be closer to her sister and the sister’s family and really, none of them are interested. We get a token invite to Thanksgiving (but NOT Christmas, oh no). Most Thanksgivings are about my mom desperately wanting to bond with people who leave us alone in the living room to go do whatever they’re doing and possibly kicking her out of the kitchen. I frequently spend the next three days having to pass her Kleenex and listen to her being unhappy about being neglected. At this point I’m like “wtfever, I bring books and expect very little,” but she can’t do that.

    2. Guess what, there’s a brand spanking new fresh BABY this year!!!111!! I know, I’m required to be excited. However, (a) I’m not much of a baby person, (b) even if I was a baby person, the rest of them swarm all over said baby so you kinda barely see the baby–or at least this was our experience with baby #1 and this is baby #2, (c) I’ve seen baby #1 a whopping three times since he was born and he’s 2.5 or so and lives about an hour away. I guess I’m suppose to be excited at a new family member/new life in the world/someone to love, but in reality the kid won’t even know I’m there, won’t even figure out I’m around for many years, will probably forget my existence (as my other baby cousins have, see Dad’s side). In all honesty, I’ll be closer and more emotionally involved with people at work coming in to complain at me than I ever will these precious babies. So pardon me if I’m not super psyched for a baby.

    3. Meanwhile, my mom tries to act like my cousin’s children are her grandchildren because she knows I’m not having any, except, well…these folks aren’t exactly welcoming to that sort of behavior, and then see #1.

    4. Oh yeah, and they’ve all decided they want to do Turkey Trots now (which Mom of course wants to do so we can bond with them), which require me being up at the ass crack of dawn on a day when I don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn and am not okay with that (but I can’t not do it because FAMILY), and I don’t ever get to see the damn parade either.


    I love the three days after Thanksgiving when we leave and do our own thing.

    1. I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing the assholery here. In item 1, you’re doing your best to set sensible self-care boundaries, and then getting imposed on by someone who isn’t willing to do that for herself and insists on dragging you into the result. In item 2, this seems like an entirely reasonable reaction with a lot of defensiveness that leads me to assume that there’s a lot of unreasonable expectation from these people that you quite reasonably need to defend against. In item 3, see also item 1. And item 4 is … also see item 1.

      Condolences on the whole mess. Take care of yourself.

    2. I’m sorry for everything you are facing. It’s hard to watch family be mean to your mom. It’s hard to see relatives so clearly not care about you or your mom, and I have all the sympathy for you and your mother, because she’s probably in denial so hard because it would hurt too much to admit her sister’s family doesn’t care about her.
      On a personal note I have a personal deep hatred for Turkey Trots, because my dad and stepmom decided running these would be a “family tradition,” for the whole time I was in high school, and my dad was so passive- aggressively (heavy on the aggressive) angry the year I tried to put my foot down and not do it that I called him and smoothed everything over and went to the stupid race in the stupid ugly sweater and I hate running so much and have a permanent aversion to exercise because of that family, argh!
      Jedi hugs to you, hope you can get out of it.

    3. I see nothing wrong with your reaction at all. The only people being arseholes here are your aunt and her family.

      I’m sorry for your mum, and for you – seeing her being hurt must be horrible. Here’s to the days after!

    4. Why won’t your mom be content just having dinner with *you*? She’s setting herself up for disappointment – you can’t force closeness, and honestly, in my experience, when people *want* to be close and you aren’t quite there yet, it is uncomfortable, awkward, and not likely to get the desired result.

    5. Who does the dishes? Because if everyone is in the kitchen before the meal, then after the meal they should all be looking forward to coffee and dessert. So if you do the dishes, you can free up your aunt to sit with your mom. Make coffee your thing, bring fancy creamers, a pound of good coffee and tell your aunt & cousins this is your contribution to the family meal – they coffee while you do the dishes.

  59. I usually enjoy Thanksgiving, because I’m usually at a Friendsgiving where there is something vegetarian for me to eat and people that I like to be around. But last year I had a terrible falling out with a good friend and all of my friends group went with her. I’ve come to accept that I wasn’t that good of friends with the group as I thought, but it still stings even almost a year later. The holidays remind me of how lonely I am and have been for years, even before this friend break up. I’ve always had trouble making friends, and this situation combined with a close friend’s sudden passing in July makes me feel like I shouldn’t even try to rebuild my social life. I know pain and grief are apart of loving someone, but I don’t want to go through either situation again.

    So for this holiday, I am spending with my mom and her husband. I’m going to try to make the best of it by bringing my own food and some knitting.

    1. And I just found out that my mom has to work the day of Thanksgiving and she is going shopping the next day. Now I have to decide if I want to be lonely at my home where I am comfortable or lonely at my mom’s house where at least I can pretend that I have some important relationships.

      1. 😦 I’m sorry, goldfrost. Is there any point or pleasure at all in going on the shopping trip with her? (I loathe shopping, so I know this might not be a good idea!)

    2. Oh goldfrost, that sounds really hard 😦 I hope the day turns out not to terrible for you.

    3. I am so sorry. I too had a falling out with a friend and the entire friend group went with her and while I know she wasn’t that great a friend, it hurt.

      Maybe try googling “pop up thanksgiving dinner + city where you live.” They are having one in my city that’s for anyone who wants to go (and there is a big veg/vegan offering). Sure it’s a bunch of strangers, but it’s a bunch of strangers who are in a similar boat which can be comforting in and of itself.

  60. I can’t wait for January, I hate this time of year for so many reasons. Short days, family stuff, general fuss about Christmas. I’m lucky because my spouse feels just about the same way I do, so we don’t decorate or do any holiday things. We have our own traditions like going to some friends’ house for the night they make candy, and that’s fine. We visit my mom, which we both enjoy, but the holiday isn’t a big deal for anybody. It’s just the three of us. He gets along with his family fine, just doesn’t want to the snowy areas where they live. I’m so grateful for that.

    My biggest Christmas gripe is the people I work with who are HUGE Christmas keepers and every year spend a lot of time talking about their Christmas decor and cards and shopping and baking and how far along they are with each of those. I know they love it but it sounds like such a heap of obligations to me. I grit my teeth and try to ignore – I don’t want to ask them to cool it, it’s not that big of a deal, and they know me well enough now to not ask if I have my lights up yet or things like that. I mostly try to see the absurdity of it. My husband and I imitate the guy who sits next to me – last year I heard him say “I just love this time of year, when you get out all your wreaths and fluff them up!”

  61. I’m working retail on Black Friday. Let me emit an unenthusiastic “YAY” through gritted teeth.

    Also: Generic grumbling about materialism, society requiring people to buy other people’s affection with material goods for certain holidays, and the ways that transforms so many customers’ general disdain for “lower class” retail employees into outright hate and jackassery.

    1. ❤ solidarity. No matter now long it's been since I last worked retail, I'll never EVER forget how awful this weekend is, and I'll probably never set foot in a store either.

  62. Welll, I have very mixed feelings about these holidays. The first event will be next Saturday when my sister celebrates her birthday. I asked her if she wanted to host the party at my house, since she lives far away from all the family and she has to either host the party at my parents place or somewhere else. She was happy to take the offer, since it’s also a good chance to see the local christmas market, so it’s going to be the first christmas-related event. She used to live in the same city I live in now, so she can go see the old things again. Over the years, we worked out a lot of our relationship. We still tend to get a little tense sometimes, but it has gotten a lot better and we talk about stuff more openly now.

    But I’m also going to see my parents, which I have seperated myself from quite heavily over the past year, because to be brutaly honest they are abusive shitbags who take up my time and energy to tell me what a terrible, fat, unhealthy person I am and what I should do with my live. They “worry” about me in a way that they tell me everything I do with my time is a waste and demand my attention to just shove me away when I give it to them. They are also terribly racist and have mental health issues they never treated and just put on everybody else.
    My mother had a temper tantrum about the fact my sister is celebrating at my place. My sister mentioned it to me and sounded hurt. My mother also takes out her “worries” about me on my sister, and I often have to reassure her that I’m in fact fine and my mothers just makes things awkward to split us up again, how she always did when we were litte.
    I’m not concerned about my mom but I don’t want her to ruin my sisters birthday. So I think, for the sake of making it a great birthday for my sister, I’m going to put up with a lot of crap, decorate nicely, give her some extra big hugs to compensate for parent crappyness and be glad when it’s over.

    For christmas, this year I’m only leaving my place to celebrate with my aunt, which is lot less stressful then celebrating with my parents. Then I’ll just retreat to my home and welcome all visitors who want to see me. Because I’m done with travelling around when I don’t even have a car, waiting in the cold for a train when I have recurring UTIs and have to avoid cold like hell, and sleeping on terrible beds, then be mocked for having back problems because of said bed, and overall be neglected and treated like shit.
    But oh boy, I have the feeling my parents will again give me hell for not visiting them in their home. Please note that the trip is one hour by train or car in both directions, nothing they couldn’t handle, and they have plenty of money to do it, but nooo, we have to take the time and energy to visit even if we have a harder time doing it because of my health issues.

    Then there is my husbands family who are all super racist, to the point of openly mocking muslims as a conversation starter and I survived last christmas dinner only by being fullout drunk, so this is going to be fun. At least they don’t get openly aggressive at me, but it’s really hard to not murder old grandpa when he suggests I will soon have to wear a burka.

    Overall, I have so many bad memories of christmas and I’m now trying to build my own, good memories. But the sadness and stress of past christmas is creeping in and I’m really missing my dead great grandmother, and my grandfathers alzheimers disease is catchting up with him… there is just a lot to push away and ignore.

    1. Ugh, recurring UTIs. No advice on that front, just commiseration.
      Could you explain having the birthday party at your house in terms of convenience? “Look, Mom, now you don’t have to do any clean-up! No strangers traipsing through the house and searching through your medicine cabinet! Plus this way Sister can go to the Christmas market before the party starts!” It may not work, but she might bitch you out less if you make it seem like you’re trying to do her a favor.

  63. Thanksgiving was always a tough one for me as for quite a few years, I spent it with my IL’s, and I was never liked by them. I would get anxiety leading up to the gathering, and try different things to get us on a better path, as I really wanted to be accepted. But, about 4 years ago, I realized it was a lost cause and stopped trying. I no longer see them at Thanksgiving and now I celebrate it with people who are kind and supportive and enjoyable to be around. This year, my husband and I kids are going out to dinner for Thanksgiving, then we will probably catch a movie. Low key and free of any drama – my perfect day!

    I highly recommend this type of Thanksgiving for anyone who is looking for a positive change.

  64. My plan involves a train trip to nowhere in particular, because I love train travel, a good biography and the wonderful, weird inbetween world of an anonymous hotel room. And Thai takeaway.

    1. That sounds amazing! And I totally understand the attraction of an anonymous hotel room. Go you.

  65. I’m an Australian from Melbourne, so we don’t have T-giving. For us, the holidays are Halloween (now widely but not universally celebrated in Oz), then Melbourne Cup Day (a day off for horse racing), then Christmas and then my personal bete noir – New Year’s Eve. Both Christmas and NYE are huge deals here.

    I always enjoy Halloween a lot and did this year too – I have three young children who get epically excited about the dressing up and the trick or treating, and there is a nice community feel around it in my area, with lots of neighbour chatter, fun decorations, and parties. It involves friends, but not family, which I’ll cop to being part of its attraction. (We had a party this year and it was great).

    Christmas is a bit more fraught, for a couple of reasons. One is that, as my parents and aunt & uncle age, and downsize their living arrangements, the expectation has fallen to me (oldest child, only girl) to make all the running for family Christmas on my side of the family as well as my husband’s. (I’ve always done my husband’s side, as my MIL is in poor health). Planning and preparing a meal and readying a house for a big festive feast for 18 people is not cheap, nor easy, nor stress-free. My mother’s high standards of tidiness and cleanliness do not help here, as she is prone to start trying to clean / tidy as soon as she arrives if the house is not up to her expectations (under cover of “I’m only trying to HELP you, darling!” No amount of remonstration will get it through to her that it’s halping, not helping).

    The other reason I find Christmas a bit of a pressure is the huge number of seasonal social engagements it brings. Some of these are end-of-year things but together, they impose a big burden on time and energy for a borderline introvert like me. This is especially so as my husband is a not-borderline introvert and will frequently either skip out of these things or sit silently in a corner. I don’t feel like I need to manage his social relationships or “make up” for him – he’s his own person – but when you are attending an event for kids, it’s often incumbent that at least one carer actually participates / interacts. So it gets exhausting in this way.

    My true revulsion, though, is reserved for NYE. In my neighbourhood, usually mild-mannered, quiet neighbours throw all-night window-shaking parties on NYE and the night is filled with illegal fireworks which require constant vigilance if you don;t want a yard fire. Most NYEs at least one thing on our property has been damaged by drunken revellers from nearby parties. It activates my anxiety like you would not believe and I hate it with every fibre of my being.

    1. Ahh, illegal fireworks. In summer. I can always tell when the cops show up because they stop for a while, then start up again. NYE and Chinese NY are usually wet seasons here in TX, but I can imagine the extra burden of watching for fire hazards (in the US that would be 4th of July) doesn’t help.

    2. Ah yes, Melbourne Cup, where everybody gets to blow off work on a Tuesday….

      I used to live on the other side of the ditch. My last Christmas there I spent with friends. We took their dog and went to the swimming hole and stayed there until we were all blue and shivering. The sun was out (not necessarily a given in the ‘Naki) and it was a perfect 28. It was one of the best Christmases I’ve had in years.

      Can you not find a public park where you have a picnic lunch of sarnies and lamingtons on the lawn? Let the kiddos run around, let the older folks eat and drink while the kiddos run around, and enjoy being with one another. Save a bucket of money on food…why do you need the ham and all that anyway, in the middle of summer? Save heaps of time on cleaning the house (not necessary if they’re not in your house!). And if the terrible engines of the BMWs start, Bitch Moan and Whine, then you can say, well, then, you can do Christmas next year. It’s not your job to do dirty work that nobody else is willing to do and frankly if the only reason you’re shovelled with it is you’re the only daughter, then your brothers can join the 21st century and step up.

      Or you can just be like my parents, who hired a flat on the beach and to hell with everybody else.

    3. I feel your pain regarding NYE. For me, it’s the most overrated event of the year, and usually very hot and noisy. I live in St Kilda, and thousands of people flock here to par-tay! It goes on all night and well into New Year’s day. There’s tons of rubbish everywhere, hungover people sleeping it off in the park opposite my house, recovery parties, etc. Ugh!

      1. I was all “St. Kilda?” How does thousands of people get out there to party? I doubt that tiny an island would hold thousands of people, even…..and then I realized that you most likely don’t live on the tiny, wind-swept rock way out from Isle of Skye…

        I do hear you about the noise level, definitely. In Norway. New Year’s Day is a public holiday, so pretty much everyone has the day off. That means that they really party. For me, that’s not a problem, the problem is that these drunk people actually get so drunk that they forget to do their fireworks as midnight, so the booms and explosions happen all night long as drunk people remember and set it off. It doesn’t help that my house overlooks a valley that works as an amplifier of sorts, as the fireworks launched from most places explode just at the height of my house. I want to get to bed by 1a.m. at the latest, goshdarnit!

    4. The words ‘remember, remember, the *_FIFTH_* of November’ have been uttered here once or twice. Fireworks tend to be a week either side of the fifth, followed by Diwali, which is more fireworks… (1 official firework display: great. Everybody letting off private ones for weeks on end? Not so great.)

      At least we don’t have so much trouble with fire. And the ‘drunks all over the neighbourhood’ thing is no fun wherever you are and whatever the occasion.

  66. I’m already sick of being asked what I want for Christmas. There are exactly three things that I want right now, and none of them are going to happen before Christmas, and some/all of them might not happen ever, and I’ve just realized that two out of three are symptoms of stuff that’s wrong with my marriage. So yeah, that question sucks and I’d prefer to never be asked it ever again.

    1. I hear you. For xmas, all I want is for the kids not to have a shitty time. Whenever I get asked what I want for my birthday, I think “one day without arguments would be nice”.

  67. The holidays, for me, are pretty closely tied up with my birthday, which is December 15th. In the past that’s been a good thing, or at least a neutral thing; sometimes my winter-break trip home included my birthday, and sometimes it was an opportunity for local-friends celebration before we all went off to distant families.

    The last couple of years, though, it’s gone badly, and felt like in all the other holiday bustle it gets forgotten, and honestly I’m starting to feel more anxious than anticipatory towards it.

    Two years ago, I wanted to have a small chosen-polyamorous-family and friends dinner, and most of the friends I wanted to invite couldn’t make it, so I ended up inviting my partner’s new partner and his wife, because I do like them and it seemed like a good thing. But I ended up feeling like he was rather the center of her attention (yay, new-relationship feels) and feeling sort of left out. And I got two presents and one “I’m sorry I didn’t get you a present but I think that’s okay because they don’t seem to be a big deal to you?” which wasn’t entirely true but I didn’t want to say it wasn’t in that context. And then there was the thing that I’d said I’d really like for someone to make me a cake for my birthday, and nobody did.

    Last year, I sent out an email in late November to my chosen-family saying, “I’d really like a homemade cake for my birthday, and it hurt that nobody made one for me last year. Could you please make one this year? This really means a lot to me.” And then on my birthday we went out to dinner, and it was a good dinner, but … again, I got only two presents, one of which was from my mom (who I like, but she has no idea what to get for me). And, surprise, no cake. Or even “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to bake you a cake; I know that meant a lot to you.” Or even “I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to, so maybe you can make alternate plans?”

    This year, I’m turning 40. It’s sort of a big symbolic number, which sort of amplifies any feelings of forgottenness. And I don’t know what to ask for, because the presents really don’t matter that much except for the symbolism of, “Here, I was thinking of you and this is a tangible evidence of the fact that I do pay attention to you” and I don’t need one from everyone, but. And I don’t know how to ask for a cake again without having all these feels and anxiety about whether it will actually happen.

    1. Its legit to need people to fuss over your birthday. But the response to you ask-telling others how to fuss over you has been pretty direct; you might be getting less by asking for more. If a homemade cake is important, maybe you could throw a cake-baking & decorating party, and make sure everyone has a cake to share around and take home?

      1. Yeah, that whole thing of asking for what you want/need can be quite tricky. If Oregonbird asks for nothing, she will probably get nothing. On the other hand, asking hasn’t gotten him/her what he/she wanted either. It’s really a dance on a knife edge. Also, we could do another entire blog on people whose birthdays fall too close to Christmas to get noticed, or at other bad times of the year. I remember my friends with summer birthdays usually celebrated with a slumber party when I was a kid. I never had a slumber party for my December birthday because everyone was too busy. Just the luck of the draw.

        1. Oooh yes. Solidarity high five for xmas/other holiday birthday havers! My mum was good about parties and things when I was little but as an adult it’s just gotten harder and harder to celebrate as people just aren’t available.

    2. It sounds like they are not getting it about the cake.

      I think at this point even though it is hard I would probably decide that I deserved cake and I will have cake and look at local bakeries/tasty places that make the most delicious good yummy cake and order one for myself [I have done this for myself on birthdays where it was important to me to have cake and I wasn’t sure if anyone else would sort one out]. It wont be the same as someone making it for you, but it could be positive in terms of deciding that you care for you, and that you matter enough to have it. I think that is important. It also lets you off the hook of spending a lot of time feeling anxious and uncertain about weather it will happen, and I think that is valuable too after having that stress for the last two years. If you decide not to ask for homemade cake this year and do it your self , that doesnt mean you cant ask for it next year or the year after. It also might help shift the focus to people doing things that show they care for you, rather than people must make cake to show they care for you. [It was reasonable to ask, and I’m sorry no one acknowledged that this mattered to you and that they hadn’t done it.]

      I also have a middle ground on the cake thing with my partner [having cake is important to me on my birthday too], he does not really do much in the way of baking. Instead he will either go and buy me a cake, or take me with him and let me pick out a cake. Also If he ever actually wants to make cake, rice crispie cakes and cake mix cakes are acceptable [and also more likely to be tasty]. Making cake together [from a cake mix or not] as a fun activity and decorating it together would also be cool.

      I think it might also be good to figure out what matters to you on your birthday? What kinds of things are important to you to feel like your birthday has been celebrated in a way that makes you feel happy. What do you need and what are you hoping for? Do you need/want presents to feel valued? Who do you want to have there?

      It is also ok to decide you just want to have your birthday with your partner this year and have it not be stressful, and not have to worry about who will or wont bring presents. You can always do a separate gathering before or after to see people and catch up with chosen-family. [I don’t know who it is important to you to have there on your birthday].

      good luck with it all, and wishes of *cake* kindness and a better birthday.

    3. Hello,
      I’m really sorry you didn’t get a cake, I understand why that would mean a lot to you because it means a lot to me, too. I would like to suggest that it might be better to ask a specific person, rather than a group of people, to bake your cake. If you send an email asking for a cake to multiple people, I think it is possible that they might all assume someone else would make the cake and they’d better not make another one.

      I may as well live a universe from you, internet stranger, but for what it is worth, if you’d asked me to make you a cake, I’d have made you a cake.

  68. Craaaazy sister who lives abroad kind of invited herself to stay for a day and harshed my pumpkin pie mellow. Not crazy enough that I wanted to say no, but self-centered enough that I am negative-anticipating this. Plus, I still have a family hangover from her (second, terrible) wedding this summer. Duuuuude. FAAAAAAMILY.

  69. cw: violence, death

    I already responded to a relative who made a joke with a punchline of shooting a Mexican and a Muslim. !!! Racism sucks, especially when it’s uber-violent and “just a joke, ha-ha”. I am trying to say something when I come across things, rather than just ignoring them. I am telling people (y’all) so that I keep it up in the face of strong not-wanting-to-rock-the-boatness, because this boat *needs* rocking.

    1. Oy. Not just rocking; maybe it will help to imagine Alan Rickman’s table flip being done with a rowboat instead of a table?

  70. Growing up, I loved the holidays. When I was 23, my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer right around this time of year and it’s never been the same, even though I’m over 50 now. I feel lucky if I can get through the hols without a huge fight with Significant Other (usually I’m the one who starts the fight out of my own discomfort and anxiety). I’ve had Christmases especially that were just awful. Last year one of my beloved rabbits died three days after Christmas. Christmas itself was a bad day, followed by a fight with SO and two days of Not Talking. I had a mini meltdown and dropped out of my grad school program.
    I’m quite tired all the time due to health issues. My mom and I are taking a shopping trip this weekend, and I feel like that’s enough seeing of family for a while. SO has pneumonia right now and I feel awful saying this, but I feel like using it as an excuse not to attend the family gathering on Thanksgiving. He’s up and about and driving around, but he’s really sick. There’s a person with compromised immunity who will be attending (even if she’s not actively having chemo right now) and I wonder about exposing her (and everyone else) to the sickness.

    I try so hard not to feel this way. I even look forward to the holidays–until I’m faced with the reality of them.

    1. Speaking as an immuno-compromised person, I would be both anxious and angry if a sick person was in close contact with me with no warning. Do you not understand that I could be hospitalized for what, for you, is annoying? Do you not understand how dangerous that is for me? I can do some things on my own to try to make it better with hand sanitizer and lysol wipes, etc, but the best preparing is being told there’s someone sick around so I know to politely keep my distance and not touch things they’ve touched.

      Sorry for the ranty-ness, but please, if you do go, warn the immuno-compromised so they can make informed decisions.

    2. I did not reply to the rest of your post. I apologize.

      I can sympathize with the health issues and tiredness. I hope the shopping trip goes well, and it may well be enough family time for you. Whatever you choose, make sure to do the things you need to to take care of physical and emotional you.

