Holiday Open Thread: BLUE CHRISTMAS

Sadness from Inside Out lying on the floor with the text "I'll just lie here until tomorrow."
Sadness from Inside Out lying on the floor with the text “I’ll just lie here until tomorrow.”

If you are feeling down at this time of year, this is your thread for general chitchat and commiseration. (If you love the holidays, there’s a thread just for you).

What you should know about comment moderation, in addition to general community rules:

  • I am grading final projects and traveling and seeing family & friends and not paying much attention to the blog.
  • Therefore, I’m closing questions for the time being, opening them again in the new year.
  • The spam trap eats perfectly good comments and no one knows why. I’ll fish ’em out when I can, but it might not be quick.

2016 is right around the corner. May we all make it there in one piece. ❤

509 thoughts on “Holiday Open Thread: BLUE CHRISTMAS

  1. I don’t love or hate Christmas. I don’t have any strong feelings about it one way or the other: it’s just another stat holiday on which there is Nothing. To. Do (much like Victoria Day, Labour Day, etc.) but even worse since it’s the depth of winter when the parks are closed and it’s too cold (and the sidewalks far too treacherous) to take nice long walks.

  2. I’ve just been having a rough time in general lately, for some unrelated things, but at the moment that’s compounded by the fact that pretty much my whole family is together right now and my current lack of work flexibility (which, despite this being a new job, was also the case for the past 3 holiday seasons at my last job) means I won’t be able to come home to visit ’til the night of the 24th. Every time I call everyone’s together, laughing or baking cookies or decorating the tree and I’m stuck in my apartment trying (and failing) to get into the spirit. I don’t have close friends here so there are no holiday parties to attend, and generally I’ve just felt like throwing myself a pity party, which is not my usual reaction to this type of stuff (PMS/hormonal stuff is also a factor here, I’m not gonna lie). Blergh.

    1. I’m so sorry. This is the first year I won’t be making it home at all for Christmas (my family is visiting me, but not arriving until later, and it’s so lonely.)

      1. Thank you; lonely is definitely the word of the moment. And I hope that your holiday ends up being merrier than you think.

  3. Every year I ramp myself up with holiday cheer (because I do love the holiday) only for someone else to come along and ruin it. This year it’s my mom’s comments that pseudo-MIL is “stealing me” for the holiday because that’s how this holiday split worked out (and how everyone knew it was going to work out since Thanksgiving last year, so no surprises). So thanks, Mom.

    1. Ouch. I admit, last year I was a lot more excited about Christmas than I am now. That said, it’s made it easier to abdicate the housework and just focus on my stuff. *jedi hugs*

      1. She is. We’re not close and I’ve actually never enjoyed spending the holidays around her or my dad, but it’s only my mom who feels the need to be consistently unpleasant about the informed choices I make re: my life

    2. Oh dear – sounds like Mom is feeling left out or neglected. Do you have siblings or relatives that might be able to be there when you can’t? Maybe you could Skype or phone her while you’re away?

      You have my total sympathy – when my parents split up, my brother decided to spend the holidays mostly with his in-laws. I felt like I had to tear myself in half to try to make sure neither of my parents was lonely at Christmas.

      1. She’ll be spending Christmas with my father and brother, so it’s not like she’s going to be alone. And I’ll call on Christmas. The thing that is truly insulting to me is that we live close to my family (less than an hour) so it’s never truly a split holiday- my parents get every holiday with us, they just may not be able to celebrate it on the exact date it’s stamped on a calendar, bf’s parents only get to see us for every other one because of how far we have to travel to see them. If anyone has a right to complain it’s his parents, but they respect our decision making.

        1. Gah, I have so little patience for that, probably from growing up in a big blended family. What are these people expecting, that their children will never grow up, have their own partners or whatever, maybe have kids of their own, so they’ll be able to be home for every single holiday forever? And screw the partner’s family, because… I don’t know why?

          Growing up which ever parent switched off every major holiday (Thanksgiving, Xmas, and my birthday for our family) and it was completely fine. It was bound to happen eventually as I grew up, anyway, so we just got used to it sooner.

    3. Oh Irreverant I feel your pain. The other side of my family is in town this x-mas, which they haven’t been for years, so I’m having to juggle 2 parts of my family plus bf’s family, without letting my mum know (otherwise there would be ISSUES) and I’m finding it a major pain in my ass that I have to do my juggling secretly for (well founded fear) of bad reactions if I actually said what was going on. blargh…

    4. Holidays haven’t been the same since I got married. I was lucky that they had aways been uncomplicated prior to that. I think I’d rather stay in bed and eat cookie dough.

  4. I’m mostly feeling Meh with a side of misanthropy this holiday season. It’s a little less than in previous years, but that is only making it harder to cope with. There are some holiday things that I want to do in my town (like an xmas light tour), but don’t want to do alone…but most of the time I have for doing them, I am in people-avoidance mode. I’m also somewhat resentful of the pressure to have LOTS OF BIG HAPPY PLANS to talk about. My plans are basically me & the furbabies and blankets and books and movies, with a few excursions outside (for movies in the theater.) I’m looking forward to them and don’t want to deal with pity over them.

    1. They sound like really nice plans. I guarantee you that many of the people putting pressure on you or pitying you secretly kind of wish they could just stay home with puppies, kittens and blankets.

  5. Trying not to feel down about being rejected by agents while working on my PhD projects and making my book more kickass than ever… I’m lucky my family is usually cool, but every once in a while I want to scream. I’m very low on spoons right now.

    1. Hear ya.

      Eight years ago, my cat book was rejected by everyone and their dog. So I went out on the Internet to see if anyone did like my advice… and they did!

      And the coming year will see my book finally blaze forth like a comet!

      You never know. So hang in there.

      1. Don’t I know you from some other scurvy blog>? thought so!

        Merry Solstice!! and Happy New Year!

        I will scritch a cat for you.

    2. I’m being rejected by agents too. Jedi hugs / commiserating fistbumps!

      Such a dark and dreary time of year where I am. I have never felt connected to the Xmas holiday but am trying for more light & warmth however I can get it. (Candles, baking…)

      1. *fist bump* My mum and I have a project to bake the best carrot cake EVAH. We’ll see how it goes.

    3. Are you planning on submitting to scholarly presses? They don’t often work (well) with agents and you’ll probably have better luck directly querying acquisitions editors.

      1. Well, scholarly presses are for academic work. The novel I’m submitting is YA. That said, if, after this edit, it doesn’t get rep, I might submit to a few small publishing houses. Obviously, it’s a very thin line, and no author likes being told that the book they sweated and bled over is not a good fit for the market, but… if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Business as usual.