      Is there anything you still like about the holidays? Would it be better to just go somewhere else entirely and do unrelated things?

    3. I’m with Kadence. If you have an immunocompromised person there, please please please get together with everybody on Skype, and don’t pass the illness along.

      Make it clear that you’re trying to be responsible by not spreading a serious illness. Make it clear that you love everybody, and you will miss them, but isn’t it great that we live in the future and we can use technology to say hello to everybody, instead of missing you completely? (Bonus: on a Skype call, you only have to deal with people for 30 minutes at a time!)

  71. Due to a combination of postgraduate inertia and health issues both mental and physical, I am in not a good place. I am barely holding on to my mind and my body and my financial situation is tenuous, and now we come to the time of the year when it is cold and dark ALL THE TIME and I am expected to be extra cheerful and I have just been put on all these medications I can barely afford on the part-time job that is all I have the energy for (but that I LOVE) and there are people for whom I am expected to procure GIFTS, and did I mention that my birthday is also at this time of year, and that I am turning 26, the age at which I age out of state-mandated health insurance and into the very precarious Medicare expansion program in my state? I am anxious and sick and worried and broke and I do not feel like celebrating.

  72. Spent most of my childhood and recent adult years longing and pining for a real family to take me in for Thanksgiving with all the spirit attached. My immigrant parents are much too practical to celebrate something they don’t have a cause to celebrate (and they claim to not eat turkey so they used to just bake chicken wings for me as an alternative – which was just as delicious and fine since it was an annual treat) and they always complain that baking anything takes “too much electricity”.

    This year will be a neutral year, probably….I kind of got my wish. My s/o’s family celebrates but their home is pretty messed up (physically AND emotionally) so they want me over but at the same time they will be emotionally abusive to my s/o and I get to watch it because no one will thank me for chiming into their family dynamics. Lots of diplomatic waters to tread as I try to gobble down my turkey (no pun intended) as fast as I can and hide in the bedroom. I asked my s/o if he would be okay if I come over later since it is a long weekend and I need some time to finish my wintermas gifts (which I can’t finish at his house for actual logistical reasons – too many materials and NO FREAKIN SPACE at his place). So I get a blissful quiet morning (unless my parents decide to rain emotional abuse down on me as they like to do) crafting and zoning out until the afternoon when I head over to join them in their annual meal.

  73. I’ve been working at my job for a few months, newest member of the team. Apparently there is a tradition of the staff each choosing a day to bring food for the office on each work day in December, which I like because yay teamwork and sharing! But the way it was explained to me and its name is an explicitly Christmas thing, and I’m not Christian. I have kind of a complicated relationship with Christmas because I do celebrate it with my family, as I was raised Christian and am not out to my family about being Pagan. But for me it’s a family tradition thing, not something that I want to participate in at work. So I haven’t signed up for a day and I haven’t said anything about it. I don’t even know what I would say. I already feel like my relationship with my coworkers is super awkward, so waving the “I’m different in a way you probably don’t understand!” flag seems like it will cause more harm than good. Plus I know myself, I’m too disorganized to brown bag lunch every day/keep enough snacks in my desk and I get hangry at the drop of a hat. I’m going to be eating what my coworkers bring in, it’s kind of a given. Ugh. I’m dealing with it by scheduling as much out of the office work for myself as possible, like a mature grownup 😛

  74. My mother was taken ill the day after Christmas just after my 10th birthday (Dec 21st), and died early in the New Year (my dad had died when I was 4). I’m coming up to 59 now and I still hate Christmas.

  75. Ugh. My cousin and her family are staying with my parents for Thanksgiving. I really, really do not like her for Reasons going back several years- the short version is that she had a pretty horrifying childhood, and she kind of wishes my mom was her mom, so she took a lot of the shit she internalized and inflicted it on me during my formative years, which kind of helped fuck me over emotionally a little. But because I had a Good childhood and she had a Bad childhood, I’m supposed to feel sorry for her and let her treat me like shit every time I see her. She probably doesn’t even remember or register half the shit she did to me, but I do, so it looks like I’m “holding a grudge” for still talking about it. My parents are fully aware of the Reasons I don’t like her, but they think I should let it go because she had a Bad childhood. Also, she has a husband and a kid now and she’s thin and I’m not, so my parents are enjoying being surrogate bullshit grandparents and lavishing their attention on this kid because they’re secretly angry I don’t have any kids. My parents generally like to do this with other peoples’ kids. My dad even made a comment a few months ago that he and my mom were scared I was going to ruin Thanksgiving because I don’t like her. Further, I don’t like her husband either, and I’m totally indifferent to their son. I’m never mean to any of these people, I’m just indifferent, but my parents seem to think I’m going to kill them all at the table or something. (For the record, I’m not the kind of person who ruins anything. On the contrary, most of the time I let myself get humiliated by someone else in the interest of not having a tantrum, and I can count on less than one hand the number of times my parents have actually stuck up for me in those situations.)

    The last time I saw my parents a few weeks ago we had a really nice time and there was no mention of Thanksgiving. My parents seemed pretty proud of me because I’m working really hard at work and at school and I’m in a serious relationship where we’re talking about having kids. Then today my mom texts me a picture of my cousin’s kid that I don’t care about with their dog. I knew that if I said to her, “Please stop passive-aggressively texting me pictures of this shitty kid that I don’t care about and just tell me you’re disappointed in me,” there would be a big knock-down fight and I’d be disinvited, and then my cousin could really pretend my mom was her mom. I’ve been planning an exit strategy for Thanksgiving just in case, but I shouldn’t have to plan an exit strategy from my own fucking parents’ house. I barely get to see my parents because of how much I work, and it sounds juvenile, but I’m really hurt that they would center Thanksgiving around these people that are not their children, and I’m going to be expected to participate and feel terrible about myself in the process.

    1. I’m really sorry about that, it sounds very hurtful. I can empathise as the only childless daughter and increasingly expected to fall in with a complicated child centred timetable while everyone focuses on how cute my sisters’ kids are and what they’re doing every second of the day (nothing, they are just sitting there!).

      I’m sorry your family isn’t more considerate of you. Can you plan something nice for yourself to help get you through?

  76. So I’m heading up to my mom’s for Thanksgiving following an epic come-to-Jesus discussion that I’m hoping signals light at the end of the tunnel and not another oncoming train.

    That said, every trip to see her is precipitated by a solid two weeks of mounting anxiety that today verged on full-blown panic. And not just because we have a fractious relationship, but because I HATE leaving my pets alone during the holidays. I have a responsible, trustworthy friend who’s agreed to look in on them, feed and water them, and give me a full report each day, but I still get so worked up. I worry about their health, what they might be getting into, whether they feel abandoned, etc. I hate it.

  77. My girlfriend’s grandmother passed last year, and her grandfather is having an early Christmas before he spends the holidays with his new lady friends up north. It’s his prerogative and I hope he has a wonderful holiday with his ladies, but the girlfriend’s family is super upset that he isn’t having everyone over to his rather spacious farmhouse this year. So her parents, who live in a trailer with seven kids and six cats, is absolutely adamant that everyone, including aunts and cousins, spend Christmas with them. In their trailer. We are invited to sleep over. And they’re VERY religious, so it’s going to be…very religious.

    I decided early on that I didn’t want to be one of those couples who feels obligated to come to every holiday thing together. Our families usually do things on different days, but Christmas can’t really be moved. So I made it clear that I will drop off my girlfriend at her parents’ place IF she wants (she’s on the fence), and then go to my dad’s nice relaxed Christmas day celebration in a nice big house with a bar and pinball machines in the basement.

    My girlfriend’s family feels that this is a betrayal on my part and they are upset, because “if you girls want to have the same rights and the same privileges, you should have the same responsibilities and come to Christmas with us!”

    My feeling is “nah, I don’t need to do that.”

    My girlfriend is considering faking sick so she doesn’t have to hang out with her family on Christmas. I told her I’d corroborate her alibi if she wants to drink fancy whiskey drinks and play pinball at my dad’s for Christmas.

    1. And now my dad is in the hospital for a bypass. Not a heart attack, thank G-d, but a bypass nonetheless. He won’t be out for a couple of weeks. So he’ll be in the hospital for Thanksgiving, his birthday, and possibly for Chanukah.

      I would care that now I have to hang out at my girlfriend’s family’s house, but I’m so worried about my dad that I just don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m going to visit him before we go and then I’m going to spend the day as stoned as possible.

      1. Sorry your dad’s sick. Hope he recovers well and you get to relax with him in the new tear.

        1. Thank you. 🙂 Apparently he actually had the world’s smallest heart attack, and he’s been having a very constant and comfortable stream of visitors, and he has the best heart surgeon in the state. I think he’s going to be okay.

  78. Bluuuuurgh. Holidays.

    I don’t remember the last time I was fond of them really – perhaps when I was Quite Wee? But it’s rather well known around this household that I do not like holidays and would quite frankly not care a whit if no one acknowledged their existence. The Kaiparents, on the other hand, at least put some effort into the holiday season (though the Kaimother feels much the same, and the Kaifather isn’t really fussed as long as there’s food.) So holidays in this household are a Thing, if a rather low-key and drama-free one.

    Unless the Middle Kaisister calls, but that’s…a story for another thread.

    This year, the holidays have been turned pretty much ass over teakettle and despite actively Not Liking Holidays, I am finding myself in a bit of a perfectly Kai-shaped Hole of Blah as a result of it. The Kaifather is in hospital with pneumonia and will be there till at least the end of the week at last estimate – so no Thanksgiving at least until then, and that’s if the Kaimother and I are even really up to cooking. Christmas is also going to be a bit FUBAR’d in the estimation of the Kaiparents, so even though I personally really don’t *give* a toss if they can’t afford to celebrate in any sort of way, they are sort of bringing me down by proxy, which I realize sounds utterly awful but brainweasels don’t like to listen to logic such as “it’s their Feelings not yours you don’t *have* to feel upset along with them.” There is also very likely to be the matter of the Middle Kaisister neeping and nopping relentlessly that the Kaiparents (particularly the Kaimother) did not buy her $expensivethings how DARE they she isn’t made of money you know oh and this and that and the other thing is going wrong and oh, are you angry with me, whatever for, all I did was just insult you horrendously and imply you hate me and are trying to make my life hell, and now I’m going to maintain forced radio silence while you’re so stressed out you are constantly vomiting and crying your eyes out while you try desperately to figure out what you did wrong.*

    Bluuuuurgh. Holidays.

    * She does this on the regular. It just gets worse when holidays roll around.

  79. On the one hand, dad keeps talking about how lonely he is and passively guilting me about missing “the Hall” which is our Christmas/family reunion gathering, and that sucks. But I don’t work in construction anymore, so instead of 2 weeks I get 3 days. And not only would a lot of that time be spent dealing with airports at Christmas (cringe), the reason we call it the Hall is because they rent a huge building for the approximately 60 members of my family that show up.

    That’s just too much family. It’s too exhausting. I have to put up with 10-15 people at husband’s holiday thing for just an evening and that eats all my spoons for days. I miss my mom, I miss my grandpa, holidays are bleh with them passed away as it is. To have to pretend to care about being social is just too friggin awful. I JUST spent thanksgiving with husband’s fam, and I feel awful but I can’t help but resent having to show for another family thing already. I love them, I do. There’s just too MANY of them. And I LOATHE board games. Seriously. I hate them so much. I’m not the Grinch, honest. I just don’t like board games.

    I want a Christmas absent family drama (last year husband’s step dad got drunk and made his daughters cry. Thanksgiving was worse!). I want a Christmas where I see nobody and make a turkey for just us and not feel bad about not buying presents in any form because I have negative many dollars in the bank, paying bills out of my overdraft, and so I actually didn’t have money to eat today let alone buy anyone else stuff, even baking or homemade.

    Ugh, that ended up a novel. I’m just. Really unhappy and depressed lately. Needed to rant I guess.

    1. Oh god. FEEL YOU SO HARD on the board games. I do not understand. My husband’s family is the same way, though generally dominoes instead of board games. They’re lovely, but no I do not want to play another round of Train and my dirty mind and your conservative sensibilities do not jibe in certain ways so that when you said “Let’s play train!” and I giggled like I was twelve, you had no idea why I was laughing. Bahhhhh. Fortunately BIL’s absolutely lovely girlfriend and I spent most of our time last year out on the porch huddled under a blanket and laughing about everything under the sun while they throw tantrums about plastic squares. I hope she’s off work this year….

      1. Right? Oh, I’ll sit through a quick game of Cribbage, but the sight of a Monopoly board makes me want to cry and there isn’t a teacher in the world who could help me understand Euchre.

        Husband is usually good about going to the basement with me to play pool when I need to get away and SIL will talk to me about books. But man. The games. Ugh.

  80. I hate the holidays in general, but the Unmarried People Sharing a Bed in Parents’ House letter struck a nerve hard. My spouse and I are not allowed to sleep in the same room when we visit their dad and stepmom. At first Stepmom said that it was because we weren’t married. Gay marriage was legalized in our state and we got married. Then Stepmom said that it wasn’t “really” legal because the federal government didn’t recognize it. Then DOMA was overturned by SCOTUS, so she said that even though it was recognized because her and FIL’s state doesn’t perform same sex marriages, we still couldn’t share a bed. We haven’t brought it up again to hear the next excuse.

    This fills me with an incredible amount of rage to the point where, after 7 years of visits like this, I told my spouse that I’m not flying out to visit ever again until we can afford a hotel room and a rental car. Since I’m a student and my spouse is disabled, my FIL usually footed the bill for our airfare and we’d stay at my MIL’s house (where we’re treated like people and not mud that got dragged in on my stepMIL’s shoes). But I decided I cannot fucking deal with this any more. Once we can afford the plane tickets and hotel and therefore aren’t beholden to my FIL due to him paying for us to visit, I can say what I really want to say when we do visit. I can leave FIL’s house if Stepmom says horrible, offensive things. I can explain that I don’t want to be around bigots. I can have somewhere safe to return to (aka hotel room).

    I’m lucky that my spouse understand my feelings. I told them that they are free to visit and I’ll support them going, but I won’t be accompanying them until we’re financially stable. They decided that they don’t want to go without me. I feel a bit guilty about that but not enough to put up with being treated like shit. The most galling thing about this? My in-laws (both on FIL and MIL’s sides) all think I’m so deprived of having a “real” Christmas because my family doesn’t celebrate like they do. They are so eager for me to have fun and love Christmas like they all do, yet my FIL won’t stand up to Stepmom about us being thrown out for us being queer. My family doesn’t do anything special or typical for holidays, but my parents love and respect us. Hell, my mom makes sure we have an actual room to stay in and not an air mattress in the living room because, and I’m quoting her here “Maybe y’all will want to get it on, so here’s an extra set of sheets. You can be loud after 10pm and we’ll be asleep.” (Side note: we’ve never taken her up on this, but it’s still nice.) FIL doesn’t give a shit and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with us, but he’s just as bad if not worse than Stepmom for not stopping this bullshit rule. If he agreed with her it would actually make the whole thing better. But he doesn’t and isn’t willing to go to bat for his kid when she pulls this.

    Everything is frustrating and terrible. We still haven’t broken the news to them that we aren’t visiting for at least another 5 years. Not looking forward to that conversation. Sigh.

    Many jedi hugs of solidarity to my fellow bah-humbug people! Thanks for letting me rant.

    1. “Maybe y’all will want to get it on, so here’s an extra set of sheets. You can be loud after 10pm and we’ll be asleep.”

      Your mom is kind of awesome!

  81. The major stress factor in my life (aka Darth Mom) died last year, so that has drastically cut down on the drama at any and all family gatherings since, which is good. (The lack of drama, not the death. The drama was strong with that one.) And my sister has a really cute baby, which is awesome. But the second biggest stress factor in my life (aka Dad) has a new girlfriend. Who is seven years older than I am. Who he insists on including in as many holiday gatherings as possible. Whose schedule he actually rearranged his mother’s Thanksgiving plans to accommodate. His mother legit forced him to get a vasectomy, so I’m not worried about surprise half-siblings, but this asshole seriously needs to stop.

    1. The plan disruption sounds like it sucks for everyone. What the hell @ at the mum forcing a vasectomy, ugh.

      1. I could have worded that better. Grandma didn’t *force* Dad to get a vasectomy. She just flat-out told him it was in his best interests and he agreed. He continues to claim that the women in his life bullied him into it, though, because he is a tool.

        Dad had at least one pregnancy scare with a girlfriend he’d dated before hooking up with my mother, so his mother knew he wasn’t always careful. Honestly, from the way everyone in his family talks, it sounds like he had had multiple pregnancy scares with multiple girlfriends, but no one wants to admit it to his kids. Anyway, a week or so after my mother died, he sat Grandma, Leia, and me down and told us he would never date again. Less than six months later, he announced that he was dating again. We weren’t surprised; he’d had a bad case of mentionitis even before Mom died. When Leia announced she was pregnant, Grandma sat Dad down and gave him The Talk Mk. 2. (The paraphrased version I’ve heard is essentially, “You are a grown man with grown kids and the last thing you need is a new baby younger than your first grandchild. And, son, we both know you’re not as careful about these things as you could be, so you might want to consider a more permanent way of making sure there aren’t any more babies. Because I know you, and I know you’d make Luke raise that baby.”)

        The vasectomy is a bit of a godsend because she’s right. She does know him, and I know him, and we both know that if his girlfriend dropped a baby in his lap, I’d be the one to raise it. And I’d do it, but raising a much younger brother or sister would not be good for my mental health. Or for Dad’s physical health, because I would end up stabbing him a whole lot.

        1. I dunno, it’s not literally forcing but if someone sat me down to have a “I think you should get this medical procedure done” talk I’d be feeling a bit pressured. Even if the guy sounds like he needs it.

  82. My SO will be going away for a week to his parents (a place with no phone reception).

    My parents are not safe people to spend time with.

    All the shops will be closed, and so will most doctors and pharmacies (I have multiple health conditions.)

    My friends will be busy for most of December with their own xmas stuff…

  83. (warning for length and rantiness)

    It’s going to be another Christmas on the dole.

    I should be used to it by now – we’ve had more Christmases where Himself has been unemployed recently than ones where he hasn’t been. But every time I wind up feeling somewhere between angry at myself, and furious at the wider society, particularly since Australia has been getting a lot more nasty and classist in the last few years. There’s lots more pecksniff types wanting to control how I spend “their” money (“taxpayer dollars” is the term they’re likely to use, as though somehow this justifies them wanting to control my spending completely; funny how they don’t seem to have the same level of paternalistic disdain for public servants, politicians, or members of the armed forces) and prevent me from spending any money on things which they don’t think one of the Undeserving Poor (i.e. anyone on unemployment benefit) should have access to.

    So, basically, Christmas becomes problematic.

    I have my ways around it – I bake biscuits for the family as gifts, and package them in low-cost gift bags or boxes. I don’t ask for anything too expensive by way of gifts (socks and underwear are fine; the good old Universal Gift Voucher – cash – is perfect), because hey, just because my family doesn’t have much money doesn’t mean they’re likely to sympathise with the dole-bludging, parasitical “leaner” in their midst. (I may be just a tad bitter about this). I try to perform the Dance of the Deserving Poor appropriately, by being properly grateful for every little bit of help I can get.

    But it all grates, and it rasps me raw, and I want to take people and shake them until the bigotry falls out, and point out I am NOT the only damn person responsible for my unemployment and reliance on welfare. Let’s consider the policies of successive governments (both federal and state) dating back almost to the year of my birth. Let’s consider the policies of employers who choose employees by the “Central Casting” method – if you look the part, you’ll get the job, but if you don’t look the part you don’t have a chance (and given my primary skillset is in technology, where “looking the part” would require me to be twenty years younger, and male, I’m off to a pretty poor start there). Let’s consider the casualisation of the workforce, which means any job I apply for is likely to be a short-term contract (there are very few permanent jobs available in the Australian workforce these days) – and that employers look at a resume full of short term contracts and decide they’re not interested in employing someone who won’t go the distance. Let’s consider that the very structure of the workplace, the workforce, and the working environment, means that I, as a person with a mental illness, have severe problems finding work which will allow me to maintain a system of self-care which can keep me on an even keel AND keep me employed.

    Or hey, we might even consider the religious festival that certain people insist is primary here, and the person who inspired the religion, and what that person had to say about the poor and the sick and what they deserved from their fellow human beings (here’s a hint: it wasn’t a kick in the teeth).

    (About the only thing I have to be positive about at present is that my employment services consultant at my JobActive[1] provider hasn’t suggested I apply for work at one of the shops over Chrimble, because that means I don’t have to tell her that ten years in retail twenty years ago isn’t going to count as relevant experience now, but IS going to mean my Festival of Tinsel and Credit Limit Breaches PTSD from those ten years of retail gets good and triggered).

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

    [1] JobActive is what the Federal government is calling Job Network these days – as though a new name and a new logo willl make a significant difference to a system which was designed in the 1940s, and hasn’t been seriously upgraded since.

    1. I’m sorry. You’re right about this country getting colder and harder. I hope things work out for you.

  84. Just one shout out into the ether, because I have nowhere else to shout.

    Thanksgiving and Christmas will be spent with my partner’s family, a lively, loud, rambunctious crew of aunts and uncles and cousins and not-technically-related-but-family-anyway. I love them all. There will be 14 children ranging in age from 11 to 14 months, and at least two more people will be pregnant. I will not be pregnant. I will never be pregnant, and I am having an astonishingly hard time coming to terms with the fact, now that it’s assuredly a fact and not a vague concern. And someone is going to ask me, all bright and cheery, when is it going to be MY turn, or is that a bulge under my sweater (wink wink, nudge), or god forbid, my sister in law will try to be clever by sending my six-year-old nephew to inquire if he’ll have a cousin for Christmas next year.

    I honestly think I will scream and burst into tears at some point. I just hope it happens in a semi-private space, and not at the dinner table.

    1. So sorry to hear of your loss.

      Given that you love them all, I’m going to guess that they love you right back. I like to hope I would never ask the sort of question you’re afraid of being asked, but if I was the sort of person to ask I’m still sure I’d feel like a heel if I later found out pregnancy wasn’t a possibility for the person. I’d also like to be able to provide support to someone at a time of grief, and for those who want fertility, discovery of its absence will likely cause grief.

      Is there any way you can share this fact with them? I’m thinking of a script something along the lines of “I’m so glad I have you all, and such wonderful nephews and nieces. Having children isn’t a possibility for us [and nor is adoption?], so being able to be an aunt [/uncle] and cousin is particularly special to us.” I’m going for a vibe that doesn’t leave you or them feeling awkward about them having children and you not.

    2. I hear you. My wife and I are one not-yet-tried frozen embryo away from the same conclusion, and I am not at all astonished at how hard this is for you to come to terms with. It’s a very painful thing here too. Many Jedi hugs offered.

    3. *Jedi hugs if you want them*

      Can your partner give a discreet heads-up to the relatives you think are most likely to stuff feet firmly in mouths?

      1. All the Jedi hugs are appreciated and returned tenfold. I’m glad to find other people in the same boat, even if it’s a crappy boat and I didn’t sign up for this cruise anyway.

        Partner is…not helpful with this, because he is okay with the idea of never having kids. His response, when the news was handed down, was to go on a long ramble about how kids are noisy and smelly and take up all your time and are so damn expensive and it’s more fun being an uncle/cousin anyway. It’s reached the point where, whenever there’s a gag on TV about screaming babies or the difficulties in managing kids, he laughs and comments about how glad he is we’ll never have THAT problem. It’s possible he thinks he’s being helpful by showing that he’s not devastated by the news and that we’ll be fine. But it feels like he’s poking an open would right now, and no matter how I try to explain this to him, he doesn’t get it.

        The relatives would be very kind, if I managed to convey the news. They would also want to be helpful, and there would be all the questions about adoption/fostering/IVF/etc. I don’t want to get into a long discussion with them about the morass of fertility problems, money issues, time issues, and Partner’s apparent unsupportiveness (even if it miraculously became possible, I don’t want to bring a child into the family if he’s not 100% on board) that look to be making any option impossible, especially not during a big family holiday where everyone can listen in.

        1. I’m another person in your boat of childless not by choice. It sucks, truly. Just dealt a recent devastating blow and ILs are clueless and we go there for Xmas. FIL once saw documentary showing that wolves are more fertile when living in open fields, and suggested that I spend more time in fields. WTF?! I’m hoping for lots of holiday wine to tolerate it all.

    4. I’m sorry to hear this. I don’t want to gestate a child with a passion I cannot possibly describe, and it always seems horribly unfair I’m stuck with this probably-functional reproductive system (I dream of being able to remove it *sigh*) when other people who so dearly want to be pregnant can’t.

      I’m sorry your husband is epically missing the point. I’m sure he’s trying to help but I think I can imagine how painful that is. Lots of Jedi hugs if you want them.

      Advice if at all interested: could you try a group email as notification for family so you don’t have to have a big talk face to face? Feel free to ignore this.

  85. The holidays are always tough for me because of my mental illnesses. I have bipolar disorder which tends to get worse on the holidays and summer because of seasonal affective disorder. Basically my mood drops considerably and it feels like being on a depressive episode but worse. It sucks because everyone around me is having fun, enjoying themselves and spending time with their loved ones (even if that loved one includes only themselves!) while I’m trying to fight depression and have a bit of fun. I wish I was able to enjoy this time of the year but it’s been impossible for me since I was about 13 years old. I usually just sleep it off and pretend that they don’t exist here. It doesn’t help that my birthday is on the second week of December, so I have to feign I actually enjoy my birthday and the attention it brings to me while slowly rotting inside. Most of the time, it doesn’t work and I end up locking myself in my room. I love being sick and not being able to afford any kind of treatment.

    I’m sorry for my pessimistic and negative comment, I really needed to get it out of my system.

    1. This thread was made so you could get this out of your system and have a place you don’t have to pretend to be enjoying yourself. ❤

  86. I used to love love love Christmas. My extended family did the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes and as much as I hate gender roles, I did love that time in the kitchen with my lovely older female relatives, cleaning fish and getting drunk off screwdrivers and whiskey sours, hearing stories of growing up as immigrants in the early 20th century.

    But over the past decade my awful nuclear family of origin has escalated their crappiness by a) throwing out all of our traditions b) treaingt me with total disdain c) blaming me for every family issue d) relentlessly teasing me and when I express any emotions about this, call me selfish and immature and claim I am “jealous of the grandkids because now they are getting all the attention.”

    ***********************TW – physical violence & humiliation*******************************

    The most recent installment was me telling my parents that: I am not coming “home” for the holidays but I hope they have a great day with the family! And their response was . . . terse. They demanded that I call them to tell them my answer to their suggestion to meet me half way so I could come “home” and have Christmas dinner at my sister’s house the next town over. The sister who is verbally and physically abusive to me. I have told my parents this several times and they have witnessed but ignored it multiple times. Including at the age of 36 when she decided to grab me by my throat, hold me down, spit in my face, and laugh claiming “see I can still beat you up!!!!” while my mom literally turned her head and got suddenly very interested in the wallpaper.

    So now I am in therapy twice a week (this year I am giving thanks for a wonderful therapist) and possibly planning to skype with my family and a therapist/moderator so they won’t gang up on me and I can still possibly, communicate my feelings and give them every opportunity to make things better (by, ya know, not bullying me) so if things don’t get better I can walk away guilt free. Because I am done allowing jerkwads to work out their feelings/insecurities on me and just taking it while feeding my panic disorder and slowly killing my self-worth all for the sake of faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily.

    1. That sounds really difficult.

      I just wanted to say that you don’t have to justify your reasons to them or even give them any reasons. They have proved themselves untrustworthy and you don’t owe them an explanation. “No.” is a complete sentence.

  87. Thanksgiving with my in-laws, one of whom is dying. We don’t get along well. 12 hour drive each way, likely to be silent, as Spouse not much of a talker & doesn’t listen to music in the car. We won’t see any of the extended family (who are the interesting ones). Just another day (most of a week actually), but with food I don’t like, an uncomfortable bed, and nothing in common with the people.

    (If I wasn’t estranged from my family of origin, though, we’d be doing Christmas with them, which would be good food, but being ignored or mistreated by people I mostly don’t like. So.)

  88. There is nothing wrong with lying to parents who would otherwise harm you (physically, emotionally, financially.) I know there is a lot of pressure to come out, but you being safe is more important than sacrificing to the cause of “everyone come out of the closet now!” People who say that are usually privileged in several ways, and you don’t have to live by their standards.
    You are not wrong for taking your homophobic parents’ money.

  89. My cousin was taken off life support and we just had her funeral. Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday. She wasn’t able to go to Thanksgiving last year, either. I don’t want to have Thanksgiving this year, but everyone else keeps saying “She would have wanted Thanksgiving” and “We have to move on”. I can’t really blame people for wanting Thanksgiving, but “move on”? Really? Thanks, Captain. I just had to tell someone that wouldn’t get upset.

    1. Screw them. You are allowed to grieve at your own pace, your grief is yours. I am a prime example of what happens when people push you further than you are ready to go. (I broke – still putting me together again)

      Some people after my father died were like “oh what a relief it’s over.” I chose to say fuck off. I could’ve started hitting people, the f-bomb was kinder and people who really know me, all five of them, know that underneath it all I am a kind and sweet person.

  90. Just wanted to share my sad. Background: I’m a caretaker for my mother, with little to no support. Last year I went all out to try and make her a Thanksgiving meal. Turkey and all the fixings.

    Mom mocked everything I made. The turkey was too dry. Just looking at it made her want to vomit. She wouldn’t touch any of the sides. And she just keep harping on how much she hated everything I served. I ended up in tears. Perhaps worst of all, afterward she refused to acknowledge any of it.

    A year later, she does the same thing almost daily. She tells everyone what a great cook I am, but makes faces at my food, pushes her plate away, or outright says yuck like a little kid. When I get upset, she says she eats everything I cook and she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know how to handle this endless gaslighting. This is one of my biggest sources of stress and sadness. If I can’t have an honest discussion about it (because she denies it all), then no script will help and nothing will ever change.

    1. This sounds so much like my mother, and her mother, and the relationship they’ve had since … approximately forever. Nothing she does for her mom is ever good enough, and she’s been responsible for a lot of her mom’s life (being the eldest child and only daughter) for years upon years upon years. Somewhere in the last few years, around the age of 70 (her mom’s in her 90s), she finally accepted that, indeed, it wasn’t ever going to change, and there wasn’t anything that she could do that would be good enough, because her mom was simply unhappy, habitually unable to be happy, and what she was really wanting was for my mom to fix it. And I think accepting that helped, as she was able at least somewhat to mentally free herself from that burden.

      Caretaking is seriously emotionally hard work, especially when it’s parents, because it seems like this sort of thing is absurdly common. Kudos to you for surviving, and all the sympathies and Jedi hugs.

    2. I think it’s time for your mother to live somewhere else.

      I know, I know, easier said than done, no one else will take her, you’re not just going to run away from home and leave her to die, etc. The above isn’t meant as advice so much as a sympathetic IT’S TIME. Damn.

      1. I know. I had a dream the other night in which someone said to me “you’re dying there.” In the dream I screamed back “And she’s killing me.” I woke up feeling incredibly depressed. Thing is, she’s not going anywhere. If I want this to end, I have to be the one to leave. Caretaking has stripped me of my savings. Working is hard when mom reacts to my leaving the house by threatening to go to the hospital. I know the answer is just to push through the stress of that, but I’ve long since stopped doing things I enjoy bc/ of it. Thinking of doing something inherently stressful like working full time on top of dealing with her screaming and threats just feels so terribly overwhelming. I feel like a fox in a trap, ready to gnaw my leg off to escape, but I don’t know HOW

        1. Sweetheart, I don’t know how either, but this sounds like an emergency. An emergency for you. I have been reading your comments for a long time and this is the saddest and most worn down you have ever sounded.

          1. I’ll be honest, that dream really scared me. If my subconscious is being that blunt…well, it seems I ought to listen. At least I’m at the point where I am willing to leave if I can, responsibility to her be damned. So…progress?

        2. Tired Caregiver, does your city have a non-emergency help line? Because it sounds like you need to talk to a professional counsellor STAT.

          You might also consider calling your local domestic violence shelter and asking to talk to somebody there. Between the belittling, emotional abuse, gaslighting, and losing her shit when you leave the house…..if that were an intimate partner and not a parent, it’d be a no-brainer that you were in an abusive relationship. The people working there might be able to put you in touch with resources that can help you. I can promise you, they’ve seen it ALL before and might know of ways you can get help.

          1. I’ve tried calling crisis numbers in the past, during times when I was almost having a breakdown. Honestly, I got the impression I was calling the wrong place . Once it was established that I wasn’t actively suicidal, they pushed me off the phone. When you say non emergency, how would I find that, if you know?

          2. I went to Dr. Google. She helps where she can.

            The city I’m in has a women’s center as well as a domestic violence center. I think you’d want to try M-F, 8-5, instead of an immediate crisis line. If you can, show up in person, you’re a lot harder to fob off that way.

            Good luck. I’m so sorry.

          3. In your searching and googling, try looking for Adult Services in your state.

            You’re her next of kin. You need out. You need HELP. Your mother needs to be somewhere that she will get adequate care, which you cannot provide because she is being evil and abusive to you. But….you can’t just turn her out in most places (that’s elder abuse), so Adult Services it is.

            This is a nonprofit working on that in Houston, for instance:

            That organisation has a free 30-minute consultation. Maybe you could call them and ask who should you call in your local area. Somebody is likely to know SOMETHING, right? For a nonprofit based in the 4th largest city in the USA with links to a national social work body, you’d think it, right?

          4. I’m back. Something occurred to me after this rattled around in my mind for a bit:

            I actually have no legal power. I can’t just put her in assisted lining or hire home health care. My father has the legal power and has vetoed those options.

            Your father has the legal power to veto assisted living and home health care. He doesn’t have the legal power to force you to be your mother’s sole caregiver.

            I remember your letter from a while back. I vaguely remember one of the commenters suggesting that you inform your unhelpful siblings that you were no longer going to be living with your mom and taking care of her full-time, putting the onus of stepping up on them. Based on your description of said siblings, I can understand why you didn’t go that route—maybe they would’ve just left her to fend for herself. Okay … What if you took a stand with your father instead? “Dad, I understand that you’re opposed to getting outside help for Mom because reasons. But I can’t do this alone anymore. If you don’t okay assisted living or people who can come in and relieve me, I’m done.”

            As before, I get that “said” is infinitely easier than “done” here. If it were easy, you’d have done it already. Still, is the obstacle some logistical problem, or is it the emotional difficulty of standing up to your father and possibly leaving your post? If it’s a logistical problem (you mentioned lack of funds), is there a long-term solution that can be worked at, or a Team You that can help? If it’s emotional difficulty, are you perhaps closer to being able to tackle it now, having realized how desperate things have become?

            Everybody here is pulling for you.

        3. I wish I could say something that would help. I too have been reading your comments for a long time and hoping things would get better. I cared for my late husband after his stroke and things got…bad…but he was nominally at least able to live on his own and care for himself. I have no idea what the solution is or how to even find out what it is, but I just wanted to say that there are voices who live in the comments here who care about you and are hoping for better days for you.

        4. I’m sorry; that sounds very hard.

          What would be likely to happen if you took the threat to go to the hospital as “Mom, if you can’t be home by yourself, that sounds like a good idea” and left anyhow?

          1. Then she goes, they run all kinds of tests, find nothing, and I get to stress over the impact the bill will have. I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to keep her out of the hospital bc of finances…though it terrifies me that someday she’ll really need to go and I will discourage it bc she’s cried wolf so many times. Everything she goes it costs at least a thousand, and that’s with insurance

          2. I just saw this comment, and your comment about the stresses of money and adequate care.

            More than anything else, this sounds like a GREAT place for professional social workers to step in, for you and for your mother both.

            This might be another place to start:


            I’m so sorry. Big jedi hugs. Lots of soup and toast and hot chocolate to warm you up. I hope that regardless of where you find help, that you find the help you need.

    3. I’m so sorry: that sounds just horrible. Let me suggest something that’s really hard to do – but may still be easier than what you’re going through now. Can you pretend everything she does and says is “mere theatre”? That how she’s acting is “acting” – and that maybe it’s even really really funny? If you pretend she’s hilarious (I know it’s hurtful, but only if you take it inside yourself.), then after awhile the sting may lessen and you may start to find her funny. My mother has been similar to what you describe, but my whole life and I used to find it utterly demoralizing. After a couple of decades of wondering why I should even live, I started to consciously think of her as a caricature of what a mother should be. It isn’t perfect but it does help me a lot. Good luck to you – I’m sure you’re exhausted. ❤

  91. Vibes to everyone but I am too tired to do what I feel is polite and pick out some comments and write some kind thoughts to them. Just want to vent a bit because I don’t know anywhere that I can really do it.

    The main holiday issue is that my little brother has been secretly struggling with substance addiction and mental illness for a couple of years, and recently it has come out – he has kicked the drugs but is dealing with extreme mental health problems, and still drinking. I’m glad it has come out and he is asking for help from myself, our mum and the NHS. But also, my heart has been shredded into a million little pieces.

    Things really hit crisis mode recently when I was staying with him and my mum because my flat had flooded. I woke up in the early hours to the sound of glass smashing. I thought it was either the cats, or one of the pubs outside throwing out bottles. Then it happened again, and again, a rhythmic smash/crunching and pounding. I got up and steeled myself, and knocked his door. He came to it, wild eyed and blood smeared. I asked him a couple of questions and he sort of came to, and crumpled, hugging me and sobbing. I held him for a bit and said I would have to go wake mum and see about getting him some help. I looked at his hands – he had been grinding glass to powder with his fists – and the cuts looked bad. Thankfully they looked better in the light. We sat up for a while and all talked, I maintained my composure with tears silently running down my face because I have this switch inside – when I need to function, when it’s life-or-death or it feels like it, I can flick the switch and sound cool, calm and collected while in some faraway corner of my being I fall apart and the only ‘tell’ is the silent, sobless tears.

    Every night for a week or so something else happened in the night. I started to hallucinate, too, from lack of sleep. He harmed himself, destroyed belongings, set fires. Or just woke us up, incoherent and agonised. I sat up with him and watched movies and talked. He’d go pass out for a couple of hours, maybe, and I wouldn’t because hyper-vigilance. I had to go home after I hallucinated that I was made of liquid. I have been back there every other day or more, but I have to come home to sleep. I wrote him a manual for various harm minimising techniques, alternatives to destruction, ways to try to practise tugging control back out of the chaos when it hits… I’ve been there myself, which makes it all easier and harder. On the one hand, I know what can help – I tend to have a rough idea of what is going on underneath the confusion – I tend to know how to talk to him. He responds best to me. On the other hand, I know how much of a close run thing it was … me, surviving. I am terrified. I am terrified. And also, having gone through it makes me more tired – more reactive – more prone to my own triggers and my own issues. And my mum. She had to watch one child tear herself apart and then have to piece herself back together, and now it is happening again – with all the attendant consequences on her work life, her finances, her health.

    And the drinking. Ugh. If he gets an inkling that I have alcohol at my place, he comes sidling up, acting sweet – he doesn’t DO sweet – and cajoling me. I will not do it. Mum borrowed money from me to buy him vodka to last him a week because he was due to be prescribed sleeping pills, and being able to sleep helped his other symptoms, and alcohol helped him sleep in the meantime – so he was supposed to have a couple a night to tide him over until he got the pills. But he isn’t making good choices, for obvious reasons, so he drank the whole thing in one night and had the worst destructive meltdown to date. That’s what prompted me to write him the manual, and it seems to be helping, but he will not be getting more spirits. Mum gets in a couple of beers a night. He shouldn’t be drinking on the SSRI he’s on, but depression is the least of his worries. He’s an adult. We can’t make him do things or not do things, short of calling an ambulance and letting that take its course – which I have been through, and which I do not want for him. Tightening controls on things like alcohol or things he can use to harm himself will just lead to even riskier behaviours to get them. We have to be pragmatic.

    The manual was a good call, I think? He was sincerely thankful and hugged me, and he hasn’t hugged me in well over a decade. I don’t think he’s been sincere in that time, either. Not like that. But he has been reading it and taking the tips. Some of them I would prefer he used – I put in pages about self-harming in less dangerous, chaotic ways and taking steps to care for the wounds and clean up after himself. I also have pages about wrecking phonebooks or candles or causing pain in safe ways. I would rather he did the latter than the former, but I guess that isn’t where he’s at right now. I’m glad he’s taking any of the tips at all. I’m just so frightened.

    So this is my holiday period, anyway. I like the holidays in general, even with my SAD, and my PTSD anniversaries all being late in the year, and the awfulness that is negotiating how much time I spend with my abusive dad and how much shit I have to deal with from him if he deems it isn’t enough. Even with all that, I still like them. Usually. This year is going to be a lot harder than things have been for a long time. It’s 3am right now and I can’t sleep for worry. It’s like I’m drowning in it, but in a tucked away corner so I can keep trundling onwards. I reached that point years ago, and then moved forward from it, but now I’m struggling that’s where I am again – suffering, but keeping going. He isn’t there yet. He is just on the cusp of realising how … hopeless it is. I won’t say that to him. It’s simultaneously hopeless and not hopeless. He doesn’t want to think that he will be a mentally ill, recovering addict forever, but…he will – so that’s kind of hopeless. But it can be ok to be a mentally ill, recovering addict forever – so that’s the hope. It just doesn’t look like hope from where he is right now. So we’re focusing on not powdering glass with his own hands right now, and maybe sleeping, and surviving the eldritch terrors that creep from his ceiling. It’s hard. It’s very, very hard.

    1. I’m so sorry. You are in an incredibly difficult place and I am sending you warm thoughts and jedi hugs.

      My only “advice” is to please take care of yourself. I don’t know what warms your soul, whether it’s hot fudge brownie sundaes, Harry Potter, comic books, taking long drives/train rides without a destination in mind, cat videos on youtube. I know what it’s like to be in survival mode and have all of those things sound so silly and wasteful but they’re not. They’re critical. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who seem capable, especially people with pets (if you don’t have allergies) who love cuddles. It’s kind of amazing how calming animal cuddles can be.

      1. Thank you for the warm thoughts and jedi hugs, remy and thetiger. I will try to take your advice. You’re right – it is hard to make myself feel that cuddly self-care is important, but I will definitely try to be more mindful of it. I’m usually queen of the baths and blanket forts and watching light and fluffy things, but in crisis mode it’s very easy to forget to do anything except cling on for dear life And not even notice you’ve forgotten.

        1. I misread your last sentence as “not even notice you’re forgotten” which I think maybe was intentional – when my family was deeply submerged in my sibling’s crisis, I found myself in the position of being the OK one. So even though there were things I was struggling with as well, I would never have brought them up and went out of my way to conceal them and make a show of everything being OK. That is so tiring! In your self care, please don’t forget that your experience and suffering is also valid and real (even and especially your experience and suffering that is not related to your brother! I know that when things were really bad in my family, it seemed like a void that just sucked in anything else that was happening to me, both good and bad, but it felt really really selfish to admit to myself that I was upset about that).

          Also, please remember that your brother’s health and safety is ultimately not your responsibility. There were times when I went to sleep at night that I thought for sure I would be woken up with a phone call from the hospital, and that if I could just say the right thing or be there at the right time, I could stop whatever was going to happen from happening. Every time I missed a phone call or wasn’t available right away to help, I figured that would be it, and I’d have to live with it forever. Thankfully, things seem to have stabilized in the last year and we’re not in a crisis at the moment. However, I do think that ultimately there wasn’t anything I could do – my sibling had to walk this path themselves, and the only thing I could do was listen and be a support – I couldn’t get them to health and safety, as much as I wanted to. Good luck and warm thoughts to you and your family. It’s a real hell not knowing whether or not someone will be able to come out of those woods, and I sincerely hope that your brother will find his way.

    2. Oh, gnu. I wish you some respite. Hoping your brother may be able to inch towards a bit more safety with the help of your manual. You are a godsdamn hero, I think – a real one, the kind that doesn’t get fanfares and shining armour.

  92. My big holiday is Halloween, so it’s pretty much all downhill for me after that. Although I like Thanksgiving (at least my family-less version of it), Christmas kind of gives me the heebie jeebies: I’m anti-religious, it brings back uncomfortable memories of childhood, my father died a couple of weeks before Christmas several years ago… and I live in an area that doesn’t snow. Guess it’s time to embrace the spirit of Krampus!

  93. I’m normally pretty chuffed about the holidays, but today I started a course of prednisone, so I’m anticipating bouts of extreme irritability and anxiety combined with four days of family time. Yikes.

  94. I am normally super into the holidays, but I just broke up my boyfriend about a month ago and I thought I was doing okay but now I’ve just been super bummed. I spent the last 2 Christmases with his family and well, I’m actually kind of relieved I won’t be doing that this year but OMG I can’t handle any of the holiday music about being ‘in love on Christmas’ nor can I really take the whole ‘falling in love around the holidays’ movie stuff either. And that’s normally stuff I adore even when I wasn’t in love on Christmas. I feel like the this holiday season has been ruined for me and where there used to be lots of Christmas music and happiness, there’s just this ball of suck inside of me.

    It’s even more awkward that I’m Jewish – but half of my family is Christian so I grew up with Christmas too and I always loved it in my own lil way. Hanukkah is great but it’s not like I can immerse myself in beloved Hanukkah songs instead and it doesn’t have the presence that Christmas has.

    I actually had to turn my facebook memories off because this time last year he and I were doing super couple-y lovey dovey holiday stuff and even though we’re not fb friends/I’ve blocked him, FB was still showing me those things in my memories and every single thing was a like a stab to the heart. And it REALLY hurts to remember how much effort I put into last Christmas (not that I didn’t want too!) and the presents and stuff to make him feel special, because THAT IS WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT OKAY and then …bah. We broke up because, among other reasons, he was unwilling to put effort into our relationship.

    Can someone just wake me up in March? That would be super keen.

    1. I totally feel you on Facebook memories! Reminders in general sting, and our whole culture around this time is permeated with romantic love and like…diamond advertisements. :/
      Sorry your Christmas is a bit polluted this year .

    2. Aww, hugs if you want them. I was dumped by my first truly long term boyfriend on Dec 21st. Like you, we’d done all these cute shmoopy things around the holiday the previous year and it was just torture that year without him. You’ll get through it, I promise.

    3. I completely feel you. I broke up with my first long-term boyfriend a few months ago, and while it was the right decision, this holiday season is really bringing on the sads. I don’t really have a way to celebrate holidays with my own family, and his family was so loving and welcoming with me. Kind of amplifies this feeling of being alone. 😞

  95. I started hormone therapy a few months ago. My voice has dropped noticeably. I’m still closeted to half the family coming at Christmas. Halp. Erk.

    1. Is there someone (or multiple someones) who will be there who knows you’re anxious and can be your support? Sometimes just knowing someone has your back takes a lot of the stress out. And also, don’t know what your family is like, but do you have an escape (even if it’s your childhood bedroom with a locked door) in case you need to get out of there or just need a moment to regroup? (Extended) family time can be exhausting under any circumstances, and in situations much less stressful than yours I’ve found it super helpful to just sit in a quiet room and call a friend or read a book. ❤ and good luck!