        1. FWIW (and I hope the unsolicited advice is okay), if the YA market is like the science fiction, you can send it to publishers in parallel with sending it to agents, since they’re not competing for acceptances. (And, if you get a publisher of any size first, that makes it a lot easier to get an agent!) Also, the sense that I get from SF is that it’s somewhat less-common to get an agent before one’s first publishing deal, so not getting an agent isn’t a big reflection on its saleability.

          If you can deal with the rejections, might as well send it to the big publishers first, assuming they’re not horribly slow with rejection letters.

          In any case, best wishes both with getting it accepted and with dealing with all the emotions of all the rejection letters getting there.

        2. With publishing contracts as hideous as they are these days (all rights for the life of copyright for a pitiful advance?! 15% forever to an agent for doing a one-off thing that you may well do yourself? no thanks) I think the agents have done you a massive favour, because you’re not tied to a contract now. I’ve been following The Passive Voice blog (don’t know if it’s OK to post a link, so I don’t) over a few years and concluded that self-publishing is a much better option for me than chasing traditional publishers, who don’t have a clue about the market anyway. (That, and my experience with academic publishing.)

          1. Thank you, V, and Brooks. It’s definitely nice to know there are options for me outside of the traditional publishing route, and accepting that has been a journey all of its own.

            That said, I’m still not sure what the best options are for me, for academic or for non-academic writing. I’m in the very privileged position where my writing doesn’t need to be my main source of income and I can enjoy bumping around in the dark for a little while longer. And I don’t know how I’d be able to/have to distribute my spoons, seeing as I’m the sort of person to do a half-dozen different projects at once.

            My point is that I don’t know if self-publishing would be the best choice for me, just like I don’t know if traditional publishing would be the best thing either. Either way, it’s going to be a learning process.

  6. So, this was going to be my first year splitting Christmas between a bf’s family and mine, and I was kind of excited until my mom started guilt tripping me about not spending Christmas Eve with them. It turns out, she was just not telling me that she was waiting on a cancer diagnosis, which is why she felt clingy. Yesterday they confirmed it. Normally I love Christmas and have fun with my family, but this week I just want Christmas to disappear. I want this to be just some random week in January or March that doesn’t matter so I can focus on my mom and not on… everything else that comes along with Christmas, and whether she’ll be home by Christmas Eve, and whether we’ll cook, whether the gift I got weeks ago is stupid in light of everything, slight guilt over being a flake & ditching the bf’s family last minute… the one good is that work is one less thing we’re worrying about.
    Anyway, just needed to vent in the anonymity of the internet.

    1. I’m sorry about your mom’s diagnosis. That’s rough. Don’t forget to be gentle with yourself while you’re focusing on her. (Also, obviously I don’t know your boyfriend and his family, but when my dad was diagnosed not long before Thanksgiving, my then boyfriend’s family were groovy about the fact that I went to my own family without discussion, and I will hope that your boyfriend’s family will be similarly understanding with you.)

      (Jedi hugs if they will help.)

      1. Thanks for the Jedi hugs – my boyfriend has been very, very chill and supportive, and knew I would ditch him for Christmas Eve before I knew. And his mom went through a similar scare two years ago, so they would be sympathetic. I just have instinctual guilt over not following through on a plan, last minute, and the loss of the excitement over sharing Christmas with them. Jedi hugs for your dad and family, too.

        1. Sorry about your mom SM! You sound kind of like me– even with a good reason (and this is a good reason, for sure!), I hate broken plans on principal. Plans make me happy. Lack of plans make me anxious, and loss of plans I already made make me very unhappy. Can’t really offer a solution, as I haven’t found one yet, just sympathy.

    2. I’m so sorry about your mum. I’m going through a similiar thing: we found out a month ago that my dad has cancer, and he’s in hospital until the New Year. I definitely feel you on wishing it was just a random time in the year, rather than a time that I always look forward to. Because we found out earlier, we’ve not even been able to decorate the way we normally do, since Mum and I aren’t able to put up the tree by ourselves.

      1. Hugs through the internet – have you been able to put up small decorations in the hospital room or anything? My friend gave me a little portable fake tree this year that I’m bringing over to my mom tonight, and I hope it helps. Mostly it helps me feel like I’m doing something, and for some reason I’d rather have the tree where my family has been going in and out than in my apartment.

        1. Thanks. Dad’s pretty much trying to ignore Christmas this year, but we’ve put up small decorations in the house. He’s got an infection at the moment, so you can’t really have a conversation with him, but the upside is he’s sleeping a lot, so the time’s going faster for him. Mum and I have come up with some good plans for the actual day, which mostly involve a lot of brandy and Disney movies. I made chocolate and orange brownies, which are pretty festive, and we’ll be having those with homemade brandy cream. We’re making the best of it!

    3. Jedi hugs! Your mom might be glad that there are holidays to distract her right now, and I’m sure your bf’s family will understand “family stuff came up”.

    4. I so feel you. My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October. Perhaps see if you can do some version of “Holiday-lite” this year? And if you’re feeling guilty for bailing on plans or not being able to contribute as much as you used to, try to go easy on yourself – illness is tough on families as well as patients. You will need care too – now is the time to turn to Team You.

      Much love and sympathy to you from a complete stranger on the Internet.

    5. Just a quick update that Christmas was better than expected – still stressful, but overall everyone got through it. Mom started chemo and got out of the hospital on Dec 23, and is so far just really tired. We still managed to have some fun on Christmas, thanks to frozen foods heated up in the oven and board games. The bf joined us on Christmas Day and it seemed to go really well (plus while chatting with friends in the hospital, my mom described him as “a great guy” which is high praise from a smartass. Thank you, Mom’s drugs!).
      Thanks to everyone who sent Jedi hugs over the internet tubes, and I hope you’ve all had time to take a deep breath this holiday season as well.

  7. Being Jewish, I’m generally kind of grinchy about Christmas anyways. To me it’s a big commercial, traffic-filled mess to remind me of my otherness. But that said, I married my Catholic husband almost 3 years ago and we’ve gone to his parents frequently in the past. I think in spite of myself I kind of… gasp!…enjoyed that? I don’t get it either.
    This year we’re not going out of town, which I thought I’d be happy about. It is, after all, my rule that we only travel for one holiday and stay home for the other. Last year we stayed home for Thanksgiving and hosted a Friendsgiving then went to his family for Christmas. This year we went to his family for Thanksgiving and are staying home for Christmas– but all our friends are gone so no friends-mas to be had. I thought I’d be happy that we’re skipping the travel and the airport security and the expense and the Big Catholic Christmas but I am surprisingly feeling kind of weird/sad/bummed about it, like something is missing.
    So now I have holiday blues AND Jewish guilt. Go figure.