      1. That’ll probably be my go-to…

        “Innit. So, the Leafs, they still suck, eh”

        It’s mostly that still being somewhat in the closet (but actually out to almost everybody) is weird and stressful when my voice is cracking and I benefit from shaving. My life is weird.

  96. Just learned that my mom once again invited her completely terrible sister to yet another family holiday where no one actually wants her (but faaaaaamily) OR her creepy ex-husband-current-whatever who has successfully creeped on every single member of the family, including me when I was about five. Oh, and I did not invite them to my wedding in October (which was lovely and freeing and I was hoping my mom would figure out that this is totally a Thing You Can Do and she didn’t) and so now I have to field awkward questions and the entire family who isn’t me grits their teeth every time she speaks and all the women try not to be in the same room as EHCW. And my mom conveniently did not tell me this until I asked if I could make the mac & cheese, which Terrible Aunt has always made until we stopped inviting her but apparently we started inviting her again SURPRIIIIIIIIISE. Fortunately there will be wine. And other rooms to escape to.

    1. Oh, and the one sibling of my mother’s I do enjoy has been completely subsumed by his alcoholism, and instead of telling my mother he wasn’t coming to Thanksgiving this year, he sent every single person in the family EXCEPT my mother a Thanksgiving card. Because she had the gall to call him out for acting like a drunken ass at my wedding. She called me a few days ago asking if I’d gotten a card from him. I told her no. It’s just not worth the hurt it causes her to tell the truth.

  97. On the one hand, “I’m recovering from surgery and one of my partners is in the third trimester of pregnancy, so we’re spending a quiet Thursday at home” is a generally accepted response to the inevitable question about Thanksgiving plans. On the other hand, I’m really tired of being asked. One of the people who asked was the nurse helping the doctor who performed the surgery–and she asked it DURING the surgery. For some reason she was surprised by my terse response of “recovering from this”.

    I really am looking forward to a quiet Thursday at home, but I’m kind of surprised by how much I miss big family Thanksgivings. They were wonderful (at least in my memories) when my mother’s parents were alive; our family was small enough to all fit around the dining table at their house or my aunt and uncle’s house, and big enough and compatible enough for celebrations to feel boisterous and merry. But my grandfather died in 2001 and my mother and stepfather split in 2002 and my uncle and aunt and cousins are scattered through various countries in Europe. We managed to get everyone together a few years ago and that was really nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen again anytime soon. My mother spends Thanksgiving with her partner’s kids; for various reasons we don’t join her for that. My half-brother spends it with his father’s family, who I basically haven’t spoken to since the divorce. My partner X is estranged from their horrible abusive family. My partner J’s parents live in Singapore; his mother does a big nostalgic Thanksgiving thing and sends us wistful emails.

    I would like to join J’s uncle and his wife and kids and grandkids for their Thanksgivings after the baby’s born. They’re all super nice, absolutely welcoming and accepting of me and X and our weird pronouns and weird polyamorous life. They live just far enough from us that it would be a pretty big hassle to get there and back in a single day, but maybe we could stay overnight. Just… not this year.

    The baby’s due January 5, so I plan to spend Christmas really really hoping that they don’t decide to be born on Christmas or New Year’s, or in a blizzard. I want our drive to the hospital to be quiet, calm, and safe, not sliding on slush or dodging drunk drivers. (We can take transit to the hospital if driving conditions are really unsafe, but no one wants to be in labor on the subway–or on the subway with someone who’s in labor!) Since I’m Jewish, Christmas has never been a big deal for me anyway. But for our kid’s sake, I hope they don’t have a Christmas birthday; it makes planning birthday parties with other kids so difficult.

    1. I have a kid with a New Year’s Eve birthday. My other kids we usually do birthday-observed a week or two after because Tuesday afternoon is actually never good for a birthday party/outing. Also, one was born during Pesach and you know, cake is really better with flour. So there are cupcakes on birthday-actual. Just an option to put out there! (Having a baby is always full of uncertainty and worry! May this be the most serious concern you have regarding the birth.)

        1. I agree, though, that Pesach birthday parties can be tricky even if flourless chocolate cake is included.

          Someone my parents know got married last year on Pesach. I have no idea what they ate at the wedding.

        2. It IS delicious and I have a recipe with all the chocolate! I usually make it for Pesach-birthday-actual. But…. still not quite the same. Plus, for us, the major religious holiday + mighty cleaning + usually spring break adjacent + spouse grading finals or midterms is not great! I guess birthdays are just inconvenient. The kid never complains because this way he gets cake two or three times!

      1. It’s good to have options! I appreciate it. We’d do the half-birthday thing but my birthday is June 19… I’m sure we’ll figure something out, though.

    2. I have three cousins with Christmas or Christmas Eve birthdays, and my sister has a mid-December birthday, and of course when we were kids it wasn’t an issue because of the cult (no Christmas, no birthdays!) but now, at least for my sister, it definitely is. She just kind of guts it out and insists on distinct birthday and Christmas presents, but I hear that the half-birthday is a definite option for kids with actual Christmas birthdays–celebrate on June 25th instead.

      1. We’re not going to celebrate Christmas in any way at home, but I’m overthinking social things that won’t even be relevant until years from now. 🙂

    3. BONUS: The post-surgery antibiotics that gave me panic attacks also left me with a yeast infection. And my partner J is totally burned out from taking care of me and X. I was hoping the three of us would bake cookies today but might not even get that bit of family time. :/

        1. Thanks. Fortunately I was able to get a scrip called in for diflucan, my favorite wonder drug, so I should be fine soon.

          Meanwhile I had to take X to Labor & Delivery to get blood tests and make sure their annual allergy itching isn’t a symptom of liver problems that sometimes crop up in late pregnancy. Everything is probably fine but with a baby involved you don’t rely on “probably”. So we’re sitting and waiting for test results and listening to the baby’s heartbeat while J stays home and preps dinner. Probably no baking cookies today.

          I am thankful for doctors, hospital staff, and pharmacists who work on Thanksgiving. And also thankful that we didn’t have any holiday plans to disrupt, because I can be chill about all this instead of upset about missing out on something I was looking forward to. I mean, I was really looking forward to a quiet day at home, and I’m not really getting that, but there are three nice quiet days left in the long weekend, so, no doom.

          I hope you’re all having a pleasant Thursday!

        2. We’re home from the hospital and everything is fine. For those going “hospital???” you’ll have to wait for my earlier comment to escape the spamtrap. 😛

          1. I should also note that X and I got home to find that J had cooked us a surprise feast–I mean, a total surprise, we weren’t planning on doing anything fancy today at all. But he wanted to make up for us having to go to the hospital instead of baking cookies and listening to Hamilton, because he’s a total sweetheart. We had a lovely dinner, and cookies and Hamilton can happen tomorrow.

  98. Okay, here goes – I need advice on how to handle this. My parents are in their late 80’s, my sisters and I are all around 60, and my nieces and nephew are in their 20’s. I am the eldest sister and the only one who is divorced (twice, sigh) and with no kids (heavy heavy sigh). My sisters are “normal” and my parents have always preferred them to me… the list is miles long. Can you trust that I’ve always been the so-called Odd One, although I was “Perfect” (straight A’s and total nerd girl/good girl). I’ve always been very sensitive and if I could change that – like my family has often told me I should – believe me, I would have changed it by now.

    Two years ago my sisters and parents excluded me from a huge family event and it was the first time that I put up a real fuss about it and refused to roll over and later just pretend we all made up (that was the pattern before – horrible treatment of me, me getting upset, huge pressure on me to “be the big person” and “let it go”.) But two years ago I decided I had had enough – and my nieces and nephew have gotten the message to treat me disrespectfully and (FINALLY) that was Not. Okay. Everyone is waiting for my one sister Who Must Be Obeyed to forgive me, or for me to prostrate myself to her. I have rolled over on everything except that I insist she treat me respectfully/civilly in the future. That seems to me to be a very minimal request! However, she insists that I am a Horrible Person and she’ll have none of it: I must abjectly apologize to her, or Nothing.

    Last year’s holidays were hard – I wasn’t invited to the big family Christmas, no one even phoned me, my FB feed was full of joyous family photos, plus all this last year my mother’s FB profile pic has been the Family Christmas Pic with me (and my nephew who was overseas) the only ones absent. I have an older first cousin who participates in my family’s holidays, as her family is all passed away or disbursed. She’s known us well my whole life and she reached out to me to see if she can facilitate a connection between me and my sister. She tried to get us together this last summer, but my sister was not giving me signals I was comfortable with, so I pushed it off. Now she’s suggesting I “drop in” on Christmas Day (not with gifts, just with my little dog) for an hour or so, just to show that I have a right to be there – but mostly to see my nieces and nephew. (I miss them very much!) By now I’ve given up hope on my parents and sisters ever liking me or treating me nicely, but I’d like to leave the door open for my nieces and nephew to contact me in the future, if they want to.

    What do you think? Stay away and keep divorcing myself from my family? Or try to show up, not be the monster I’m portrayed as 2nd hand, and hope somebody eventually reaches out to me?

    1. Have you reached out to your nieces and nephew on FB? I think this could be the solution to foster an ongoing relationship with them without having to show up and eat the family’s shit for an afternoon. Your cousin clearly means well, but I don’t see the spontaneous drop-in working out well at all. I mean–it will work out well for your family, because I’m sure they have a lot of shit they’d like to watch you gulp down, but it doesn’t sound like happy funtiemz for you, you know?

    2. I would divorce yourself. Surround yourself with an awesome group of friends, or if they’re not available, just treat yourself over the holidays: take in a movie, splurge on dinner if financially possible, etc. You’re under no obligation to earn their love and respect. Love and respect should be automatic unless you were disrespectful and unloving, which I doubt/. They’re being tremendously unfair and judgmental.

      If they’re content to rub your face in Facebook photos of Happy Family Fun Times Without You, feel free to flood their FB feed with Happy Friends/Me Fun Times Without Them.

    3. It really hurt horrible when I unfriended most of my family from FB. Before the Great Unfriending I was treated to updates about “Oh Look! New Baby!” events like that I was not invited to, or called about. I live like 15 minutes away so the excuse of “spontaneous gathering” did not hold water when I know how slow my mother drives and they made sure she was there.

      It hurts knowing my mother prefers my sister over me.

      I do keep in contact with some family, my brother, SIL, and my favorite nephew. But they accept me for who I am.

  99. I’m going to my partner’s family’s house. They’re disappointed with how his life has gone (he was undiagnosed bipolar, and college went very badly). They’re also disappointed at how my life is gone, but really, they always just seem disappointed that he’s with me. I’m 25. We’ve been together 6 years. I’m disabled, and am still trying desperately to learn to control a chronic disease that is not interested in being controlled. They say they’ve never seen any drive to succeed in me when I worked 12 jobs in 5 years, trying to make it like a normal person and continuously being fired because my attendance sucked because stupid disease. They don’t want to see us married, which hurts like hell. I dread going to his house every time we do.

    I recently converted to Judaism (for my own sake, not theirs), and for the first time ever that seemed to rate them talking on the phone to me when calling partner for a check in. My therapist thinks that this might be a good sign, and not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I think I can’t trust these people to do anything but judge my life choices. They don’t seem to understand, no matter how much I’ve explained, that I can’t work right now and my doctors agree and telling me to work anyways is not cool.

    Partner is learning to stand up for me a lot more than he once did. I know it’s hard for him, as he’s getting hit with similar judgments. We know we made some bad choices, but for a disabled girl trying to keep working and an undiagnosed bipolar 2, I think that we did bad, but could have done a hell of a lot worse.

    We’ve only been for Thanksgiving once before. It was when my disease was more active, so I don’t actually remember much about it except being stressed. Partner doesn’t, either.

    He’s so excited to see family for the holiday, though.

    I really just want them to stop judging every choice we make. They’re rich, what do they know of poverty? I feel like a bad person for not liking them because I don’t believe their nice faces. I’ve seen the nice faces go away.

    This is really rambly. I just wanted to tell someone else that I’m dreading going and pushing my anxiety disorder and physical health to the brink to try to pretend.

    1. Maybe I’m more of an evil person than you are, but I’d be tempted to print out business cards that say,

      “Thank you so much for your suggestions related to my health and my employment situation.
      How interesting that you understand more about my chronic and debilitating illness than my highly qualified team of medical doctors.
      It’s very reassuring to know that if I just ignore their medical advice and stop following their treatment plan, I will magically get better.
      I’m so glad we had this conversation.”

      And when they start in on your lack of job, hand them the card and WALK AWAY.

      Take as many cards as you need.

      1. You are the best. Thank you. I needed that. I think I am going to be using the Captain’s advice from elsewhere about leaving the room. I’m sure they will find it childish, but if they are really interested in my health problems, they would look up the conditions. And if they were interested in actually understanding mental health issues like bipolar for their son (and stepson), they would also look up that.

        1. I’m glad it helped. Hopefully it gave you a bit of a laugh too (laughter, good medicine, and all that).

          Good luck. Do what you need to do to stay sane. Chronic illnesses are a bitch.

  100. Due to my partner’s work schedule, we’ll be staying at home on the actual day of Christmas (he’s working a night shift on Christmas Eve) and maybe get Chinese food, which has a lot of appeal. The trouble is… his “difficult” mother is going to be in town, is currently not really speaking to his sibling (who would otherwise probably take the brunt of her attention), and has a history of being oblivious to the needs of others.

    She hasn’t said a word about Christmas yet, but I just KNOW she’s going to materialize at the last minute and demand to spend the day with us because:
    1. “I’m all by myself! (and I’ve spent the last few months sabotaging all my other relationships, so I’ve got nowhere else to go)”
    2. “It’s Christmas! (how dare you want to sleep after a 12-hour shift instead of attending to my needs)”
    3. “You’re not doing anything important! (any holiday celebration that does not suit my own inclinations is invalid and can be freely stomped on)”

    I can see it all coming, either a tense and sleep-deprived day of having my boundaries ignored, or seeing the person I love have massive guilt-trips dumped all over him for… basically forever, which is how long she holds on to things.

    This is the first year I’ve ever felt dread in relation to Christmas day, and it’s not something I’d care to repeat.

    1. Is there any reason you and Partner have to be at your house?

      Is there anything stopping you from getting a hotel room, turning off your phones, making sweet sweet Christmas day love, followed by eating sweet sweet Christmas Day chinese food and finally enjoying an even sweeter Christmas Day 12-hour sleep?

      I mean, if the MIL is going to guilt and harass and bother you no matter what you do, why not? And make it to where she can’t find you easily to boot.

      1. We talked it over, and at the moment the plan is to be proactive about planning (suggesting an alternate day in December to spend time with her), and then just… “not be in”. Money doesn’t make a hotel room an option, but if the phones are off and no one’s answering the door, how would she know the difference.

        Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  101. I don’t want to cross the streams, so I’ll focus mostly on the uggggh.
    Anyway, Thanxgrieving was never a particularly “family of origin” deal for me, but Xmas was. My Mom died 14 years ago & I stopped going home for Xmas after the Xmas after she died where no one would say her name (I found out later it was because they didn’t want to “upset me”, but I was far more upset by their acting like she’d never existed!). So every year I resolve not to get weird around Xmas, but I think I mostly block it out. I’ve been in my current city for 12 years & I literally could not tell you what I’ve done for Xmas previous years.
    I’ll be spending Xmas with my new love in a lovely place, and she doesn’t celebrate, so on the one hand it’ll be nice to be with someone who will treat it as just another day, but still uggh because there’s no getting away from the forced emphasis on faaaaaamily on that day in the world around us.

    1. Well & uggggg because I miss my Mom so much it physically hurts & I hate spending Xmas without her.

  102. I have an autoimmune disease that I manage by diet. It’s an epic pain in the ass. It’s also freakin’ fantastic to Not Be Sick Anymore, and I am intensely grateful that I am one of the lucky ones who can control my illness.

    My father is one of those people who just doesn’t get things. He understands that I’ve got this lifelong chronic illness (which in hindsight has been going on for well over a decade, I just didn’t know what it was), and he saw (along with everybody else) the enormous positive changes that happened once I started managing my illness. It’s just….he can’t quite get the disconnect between knowing in his head about it, and stopping to think about what he should do. Making a pattern of thinking about stuff, and especially changing his own behaviour, so that my reality fits into his existence. We’re not talking things like, I need ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW, but, “Daddy, you know that if you smear the peanut butter all over your bread, and then stick the knife back in the peanut butter jar for round two, you’ve just made it so that I can’t eat any of the peanut butter, right?” and “Daddy, thank you so much for thinking of me, but I watched you cook that with XXXX and I can’t eat that.”

    After 2 1/2 years of this, my father has finally taken on board the idea of cross-contamination. He has finally managed to reconcile the fact that I am now visibly in excellent health with tons of energy with the fact that I’m still sick and will be for the rest of my life. And he’s finally, FINALLY taken to heart the notion of asking me first, and doing what I tell him to do when it comes to managing my illness.

    As a result I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving a lot more than in previous years.

  103. So this year, I’m going through a break up. It’s been about two weeks after two years of dating and it’s just kinda casting a shadow on things.

    I’m recognizing that as much as I want to be Buddy the Elf at Christmas time, I tend to be kinda easily disappointed or let down around the holidays. My family of origin is kinda fragmented in weird ways…

    Anyway, I am impressed by how well relatively I’m handling this break up (not that there’s some award I’m going to win :)) because I didn’t want it and I was so in love and now there’s a huge void in my day without someone to text inconsequential things to. Eg, someone mispelled a client’s name so it looked to have the word “douche” in it, teehee, etc etc.

    I’m sad but I’m also really aware that this is the right thing. I feel a little free and less stressed/anxious and more like…I am going to be true to myself. I’m going to be open to people and assert myself and…me becoming healthier is probably in some ways why this relationship is over.

    Still. I have always loved Christmas in a way that isn’t really pure, more like I had some hope it would fix me. Make me feel more warm, joyful, loved. It can’t do that. I’m trying to reframe these holidays as *potentially* fun dinner parties with people I trust and not more than that. I just wish I could enjoy it for what it is and not feel lonely in a room with people who love me.

    Phew. Sorry if this double posts.

    1. “me becoming healthier is probably in some ways why this relationship is over”

      There is so much awesome self-awareness and growth in your post! Sometimes not getting caught up in the illusion of holiday magic is both freeing and sad at the same time. I know what it’s like to feel more lonely in a room full of people who ostensibly love me and are happy I am there than being alone on a holiday. It sounds like there is a chance for at least some fun and pleasant moments. And people you trust! It’s perfectly okay to focus on those–as well as acknowledging the lonely, right?

      For me, the lonely tells me what I want and need to develop. Me becoming healthier is why I haven’t done family holidays for the past couple years, especially, and why I’ve let partners with whom I’ve celebrated in the past go. Last year I was actually alone on the holidays as I was starting to re-build. This year I have plans for Thanksgiving and fun events planned every week for the next month. And I’m not absolutely exhausted as I usually am by this time of the year, so I might actually add stuff. Yay! And I had been super content; I wanted for nothing. But a couple extraordinary days happened because I had the energy to take a couple of good risks and I got that small taste of what a fully connected life could be and now I’m a bit sad that I only have one social thing going on this week, as I listen to all the people who have a “home” and well-established family and friend groups to connect with all week. So I get the ambivalence, truly.

  104. I just split up with my boyfriend of a year. This might have been the one Christmas I actually didn’t end up feeling just a wee bit like Sad Old Maid Daughter, but no. My decision, but still. My brothers (both married) won’t be going to my parents’ for Christmas. We’re probably having a celebration a few days earlier so that’s totally fine, and I’m sure I’ll have a perfectly okay time with my parents on Christmas day, but it will feel a bit lonely. Or maybe it won’t, but it feels lonely thinking about it now.

    Also, I’m skint, and starting to worry about spending on presents. I already “owe” a couple of people presents for occasions earlier in the year.

  105. Stuff and more stuff.

    I don’t know. Holidays have gotten weird. This year my mom is going to be spending T-day with my brother who is going through a divorce, just the two of them alone. Brother was invited to my place (I’m hosting for 2 of my sisters and their families), but didn’t want to travel (it’s a 9 hour drive). Brother was invited to other brother’s but couldn’t take the emotional hit of comparing their current home lives (other brother is happily married).

    So I’m just. Sad about that. I feel terrible for him and he feels like he shouldn’t fight for custody of his kids, even though his ex is a neglectful person with serious substance abuse problems, because she’s their mother and that’s some kind of — I don’t know, magic talisman?

    Plus I have to cook a giant meal with an injured hand, so THAT is going to be fun, I tell you what.

  106. My holidays are pretty meh this year.

    After my Mom died a few years ago the holidays turned into a third-wheel affair for me. She was the nucleus of our large, blended family of eight women – all of whom are married with families , except me. So, I would spend the holidays with her and my Dad, and in turn spend holidays with my siblings as they made their holiday rounds with my parents. The year after she died I assumed it would be roughly the same, albeit with my Dad and it would be much quieter. He instead spent the holiday with his future wife and kind of dumped me on my twin. Which is fine, I understand he gets to do what he wants and twin was happy to have me, but it meant spending the holiday with her in-laws who are very nice and generous to have me, but I felt like an outsider.

    So, last year I decided to make Christmas for myself and not travel home for the holidays. Instead I elected to make new traditions with my boyfriend and spend it with his very welcoming and loving family. It was great.

    Now, boyfriend and I are no longer together. I don’t want to spend the money to fly home and feel like a third wheel. Most of my friends are married with their own families…so this year I think the holidays are not going to really happen for me. I already volunteered to work Thanksgiving for a co-worker and seriously considering doing the same for Christmas.

    For now, my only holiday tradition is I have to go to church on Christmas Eve, sing “Silent Night” by candlelight, and proceed to bawl my eyes out. It’s how I am able to connect with my Mom on the holidays.

    1. If it helps any, my mom used to do the same thing — working holidays — she felt like, she was alone and divorced and her coworkers who had little kids should be able to have a day off. It helped her get through a few rough years before she got emotionally back on her feet after she & my father split up. Just. Feeling like she was doing something good for someone, even if it wasn’t the holiday she dreamed of.

  107. Hi there. Um, so I’ve only commented once recently, but have been a longtime reader. This Thanksgiving is… well, it’s hard, but for a reason that seems really silly to me when I say it or write it out. I’ve talked with my longtime therapist about all of this ’til I’m blue in the face, but nothing seems to be helping me, and I don’t know what to do anymore.

    My ex’s birthday is on Thanksgiving, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him lately. Well… I’ve never really been able to stop thinking about him, but it’s been worse as Thanksgiving draws nearer. I guess I’m sad because in the past, I’d hoped we’d spend his birthday together, and spend this holiday together. I worry that I’ll be distracted with thoughts of him on Thursday, and that’s not fair. It’s not fair that he still affects me this much.

    Quick backstory: We knew each other for nearly six years (met at work, saw him almost daily), and I finally got a new job in a city two hours away. After I quit, we began seeing each other, and that lasted a year and a half. It’s been eight months since he ended things, and six months since we had a very ugly public confrontation about how it ended (he dumped me over the phone, and I found out later that he was probably seeing the woman he’s with now before he dumped me). He was probably emotionally abusive to me as well, but I’m still struggling with accepting that that’s the label for what he did.

    Anyway. I’m not blameless in that confrontation happening– I fully admit that I instigated it, and I did it in front of her, and I’m still very embarrassed and ashamed of myself. But I’m not sorry that it happened, because I needed to stand up for myself. I confronted him, although quietly, and said what I had to say, and that was all I wanted to do. He responded by blowing up and screaming awful things at me in a room full of people. He wanted to humiliate and shame and gaslight me in public by screaming that we were never dating, that he was just trying to be my friend, that I’m delusional, that I was stalking him. I’ll never forget the look on the other people’s faces, the way people started whispering, and I left, had a meltdown, and was suicidal for several days afterward.

    I know that since then, he’s told other people, who know me, all of those awful things. There’s no good way for me to defend myself against those sorts of accusations. People will believe what they want to. I heard that the woman he’s with now threatened to break up with him if he didn’t get rid of me, so apparently she believes his story about us never actually being together.

    Maybe if that awful confrontation hadn’t happened, I’d find it easier to move on and forgive him. Maybe I wouldn’t dread going home to visit anymore. Maybe I wouldn’t avoid places I used to love going because I’m terrified that he’ll be there. It’s still hard for me to reconcile the person I loved with the person he was that evening. It’s hard for me to go home anymore and not be haunted by him. I can’t go visit friends at the place I used to work, because he’s there. I can’t go to art openings or events, because he’s there. He took all of these things from me, and he knew fully well what he was doing. I trusted him, and he knew how hard it is for me to ever trust anyone, and yet he did what he did, and broke my trust, and now I don’t know how I’ll ever trust or love anyone again. I really don’t.

    I hate that I’m still this upset over him. I hate that I still give him any thought at all, because I’m certain he doesn’t think about me anymore. He doesn’t care about what he did to me, or how badly it hurt me (still hurts me, every day). I’ve been telling myself that I’m over it for months now, but I’m not. It’s so obvious that I’m not, and I don’t know how to be.

    Sometimes I think maybe I’m ready to forgive him. But those moments are rare. I go in circles when I think about him. There are good memories in my mind, and I start there, but eventually find my way to what he did, and I relive it again, and I’m hurt all over, like it’s new.

    I’ve told myself that the only acceptable way of seeing him again is if he were to apologize and ask for my forgiveness. Otherwise, I never want to see him again. But part of me does, and I hate that part of me. I hate that there’s even a sliver of myself that knows she’d let him back into her life if he asked. I want to squash that part of myself down and smother her so she never speaks up again. But she’s stronger than the rest of me put together, and I don’t know how to fight her anymore.

    1. Oh sweetie. This sounds so so tough, and so awful to be dealing with at a holiday when we’re all a little more vulnerable anyway.

      Sometimes things take a long time to get over–I think that definitely his behaviour *after* this blowup is making that worse, because not only are you like “wow, I was not my best self that day”, you have to deal with the fallout of his lies and ass-covering to people you know. And make no mistake–all of the stuff he’s saying to other people isn’t about you, it’s about covering his own ass because he was running a scam on both you and Local Girl and he really needs for people not to find out what a jerk he is.

      It sounds like you need a new Team You so you can have company to go to all these things with, who will be backup for you emotionally in case he shows. I think you also need to start wrapping your head around the fact that the person he was that night is most likely the person he actually is, and was all along. You were wounded, and healing takes time and likely will keep on taking time for a while. The first man I dated after my husband died cheated on me–the first time I’d ever been cheated on–and even though he and I didn’t date for very long, and I didn’t even like him much after I found out he was cheating, I felt so grievously wounded it took a really long time for me to recover. In fact, it extended on to the point where I was just bored with being so hurt and sad, but somehow still couldn’t stop, so not only was I miserable because I was hurt and sad, I was ALSO miserable because I was so sick of being hurt and sad! I didn’t want to forgive him–and in fact, I never have and probably never will–but I did desperately want to reach some kind of peace with myself that took a very long time to come. But come it did, somehow. I reached a point where I was like “okay, well, maybe I’m just going to be fucked up by this forever, so I might as well start going out again and doing things EVEN IF I might see him” (we lived across the street from each other and had used all the same shops etc), so I did, and eventually when I wasn’t paying attention I realized one day that the balance had tipped and I felt more fatigue and indifference about him than sadness or hurt. But it took a long time.

      I think maybe worry less about forgiving him, and more about forgiving yourself. 🙂

      1. Thank you for your kind words. I do feel very vulnerable now, after months of telling myself I wasn’t and shoving my feelings down so I could function as a person.

        I almost lost my job because of this. I was a mess at work, and I got a talking to, and really didn’t receive any understanding from my boss or colleagues. Unfortunately, I still don’t have any good friends where I live now, so there’s no Team Me here. I do have one when I go home to visit, but now the thought of going there fills me with dread. It’s a lonely existence.

        He had never showed this side of himself to me before. Like I said, I knew him for almost six years *before* we were together. He was goofy and funny and sweet, and we did this will-they-won’t-they dance around each other for years. I never, for one second, thought that I’d see him explode at me like that. I’d never even seen him angry before we were dating (or whatever the hell he thinks we were doing). It’s so hard to believe that it’s the same person, you know? How can someone keep themselves hidden for so long, and so well? How did I never know he was like that? By the time his behavior changed, I was in too deep, and I made excuses for him and allowed him to turn things around onto me when I was upset.

        I’m dying to feel indifferent about him. I can’t take this feeling of being sad all the time about a man who doesn’t care about me. I can’t take it knowing that part of me DOES want him back, and wants so badly to see him again, even though I know it would only hurt me more.

        And yes, I do need to try to forgive myself, but… well, I was raised Catholic. I don’t know how NOT to feel guilty about everything. I feel guilty about that confrontation every single day. I regret it and I’m ashamed and embarrassed… and yet, I’m not. I go back and forth with my feelings so much, so often, that it makes me dizzy.

        1. Oh honey. Are you talking to a professional about this? I think if you aren’t, and if you can manage it, it would really really help. You didn’t make him act like this–you called him out on his shitty behaviour, and go you for being so brave!–but he made the choice to behave poorly when his poor behaviour was pointed out, and that’s on him.

          Try just the simplest, most basic thing–look at yourself in the mirror at least once a day and say “I forgive you, art_ticulate. You are okay.” When it gets really bad, do you have someone that you can text or call or talk to and say “am I a bad person?” who will always, always, ALWAYS say “you are not a bad person”? Because wow, that helped my extreme guilt after my husband died. It got pretty tiresome for my poor friends, but they were champs and they always came through for me, and it’s partially because of that–because of people validating and reassuring me whenever I needed it–that I got through my husband’s death so well. But I also had learn to be brave, and to be conscious in the moment of what I needed, and then ask for that.

          There’s absolutely nothing important or virtuous or wonderful about feeling miserable. You are okay. You did the best you could, you stood up for yourself, and it turns out the dude you loved was a douchebag, and that’s on him, not on you. Did you ever really take the time to grieve this relationship? Maybe you should have a good old wallow about it until you’re done and then sit up, dust yourself off, watch Taylor Swift sing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” sixty times on YouTube and get right back out there and be awesome.

          1. I’ve been seeing a therapist for about six years now, so I’ve talked with her a lot about this, but it doesn’t seem to be getting me out of this cycle I’m stuck in. She has also emphasized that I’m not to blame, but I guess I don’t really believe that yet? I don’t know. Something in me just refuses to let this go.

            There are people I text or email when I have a lot of feelings to let out, but I feel like I’m being a burden. I always feel like I’m bothering other people, and being selfish because I’m always talking about myself. So I try not to bother anyone else with my problems. I even feel like my therapist must be sick of hearing about him already, so I haven’t brought it up in a while.

            I feel like I did grieve. Or, maybe I’m STILL grieving. For a few months I thought I was fine, or at least getting better, but now the thought of the holidays is making me sad, and knowing it’s his birthday on Thursday makes me really, really depressed for some reason.

          2. It’s okay to be bummed. I think maybe you should talk to her more about it, not less. Isn’t the whole thing that you have to be honest or therapy doesn’t work? 🙂

            I’m pretty sure you’re not being a burden. You need to get this out because keeping it in obviously isn’t helping. It’s okay to still be grieving. It sounds like it was a complicated situation that ended poorly so there’s probably a lot of stuff to figure out about it. Also: it’s normal to relapse around important dates. It doesn’t mean you’re not getting better, it just means holidays make everything weird.

        2. I’m so very sorry you’re feeling this way. You absolutely don’t deserve it and the new GF insisted he drop you because she DOES know you were dating. Otherwise she wouldn’t care at all.

          I’m just coming out of similar-sounding feelings around a breakup – and one thing I can add to the other fine comments here is that a loss like this often is the door to a deep and profound feeling of Loneliness; one that transends any single relationship and brings us to the Edge of the Known Universe. This was what my reaction to my breakup was – my Core Self knowing I was alone, and desperately not wanting to be. It’s profoundly the Human Condition and many people (ie, ME) run from it by plunging into relationships. Then when one ends, more comes up than just that relationship. Anyway with the help of an extraordinary therapist, this is my own personal realization. If it helps at all, I think you’re a rare and wonderful person for feeling this so deeply. And I hope you are able to move forward with additional self-knowledge and self-care.

          1. It’s true that I feel very lonely now. I’ve been living where I am now for two years, and yet I still don’t really have any good friends or people I trust here. My colleagues aren’t the type to form close friendships with each other or be friends outside of work, which is the total opposite of the last place I was (which is also where I met my ex). There were a couple of people I felt I was starting to be friends with, but they both moved away. My ex and I were long-distance, so at least I was able to look forward to seeing him on weekends, and that got me through everything else. Once that was gone, I fell into that exact feeling you’re talking about, a profound and deep loneliness that seems to transcend everything.

            I’m too scared to get into another relationship any time soon. My trust has been too broken for now, and I’m honestly not sure how to get back the ability to let anyone in again.

            Thank you very much for being so kind. I’ve always felt that my deep feelings are a bad thing… but that issue goes deeper than just my ex. I’ve always felt emotions very strongly, in a way that seems to put people off, and my feelings have been (still are) diminished by numerous people throughout my life.

          2. Feeling deeply is not normative in our culture. Some people who “feel deeply” actually are narcissistic drama queens who need to keep everyone else stirred up for their own entertainmnet – and sometimes we unfairly are lumped in with them. Don’t go there. You feel – and probably express – emotions more than others: if you were singing, that would be called having a Great Vocal Range! Really the best thing is to do now is what you’re doing: avoiding relationships.
            A book you may find helpful is Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child.
            All this advice is to myself – if you find it helpful, too, I’m grateful for the oportunity to share it.

        3. art_ticulate, I’m sure you’ve considered this already, but finding a low-cost/low-stress hobby or class that meets on the weekends might help with the loneliness. You’ll be around other people, have something in common already, and do something you enjoy. For me, something like an intro martial arts thing or pottery or a choir might be good, but anything that lets you practice a skill and meet a few people will help. They might not become new besties or even friends, but you’ll get to socialize a little.

          1. It’s definitely crossed my mind. I do go to a book club once a month, but I don’t see the ladies in it outside of book club. I was starting to become friends with one, but she moved away recently. :/ I paint and stuff on my own otherwise. And I was going to the gym regularly for about a year before I sank back into this depression. It would probably help if I could start that up again. I hadn’t really made friends with anyone there, but the group classes I was doing were nice.

    2. You don’t owe that jerk forgiveness. You don’t need to see him again, either. You do need to be kinder to yourself.

      There is this myth going around that in order to move on, you need to “forgive”. I don’t agree with that. You’re putting pressure on yourself when I think that accepting that he’s a douchebag who really, really hurt you and humiliated you, that he had no excuse for that, and that he’s a piece of human garbage for cheating on you could be better for you. You don’t need to “forgive” to move past the hurt, but you will need to work to move past those feelings. But I think working on being happy right now would be better. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad about sad things, feeling angry that he broke up with you over the phone while cheating on you, feeling embarrassed that he did what he did in public. Nothing.

      Your mutual friends either know that you were dating, or they don’t. Either way, they saw him act appallingly towards you and will have formed opinions from that.

      1. Thank you. It’s true that I’ve been thinking this whole time that forgiving him would be some sort of release from all of this.

        I have a hard time recognizing that the person I loved and the person who treated me like trash are the same person. That part of me that still loves and misses him speaks up and says “BUT WAIT have you considered x excuse for his behavior” and turns it back around on me again. It’s my fault he exploded. I provoked the encounter. I messed up. I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t this, I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t.

        The mutual friends who are still speaking to me are pretty disgusted with him, so at least there’s that. I think part of me wants someone else to call him out on what he did, like it would be some sort of justice for someone else to call him out in a room full of people on my behalf. That’s childish, though. God, I can’t believe the woman he cheated on me with stood there and SAW him do that to me and she’s still with him. She watched him publicly humiliate another woman and she believed whatever story he fed her about who I was, and they’re still together. I wonder if it’ll happen to her too one day.

        Maybe that’s part of what’s so hard for me: I keep thinking I’m the only one he’s treated this way. I have no way of knowing, honestly. I don’t know any of his other exes personally. So I keep thinking it’s just me, I messed up, I was the problem, because there’s no way he’s really like this and I didn’t know about it. The problem must be me.

        1. Putting my psychologist’s hat on: I was concerned at what you said upthread (which I can’t reply to directly) that you haven’t brought these issues up with your therapist recently because you suspect she’s tired of hearing about them. It’s absolutely not your responsibility to keep your therapist engaged: please don’t worry about that and make sure you get what *you* need from your therapy. It seems you’re in a place where in thinking you did everything wrong your brain is seeing a version of events that diverges from reality, and that’s hurting you. Therapy is a place that should be able to help you with that, and I really hope you will feel free to address those issues there.

          If it helps, I’ve seen a lot of people, especially those who have suffered emotional abuse in relationships, who have had trouble coming to terms with the idea that their partner is not who they thought they were (i.e. there is absolutely nothing weird or strange about your reaction). A thing that may possibly help is to think of them as Real Ex and Virtual Ex, Virtual Ex being the person you assumed they were. Those are two entirely separate people, and it’s in no way your fault that you hadn’t seen that prior to everything blowing up. It’s also absolutely reasonable that you should want the world to weigh in in judgment on him. You may or may not get that, but wanting it is absolutely fine and not childish at all: it’s part of the process of getting through this. In fact, it’s a really good thing, because it says at least part of you thinks you have been done wrong and that you deserve redress. (That might seem an obvious thing to think, but often people in emotionally abusive relationships have had their ability to see themselves as in any way valuable severely damaged.)

          1. The Real/Virtual framing is really useful, thanks–it’s a handy flip side to the Bizarro Universe framing I use when I’m wearing my past-trauma glasses that make a genuinely decent person look like a terrible person. (“I thought you were going to be upset with me for having an opinion.” “Uh, no, I like when you tell me your opinions.” “Sorry, I must have been thinking of Bizarro Universe you.” “Wow, Bizarro Universe me is a real jerk!”)

          2. My therapist has never given me any indication that she’s not actively listening or trying to help me, so I know that’s just my jerk brain being its jerk self. I have a thing where I assume that no one actually wants me around and is just too nice to tell me to get lost, or that people only keep me around for ulterior reasons, and I know, with certainty, that this is a defense that stems from a childhood spent in an unhealthy Catholic school environment. If I already assume that people are tired of me, it won’t hurt as much when they finally do get rid of me. Except I didn’t do that with my ex, because he led me to believe that he was different. But now my jerk brain thinks he’s just proved my point about no one ever wanting me around.

            He was really, really good at being Virtual Ex. He was Virtual Ex for years before we were even together. He was my friend, my very good friend, before we dated. I can’t believe my friend would do this to me. That’s where I get stuck going in circles. I miss my friend, but I guess that person never really existed. I feel such a profound sadness when I think about that.

            I hadn’t considered that a desire for judgment could be good in any way. I certainly fall in with people who have had their self-worth damaged. It was already fragile to begin with, so this hasn’t helped. My thinking makes no sense, because I know I was wronged, in a very deep way, and yet I keep finding ways to blame myself for it.


            Separating an ex into Real Ex and Virtual Ex made me think: What if it was Real Ex and Imaginary Ex? Which would still fit the idea, but then if you combined them you’d have (maths incoming) a Complex Ex. A Complex! Which they can very well give you.

            I’ll be over here, laughing at my own joke.

        2. People generally don’t just choose a single target to treat abominably badly. This dude sounds like the type of person who expects things to just work out the way that he wants, and he will steamroll to make sure it happens.

          1. He is very good at making you think that he’s the victim in everything. He was divorced about, hm, 15 years ago, maybe? And to hear his version, she was the villain in that story. Now that I’ve gone through this with him, I’m sure that his version isn’t really what happened. Or, maybe it is, but maybe he was abusive, too. It could be both.

            He’s so, so friendly. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him. I liked him instantly when I met him. He’s goofy and sweet and makes art and teaches art classes on weekends, outside of the job where he and I met. He’s pretty well-known in the art scene back home, which is why I can’t really go to any of the things I used to enjoy. So he’s very social, and puts up this amazing front at being this sensitive, sweet artsy guy. And clearly it works! But I also wonder how many other women he’s dated were treated this way, and if they were, if they ever spoke up to anyone about it.

    3. Hi, I would like to comment on one particular part of what you wrote. You said “I’m not blameless”. Then you went on to describe how you actually had good reasons for what you did, and he was the one who turned it into a public spectacle.

      I’ve gone round the “I’m not blameless” loop myself, constantly analyzing how I contributed to the situation and what I could or should have done differently. But I’d like to offer an alternate view, one that blew my mind so I’d like to pass it along:

      You don’t have to be blameless.

      You can make mistakes, get things wrong, do things that were not the best thing, you can even hurt people, and still not deserve what was done to you. You don’t have to be blameless to deserve kind, considerate treatment. People mess up. People mess up badly, sometimes. Perfection is not available. How you react to that, to your own mistakes and those of others, is the important part. He reacted very badly indeed, and you were not responsible for that.

      Tangent: One aspect of emotional abuse is to train you to do the opposite of this, to train you to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong and to find fault in yourself when other people treat you badly. I suspect that if you look back on your relationship with this in mind, you’ll see he did a lot of that. If you do see that, it might be worthwhile to bring up individual incidents with your therapist, incidents where you felt guilty for something he did, and work out why you felt that way.

      I hope this was helpful. And I hope things get better for you.

      1. “You don’t have to be blameless to deserve kind, considerate treatment.”

        That… is not something I would ever have told myself before.

        I dwell on my screw-ups. I let them get to me and they tend to fester and haunt me and overwhelm me with guilt. Yet I’m overly forgiving of others’ bad behavior, because like you said, there is no perfection. People’s life situations cause all kinds of behavior, so I’m sympathetic to that in others, but not myself. I, um… I guess I need to bring this up in therapy. I really haven’t before.

        He did do a lot of what you’re describing, and I let it continue to happen because I believed that I was the one who was always wrong. It’s been hard for me to accept the words “emotional abuse” as descriptors for what he did, but I’m working on that. I’ve always thought myself to be so sensible and a good judge of character, and he had me completely fooled. I was so in love with him that I kept making excuses for him, and eventually it just became routine. He never did anything physically hurtful to me, so he couldn’t be abusing me right? That’s what I told myself.

        Thank you so much. This was very helpful, and opens my eyes up to a lot of things I need to bring up in therapy.

          1. Well… I’ll try, but no guarantees. Being nice to myself always makes me feel like I’m being selfish. :/

            You and everyone else have been very kind and said very helpful things, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that. It’s amazing and a little overwhelming that anyone could be so nice to someone they don’t even know.

          2. Selfishness is so awesome. You should really cultivate it as the virtue it is in people who have good perspective. Selfishness is what makes us say No to things that are wrong for us and will hurt us, even if they would be nice for someone else, and selfishness is what makes us say Yes to things that are awesome and will be good for us, even when we feel like that’s a bad thing. Selfishness is taking the promotion when it’s offered and you know you’ve worked hard for it. Selfishness is telling someone you can’t help them move because you have a bad back. The concept of “selfishness” is more often used as a weapon by other people to make us do what they want than a useful tool for self-assessment.

            I’m really glad we have helped. You are okay, you’re just in a tough spot and it’s hard to see the end from where you are.

          3. (To art_iculate, out of nesting) Sooo….if it wasn’t for the details of your specific situation, this would be me, in terms of how I thought for a long time about bad situations; shut down and stop talking about my issue because if I’m getting sick of it already, I *know* everyone else is (and I was put here to listen and care, not to ever expect that in return, because I’m so sensitive and emotional and thus draining, right?); blame self for the slightest problems and find all the understandable and forgivable reasons for the most egregious abuses of everyone else Catholic indoctrination (woven into family and school toxicity).

            Selfishness has indeed been therapeutic. As was/is directing my anger outward instead of inward–not only at the immediate situations I was in, but then digging into all the people and processes that socialized me to end up in the situations I did. Now there is some tiring guilt still, for being “selfish” and angry, but that is definitely less draining than the mind/feeling loops like yours I was actively going through for a year and a half. I’m happy, peaceful, content, and/or joyful often now!

            Starting out in a new place, I found a gentle movement practice for fitness and self-care where all the women are wonderful and friendly, and that has been healing, too. So definitely look for that kind of class if your ability level allows, as you build your new routine.

          4. (to Pumpkin dePie and Astral)

            “The concept of “selfishness” is more often used as a weapon by other people to make us do what they want than a useful tool for self-assessment”

            Yup, and it works on me every time. I always end up giving in, letting others walk on me, because I’m afraid to be selfish. And in the rare instance where I DO do what I actually want to, I feel horrible about it.

            “blame self for the slightest problems and find all the understandable and forgivable reasons for the most egregious abuses of everyone else Catholic indoctrination (woven into family and school toxicity)”

            Yup, again. I don’t know what it’s like to not feel guilty about everything. I’m one of those people who says “I’m sorry” for everything, even when it’s nothing to do with me. It’s just been conditioned in me to respond that way. It’s something I have as a priority to discuss in my next therapy session, and hopefully my therapist can help me put together a plan for working on this. It’s haunted me my whole life and it’s exhausting, and I’m finally at point where I’m tired of it.

            Even now, I STILL feel guilty about my ex and that confrontation. I typed up a text message that I haven’t sent him, and I’m scared that I might. I said: “Hi, I just wanted to say happy birthday. And that I’m sorry for what happened last time we saw each other. I think about it every day. I’m not sorry that I stood up for myself, but I’m sorry for the way that it happened. You hurt me very deeply.”

            I know that even if I did send it, he’d probably ignore it, or maybe tell me to leave him alone. His reaction would be worse than not sending it, right? I’m not going to, but again, there’s that small part of me that still longs for him, for some contact with him, no matter how small. And I know it’ll just hurt me more than if I left things alone.

            I was going to the local YMCA regularly, like 5-6 times a week, for about a year. Then all this happened, and it’s been sporadic since, as I sink in and out of depression. I also had a car accident recently that’s kept me at home in pain, and some illness. But I have every intention of getting back on a regular schedule next week. I don’t really have friends there, but the group classes I was going to were so encouraging and fun, and I liked swimming on weekends.


            Please please take him out of your phone. He doesn’t need to be there. He’s not your friend. You can’t morose-text someone whose number isn’t in your phone!! I’d also suggest, if you are the sort prone to this (I am) going through and deleting all his past emails, all your emails to him, and all your chatlogs.

          6. Don’t worry, I didn’t send the message. Problem is that I HAVE taken him out of my phone, but I also have his phone number memorized. I agonized over it all day and finally just let my phone battery die and didn’t recharge it.

            I feel a little better today. Have spent time with family all day, which helps. And I made some plans to travel out of town for the New Year, so I’ll be distracted by that and hopefully won’t have time to be sad!

          7. Okay good! And travelling is good; I’m glad you’re doing this. Eventually, believe it or not, you will forget his number. 🙂 I’m reminded of the episode of HIMYM where Robin deletes Don from her phone and then keeps calling him because it’s memorized, until one day…it isn’t! And that’s when she realizes she’s started getting over him.