      1. Christmas tradition in my Jewish family is a movie followed by Chinese food. Problem is, we live in an area with enough Jews that there’s often a long wait for dinner.
        Gotta say I love it when Hanukkah is early enough that I get my holiday stress out of the way and can enjoy watching everyone else go through theirs! I guess that makes me a bad person… but it’s still awesome.

  8. Longtime reader, first-time commenter. Newly unemployed, freelancing but freaking out without structure, full of imposter syndrome, very single, worrying about getting enough socialization when everyone else is so busy, hate cooking. Feeling very removed from my family for a number of reasons. Wishing I could run away from it all and just enjoy myself somewhere amazing with people I dig, but too anxious about finding work to actually run away. Ugh.

    1. I relate to this so much. Freelancing + job searching sucks. When you are doing all the things to get a job, it’s crazy-making to have no idea when it will actually pay off.

    2. [hugs] I feel all of it (except the hating cooking, but that’s really the least of things). Everything sounds really hard right now, but I know you’ll make it through it. This holiday season might suck balls, but it’ll get better as you make your own structure and make your own awesome people. Everyone I’m friends with has too much to do in the holiday season to hang out with me, so I try to plan something for January with them so I have something to look forward to.

      You are awesome, you’re going to make it through, and your imposter syndrome is just your jerkbrain lying to you. And being anxious about having enough work is pretty much the worst thing in the world, hands down. I believe in you, even if you’re finding it hard to do so right now.

    3. This is my life. (I actually get on well with my family, but it’s not helping any with the rest of it.) Sending you all the sympathy and hugs-if-wanted.

      I really just want to spend about four days bawling to myself about what a loser I am, not pretending to be happy and comfortable and social.

    4. I really relate to all of this. As someone who really values structure (and doesn’t have much in my current job), not having it is really tough. Imposter syndrome is also the worst. (Especially if you happen to be freelancing in tech as a feminine person.) I hope you find some stability soon. You totally deserve stability and time to enjoy yourself in the company of people who you love and who love you in turn. 🙂

  9. Inside Out? Is fantastic. I haven’t seen it but I love its effects. I work with, among other things, a lot of stressed out and traumatized kids, who are all going NUTS with stress and chaos and the disruption in routine as Christmas comes near. One of the things I do is ask them what characters they like, google “______ coloring sheets”, get the child to point at the picture they like, and print them off something to colour on. Recently I watched a kid less than five years old come in and ask for an Inside Out Anger colouring sheet; he was very impressed that the Anger filled up the ENTIRE PAGE, and colored the entire page, inside and outside the lines, red. Then he wanted another one, that came back half red and half blue. Then he wanted a Fear, which got a perfunctory layer of purple, before he wanted a smaller Anger that took up barely any space on the page at all. Then he wanted a Joy.

    I’ve spent months one-on-one with some kids trying to teach them how to name and express their emotions so they can be worked through, but here a movie comes along and does it way better than I could have, in less than two hours. It’s amazing. And that kid and his colouring sheets was amazing to watch as he unwound.

    1. SUCH a brilliant movie! They consulted with neuroscientists in making it, to get the mechanics of memory and emotion as accurate as possible. And the message is that all emotions are useful and valid and deserve to be honored, not just the happy ones, which is something kids don’t here enough of.

    2. I watched that movie on the plane on my way home for Christmas and cried at least three times. It does a really fantastic job of illustrating what depression feels like – not sadness, but the inability to feel anything at all, positive or negative – in terms that children can understand and relate to!

  10. I honestly love Christmas but i’m just feeling really glum this year…the warm weather isn’t really helping me get into good spirits, plus I just moved and have been so busy doing Moving Stuff instead of enjoying holiday time with friends, etc.

    The last holiday I spent with my bf’s extended family was Easter…here I go again….his family members are solidly fun to be around and generally nice enough people……..except for the whole racist thing. And generally just being too conservative to be my cup of tea. For all their good qualities, I’d be perfectly fine if I never saw any of them again so I’d never have to deal with their nasty parts. Not that my family is perfect, hell no, but they at least know when to stop, not to mention it is easier for me to stand up to them than it is to stand up to his family. Just dreading anybody feeling the need to bring up any of the latest anything and commenting on it

    Furthermore, today I’m feeling guilty because no matter what I do, I never get the right presents, or enough presents. I always give someone something and then immediately think of a better gift I should have gotten them. Or worse, I forget to get them anything – I try to be thorough and make a list and write down thoughtful stuff, but I realized last night I forgot my best friend (who lives several states away now) and my manager just gave me a thoughtful gift and I didn’t get anything for him (or anyone on my work team tbh). It makes me feel so crappy to forget anybody, especially people i see day in and day out. I also think I just spent way too much on my bf’s and my furbaby gifts. I feel like I should have pared down what I got them and had more to spend on others (again, the moving thing and other unfortunate expenses really drained what otherwise could have been holiday money) but then i don’t want to shortchange him….I dunno. I was so proud of myself and what I did get for people and now I feel like shit about it.

    Anyways. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. I used to feel the same way about my presents not being good enough, so one year when I was a poor student who didn’t have a lot of money and was acutely conscious of how shabby my gifts would be, I sidestepped the anxiety altogether by donating all of the proceeds to the local food bank in my loved ones’ names. This is a gift that nobody can possibly complain about.

      The next year, my mother donated to Plan Canada and gave me a little card telling me that her money had been used to give a goat to a third world village.

      It was a pretty cool tradition to have started.

    2. The same thing happened to me at work! Except it was my trainer who gave me a really nice gift, very thoughtful, and this was my first year here so I had no idea how Christmas was handled. At previous jobs, I had done Christmas cards and gave them out with sweets (sometimes homemade) but no one else did it, and I was always left feeling awkward (and a little upset at a complete lack of acknowledgement). So this year I didn’t do anything… and low and behold, now I feel a little guilty for not having anything for my trainer. I try to console myself with a) I wasn’t expecting that and b) I don’t really have the money to buy her anything in return. Also, some other people gave out Christmas cards… so I guess I just sit here telling myself next year, I’ll know.

    3. FWIW, it’s totally normal to not gift up in the workplace (and, IMO, preferable). Unless you have directly heard otherwise, I would be that your manager isn’t expecting a present from you and would be sort of uncomfortable to get one. So you didn’t do anything wrong here! No reason to fret.

      I feel a lot of stress around presents, too – I actually went No Presents with my friends for this exact reason. I would love to go No Presents with my parents as well but that has been a little more difficult as they enjoy gifting (my stepmom in particular). But after a few years of planting the seed, I did get us to switch to small and/or consumable items this year, which relieved me of a lot of shopping and list-making pressure. Would something like that preserve the “Giving” part that you like but feel less stressful?