  108. I always dread Christmas. I live far away from my immediate family in an expensive-to-live-in and expensive-to-travel-to city and rarely see them. I see my parents each maybe once a year if I’m lucky. My mom is coming this Christmas for the first time since I was in University (12 years ago) and she and I are both excited for this visit, and my son is thrilled that Grandma is coming to stay with us. This will be the first Christmas since being with my husband (around 10 years) that I will have anyone from MY family here. Every other year it’s been all about what his family wants to do, and any suggestions I ever make for doing anything different (like, how about everyone NOT stay up until midnight to open presents and then sleep over at our place on Christmas Eve, because where? and also that sounds like more work for me and less relaxing, which is all I want to do) get treated like I’m a huge bitch for not “wanting a fun family Christmas like we had when we were kids!” I end up feeling lonely and sad, every year, because truly, the only thing I want to do on Christmas Day is hug my mom my brothers my cousins my nieces and nephews and dad.

    Anyyyyywayyyy…..this year, due to some extreme procrastination on my husband’s part, our finances are fucked. After waiting for him to do…anything…to improve the situation, after months of doing everything in my power to reduce our expenses, and being patient and making suggestions (hey, how about career counseling? Hey how about going to some temp agencies? Hey how about dropping off a resume at the grocery store down the street? Hey, you mentioned that you’re depressed, how about talking some of this through with a professional so you don’t feel so bad about not contributing more financially?) I just got a second job. On top of my full-time job. I will be working evenings through the Christmas season, at a department store. Which is fine…I’m looking forward to the ease of retail, and with minimum wage in this province being pretty decent, being able to like, pay bills on time and make sure we have food.

    On the one hand, it’ll be easier for me to say “sorry I can’t make it to that -Husband Family Thing” and set boundaries in general because I’ll be either working or spending time with my mom. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m still going to end up being the bad guy here. I”ll be the one they “never see!” or the one “keeping her son” away from his cousins and Husband’s Sister. Or I’ll be the one “not willing to share” when I say No, you can’t borrow my car, I need to get to work, from work. (MY car. Husband has no license, is not on the insurance, is not in any way a co-owner. My car entirely, and the first Adult Thing that is really, fully mine. I worked hard for it.)

    And on the other hand, Christmas shoppers. By Boxing Week, I fully expect every person I encounter to be frazzled and rushed at best, and entitled and ornery or abusive at worst.

    To top it all off, when I mentioned to my boss at my day job (which is a great job!) that she may be getting a call for a reference, because I’ve been hired at Department Store, she somehow thought it was constructive to tell me she was nervous about how that will affect my energy levels, that she hears me yawning every afternoon (shit! gotta suppress those yawns!) and she doesn’t want me to take on too much. Great. Way to make me second-guess my instinct to provide for my family in whatever way possible. A decision I made because I’m sick of wondering if we’ll have enough for groceries after paying rent, childcare, water, hydro, credit card bills, car payments, student loans, line of credit interest, phones and internet. This morning I thought about asking what the difference is between me moonlighting at a retail place and her working full time while also completing her Master’s….but I won’t. I won’t.

    I will just….somehow work all the time, and carve out special moments and memories with my mom and husband and son, and remain awesome at my day job (I am awesome at it). Christmas will happen, perhaps in the background.

    1. You are awesome for being so dynamic and so constructive, and you should give absolutely no attention to anyone who whinges or criticises you in any way.

  109. After an absolutely terrible Thanksgiving 2 years ago, my husband and I agreed to non-family Thanksgivings from here on out. Last year we visited friends, and this year we’d been planning to host a friendsgiving (with a French family and a vegan couple, so pretty nontraditional!), but on Saturday at roller derby practice I fell and broke my left leg (tibia/fibula) quite badly. I had surgery Sunday morning and came home from the hospital yesterday, but there’s no way I can do all of the cooking and cleaning I needed to do now – or, for that matter, any cooking and cleaning – nor do I want all of those people in my space that soon. So I’m pretty bummed, because I was looking forward to it, and because of all the food we’d already bought that now I don’t know what we’ll do with.

    I’ve also had to cancel a trip to Florida in early December to officiate a tournament and go to the Harry Potter theme park with my mom and sister, and I don’t know yet if I’ll be in good enough shape for the 8-hour drive to see my family for Christmas, so my holidays are pretty significantly dampened this year.

    And, y’know, also my leg is broken.

    1. I’m so sorry for your injury. Truly.

      A gentle suggestion: someone in my neighborhood Facebook group offered up the food they bought for Thanksgiving to a family in need. Maybe that could work for you? It was very sweet and the family who received was very grateful.

    2. This sounds like a job for soup and toast. Jedi hugs and lots of soup and toast to keep you warm and happy in the meantime.

      So sorry about the leg.

  110. I don’t have anything against the holidays (Christmas here) per se, in fact, as a believer, they’re pretty important to me personally. However, I am not looking forward to seeing the stress hosting Christmas causes my mom. My mom has three kids, only one of whom lives in the same city as her. So us other two fly up to celebrate the holidays – I am single, and my sister is not, and she also has kids. For a long time, my sister celebrated the holidays with us every other year, as her in-laws gather the family every other year. Now they’re back to staying with us every year, as her in-laws sold the house, and they literally don’t have space for all of them. However, my BIL still spends a lot of time with his parents, as they are getting on in years, so he sometimes takes the couch there instead of sleeping at my mom’s.

    When my sister and her family stay with us, it is very stressful for my mom. I try to help as much as I can, by helping with the cooking, doing the dishes, tidying the bathroom etc. My mom is very grateful for this, but it seems to cause her more stress, not because she doesn’t want me to help out, but because my sister doesn’t help out, and my mom feels guilty about that. I’ll never forget the day before Christmas my mom burst into tears as I was helping her clean the house because my sister had ignored my mom’s wishes, and traveled 3 days early, so my mom was stuck hosting instead of preparing. Or one time when they were leaving after Christmas, and suddenly my mom and I had to make dinner for them because their plans fell through, and while I was busy in the kitchen, my sister, sitting on the sofa, told one of her kids to ask me instead when they asked her for help. She’s gotten a little better (I think my BIL got embarrassed and chewed her out .) But it is extra stressful for me and my mom.

    In addition is the fact that while I love her kids, they are so hyped up at Christmas. It irritates me to see them get irritated because they are happy with their first 5 presents, and want to play with their toys, but they’re not allowed because they have to open the remaining 25-30 presents. It is so sad to see that excitement die over the course of the package unwrapping, turning to almost cynicism about what they got. I think they would have been happy with a third of the packages they get. However, my sister loves to give presents. She is incredibly generous, as is my BIL. I think that creates a chain effect, where at least his family and their friends end up giving lots of presents to their kids (my sibling and I were poor as church mice for a long time, and my sibling still isn’t well-off, so our presents were by necessity fewer and smaller.)

    Finally, last Christmas my sister and I ended up in a loud discussion because apparently she doesn’t think my job is a full-time job. After all, us teachers have fall break and winter break and spring break and that loooong summer break, and if we end up working more hours than we are supposed to if we got rid of the first and third break, we can just write overtime for it. After all, that is what she does in her job as management in a big company. I know I shouldn’t have taken the bait and thankfully everyone else at the table managed to redirect the conversation, but this was at the end of our stay, so I was so tired.

    So, it ends up with me going up the day before Christmas, and going home as soon as it is decent, even though I only see my family twice a year, I am looking forward to the week afterwards, though. We don’t start work until after New Year’s, and so I have some wonderful days at home waiting for me, and a New Year’s Eve all alone with a movie marathon. Bliss! (If only they would stop sending up fireworks after 1:30a.m, so that I could sleep properly, it would be perfect.)

  111. My brother has hijacked Thanksgiving. He unilaterally declared that he will be hosting my side of the family’s festivities in his home, and we are all to arrive at X time. He lives 30 miles away from us, on the other side of [major US city]. In years past, we have spent the main course with one family and the dessert with the other, flip-flopping every year on who gets main course. This has worked when my parents hosted at their house, as my parents and my in-laws live a 5-minute drive from one another. This year was already slated to be a ‘main course at my in-laws’ year, and then my brother did this–meaning that 5-minute drive between dinner and dessert was suddenly a 30-minute drive, from which we would basically have to do another 30-minute drive to get home at the end of it all.

    So we’re not going. I love my in-laws and am happy to spend all of Thanksgiving with them, but I’m pretty peeved with my brother for hijacking Thanksgiving like this, as it essentially cut me off from seeing my own side of the family that day. So I’m peeved.

  112. I work in retail. The holidays I celebrate are largely ignored (some years the store where I work has a single style of gift card with a menorah on it; not this year), my work started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween, and by the time we get through Black Friday I will be sick to death of all of it. This year we’re opening at 3pm on Thanksgiving. It’s only my dad and me in driving distance, so we wouldn’t have had any big Thanksgiving feast anyway, and they’re paying us double time, which is kind of nice. But I’m not looking forward to all the customers saying “I’m so sorry you have to work on Thanksgiving! They really shouldn’t make you do that!” while telling the company to the tune of $100, $500, $1000 that they absolutely should.

    1. This year, as in many past years, I have pledged not to shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Christmas Day. Not even a trip to the grocery store. I always announce this on social media to try to convince a few people to do the same, with varying levels of success. I’m sorry that coming in on Thanksgiving is a thing that is happening to you. 😦 My little sister is in school and works 1-2 days a week in retail, and this year they scheduled her for an overnight on Thanksgiving and told her that if she refused, called in, didn’t show, or complained she was fired.

      1. I’m going to encourage you to also make sure you’re including pharmacies, movie theaters, grocery stores, and gas stations on your “should not be open” list if you’re sharing on Facebook. If retail workers deserve a “family holiday” so do other low-wage workers.

        I’m the grinch who is replying to everyone who shares that to remind them not to patronize other businesses with low-wage workers, ESPECIALLY movie theaters. (Pet peeve: don’t complain about retail workers not getting to spend time with faaaaaaaaaaamily while not giving movie theater workers the same courtesy; similarly don’t whine about being “bored” and wanting to go to the movies while talking out of the other side of your mouth about people not needing to shop just because they are “bored”.)

        1. I have Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, an extensive DVD/Blu-ray collection and a houseful of books, instruments, and art supplies. So I generally do okay on the entertainment front.

          The toughest part for me is always planning ahead well enough that I don’t wind up needing something last-minute from the grocery store.

          1. I will be buying toilet paper today! And it will be just in time. But I’m pleased I didn’t buy it on T-day. Although I wish I had bought some last week.

    2. Oh, ugh.

      Me to a cashier this morning, as I put my receipt in my pocket: I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!
      Her: I’m gonna be here.
      Me: …I promise not to be one of the people making you miserable on Thanksgiving.
      Her, fervently: *THANK YOU*.

      I felt so bad for her. And for you! That sucks.

  113. I have Thanksgiving covered. I’m spending it locally with the Boo and some mutual friends and while I’m not hosting, I have asked The Host if there is something I can bring with me to contribute to the festivities. Allergy and food sensitivities are being taken into consideration, I know what I will be preparing, I enjoy cooking (but not hosting), and I’m looking forward to it.

    It is Christmas/New Years, which is turning my guts into Raging Knots of Discomfort.

    My family now lives An Air Flight away and this year has been awful for me on the financial front For Reasons. So, I don’t have the cashy money to afford a flight/hotel/car rental.

    Parental Units are offering flight + housing for the duration of the holiday, however this makes me very uncomfortable because:
    — Parental Units are Not Well Behaved and don’t always respect boundaries
    — Parental Units would use the opportunity to continue to pressure me (along with Siblings) to Move In With Them
    — I would need to rely on Parental Units, Siblings, and/or Other Visiting Relatives to get around or to get away for awhile
    — Parental Units would arrange it so any need for me to Pull The Rip Cord of GTFO would cost me $$$ I don’t have

    I am heavily leaning toward “No, but Thanks” and I am not looking forward to several conversations and The Guilt Trip and The Threats, which may (or may not) be forthcoming.


  114. Ok now that I’ve posted my Yay Thanksgiving!! comments, here’s my Ugh Christmas! comment and question. My mother, let’s just say, shares a lot of traits with the kind of narcissist mothers described by Karen McBride and others. Christmas is also a HUGE deal for her, and ALL about her, and her narcissist-like tantrums, rages, etc. tend to be magnified a zillion-fold. She still holds on to the Norman Rockwell ideal, and wants everything to be Absolutely Perfect, and will throw tantrums if we don’t properly play our roles in her scripted holiday. One Christmas she had a teary breakdown because she didn’t get as many presents as my dad (when, actually, more had been spent on her gifts than on my dad, sister and I combined. She just got a bunch of expensive gifts, whereas my dad got lots of cheap kitchen stuff, socks, underwear, and etc.). Then there was the Christmas right after my December wedding, when she went on and on about how beautiful my sister looked and how she should have been the one to get married (because sister is so pretty and nice and smart, and I’m chopped liver apparently?), and the one and only comment she made on my wedding in 2 weeks was that it was too bad I looked so fat in my photos.

    So with that as background, here’s my dilemma. My father died several years ago, and every year since she’s insisted on roping sister and I into Melodramatic Cathartic Family Bonding Sessions where we all share our deepest and fondest memories (think Janice at Livia’s wake on The Sopranos) and, just, no. Sister and I are both really uncomfortable with this. The first year we both went along with it, but since we’ve tried to weasel our way out of it – which always ends up with mom hurt and pouting, and sister walking on eggshells and trying to smooth things over. Does anyone have any good scripts for getting out of Forced Remembrances short of “no, I don’t feel like it, please pass the green beans” [uncomfortable silence]? I miss my dad at Christmas, too, but I’m guarded around my mother and really don’t like being guilt-tripped into baring my emotions around someone who has repeatedly shown herself to not be a safe person to share my feelings with.

  115. My spouse, who is my only family, has to work on Thanksgiving. Which isn’t new, he had to work Thanksgiving last year too because retail sucks, but I’m just kvetching about it. It’s hitting me especially hard this year because all our food plans had to be changed to accommodate new sodium restrictions for me and also my ding-dang birthday is Black Friday so I have to spend that alone too. I’m making the best of a bad situation by planning to marathon my favorite movies and hanging out with online friends, but it’s just so demoralizing. I honestly don’t know what the employees of his store have to do to find child care on Thanksgiving, I really think it’s heartless for them not to close for one freakin’ day.

    I just want to lay in bed with my spouse until noon, then get up and gorge on pot roast and watch a movie together like we used to do every Thanksgiving, and if I can’t do that then I want to whine about not being able to do that.

    It’s not all bad news, I finally got prescribed some medication for my anxiety and depression and it’s been going great. I keep meaning to go to the forum and see if there’s a thread to talk about SSRIs and such, I have so much to learn.

  116. Last year was WW3 in our family. It was Mom and Dad, with Sis and Spouse versus Brother and Spouse. I heard 2nd and 3rd hand stories about who said what. I live 1,500 miles away, and I still don’t know exactly what happened. Both sides have not spoken to each other since. Grandchildren don’t see grandparents or each other. When I gently try to discuss moving forward and reconciliation, one on one, half the people cry, the other half get mad and blame others (including me!). I’m been trying my best to stay neutral, and contact family members via phone to quietly discuss what they see happening in the future (while making it clear that I’m not taking sides, I’m just hoping we can be a family again). Generally I get off these phone calls full of anxiety, nauseous and headachy.

    So, I just bought plane tickets for me and hubby to visit, staying with my parents (no hotels within a reasonable drive). Who are old and in poor health, and the War made them a *lot* worse. And they don’t see most of their grandkids, even the one who was born a couple of months ago.
    And there’s not a damn thing I can do to make this better, the holidays are going to absolutely awful.

  117. I’d like to vent, if you please.

    I have never posted before, nor written in. But. I would like to someday, I think, The short version of a longer story is that my family is dysfunctional…no. Abusive. As fuck. I think my mother is a narcissist. My father is a bully. I have two sisters, both younger. One of them, E, is two years younger than me and we grew up together and I have been thinking of writing in because we have not spoken in years and I don’t know how a Scapegoat and Golden Child can realistically ever reconnect.

    But I guess I’m writing today about the other sister, S. She is twelve. She was born when I was fourteen, just going into high school, and I ended up taking care of her, and I held her and I played with her when my mother left to go take E to her stupid expensive ballet classes (but none of my interests were ever funded, useless fat composer and writer that I am – E is so pretty, E is so thin, E doesn’t have ADHD and a learning disability why do you suck so much L – L being me). And my dad working, as a pediatrician just for irony’s sake, all the time. My mother also hilariously had a Ph.D. in psychology. LOL. Thankfully she stopped practicing when she had me so no one needs to worry about that.

    Anyway. S and I were very very very very very close; I often think the ways I wish to describe our relationship more closely resemble those of a mother and daughter than a sister and sister. I love her more than anything. She is my Prim.

    When I went to college it tore us both apart, for me to leave her, and I seriously considered not going just to be with S. But I had to have a future, too, right? College brought its’ own problems, I became severley depressed and developed an anxiety disorder because I majored in Women’s Studies and no one told me how to handle it, not to mention my slightly obsessive brain became obsessed with horrific things like rape as a tool of genocide when all I really wnated to think about was my sister or happy things but sstupid Jerkbrain wouldn’t let me.

    I got better, at that point, in part because little S’s arms having magical powers of helping older and suffering sisters. But the summer after I graduated from college, I was 22. Three months after I graduated our parents kicked me out.

    For anyone who asks why there is no reasonable reason. The reasons, the real reaosns, are that tensions built over years, tensions of my parents being annoyed that children required work, that I required more work because I was not an A+ student, although looking back, I had like an 87 average graaduating high school, I’m still not sure why that wasn’t good enough. Not the main point though. I was not someone to be proud of and refused to become so, and I didn’t have a job lined up right after college so clearly I was a failur eand would always be a failure so they kicked me out and used S an an excuse, saying that I was a bad influence on her, but it wasn’t true, it wasn’t true, I was the one who held her when she creid and you didn’t, Mom, you didn’t.

    I left S my phone number and email on a little scrap of paper but she was 8, she waso only 8. She put it in her “special purple purse”. She was too young to understand.

    I’m 26 now, that all went down when I was 22. Summary of the past f our years: homelessness (from growing up the daugher of a pediatrician; not fun and I didn’t know how to do *shit*) and poverty. My parents then agreed to give me a paltry allowance and I spent three and a half years on that, them paying my rent and a little bit a week. Never enough. They made me move into the local YMCA and I can’t even stand cold weather anymore and I used to love it because the wind whistled through the inadequate windows there, and the men leering in the hallways, and the abuse of the management, and they would never, never let me see S. I called her sometimes and she kept asking, and kept asking, and kept asking, when I was coming back. Always in the presence of our parents. I never know what to ay.

    And I’m sorry if this is too much for the holidays thread but I am thinking aobut it all now. Because the YMCA evicted me for my room being too messy (this is somehow legal) and my very good friend has been paying rent and for food ever since while I get on my feet because sometimes angels are sent to you, sometimes. And maybe I’ll finally go to graduate school and get an actual degreee and an actual job, or probably an actual job first so I don’t burdne my friend too long. But from my independence I stopped talking to my parnets. When the YMCA was evicting me my mother called me, all fucking happy and bubbly, to tell me in her “trying to voncinve you this is actually wonderful when weboth know it isn’t” voice that she had called the state on my behalf and gotten me an emergency evaluation for involuntary inpatient psychiatric care. I ran. (Please keep perosnal opinions on mental health processes out of this; I find the idea of inpatient care abhorrent, for myself, I have no opinion on it for other people, but it’s my story I am telling here, thank you <3)

    I was horrified and refused and ran and my friend caught me this time. And during the past eight months or so of independence and my silence my father has started harassing me by phone (I'm still on the family's phone plan – now they're threatgning to take that away – can't get a new phone number till I can afford one and no I don't really want to sacrifice my phone on top of everything else, I need a phone). My mother through email though I was clever years ago and made a separate email address that only she has so I just never check it except occasionly, on my schedule, not hers. We have not spoken since she tried to have me committed against my will. I don't want to speak to her now.

    I still don't have a stable living environent nor a job and I don't feel capable of facing my parnets right now. Particularly my mother. I speak to my dad regularly becuase he calls my phone eight times a minute if I don't and sometimes I have hypochondriac panic attacks about medical things and call him to see if I'm dying (spoiler: I never am) because I am imperfect and sometimes I want my daddy just like everybody else even though today just this afternoon a horrific memory surfaced of being in a crib, such a very early memory, and my father sitting there in the rockingchair, across the room from me. And he had turned out the light, and I was afraid. ANd I knew without words (in the way of empaths like many of you lovely people and of myself) that he did not want to be in the room, that he was angry and upset but not at me, so I asked in a hesitant small child's voice if he would turn it back on. "No,"came the response, in a short curt callous boom, and then he continued rocking, and I remmber silent tears down my face so he wouldn't hear me, staring at him, willing him to turn the light back on, and there was NOTHING I could do and NOTHING I could change, and that terrifying feeling of powerlessness washed over me today and scared me shitless so I was trembling head to toe.

    So I don't talk to my parents much anymore.

    But they invited me to Thanksgiving. this Thursday. At my dad's brother's house. And they're nice people and are not abusive (at least not to us, not to me, I dont' know) and I have enjoyed seeing them before, and my parents are always better beahvedin company. But it isn't that. It's that I'd see my mother. IT's that my going would necessarily be validation for her. She would get the image of the Kodak happy family that she's always chasing, and fucking obsesed with, the image I can never and will never and never want to fit, the image she drags me into, sometimes literally, if I am near. THe way she hides behind her camera at social gatheirngs, the way she would look so FUCKING SMUG when she saw me, nodding as if I'd fially come home. The home she, her decision, tore away from me, twice; the second time whe nshe cleaned out my room and threw all my things away.Like she did me.

    I don't want to see my mother. I don't feel ready. I don't think this is the year. But I am writing because they are getting older, and because of S. Because she is 12. Because her bat mitzvah is in August and I don't want to miss it but I think I may have to. Because I can't imagine her forgiving me for missing one more year, one more Thanksgiving. I can hear her plaintive little (not so little now) voice asknig where I am, being so bored, beingalone there as I was once, and I want to be there for her but I don't think I can be right now. I don't know how I can help her – I don't know *that* I can help her. I wanted to be her shoulder to cry on. I wanted to rescue her from the Capitol. But I can't even save myself. And I cannot make a decision about Thanksgiving, or afford a therapist to talk to about it right now, so I"m writing here, and I"m sorry if this is too long or the wrong place, but I did not know what else to do.

    1. If your aunt and uncle are people you might feel comfortable taking to, maybe you could reach out to them. Explain that you want to see your sister and dad, but that your parents have not been kind to you (if it helps, say since you finished college). Ask if you could maybe stay with them instead of your parents. They might be able to help run interference. I’m sorry. This is tough. You’re doing your best.

    2. Oh, L. You aren’t the one who needs to be “forgiven”. Your sister has no reason to be mad at you. Have you tried to explain to her what happened? She might be old enough now to have a better understanding. But you aren’t doing anything to her. You need to take care of yourself. If your parents want a happy family they should ACT like a family, but they have treated you so unfairly. Kicking you out on the streets and trying to hospitalize you against your will is horrifying. I hope you took care of yourself over Tanksgiving, and please don’t blame yourself.