      Another alternative I heard from someone, maybe here, is “everyone gets a book”. You could change that to whatever your thing is – everyone gets a CD, a framed photo, a houseplant, a bottle of wine, and so on.

      1. Just wanted to second the Very Normal Gift-Down-Only in workplaces. A fellow admin who I worked with once made the partners we both supported at the time super uncomfortable when she gifted them each with [inexpensive] ties. Even though the ties were not costly, they did NOT want her spending money on them – they were very aware of the financial imbalance and the culture is very much that gifts (in cash or otherwise) come from those above to those of us who DON’T have six- or seven-figure salaries. I learned from that that if I give anything to a boss in my workplace, it should be any sort of homemade baked goods or possibly a book for a birthday gift (and then, only if I know the person well, feel like it, and it didn’t cost much).

      1. Blaaaaaaaahhhhh. The fact that even my preset satellite radio classic rock stations keep dipping into the Dark Side when I know there are whole! channels! playing! Christmas music! 24/7! (I know this because the DJs are required to mention this something like every thirty seconds) is helping me realize that I need to book bus tickets to my destination on Thursday rather than driving across state lines myself, because I suspect will most likely decide to simply abandon the car and walk the remaining 300 miles half a mile in. Noise-canceling headphones are practically a requirement for buses, however.

      2. There are a few songs — I won’t name them just in case other people have the problem of getting a little recording in their head even on hearing the name — which make me actively homicidal and it seems WORSE this year. I am patting myself on the back for not simply going full Hulk in the damn grocery store. All i wanted was toilet paper, not an earworm of the Very Worst Christmas Memories Ever.

        1. I won’t contribute any song titles either, but I will say that Christmas makes me want to kick Sir Paul McCartney squarely in the nards.

          Love his collaborative work throughout the rest of the year, though.

        2. After working in retail and in restaurants* for years, and being forced to participate in holiday piano recitals, I hate pretty much all holiday music, especially secular music (even though I am not religious AT ALL) and want it to DIAF. It does not fill me with seasonal cheer, it makes me stabby and cranky. I get arm-flailingly angry when I get a holiday song earworm, too, which is one big reason I no longer shop anywhere but online.

          * When I worked in a Japanese hibatchi-style restaurant, our Japanese manager liked Xmas music SO MUCH he put the datacart in sometime in October, and LEFT IT IN UNTIL LATE APRIL, despite staff and customer complaints and bepuzzlement. At which point someone (no names mentioned) lost their everlovin’ mind and used a bobbypin and credit card to break into the closet with the PA system and swapped the datacarts out.

        1. Word. It’s simply the worst song ever written. It’s even worse than Happy Birthday. Tuneless melody, banal lyrics, and an offense to my ears every time I hear it. The only acceptable version is by the Barenaked Ladies who performed an instrumental version on the hammond organ – the only instrument that could do justice to the steaming pile of putrescence that is SHAWC.

          This is why you needed John, Mr. McCartney.

        2. It is such a terrible song. WHY is it orchestrated that way? If it were orchestrated any better, would the melody be less cringing and awful? I can’t even get around to hating the lyrics because the music itself is so bad.

    1. Yes. I’m counting the days. I hate pretending to like people I don’t like (family). I hate all the hustle and bustle. I’m so sick of explaining to people why I don’t want to go to parties, church, etc. Over it. Love this time of year though. Cold and snuggly weather.

      1. Yes, my nice coworker and neighbor is a little miffed at me because I preferred to stay at home alone rather than go to her church’s liturgical dance and song Christmas service. As an atheist, if I don’t want to go to the midnight mass at the historic Episcopal church I grew up with, which is actually really lovely and I AM currently living in the same town, then I definitely do not want to go to a strange pseudo-snake-handling church with people I barely know and also probably get pressured to attend more services after Xmas. Nipped that right in the bud.

    2. I dread the pressure – my most immediate family is a very small, anxious, needy bunch (who would be super offended if I knew I said that about them), and because it’s such a small bunch it means anyone missing is obviously missed and it is a THING, so I need to be extra around, and cheerful (otherwise i’m horrible and ruining x-mas) and so on and so forth. We did some shopping together the other day and got “so….are we going to see eachother before christmas day?”…..well…. no, I hadn’t planned on it….I hadn’t planned against it either but….so now, on top of all the other juggling I have to do (because they aren’t the only people in my life – and i can’t merge any of these different parts – e.g. have one big xmas thing with close family + bf’s family, or close family + extended family etc) I have to fit extra faaaaaamily time in.

      I just hate the attitude too. everything needs to be on their terms, little things mean other stuff…..and because it’s chrisssssstmmmmaaaaasssss it’s all hugely exaggerated. boo.

      I mean it should be fine. it usually is. but there’s a lot happening. And I find their energy very draining.

    3. I dread it too, not because of the festivities themselves (which I like), but because of family.

      I have a very difficult relationship with both my parents and relatives, which means that all the time I spend in their company is super stressful. I have to be constantly on my guard watching my boundaries. The nature of our relationship is such that even the most innocent (or innocent-seeming) questions can make me feel like I’m under siege. (It’s this weird gaslighty situation where they used to use everything I said against me and steamroll all over me when I was younger, and even though they mostly don’t do that anymore I still have all the outsized defensive reactions.) If I give too much ground, i.e. answer too many questions or make myself too vulnerable, I freak out and/or go into a self-hate spiral for a few days afterwards. Fun!

      I dread interacting with my family at the best of times, but at Christmas, which is supposed to be Happy Family Time with carols and angels and everyone being nice to each other and telling each other “I love you”… just punch me in the stomach, will you? It has the same effect anyway.

      1. My family (read: mother) is the same way, though my SIL and brother are wising up now that I have bowed out of being their meat shield for a few years in a row. I feel your pain.

  11. I honestly love Christmas but i’m just feeling really glum this year…the warm weather isn’t really helping me get into good spirits, plus I just moved and have been so busy doing Moving Stuff instead of enjoying holiday time with friends, etc.

    The last holiday I spent with my bf’s extended family was Easter…here I go again….his family members are solidly fun to be around and generally nice enough people……..except for the whole racist thing. And generally just being too conservative to be my cup of tea. For all their good qualities, I’d be perfectly fine if I never saw any of them again so I’d never have to deal with their nasty parts. Not that my family is perfect, hell no, but they at least know when to stop, not to mention it is easier for me to stand up to them than it is to stand up to his family. Just dreading anybody feeling the need to bring up any of the latest anything and commenting on it

    Furthermore, today I’m feeling guilty because no matter what I do, I never get the right presents, or enough presents. I always give someone something and then immediately think of a better gift I should have gotten them. Or worse, I forget to get them anything – I try to be thorough and make a list and write down thoughtful stuff, but I realized last night I forgot my best friend (who lives several states away now) and my manager just gave me a thoughtful gift and I didn’t get anything for him (or anyone on my work team tbh). It makes me feel so crappy to forget anybody, especially people i see day in and day out. I also think I just spent way too much on my bf’s and my furbaby gifts. I feel like I should have pared down what I got them and had more to spend on others (again, the moving thing and other unfortunate expenses really drained what otherwise could have been holiday money) but then i don’t want to shortchange him….I dunno. I was so proud of myself and what I did get for people and now I feel like shit about it.

    Anyways. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. You don’t need to get your manager a gift. I think work etiquette is that you gift down (the chain of command) but not up.

  12. Where my retail robots at?

    This is my first season working retail in – years, and it might be a combination of advancing age, fighting off a cold, and culture shock from moving countries, but I am just run dry of Cope and it’s affecting my ability to throw together my own holiday even with my partner’s patience and help. I’m sick of being Polite-Rude-ed at* because the store’s out of stock on something that we had last week/last month/last year/our bags aren’t Christmassy enough/whatever/kumquat. I just – chasing that One Perfect Day everybody remembers from when they were six just seems to bring out the worst in people, and it’s people like me who get the lion’s share of shit from that.

    Honestly though, even when I wasn’t working retail it’s hard to remember the last time I felt the way I was supposed to feel on Christmas. I just don’t like it enough to justify all the extra emotional labor and time it takes to pull it all together. I’d almost declare a moratorium on it for a few years if I didn’t think my mom’s Disappoint would take shape and fly all the way across the Atlantic to harass me like the Ghost of Christmas Past.

    *Cultural note: no one can make ‘thank you’ sound like ‘fuck you’ quite like the British.

    1. Sympathies your way! I worked retail for years as a teenager/college student and was lucky to have age and naivete on my side for dealing with people at Christmastime. I also would have a secret sarcastic voice in my head – smile on the outside, while on the inside imagine myself saying “well maybe we wouldn’t be out of stock if you were shopping for this two weeks ago. Them’s the breaks.”
      There’s an evil kind of schadenfreude in seeing rude people whose plans are foiled because they didn’t plan ahead, or assumed everything would come together for them if they put in a half-assed, last-ditch effort. And a peace in knowing you have no responsibility for their failures. Hopefully you have coworkers who can help you tap in and out when your patience well runs dry.

        1. The one time I worked retail over Christmas I was at a small-ish book store, and the clientele for that sort of store tended to be more polite than the average (at least where I was; I did other retail NOT at Christmas and even then they weren’t as nice as my book people). I will never forget, however, a customer who came in and asked me if we had any books by an apparently popular self-help author I had never heard of (I read a lot, but that’s not my genre). When I asked her how to spell the author’s last name (which had at LEAST 4 possible common variations — think something like Anderson/Andersen), she got snarky and sniffed at me and let me have it for not knowing the author already. I managed to refrain from saying something along the lines of, “Well, it’s a self-help book; go help yourself and find it.” (Only one out of two awful customers, though, and at least our boss had our back so it wasn’t as awful as it could have been.)

          I will confess that I also loved it when people came in and said, “I’m looking for a book.” Full stop. If they said something like, “I’m looking for a book by….” or “I’m looking for a book about…” that was fine, but just, “I’m looking for a book”? It made me want to wave my hands around grandly and say, “Well, you’ve come to the right place!” and then let them sputter.

      1. Thank you for your kind words. Most of my coworkers are Good People, and that does help.

      2. People buying Christmas cake on Christmas Eve. They last FOREVER. (The other night we had some of last year’s cake for dessert.) We sell them for ages ahead of Christmas. And then they get shocked, SHOCKED, that we’re sold out the day before.

  13. Oh boy, holidays. I have issues with about every side of my family, but this year the major problem/worry is different. My sister’s girlfriend recently broke down and admitted to her super homophobic mother that she’s dating my sister and there has been no contact with the girlfriend since. We have no idea if girlfriend did this as a way of breaking up with my sister, or if she’s in seriously trouble and about to be dragged back to her birth country to be force-married to some dude. (Girlfriend is an international student, not a permanent Canadian resident, and her birth country is not kind to LGBTQ people.) We’d try to help her stay here if she wanted the help, but we can’t even contact her and ask. 😦

  14. Oh boy, holidays. I have issues with about every side of my family, but this year the major problem/worry is different. My sister’s girlfriend recently broke down and admitted to her super homophobic mother that she’s dating my sister and there has been no contact with the girlfriend since. We have no idea if girlfriend did this as a way of breaking up with my sister, or if she’s in seriously trouble and about to be dragged back to her birth country to be force-married to some dude. (Girlfriend is an international student, not a permanent Canadian resident, and her birth country is not kind to LGBTQ people.) We’d try to help her stay here if she wanted the help, but we can’t even contact her and ask.

    1. That’s really terrifying. Is she also a student? Advisors or international student advisors can do a lot, if you worry about her well-being. 😦

      1. Both students but not at the same school. We could presumably try to contact someone at girlfriend’s university and see if they can check up on her (assuming she’s still in the country right now) but I’m not sure how we could convey the seriousness of our concerns without mentioning the lesbian part. Outing people without their consent, even when you’re trying to help, is rather iffy.

        1. I think I might approach that as “we’re close, and I know she was admitting to her mother something that her mother severely disapproves of.” Possibly with an extra explanation of, “I am intentionally not giving you any details because it’s private and inappropriate for me to share without her consent, but I assure you that it will be a Very Big Deal for her mother.”

        2. It’s possible to raise concerns about the marriage bit without giving too many details away. That, alone, is cause for social services and interventions.

  15. The thing I hate most about Christmas (about any holiday in fact, even just when I take a random week off work) is the first day back at work. All the questions.

    Them: Did you have a nice holiday?
    Me: Yes thanks (probably a lie. At best it was okay)
    Them: What did you do?
    Me: Oh you know, family stuff. (I did naff all, because that is what I choose to do in most of my time off. I like doing nothing. Alone. A lot. I need that so I can deal with the next few weeks of all the people and dumb small talk that I have no honest socially acceptable answers to.)

    If only one person asked I could probably handle it. By the fourth or fifth time I just want to scream.

    The daily ‘hi how are you’ sucks the life out of me as it is, without adding the expectations of a whole holiday period worth of events to be quizzed on.