  118. So, a less emotionally fraught question then my usual…how do you deal with people who refuse to say what they want for Christmas? I’m so tired of the yearly exchange of gift cards. I really prefer it when people just say get me x movie or at least give me a clue (like ‘I”m really into women poets right now’). Especially with my brother, who can afford to buy himself anything he wants and absolutely refuses to help me out with ideas. Some people take joy from finding the perfect gift…I am not one of them! It just really increases my stress level . So any suggestions for convincing a person not to be coy and just please, please,please TELL me what you want????

    1. Congratulations! You have been relieved of any obligation to get a meaningful gift of any kind. Now you can get them something totally random. A hideous Christmas sweater in the wrong size. A mysterious ceramic object from a neighbor’s garage sale. A can of Spam. If they don’t like it, shrug and say, “You wouldn’t tell me what you wanted so I had to guess.”

      It should only take a few years of this before you start getting extremely specific requests.

    2. The polite and friendly thing to do is assume that they’re like me, and are saying “whatever” or “I don’t know” because they really can’t think of anything to ask for: sometimes my list of things I would like is either incredibly mundane (I don’t really think people want to buy me a bottle of Goya extra virgin olive oil) or impractical (either absurdly expensive, or things I can’t replace because they haven’t been made in years). Mostly, I’d be happy with a card; given that your brother doesn’t need help with groceries, and you’re already worn out, a card with “Happy holidays” would be sufficient.

      Alternatively, you can follow Rose’s advice and give him something random, either utterly random or on the level of “well, I know you like green, this is a green knickknack.”

    3. If you fancy the passive-aggressive approach (to match theirs), you could try buying one of those Oxfam “gifts for poor families in the third world” cards for them (you give Oxfam a sum of money which they use to purchase small livestock, or pay for necessary infrastructure costs for third world communities; the person for whom you’re buying the “gift” gets a card with a picture of what you bought on their behalf. Perfect for passive-aggressive gift-giving). Or there’s the good old “Universal Gift Voucher” (aka “cash”). But really, if you’re asking for suggestions about what to get people, and they’re not co-operating, in my opinion they’ve pretty much given you license to spend the money on whatever gift you fancy to give them – and if that happens to be an identical tin of shortbread, or half a dozen pairs of socks and a six-pack of underwear every year, that’s their problem. You did ask, after all.

      1. To be honest, I would actually be thrilled to get a donation to a decent charity in my name or some solidly quality underwear as a gift, because “buy more underwear” and “donate more to charity” are two of the many things I keep telling myself I should do but never get around to. I have seven Doctors Without Borders flyers on my coffee table and my underwear is full of holes…

    4. I’m not sure what your budget level is, but can you afford to treat him to something? Dinner, a movie, a play or concert or something that you’d both enjoy? Or you could try buying him an ‘experience’ type of gift he might not try on his own. Some of my guy friends, I’ve bought stuff like spa treatments for before, because lots of guys still seem to see spas as ‘girly’, but ha ha, that lasts until their first manicure or pedicure. I try and find somewhere that won’t douse them in girly scented stuff, and that is well rated and seems to have good staff (hands or feet that have never been properly treated + someone who’s not sure of what they’re doing can be DISASTER), and then I get them something like a nice manicure or pedicure (including the hot wax treatment because it’s just a pure waste of money if you don’t get the hot wax treatment… oh sweet hot wax treatment…), or a massage or something. Or hey, just buy him a gift card to somewhere generic. Yes he *can* afford to buy himself whatever he wants, but hey, a gift card is a gift card, and it’s something he can always use. And some people are just not good at thinking of what they can ask others for for various reasons – I like Vicki’s reasoning, it makes complete sense. I don’t know your brother so maybe you could turn it into “joke gifts” but unless you know he’d laugh at that Christmas seems like exactly the wrong time of year to buy gifts that say “you didn’t tell me what you want so here’s my punishment to you.”

      1. He is half a country away, so it’s hard to treat him outside of generic gift cards. I dislike that route bc he always gives me one or money. So he gives me, say, a hundred dollar gift cert to amazon. Then I give him a hundred dollar gift cert to the movies…what has been accomplished? Plus I feel like I have to match the amt when we do the gift
        Cert exchange

        1. Ugh yes, that makes it harder. Okay, so here’s another option: sit him down (or.. skype him down…?) and say brother, I love you and you love me, but trying to get you a gift is really challenging when you won’t give me a list, and you seem not to need anything, and I feel like our gift-giving is just so reciprocal it’s kind of redundant, so how about if we just agree not to do the presents thing and just send each other a nice card instead? Depends on how strongly he feels about prezzies at Christmas of course but if he already has everything and is casual about giving/receiving this could work. Also would give you less stress about ‘matching’ which yeah, I get how much that can suck! I hate that most of my family only ask for gift cards because then I feel like I have to be careful to make sure they all get the same amount even if it’s for different places altogether.

    5. Aaaah, I am one of these people! But it’s because trying to make a wish list fills me with intense anxiety.

      I tell people places I like to shop or eat or go to for entertainment, so maybe try asking that? This works so far with my family, because they know if they get me something from said store, or a gift card to a certain restaurant/grocery store/movie theater, I’ll like it. Things like Amazon wish lists are too overwhelming for me, because there’s so! Much! Stuff! on Amazon, and I get decision fatigue.

    6. What I do some years, when I have the time and energy, is make a mass batch of whatever crafty thing I’m into or something I found on Pinterest and hand ’em out. Unless I have decided that I have personal responsibility for making sure someone has a Big Special Present (and that’s really based on what I decide), I roll whatever I like doing to calm myself down into presents. I ‘m into beadmaking this year, everyone gets a keychain with a Fimo clay bead I made. Found a cookie recipe I love? Cookies for all, gluten-free for some! I’m too busy to craft or bake because I’m weeping into my pasta? Put ribbons on ramen packets, because everyone knows I’m broke and I can try to laugh about it. I get SADD something fierce, and throwing myself into handicrafts is a better way to keep my mind happy than a special lamp, so I turn my coping into presents.

      Not that I’m advocating taking up another task if your time and energy doesn’t go towards that–but my point is, for most people who exchange presents, it really is the thought that counts, and a public presentation of one-size-fits-all yet acceptably consumable gift lubricates the social wheels. If you are the type of person who likes to make sure the gifts are at least personalized and you like thrift stores, most of the thrift stores I know have sections with lots of old coffee mugs for like fifty cents each–finding weird coffee mugs with stuff that’s appropriate to each person you’re buying for is pretty fun, especially if you wrangle someone else into doing it with you (or use it as a good excuse to spend an afternoon with a friend you haven’t seen for a while). Even mass-ordering a few things off Oriental Trading Company or Archie McPhee if you’ve got a few bucks to burn could be a good option.

      Basically, use the gifting process as a way to help yourself relax and blow off steam.

  119. My husband lost his job and is having a hard time finding another one, so our holidays will be quiet this year. Hopefully our kids will understand why we can’t spend money right now. We’ve never gone through such financial uncertainty before. Not fun. My mother in law is also dying, so that is another cloud over the holidays right now as she is close to my husband and kids (me, not so much). Everyday, I focus on gratitude and everything I have to be thankful for, and it really helps keep me in a good frame of mind.

  120. bit of mental health turmoil really. years of getting more and more unhappy at the prospect of Christmas (or any event where it’s expected people have a good time, including my birthday) and i’m very good at rationalising why – it’s not my holiday, it’s an early start, etc. I don’t really know why i’m so unhappy. right now things are just.. hard.. my family is just mum and I and can barely spend half an hour with her without starting for smoulder in anger. And of course she doesn’t know that i’m angry, just that I have a quick to flare temper and frequently irritable and pedantic. It’s only in the last couple of sessions with my psych that i’m starting to realise why I might be so angry and hurt, it’s been years of this feeling.

    So last year I said I wasn’t doing the orphan’s Christmas at our home again, it was too much to pretend to be happy while feeling uncomfortable and surly amongst people that I consider family. It wasn’t fair on me to perform enjoyment and not fair on mum to have the stress of hosting brunch for a big group without real support from me. And I made I note to talk to her to plan something just the two of us. Welp last month she said she was interested in going to volunteer at a charity, handing out food or something on Christmas day. And I thought – that’s amazing, I never knew she wanted to do that and I was so in favour of it. I even started thinking i’d like to go too. But she just said that we can’t – the local charities are full and don’t need more volunteers (as problems go, that’s a lovely one really – to have an over abundance of people wanting to help).

    That was really disappointing because now i’m envisioning spending the whole day with my mum, in our home, bored out of my brain and completely uncomfortable with the tentative attempts we both make to spend time with each other. It will be like every other Christmas (except the morning won’t be taken up by company) where I feel like I’d rather be elsewhere and envious of all my friends who have family traditions they’re devoted to for the whole day. It’s lonely feeling like they’re having fun with their families, while I’m so unhappy in mine.

    My partner’s mum invited me to brunch/lunch with them but there’s no way i’m going to skip out on my mum to have Christmas with another family. Even if i am angry with her, i feel so so guilty about how alone she is without me. She’s my mum. And I definitely don’t want to have to pretend to be happy at someone else’s event too! at least in my own home I can cry. But it’s just a bit sad because he and I both don’t really care to “do Christmas” but he’ll still be unable to waste the day away with me because he’ll be bouncing from his mum’s to his dad’s for meals.

  121. Anybody else spending the holidays with family members that aren’t horrible, just meh? Like, they’re nice and all, but the people I really miss are my friends (first year out of college) and I wish I was spending Thanksgiving with them.

    1. Yes!! I ranted about it a bit in my own comment, but I’ll keep it short here: we have ‘big family’ holidays and I dislike large groups of people and don’t have a close relationship with 99% of my family so any holiday day is generally blown on a very long, very noisy day spent with people who are equally noisy and disdainful of my life choices. YAY.

  122. Oooooh this is such good timing, I’ve been needing somewhere to rant.

    So I’m usually so very very into Christmas. I’m a pessimistic cynic the whole year round, but then Christmas hits and I don’t know what the hell happens to me. It’s like some kind of reverse-vitamin-deficiency kicks in and suddenly HOLY SHIT IT’S CHRIIIIIIISTMAS GUYS!! I fucking love snow and I fucking love Christmas specials and I fucking love decorating and going out shopping when the malls are decorated and looking at Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols and… yes, I’m just obnoxiously into Christmas. In fact, if you have seen Nostalgia Critic’s “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” review, that is me. I mean, internally for the most part. I try not to be obnoxious outwardly to anybody except friends and family, who have to put up with my shit because I put up with theirs.

    But THIS year. This year is just pissing me off. And really, it’s really first-world-y problem type deal, so I don’t want to complain anywhere where people have *real* problems, you know? But it’s still pissing me off, because the whole *issue* is Christmas, which means every time I try and put on carols or tv specials or put up lights, I’m reminded of The Problem.

    The problem: our family usually have big family holidays, but it died back quite a bit when the oldest generation died. Now it’s mostly just Christmas everyone gets together, but even then, there’s plenty that don’t come now – mostly because they’re living far away. I, unfortunately, am very close. I say ‘unfortunately’ for two reasons. First, I am an introvert. I would quite honestly prefer to be home alone on Christmas, or even just with a handful of people. Christmas day has always been very loud and very long and it’s my least favorite bit of Christmas. But I did it, because family, right? I do love (most of) them, even if they are god-awful loud and sometimes irritatingly good at alternating between an obnoxious level of nosiness in my life and an obnoxious level of “oh, are you still talking?” if I try and contribute to a subject they feel I don’t have a say in. For example, the llast subject this happened with: family was talking about kid issues, I mentioned how I felt based on remembering the issue from the PoV of being a kid, I was *literally* told “yeah well, you don’t have kids, so…” Gee, I wonder why N brings a book, a cellphone, *and* her own car to every family celebration???

    That’s not The Problem, though. Here’s The Problem: there has been a falling out between me and let’s call the other family member A. A was a selfish asshole to several family members, including some who weren’t capable of defending themselves against A, and, quite honestly, A has been a selfish asshole as far back as I remember. The final straw came a couple years back, and as nobody else was willing to call A on their bullshit, I decided to do the only thing I could – I just stopped acknowledging A at all. It wasn’t hard because we don’t see each other much, and at family shit there’s usually so many people there I just pick another room. As far as I know, A has accepted my decision and is willing to let it go (and I strongly suspect that this is because A is aware I am not okay with being a sucker for ‘faaaaaamily’, therefore why bother wasting energy being nice to me?)

    The rest of the family is of the “A is family and you need to let those things go” camp, I am of the “when A starts acting like family, so will I” camp. Well… A is hosting Christmas this year. And I really really really really really don’t want to go. But if I don’t go I’m going to hear about it, ESPECIALLY from my mother, who is a) one of the heads of camp “let A do whatever they want because family”, b) extra-clingy with a side of clingwrap when it comes to her children, and c) super super extra sensitive with an extra-large helping of exposed emotional nerve endings on the side. ANYTHING I say to her she takes as criticism. Also she’s selective-memory mom. Many’s a discussion where she’s reacted with “I never said that!” when I bring up something from my past where I felt something she said had a negative impact. I mean, she wasn’t a *horrible* mom, she just had the usual habits of badmouthing her own body and looks and weight – so when I bypassed her weight, of course for years all I heard when she said “I’m so FAT! Fat fat FAT!” was “HOLY JESUS MY DAUGHTER’S AN ELEPHANT” and when she said “no hon, you’re beautiful!” I heard “I’m lying to your face because you’re my daughter and I have to, but HOLY JESUS YOU’RE AN ELEPHANT.” I eventually got past it – but I brought it up to try and explain to her that she needs to stop badmouthing HERSELF because it’s really damaging to people around her as well – and I got “I never said that!” (Yeeeeees you did mom, and you still do every time we go out shopping, even though you’re like a size 12 now and your daughter is still a size 26). I bring this up because if I say “mom, I just don’t like that you’re telling me I have to let A do whatever they want because ‘family’ but A can do whatever they want because ‘family'”. She *will* say “I NEVER SAID THAT!” and then go right back to saying it again.

    Anyway, point being, I’m the only one within reach, so I end up being the one she wants to spend time with. A LOT. To reiterate, I am an introvert. I like being home alone on my days off in order to sort of ‘recuperate’ from dealing with people during my job. It actually makes me tired to have to deal with people too much. But she is my mother and so I spend a lot of time with her because you know, I do care about her and shit, and I’m not a complete asshole, *and* I actually do enjoy spending time with my parents. We get along okay, and our days are generally pleasant. But my mother is both very religious and family-crazy. I *know* if I say an outright ‘no’ to Christmas it’s going to be one long miserable holiday season of hearing incredibly unsubtle hints about how I’m ruining Christmas day by not being there for it. And I *know* that if I point out that I spend a lot of time with her outside of Christmas, she’s going to start a) assuming that I hate spending time with her and pull back inside herself and start worrying every time she asks me if I want to do something if she’s “bothering me” and b) trying to ‘negotiate’ time (“I didn’t call you for ______ amount of time so now you can come to Christmas because I haven’t asked for anything else”). Sooooo… my choice is to a) ruin my own Christmas day and go, or b) ruin my mom’s Christmas day and not go.

    The only solution I’ve come up with so far is to just invite the parents to a day ‘around’ Christmas and have our own Christmas, but I know she won’t think that ‘counts’ as it’s not ‘family’ or ‘Christmas’, and that still leaves the rest of the family to call and demand an answer as to why I’m being so stubborn, including direct family members of A, who hey, nice people and all, but outside of Christmas day, we *never talk*, so I resent even more the fact that they’re mad over my behavior when 364 other days out of the year, nobody gives a shit where I am, or what I’m doing – which to be fair is how I prefer it, because that’s honestly how I feel about them as well. We have nothing in common and that’s fine with me. I am perfectly okay with one day a year where we meet, catch up with a pleasant “ex-co-workers coincidentally running into each other 3 years later on a bus” level of conversation, and then go back to forgetting the other exists again.

    So there’s my rant. Thanks for giving me the space to get out what isn’t actually a life-threatening problem, but is nevertheless making Christmas a much grumpier me than usual.

    1. One thing which might be worth remembering here: you are not “ruining you mother’s Christmas” by deciding not to attend this year. If her Christmas is “ruined” by your not being present, then it will be because she chooses to have it ruined. You cannot control how your mother feels, and quite frankly it isn’t your job to try. The only feelings you’re able to control the expression of are your own.

      With regards to the “quiet Christmas at home rather than dealing with the family horse’s arse” thing – could you believably state you’re “on call” for your employer on the day itself, and thus have to be within range of your home phone for emergencies? People are, unfortunately, more and more willing to accept that employers have the right to call us in on these big public holidays these days, so saying “sorry, work stuff, you know how it is” can often be a very neat way of getting out of awkward situations. (Or alternatively, use the same excuse, and have an alarm on a timer on your phone for about half an hour into the whole shemozzle that you can turn into an excuse to say “sorry, got to go – work calls”. I figure by about the half-hour mark,you’ll have figured out whether things are going to be tolerable, or intolerable, and you’ll be able to decide whether you want to “take” the call and vanish, or whether it’s just going to be a “check in”).

      1. I know that *logically*, I’m doing nothing wrong, but of course there’s the emotional tug that keeps saying “but all you have to do is *give in* and you’ll make your mom happy!” And ironically, the fact that *she* has been taken advantage of countless times in her life for just that is what is causing this inner tug-of-war of “stand up for yourself and your mom and show her that it’s okay to say ‘that’s not okay'”, and “make *her* happy by doing what I know she wants!”

        But I grew up with A getting away with all sorts of being anything from mildly annoying to outright horrible, A has gotten away with it every time because ‘family’, and my own personal ledger of overlooking or ignoring those incidents is full to the point of overflowing. To be clear, I’ve pretty much made up my mind not to go, because the situation that happened is just *too* egregious – and actually involves my mom – that I can’t just let it go. This isn’t a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back, unless we’re talking about a straw that is thirty-five feet long weighing approximately six hundred pounds.

        Unfortunately the work thing won’t work, it’s not the type to be open on Christmas day and nobody would believe me if I said it was. I might just use “invited to a friend’s” as an excuse and then just stay home because at least that lets my mom save face (because oh right that’s the other thing that bothers me, if I’m not there the family is going to start harassing *her* for a reason for my lack of ‘family’ loyalty), because somehow that’d be more acceptable than just staying home alone. I did look around for local volunteer opportunities for Christmas, because despite being an introvert that’d actually be kind of cool and is actually something I’ve always wanted to do – but unfortunately the only opportunity I did find involves investing time and money I don’t have into the process of being ‘vetted’ to do it! 😦 So oh well, at least I tried on that front.

        I do appreciate your comment btw 🙂 I don’t get a lot of backup about this irl, so it’s nice to be able to say I AM ANGRY ABOUT THIS! and not be told I’m being silly/selfish/unfamilylike/whatever dismissive word first comes to mind about it!

  123. Okay, so I have a weird problem.

    My mom is in a secret romantic relationship with her first cousin. She thinks she’s keeping it a secret. She is really terrible at secrets. I figured it out but I’m the only other person who knows. And my mom doesn’t know that I know, because I do not want to open that can of worms. Our extended family is quite close. If they found out, it would become an enormous scandal and could really hurt their relationships with other members of the family.

    My mom has invited this cousin to our house for Thanksgiving. And he’ll be spending the night here. So I’m going to have to sit and have turkey dinner with the guy I know is dating my mom but he doesn’t know that I know so I can’t act like anything is weird. But it’s super weird! If their previous behavior at family gatherings remains the same, as they day goes on they will get progressively drunker and flirtier. And then they’ll have drunken board games time and I won’t even be able to make any embarrassed reaction faces. It’s really hard for me to control my face muscles all the time, you guys.

    And I can’t tell them to calm their “playful banter” without revealing that I know about them. (And even if I did let them know that I know, now would not be the right time. We have so many side dishes to cook.) And I can’t get support from any of my other family, because of the secret. And I won’t be able to watch them like a hawk to make sure nothing goes wrong, because that might make somebody suspicious. I know that this is not my responsibility or my problem. But I care about my mom and I don’t want her to get hurt over this. Aside from the first cousin thing he’s a good dude. Also, I can’t just turn off my worrying, because clinical anxiety means my brain doesn’t respond to logic.

    I might be overreacting, because it’s been almost two years and nobody else has found out. But I think that’s mostly because it never occurs to anybody that first cousins might be having a secret love affair. If somebody gets suspicious, they’re going to find a lot of evidence that the relationship is weird. I hope I’m overreacting. Probably nothing bad will happen. It’s the worrying that’s guaranteed.

    So my Thanksgiving is going to be chock full of me super anxious about their (historically bad) secret-keeping skills while having to use my (historically good) secret-keeping skills to act like nothing weird is happening. And cooking a lot of food too, I guess.

    I don’t think this is a problem that can actually be fixed. But maybe reading about it can make some people laugh.

    1. You may worry less when you know that once two people actually do start dating, their public banter and flirtiness tends to drop to almost nothing – because they’re actually seeing each other outside of the public space. Does that make sense? I’ve learned this from decades in the workforce – the co-workers who are flirting are the ones NOT seeing each other outside of work. Once that flirting drops off, they’ve either had a fight or they’re having an affair.

    2. I guess as an outsider, it seems one way to reduce your anxiety would be for you to tell your mum you know, you’re happy for her and will keep her secret?

  124. My mom was diagnosed with cancer in March, had surgery that went well in May, was totally determined to go on the road trip to the Grand Canyon that we had planned for June.

    Then she got a case of shingles, which I guess is pretty common under these circumstances, when your body is under stress. The virus got into her brain and caused a bunch of strokes, and she died the day after we were supposed to get back from the road trip.

    This all happened so fast that we had sent the rest of the family on the trip, thinking she was going to be fine—I stayed behind to hang with mom, but was considering flying out to meet everyone once mom stabilized. That didn’t happen.

    So here we are five months later on the cusp of the holidays. We sold my mom’s house–our childhood home, the center of gravity for so many holiday gatherings–last month. My oldest brother, whom I’ve found myself looking to as the new center of gravity for the family, cannot deal with the holidays in the wake of mom’s death and won’t be joining us. And I can’t even think straight. My mind keeps trying and failing to understand WTF just happened to my life.

    I will never see my mom again.

    I will never get to talk to her again.

    I will never again be able to detour past her house to see if she’s hanging out on the porch.

    She will not be at my daughters’ high school or college graduations, weddings, or anything else.

    And of course we’ll never have another holiday with her, in the house she loved and brought back from the brink of urban decay through sheer force of will on a nothing budget.

    So, yeah. I’m not really sure how the holidays are going to go, but I’m sure dreading them

    1. I’m so sorry. Last Christmas was the first for me after losing my Mum, and it just felt so wrong.This year it’s less raw, but it’s still going to be less than wonderful. I don’t have any magic words to make it better (I wish i did), but know that there are people out here who understand.

    2. I’m so sorry too. My mother died with similar suddenness, and I had (have) similar feelings. I was the eldest brother and quite incapable of becoming the center of gravity — I was still digging out from my toxic ex’s hoarded accumulation and making a home for the daughter who’d fled the ex to come to me.

      Four-plus years on, we still don’t have a proper hub, but we have a set of mini-hubs — one sister hosts the Saturday after Christmas, another has a Christmas Eve thing, and we all have in-laws and friend groups to gather with. It’s a giant game of mix and match, and while it’s often very good, it’ll also never be the same as it was.

    3. Oh that’s awful. A big hug to you and I’m so sorry. It sounds like your mom had a lot of proof all around her of just how much her family loved and cared for her. And of course that’s the best we can all hope for when we pass – but it also means there’s an entire family left behind to cope with the hole left behind that was once filled by that person they loved and cared for. The first year of ‘firsts’ (holidays, birthdays, etc) is always so rough on everybody, and worse when the loss is so sudden as in your case.