    1. I actually have started enjoying telling the truth about what I do on the holidays. “I had a lovely time! I went out for chinese and read all afternoon! It was so relaxing.” I find that doing that in a super cheerful tone makes most people believe me, and sometimes they even say that sounds like the holiday they wish they’d had.

      Small talk can be a drag, can’t it? Being able to tell the smallest amount of truth (because I’m not going to admit that I mean I read fanfic all afternoon instead of a novel) makes it slightly more bearable.

      1. I just wanted to say that that sounds like an amazing holiday to me! Chinese food is one of my favorite types, and I love reading and writing fanfic.

    2. Stealing from the Captain’s previous letters, you can deflect with “It could have been better, but I don’t want to mope — tell me about YOUR holiday!”

  16. I’m just sort of generally down on the whole thing this year. I had some medical stuff come up, small potatoes in the end, but even with insurance it left me shorter on money than I wanted to be, and now I feel like my gifts to my nieces and nephews are pathetic (I had great ideas and couldn’t do them, in the end), and that my gifts to my SO’s family are also pathetic. And every time I go to a store, it’s hotcrowdedjinglejingleomgstahpitsalvationarmyguy sensory overload this year. Some years I find it all kind of exhilarating. Not this one.

  17. List of gripes incoming.

    We did our trip to visit our families early in the month, which was thoroughly stressful and ate funds husband and I could have used for presents, but now won’t. My grandfather is in the hospital and the prognosis isn’t good. Just lost a deep filling and the dentist is closed until after the holiday. We have a tree and some egg nog and I’ve been trying desparately to listen to Christmas music to resuscitate a little holiday spirit, but it’s just not coming. It feels like an eerie imitation of something that’s supposed to be happy, like a broken down amusement park.

    1. “It feels like an eerie imitation of something that’s supposed to be happy, like a broken down amusement park.”

      This, exactly.

  18. I’m getting divorced this year so I don’t really have anywhere to go – mom’s is out since her husband treated me awfully last year and wants me to apologize for being ‘disrespectful’ which, no. Dad’s is out because he’s literally out of town, and can’t go to my in-laws’ because they’re headed firmly into not-in-law land. Ugh. I think I’ll just keep packing my stuff.

    1. My heart goes out to you. Jedi Hugs, if you want them. I hope that either you have some members of Team You that you can spend the holiday with, or that you find solace in spending it with yourself (perhaps with a hot drink of choice, fuzzy slippers and a favorite movie?).

    2. Thinking of you, as a fellow soon-to-be-divorced person. I hope you can find a way to intentionally choose a few hours of peace for yourself.

      (While I could go to my parents, they understand why I’m choosing to opt out of most Christmas this year.)

      1. Thanks. I have good people around and I can find a place if I want it, just the change from what I’m so accustomed to is pretty cold.

      2. OMG LW700!!! Your letter and all the comments helped me so much!! I’ve been hanging on to the relationship tooth and nail for years, trying to make it all work just by myself. Finally letting go to see what would happen was the best and most terrifying thing I could possibly do.

        1. That’s really comforting to know that the letter and comments helped you too! The farther I get into acceptance and letting go, the more I empathize with the terror of initiating the change.

  19. *Sigh* I care deeply about my family but oh my god, I should’ve come on a shorter visit. 4 days and I’m already so close to losing my shit.

    1. My brother “accidentally” (no way it was accidental) locked me in my bedroom from the outside while I was asleep, so when I woke up I couldn’t get out and had to shout and bang. He is fucking 30 years old. Much too old for this to be funny. I could’ve fucking killed him. But he has some difficulties in his life and I feel incredibly guilty being anything to warm and kind towards him, so I feel both pissed off as fuck at him and really guilty for being pissed off in case he has sads. So I’m going with avoiding as much as possible right now.

    2. My grandfather has dementia, my grandmother is his main carer and *she is not capable of being his main carer*. There are many reasons for this, one being her own age and health, but more importantly her manner. They had a shitty marriage and he is not a good man; she’s caring for him more out of financial necessity and women’s cultural roles than any real love or desire to do so. So she gets pissed off at him, she shouts, she orders him around and…ugh. I cannot emphasise enough how hard he is to be around – he was a dick before and dementia has destroyed his filter – but he’s still a human being and deserves better treatment. There’s an awkward af conversation I am building up to having about this because things can’t continue as they are.

    3. My mother and grandmother argue all the damn time. I am really, really non-confrontational and consider raising your voice to be an aggressive act. My family not so much. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all that they talk to each other like this, but I hate being around it.

    4. I have a cold, and loads of uni work, and I am missing my fiancé (who is with his family for the little time he gets off), and am worrying about the financial disaster that 2016 is going to be for me for various reasons.

    5. Oh and I have a weird lump on my abdomen which is almost certainly nothing BUT I DON’T NEED AN EXTRA THING TO WORRY ABOUT RIGHT NOW FOR GOD’S SAKE.

    I love Christmas, but Jesus, none of this is making me feel very Christmassy.

    Love and Jedi hugs to anyone out there struggling. Despite these difficulties I know I have a lot more positives than many people do. A bearable mid-winter to all!

    1. 3. My mother and grandmother argue all the damn time. I am really, really non-confrontational and consider raising your voice to be an aggressive act. My family not so much. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all that they talk to each other like this, but I hate being around it.

      God, I feel you there. We have a running “joke” among my siblings about seeing how long it is after I arrive that my parents snap at each other the first time. It’s usually about 10 minutes. It’s weird because they do seem to enjoy doing some stuff together and spending time with each other but they also have hardly any patience with each other and I don’t get it at all. I couldn’t deal with a relationship where we were snapping at each other all the time no matter how much I liked spending time with them otherwise.

      1. My parents bicker all the time, too – like, that’s just how they interact with each other. I couldn’t handle being in a relationship like that either, even if it seems to work for them (which it does, as far as I can tell). And yeah, it can be really stressful for people around them.

        1. This is one reason I can’t relate to most older comic strips in newspapers. Hagar the Horrible, Andy Capp, The Bickersons…just get a divorce, already. You clearly don’t really like each other.

    2. I am so sorry for all your troubles. I’m having a hard time feeling sympathetic toward your brother. That’s an awful thing to do especially at his age.
      And even though my family is generally mild I can’t take long visits either.

    3. Are you in the States? You might want to check into your local senior senior. There are caregiver support programs that might be a resource for your family. Obviously your grandmother has to be willing to accept the services so that may or may not work out. But there could be a resource available to help you navigate this process. It would also be good to have an idea of what is available in the community if there is a sudden crisis regarding your grandfather’s health or your grandmother’s ability to care for him.

      I don’t do this work myself, but I work with seniors and the best programs are flexible and meet families were they are. The frail spouse caregiver whose capacity to provide care is declining is a very familiar scenario as well as the fear/paralysis for other family members in trying to manage the situation. These programs want to help solve these problems.

    4. My grandfather has dementia, my grandmother is his main carer and *she is not capable of being his main carer*. There are many reasons for this, one being her own age and health, but more importantly her manner. They had a shitty marriage and he is not a good man; she’s caring for him more out of financial necessity and women’s cultural roles than any real love or desire to do so. So she gets pissed off at him, she shouts, she orders him around and…ugh. I cannot emphasise enough how hard he is to be around – he was a dick before and dementia has destroyed his filter – but he’s still a human being and deserves better treatment. There’s an awkward af conversation I am building up to having about this because things can’t continue as they are.

      Oh, I feel you here. I really do. I hope you don’t have to stay much longer. And I wish you so much luck with your conversation and if you have success please let me know how you managed to get through!

      Mine are my parents and not my grandparents. And I live with them now because they weren’t managing too well on their own. We had to take him to the doctor today and, oh, he was in a mood like you wouldn’t believe. (I was pushing his wheelchair through the busy office building and he told everyone we passed, at the top of his voice, to watch out for the woman driver! lolsobsmashseethe.) I still looked so shell-shocked later, the nice cashier at Trader Joe’s gave me free flowers.

      So I’m also cooking for a large branch of my mother’s relatives on Christmas Day. And Mom is melting down and slamming doors and screaming worse than usual, even though she has not one single thing she has to do for this dinner. And I’m not complaining about the cooking. I really like doing that. I just don’t get why she has to go all FEELINGSBOMB every Christmas and dump it all over me. And I will sit at the kids table or downstairs by myself, because Dad loves having an audience for his tormenting of me.

      But I hope your lump is nothing JoanofAnon and you can enjoy what you can.

    5. I had no idea until recently that it was normal in the States for many people to only get holiday at Christmas and to spend literally all of it staying with family. I love my family but that sounds like hell on earth for all kinds of reasons.

      I’m in the UK and I work in construction, so I get a mandatory 12 days off at Christmas because the whole industry shuts down. But I’m only going to my mum’s for the evening tomorrow (24th) and I’ll be back here on the 27th. What do you even do on these long visits?

      1. In all fairness, you can drive across all of England and Scotland in a day, and it’s easy to get around cheaply to most places using the train system. A lot of Americans live a several hour plane flight from home (or 2+ day drive through empty, snowy potentially dangerous terrain), so to justify spending the time and money on the trip you have to spend more than a day or two there. Nobody wants to spend 12+ hours in airports and on planes to see their parents for 24 hours, not to mention pay hundreds of dollars for the priviledge. Granted, when I lived far from my parents I purposefully spent Christmas where I lived (and Thanksgiving, who in their right mind flies home for Thanksgiving?), and used my vacation time to visit in summer when the weather was nice, and I didn’t have to worry about my flight being cancelled because of a blizzard, and nobody was running around crazily trying to buy the right gift/cake/last minute whatever. But I totally understand the urge to go home for the holidays, especially if you want your children to spend Christmas with their grandparents, or if you’re completely alone in a new city, or any number of other reasons.

        1. That’s absolutely true (although it would be a hell of a drive!) and I certainly wouldn’t want to fly 3000 miles just to come home again after a couple of days, particularly if money was tight.

          1. Please, please please don’t try to drive the Uk in a day! My brother died trying to get from Southampton to Fort William in a day, he was falling asleep by Yorkshire. Not only wrecked our lives but the lives of another innocent family too. It is a two day drive, minimum and plan for three!

          2. @daddyoftheboy, I am so, so sorry for your loss, and that sounds like a horribly tragic accident. But as an American, I drive that distance in a day up to six times a year for holidays, and I did it once for a three day weekend (down from Portland, OR to Oakland, CA in one, then another six hours out to Yosemite and back for a day trip, and back up in three.) Ten to twelve hours is just how long it takes to get between major cities out here, so some of us are more used to driving that kind of distance. I agree that given circumstances it’s less than ideal, but the point is really that it’s possible to drive between most places in the UK in a day, while driving that kind of distance in the USA won’t always even get you out of the same state you started in, much less to your eventual destination, which may be five or six days of driving away.

        2. It takes 8 – 12 hours to drive from Houston (east edge of Texas) to El Paso (most westerly point of Texas)

          1. When my mom moved us from Los Angeles to Houston, she counted El Paso as the halfway mark. It’s only ~50-60 miles closer to Houston than it is to LA.

          2. Texas would be a smallish state in Australia. Google maps says it takes 43 hours to drive from one end of my state (Queensland, Australia) to the other.

      2. Sleep. Eat. Play with the dog. Avoid bickering with my sister. Sometimes I explore wonders/mysteries/annoyances of cable television. My mother takes us shopping. Also she uses the opportunity to clean out cupboards and load us up with things she no longer wants, or things she has picked up since the last time we visited. (But that’s over a long weekend. After doing anything active with my mother for more than a few days, I need a vacation.)

      3. To answer your question about the long visits, I fly a few thousand miles to see my extended family the week after Christmas, and we do a lot of things; play games, go for a movie, visit local tourist things in the area (even though it’s the same area each year, we try to find something new), have a white elephant gift exchange, etc. It’s a lot of family, so to get a proper visit with everyone takes a few days (and I still often miss a few people, other than hugs when we arrive/leave).

    6. Oof, that’s a lot at once. (Also, boooooooo on your brother)

      Can you get a long break somehow? Do some last minute shopping, go hiking, go on a day trip to the next town for mysterious reasons? Do you know anyone in the area you could “have plans” with (even if you don’t have plans with them)? My secret to my future in-laws is building in at least one long planned break per day, which helps immensely.

    7. Your brother needs a talking-to at the very least, and if he does it again, in your place I’d probably break the door down to get out, because fuck that. If it’s bust a doorframe or be trapped somewhere, the doorframe is going down.

      But I have claustrophobia, and just reading your first point is making me short of breath. Did he do this again today? Do you think he’s likely to do it again this visit? Because this cannot be allowed to happen.

  20. Getting guilt tripped about only spending the first half of the Christmas holidays with my parents and then “ditching” them for New Years to spend that with my partner and his family. A combination of “good daughters do X at the holidays, why do you never do X?” disapproval and wishful thinking comments along the lines of “you’re change your mind” and “when his visit is done maybe you just won’t go with him” is making me absolutely certain I will be in that car with my partner when he drives off.