      Maybe take a page from your brother’s book and cope with this holiday by doing *whatever* it is you need to do to get through it. If you want to be with whatever family feels comfortable being together after the loss, do it. If you feel like it’d be easier to ignore the holiday as much as possible, do that instead. I’ve had a few close friends who’ve lost their mothers and it really is a very individual choice, what they did to cope. Some of them chose the former, some the latter. Some just gritted their teeth and got through whatever was ‘usually’ done for the occasion. Some chose to work their mother into whatever the occasion was – by putting up a picture or taking some time to remember past occasions with her or watching her favorite movie/playing her favorite music, or taking time to visit her (going to her resting place, or where the ashes were scattered, to a place she liked to be, or even just a quiet favorite place of their own where they could sit and quietly think about/’converse’ with her for awhile) sometime around the occasion. Some chose to try and forget and enjoy themselves – by enjoying the occasion, or by forgetting it and giving themselves a ‘day’ – watching a favorite movie, giving themselves a nice hot bath with relaxing music and a good book. If you have a friend who can come over to help you through the day – make snacks, give yourself manicures & pedicures, try on makeup, etc – that can help too. Even if it’s just to hand you tissues or hugs when you need them!

      And if you ever feel bad about something that you think shows you’re not upset ‘enough’ about your mom passing (e.g. if you start having fun and forget your grief for a little while), It’s damned hard to argue yourself out of feeling bad when your emotions are so raw, but I’ve found the best trick is to reverse the situation. If you had passed away and your mother was still alive – would you want *her* to feel bad about whatever it is you’re feeling bad about? Probably not, because you clearly loved her a lot and would want her to be as happy as possible. Try and let yourself have as much right to whatever you feel, good or bad, as you would let your mom feel.

    4. Thank you to those who responded. I’m sorry for the losses you have suffered that gave you such insight. You are kind people to put it to use to help others.

  125. Kind of surprised to be posting in this thread, but this is the first holiday I’ve had since I was a young teenager where I’ve felt really trapped and unhappy. Past holidays – even ones with largely overlapping groups of relatives – have been fun little breaks from life. But now I feel like I’m 15 again, stuck with people who I don’t like and can’t relate too, wanting to just find a solitary place to hide, which of course just makes everyone chase me a bit more. It’s really strange and uncomfortable and I can’t figure out why it’s happening now when the past ~decade has been fine.

  126. In the past month I’ve had two hospitalizations, one diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, and one emergency hemorrhoidectomy. I am done with this quarter. We’re ordering food from our local BBQ for Thanksgiving. I’m making candy to thank everyone who has been good to me over the past few months. I’m ordering my presents from Amazon so I don’t have to actually wrap anything or ship anything. That’s it. I’m done. I’m eyeing the budget to see if I can hire someone to clean my house because I think the piles of who knows what are gaining sentience. Chinese on Xmas sounds divine. I’m just going to hibernate until this year is over.

  127. I am single, over 40 and quite poor, so I already have to work hard to feel good about myself (but I’m still hopeful). My family has always been difficult but tight. I put up with a lot of things because some family is better than nothing. My mother died six years ago and since then I’ve been holding onto my father and brother’s ‘familyness’ despite them being further and further away from me mentally. We all live quite near each other. Last Christmas on the 27th, I got into a horrible argument with my brother where he calmy accused me of being the scum of the earth while my father sat back and let it roll on for half an hour.
    This year, I have lost my apartment of 13 years and live in various temporary places, On the plus side, I have goodish health and just completed two reasonable blocks of work. Also my friends still speak to me. My father just announced that he is going away on holiday for Christmas and New Year, as his 70th birthday is just after and he doesn’t want his pub friends laughing at him. I can’t bear spending Christmas alone in the house my mother died in (and I’m not sure my dad would agree to it). I have been looking into house and pet-sitting and could stay with friends in an emergency but the main problem is – the despair. If I hear Christmas songs in shops I start crying. I can’t look at decorations or look forward to it. I don’t want to barge in on the lives of my friends with families (most of them are couples or will be staying with their parents). I know it could be worse but I wish I knew a mantra for feeling less wretched.

  128. This holiday season will be fraught to say the least, because I recently came out as A Girl who is dating A Girl. Well, more of a Woman, who is also said to be “too old” for me. Apparently I am breaking my mother’s heart and single-handedly destroying the family. My partner and I are hosting Thanksgiving with friends, as my aunt (the only relative in driving distance) is waffling on extending the usual invitation to her home. On the surface I’m holding together pretty well but last night the dam broke and I cried for hours. I’m hoping Christmas with my parents is still on the table, but if it’s not I’ll be spending that with my partner too.

    Looking forward to cooking but not so much to socializing. Or gift buying. Or gift receiving. In my family gift giving is laden with many meanings and this year I’m sure most of my gifts will given with an underlying tone of “see how much we put up with from you, ungrateful queer.” And of course the gifts I give will be scrutinized to see if they make up for my other failures.

  129. Yeah so. Okay. Normally I’m pretty chill with the holidays. I’m not a YAY CHRISTMAS person, but I enjoy the rituals and such. But this year my spouse and I just found out that his cousin is a pedophile who molested at least three young girls in his family many years ago, one of whom was my SIL.

    We don’t have to see my spouse’s side of the family this year (thank god) but that information has made the whole yay family/holiday cheer thing this year seem… fucking awful, okay, let’s just not mince words. Jesus.

  130. My mom is a hoarder and this is a rough time of year. She wants to decorate right over the mess, Dad wants to decorate and gets angry about the mess (Dad is spartan by nature, but lives in the mess rather than make a fuss 99% of the time), and I (I pay rent, but I get no say about the mess because I’m the “child.”) want nothing to do with Christmas decorations at all because the house is horrible but get yelled at from both sides for not participating.

    Also, there are small patches of Christmas decorations from at least the last four years still in various places around, not to mention Halloweens and some other random thrift-store holiday kitsch.

    The only thing I’ve figured out to do to make life slightly easier on myself is that all of my presents for Mom are non-physical or food. Not contributing to the mess.

  131. Saw a billboard on the highway: “May your holidays be easy.”

    Okay, it’s for a grocery store, but I like the sentiment. Things are better now, but for years that’s about all I wanted.

    To all of you stuck with difficult relations or situations, I wish for you that some part of it is unexpectedly easy, to compensate.

  132. Not a big ugh, but my dad doesn’t know how to use You-tube and he wants to hear all 80 million versions of the martian hop. (this is one complaint amongst many.

  133. Ugh, this happened and now I’m pretty well convinced my family is going to be talking about it and all the thinly veiled racism that goes along with it, all through Thanksgiving.

    They hate flash mobs. I don’t know why they think all flash mobs are about stealing, rather than – you know – singing Hallelujah in a shopping mall or something, but…whatever.

  134. In for an incredibly awkward holiday. We’re not seeing my family for thanksgiving, but we are seeing Boyfriend’s. His mother is an alcoholic who thinks she’s too liberal to be racist, but is anyway. She’ll at least be on good behavior because she’s having a friend from work and Boyfriend’s (nonbinary) sibling is having their boyfriend and coworker over too. Which is also awkward because who knows whether Boyfriend has been outed or whether he will be (he’s transgender, but has been stealth since his mother finally relinquished and used his name and pronouns, around the same time he grew a beard). So there’s that. I am asthmatic and have sensory problems, but I get to sit in her house for hours while she chain smokes and talks shit about whatever. Last time Boyfriend tried to miss a holiday with her, she showed up on our doorstep, drunk and beat on the door until I told her I’d call the police if she didn’t leave. Also, we’re poor (free meal=good) and don’t get to see his sibling (who lives with her) as much as we’d like. BLEH.

    Then there’s Christmas. It’s the time of year when my parents and I do a ridiculously complex dance on eggshells. They’re tea-party republicans. I’m a socialist social worker that does disability advocacy and is working on getting SSI at the ripe old age of 24. My brother died when he was 18, driving high three years ago, and I place the blame on them, as he did drugs to self-medicate for his PTSD and other MI, for which they refused to get him help because then they’d be outed as abusive. It *has* been four years or so since the last time my dad beat up any of my siblings, but how do you even sit in a room with somebody like that while they berate low-wage workers, like my Boyfriend who keeps me alive. Then they buy me all of these expensive gifts (mother has already cleared out my whole Amazon wishlist) full of things they don’t agree with to try to make me happy and buy my love, and it’s confusing.

    I am on my way to a place where I don’t have to see them. But this year at least, they still own my car and pay my car insurance and phone bill, so I’m a little beholden to them. I also want to see them to see my cousin who was born over the summer. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I want the stuff off of my wishlist, since it’s paid for and all.

    So there is like a whole day where I have to spend with them and talk about things other than my main perseverations– politics and autism. I also have to pretend to not be autistic because that makes them uncomfortable and guilty about never getting me help as a child.

    I guess I’ll get through it like I always do. It has gotten better. I no longer have to hear about my weight, they keep their comments on Boyfriend being a trans man to themselves, they’re learning not to ask what I’m doing with my time and my life unless they want the answer. But it’s still one of my least favorite things to do.

    Does anyone have any useful scripts for the whole relatives assuming you want their pop-sci solutions to your mental illness. I love my grandma, and she’s one of my few allies out there, but I am so tired of hearing about “the power of now” and “the secret” and how if I only read Dr. Quack’s latest book I wouldn’t need all of the formal supports I use (I like my therapist, group, coach, etc, thank you very much).

    1. One script for pop-sci: “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”

      You will think about it. Then you won’t do it. But they might stop talking about it.

      Another is, “Thanks, Grandma, I know you tell me all this because you care about me, but my doctors and I really have it covered. Don’t try to fix or cure me, just be glad to see me like I’m glad to see you.”


    How Thanksgiving usually goes: Parents pack up and have Thanksgiving with family that lives two hours away and spend the night and part of the next day. I (adult daughter who lives with them) stay home and have Thanksgiving supper with local family and enjoy the one 24-hour period in a year wherein I have the house to myself and the cats.

    This year, my parents’ routine is unchanged. Here, though…apparently Shit Has Gone Down.

    Recently, “Bill” (part of my uncle’s wife’s family) was playing with a football with a bunch of the kids (children of my cousins, mostly), letting them tackle him and stuff. One of the kids, “Dana” (my aunt’s granddaughter), who is 10-11 years old, has never been taught how to handle frustration with not getting what she wants. (Like, if she were trying to hit a pinata, and you pulled it up and she missed a few times, she would throw down the stick and start to sulk and cry until someone pet and coddled her and brought her back and let her hit the pinata. She has rarely, if ever, been told that sulking and low-grade tantrums are not appropriate behaviours or been given tools to better handle frustration and disappointment.)

    Dana wanted the football. Dana had thus far failed to get the football. She started her usual sulking-leading-into-crying thing, and was basically told that it was only a game and that if she wanted the football, she needed to come get it.

    Now, other people were on the porch, sitting around and talking while the kids were playing, and Dana’s dad was watching all this and getting really agitated, rocking really hard in the rocking chair. Then, while all the kids are around/hanging off of Bill, another one of the kids balled up his fist and just punched the football. Fist + football = kind of loud ‘thud.’ Dana’s dad went BALLISTIC. He came off of the porch yelling and doing a bunch of ‘you want a piece of this?’ posturing because he thought Bill had hit Dana with the football.

    Bill, naturally, denied this, and Dana told her dad that he hadn’t. He wouldn’t listen to either of them, even though Dana would be the one who knew best if she’d been hit with a football.

    So now Uncle’s family is doing Thanksgiving lunch because Uncle (very reasonably) stated that he was NOT going to attempt to straighten things out/fix things over Thanksgiving. Because you do not need to try to talk people who are mad at each other into coming to the same dinner. Dana’s dad would apparently pitch a fit if his wife went to Uncle’s after all this crap, and Aunt is having Thanksgiving supper at her place. I have no idea whether my cousins who are Aunt’s adult kids will all refuse to go to Uncle’s or if most of them agree that Dana’s dad was way out of line. (On top of all this, one of my adult cousins from Uncle’s family is mad at/doesn’t like Aunt for Reasons Unknown, which is also a recent development).

    I am invited to both gatherings. Logistically, this isn’t hard because 1. we all live within walking distance of one another and 2. these meals are not happening at the same time. But ye gods and little fishes, I hope I do not have to hear about all of this from both groups if I go to both places. I’m also an introvert and I do not know if I’m going to be up to TWO family gatherings, even without this sort of Hatfields and McCoys vibe happening. Maybe I’ll get a “migraine” tomorrow and keep my chocolate raspberry brownies all to myself.

    1. Can you keep the hypothetical/socially convenient migraine in your back pocket, go to lunch, and if things start getting stressful say “i’m sorry, I’m not feeling well, I need to go home and lie down”?

  136. Persons of the Christian persuasion who are facing Holidays of deep suckage: May I suggest looking for a Blue Christmas service in your area or the area you are traveling to? Blue Christmas is generally offered in the evening of the longest night of the year. It’s a time when nobody is allowed to look surprised at you for not wearing a happy face. You can sit in the back with a box of Kleenex if you need to. The Scripture passages are about life sucking and the hymns are plaintive. Usually there are hot drinks and snacks afterward without a bunch of in-your-face decorations (but with more boxes of Kleenex if needed). It can be cathartic. Not saying it fixes anything, but sometimes it helps to get the tears out and realize that your faith community isn’t actually obliged to be part of the whole Holidays happy happy joy joy dance.

    1. This sounds like an excellent, excellent idea. I’m not getting out but I’d love to watch one online, or maybe follow along with the readings, do you have a link by any chance?

      1. The best thing to do is to look up a church directory in your area and google their names and “Blue Christmas.”

  137. Not really looking forward to the holidays this year. A lot of it has to do with general feelings of meh/it not being worth the hype, but things get really frustrating because my family travels a long distance to be together, so… expectation, expectation, expectation. (And things not being worth the hype.)

    This year, my Dad informed me that we are giving each other very small, “symbolic” gifts… and the thought of buying them stressed him out so much, I ended up volunteering to do the shopping. Which I don’t mind, or didn’t think I’d mind, except I’m dreading the time my family will be in one place, together. Before, I’ve bent over backward to try and reduce stress for everyone and making things nice, and we still end up fighting a lot. I’m tempted to just go “fuck this, y’all do the cooking/cleaning/shopping by yourselves and don’t get me involved into fights”, but I live with my father and my friends are all very far away. I literally have nowhere to go, and because I have volunteering commitments, I can’t just spontaneously pack a bag and hit Amsterdam.

    Man, I want to. But I can’t.

    1. It might be a silly idea, but if it’s the volunteering commitments that prevent you from packing a bag and hitting Amsterdam, would it be an option to pack a bag and hit a tiny b&b in your own city? You’d be close enough to still volunteer, you’d spend less money than if you actually travelled to another city, and you’d still get away from the family / be free to engage with them on your own terms. I know it might be inconvenient / hard to explain / too expensive to justify / just feel weird… But I thought I’d put it out there. Going out of town is not the only way of buying yourself a little space.

      1. That’s one way to go, but I think I have a better chance of weathering this out if I don’t rock the boat and go “Ommmm” inside my own head.

  138. So I’m minutes away from leaving for my mother’s for Thanksgiving. My sister is also going to be there. It’s going to be about four days in a row in the same house. I don’t really get along with any of them, and my mother in particular GOES AFTER YOU and doesn’t let you alone, both during and aside from conflicts. On a whim I pulled three cards from my Shadowscapes tarot using the time-honored super traditional definitely not pulled out of my ear categorization of “what to expect, what to keep in mind during, what to do about it”… got the Tower, the Knight of Wands, and the Three of Wands. Pfheh.

    It’s just four days, it’s just four days, eyes on the prize…

  139. I’ve spent the last 10 years of Thanksgiving trying to reduce stress for my mom. (Note: I am in my mid-20s.) She makes plans with non-family, then acts like a martyr while following though. So I handle the family plans, clean, cook Thanksgiving dinner, do her/my dad’s housework, and try to make it easier.

    I think that I might have had enough this year. I’m putting in pretty minimal effort with dinner. Still a good dinner, just an easy one. I love my mom very much and I understand that Thanksgiving is the worst possible time of year for her, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the worst for me, too. While it’s never going to be a great holiday, it could be an okay one, right?

    I’ve really never tried to set boundaries of anything being Not Okay at Thanksgiving before. I’m going to start this year with deciding that if anyone shouts at me, I ask them to stop, and they keep going, I have permission to leave right then.

    1. I think this sounds very reasonable. I feel quite strongly that the only shouting that should happen at family gatherings is to call the people who are outside to come in and eat more pie. Any other shouting is inappropriate.

  140. I got wondering – would it be possible to have a post-holidays thread at some point, well, post holidays? Somewhere for people to go “OMG IT WAS SO AWFUL I LAUGHED” or “Hey, it turned out so much better than I feared!”. I know the suggestions I’ve had are great advice, so it would be nice to be able to let the people know how well they helped (or perhaps whether it was just beyond saving).

  141. Hey, did you guys know that, according to my mom, all of us who celebrated Thanksgiving are selfish, horrible people and should be ashamed of ourselves? Because we are having FUN instead of…. well, for me it’s that I am not “helping her” (read: I am not enabling some poor choices/bad behaviors.)

    I mean, really. How DARE Boyfriend and I try and have an enjoyable holiday when she is so miserable. <–sarcasm

    She informed me that I am to "pretend she is dead" when it comes to Thanksgiving, Christmas and all future holidays. Well, OK then!!

  142. Yet again. Alone. No family. Went to nearby lake midmorning. Astounding crowd of Muslims acting like it was just another day. They were happy and picnicking. Walked the lake trail, ran into dozens of people walking dogs, all eager for small talk, all eager to enjoy the good weather and the joy of being outside. That other thing.. that thing where people sit around with miserable families… yeah, poor them, we don’t do that. Isn’t this weather lovely? Isn’t it nice to be free from that obligation? There’s a whole social world out there of people who reject the family thing as dysfunctional or optional for them. You aren’t alone. Go to the park. They are there.

  143. I’m not in a thanksgiving country, but i’m exhausted in advance for christmas. I’m in early pregnancy and don’t enjoy ANY food at the moment, i only eat to manage the whole-day-especially-dinnertime-sickness.

    Also, my brother is coming from OtherCountry with his family and i know that they will bring heaps and mountains of gifts, while i, partner and kid1 are struggling even to cover living expenses at the moment. They are all understanding and really don’t expect us to bring equal mountains of gifts, but it’s not an easy situation for me anyway. Plus, Brother’s kid1 is not so nice too my kid1, he almost never allows my kid to have any toy at all, or come near him, so that situation has to be managed constantly.

    Also, i am too much the manager of the family communications at the moment, since we moved into my parent’s house, because of said financial struggle, and i am the go-to person for everyone, even if i am the only person in the house who is working full time at the moment. They are all really great people, which makes this possible, but grmph:
    Partner doesn’t want Kid to disturb my mom so much, my mom doesn’t want Kid to cry, Kid will cry desperately any time you try to seperate him from his grandmother. And then I have to decide who gets what they want at a given time. It is understandable, but i am just so tired. And feel sick. And have headache all the time. And can’t sleep at night.

    And my mom will be stressed at christmas because my SIL doesn’t express at all if she is happy or unhappy with what is happening, but if she is unhappy, it will be a Problem, which she will only tell my brother, who will get very stressed and try too make everything right, and my mom will try to make everything right, but it will be too late, because the Problem will already sit quietly in the corner and eat air.

    Maybe everything will be fine, because they are all really lovely and try their best (only my SIL is a little bit difficult, to be honest, i really don’t get her most of the times. But we get along by being polite to each other, and concentrating on the children, who thankfully produce a lot of chaos and drama and cuteness).

    Maybe actually i need holidays without Holidays at the moment.

  144. **long time reader, de-lurking to grouse**
    Urgh, holidays. I’m not looking forward to Christmas this year at all. My family does the “when are you levelling up?” questions a lot. This year they will mainly be directing them at me (single, still haven’t finished my PhD, currently working as a secretary), as my siblings are currently doing well (yay them!). I’m not too happy with my life myself (also depressed), so I really don’t feel like justifying myself to them.

    That’s not the worst, though. I also had to find out that my parents are really bloody racist (in a conversation about refugees) and I really do not want to know that about them. (Ideally I’d like them not to be racist, but failing that I just don’t want to hear it)
    I might be able to get my mum to drop the subject, but my dad won’t. We’ve had discussions in the past in which I told him I didn’t want to talk about a subject anymore, he ignored that, I left the room, he followed me and started the same discussion again. So that won’t be fun.

    My sister will be mainly trying to “keep the peace” and my brother hasn’t really got much of a political opinion that’s not copied directly from dad.

    I love giving presents and writing cards and seeing all my old friends and acquaintances, as many will be going home to the small town for the holidays. I just wish it didn’t involve so much parents (or rather, their opinions).
    There’s not really anyone I could crash with and I can’t afford a hotel room, so I’ll try and make my visit as short as possible. Maybe start volunteering again and try to pick up a shift as soon after the 24th as as possible. (I gave up my last volunteer gig because the atmosphere there was turning really bad and I don’t need that in my life right now).

  145. I feel kind of… weird about Holidays at the moment. My household has decided we are going to avoid everyone and pretend the holidays aren’t happening. Which is what I’ve basically wanted for several years now, so yay? I think? I’m relieved that I don’t have to hide my depression, or play nice with the passive aggressive comments and condescending advice, or the straight up emotional blackmail and verbal abuse, or see my main abuser.

    Holidays are always nervewracking when you have an abusive parent who likes to just ~*show up*~ to ~*say hi*~ without warning around holidays. Hopefully I’ve finally made it clear to the rest of the house that she is blacklisted, and I don’t even want to hear if she calls, please, dear G-d. She called near my birthday (which I do not celebrate for similar reasons) and yeah, I spent the entire weekend barracading my bedroom door/hiding in the closet/crying/hiding under furniture/not sleeping and not making noise so I could make sure I heard her coming. Fun! That is definitely how I wanted to spend a day+ I already don’t like! [/sarcasm]

    So… having the entire household agree that we aren’t doing anything is kind of nice, because it means avoiding All This And More!, from a whole host of bio-familiy and step-family. I don’t really care about most of the traditions. I don’t like how commercial everything is. I hate the passive agressive, self-centered, manipulative crap that comes with the Holidays.

    But… ugh? I still kind of wish I had… something. I know it’s probably mostly grieving for what I never really had, grieving the illusion, but I keep thinking about our family Christmas Eves. Because despite at least one drunk aunt yelling at someone every year, and despite disliking most of the people there, despite that… it was nice to pretend for a while. The tree was sparkly and beautiful, and there were always tons of presents, tons of food, and everyone could pretend, mostly, that we cared about each other. Of course I miss that. Even if it was a lie, most of the adults were alcoholic, most of the cousins were assholes, and very few of them actually noticed or cared what was going on with me.

    I still like Christmas songs, sometimes. I still like trees and lights and food. I wish I were happier that I’m not doing anything this year. I wish it were easier to ‘make new traditions’ or celebrate the things I thought were worth it. I… wish I weren’t so depressed. I wish I could stop worrying about money, or whether I’m allowed to want to do things. I wish I weren’t so scared my abuser will try to call or show up again, or wonder if my housemates really “get” how much this affects me.

    I haven’t been christian in a long time, but I’m thinking of going to a Blue Christmas/Longest Night service. Maybe it’ll help.

    1. As someone who also hasn’t been Christian for a long while, I offer the following bit of advice if I may: take care when going to a “church” service for Christmas Eve or Longest Night service. It may be great, and I hope it is! But for me, it always triggers a disassociation response because I Am Not That Person Anymore. Be aware of your own internal state and pick carefully.

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