    Also, not looking forward to the “you’re not REALLY in love, partner is a strong word, why do you celebrate your anniversary if you’re not married” comment track continuing. Getting real tired and my recently-better-trained jerkbrain (that goes into extreme insecurity mode about whether I’m loveable when I’m separated from partner for long periods) is shirking its training and getting less easy to quiet.

    1. My mom’s favorite line is “you don’t have to do these things with him, it’s not like you’re married!” and it’s like… you’re absolutely right- I don’t have to do these things with him! But maybe, just maybe, I want to?

      I hope you manage to navigate your family speedbumps as well as possibly this year, jedi hugs to you and yours.

      1. Yeah the assumption that I have no agency and everything I do (that parents disapprove of) is because I am manipulated by partner or friends is getting real stale real quick.

        1. I dealt with this my entire life from my mother (and occasionally from my father) and I mean from my youngest schooldays to when they both passed away when I was about 40. Despite my actually being one of the strongest willed people I’ve ever met, courtesy of the excellent examples of strong, tough, independent, and outspoken women I had growing up of my grandma, aunts, and my mom herself. Like, mom, if *you* couldn’t talk/cajole/force me into being a different person than I wanted to be, what makes you think someone with far less power or influence is going to be able to? >_<
          The cognitive disconnect, it was strong in this one.

        2. I feel you here. I got some piercings/cut my hair short and my mother was very “I think you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd.” My crowd is made up of social work folks and people who care about social justice. And I’m a grown adult. Just because you don’t get it/this doesn’t match your idea of me when I was a child/who I *should* be doesn’t mean someone is manipulating me.

          Your choices and feelings are valid, no matter what they say. *jedi hugs*

    2. Are we related? I got the same shit the same year my SO’s brother was getting married. Apparently I was supposed to ditch the event where I’d meet a lot of other family, and the like.

      Hang in there. I recommend blanket forts, or whatever you need. Healthy people don’t need guilt trips, you know? That is, it’s not you that’s got the problem.

  21. Listening to my dad’s mother prattle on at me for criticizing my “dislike of holiday shopping due to high number of people with carts and baby strollers running over my feet” and telling me I should get out of the parents’ way. (Anyone who knows me know that I don’t take up more space than I need and I’m pretty considerate of public space and being fair. I don’t feel entitled to walk down the middle of an aisle, regardless if I have a shit ton of stuff or a baby or anything. But I don’t see why people with kids should be entitled to run their heavy strollers over my feet either when I’m NOT even in their way.)

    Having my parents freak out at my boyfriend because it’s our first time using a pressure cooker (they have never seen one before) and keep yelling at us to use their own pot (which is NOT a pressure cooker).

  22. Not looking forward to watching my boyfriend get depressed about his money woes because his parents decided to spring the fact he is BUYING all the ingredients for christmas dinner on his own (he traditionally cooks it all by himself but they buy it) and he had some exciting plans stored up for the money he saved.

    Not looking forward to helping him do laundry while he cooks Christmas dinner. However, he hates it, so that’s something I’ll do for him since he’s doing all the hot and sweaty prepping and cooking :p. We already exchanged gifts, though, so nothing to really exclaim over that morning.

    Not looking forward to finding a way to convince the boy to spend New Year’s Day at my place (I live with my parents for now) because we’re having Christmas at his. But I don’t need 2 weekends in a row at someone else’s dysfunctional household.

  23. I generally like Christmas, but only because I’ve done Christmas on my own terms for the last 2 or 3 years. But this year… this year, it seems like everyone around me is suffering from Life-Falling-Apart-itis. Something is in the air, and it’s making it hard for me to enjoy the quietly joyful festivities when I’m handing out my spoons to everyone else. I haven’t even bought a tree yet. :/

  24. Hello Awkward Army! First time commenter, long time reader. I don’t hate the holidays. Sometimes, I kind of like them. But being Jewish, I always feel a little left out. I’m close with my parents, but not with my siblings, and I’m also recently unemployed (just before Thanksgiving) and dealing with some manageable, but still a little scary health issues. I’m always so relieved when the holidays are over. All these feelings are stressors I really don’t want, and most of them are not of my making. I feel kind of dumped on! How do you deal with feeling a little isolated, a little left out, and generally just a little sad that you don’t fit in and really have nowhere to go around this time of year? I try to keep myself busy but there’s only so much I can do. And fwiw, I’d love to do Jewish Christmas, but the only people I know doing it are NOT JEWISH, which makes it kind of weird and annoying. Oh and I’m on a doctor-ordered low-carb diet, so no comfort eating for me.

    Thanks all. BTW, I have so much love for all the commentariat here. You are truly a lovely group of smart, kind and helpful people in one of the nicest corners of the interwebs.

    1. Sorry to hear about the health issues, but I’m glad they are manageable! Are there any sort of interfaith organizations near you that might be hosting a Christmakah event? Something like that might help you feel less isolated. Or, do you have any friends that will let you join in with their [family’s] celebrations?

      1. Those are excellent suggestions, thanks. However, I often am as uncomfortable at most Jewish holidays (raised culturally Jewish, but an atheist) as Christmas celebrations. It’s weird.

    2. In my neck of the woods, December 25 was always National Jewish Ski Day. Skiing is expensive and may not even be an option where you are, obviously, but are there any other outdoor activities you enjoy that would be feasible at this time of year? Renting cross-country skis or snowshoes, maybe hiking that’s bound to be pretty wide open on the day? I know the outdoors can be kinda chilly at this time of year, but if you’ve got warm clothes and would enjoy the activity, having a whole slice of nature all to yourself can be pretty awesome!

      1. Aw. Thanks. I’m not really an outdoorsy type, but those are good suggestions. Mostly, I guess I just want this season to be done.

    3. make the day all about you!!! Do your nails, try those crazy make-up tutorials that look so cool but are so complicated, buy comfy jammies and sit on the couch binging on cheesy movies, try a couple of new low carb recipes that look great… omg…that sounds like so much fun (to me at least).

  25. I’m having a hard time with Christmas this year. It will be just over one year since I went no contact (NC) with my abusive parents. I went NC with my flying monkey and/or abusive siblings at various other points throughout this year, so this will make two years since I have spent Christmas my with my family of origin (FOO). Even though with my FOO, Christmas is SUCH A HUGE DEAL!!!, I generally loathed the holiday season because it generally meant drama, abuse, and lots of ugh. It’s weird, but awesome, that I will be spending Christmas with people I adore (my own family unit and my in-laws). I am hoping that with the passage of time, it won’t feel weird to actually enjoy the holidays (last year was the first drama-free holiday season I have ever had; it was nice, but so so so weird).

    1. [hugs] I hope it all goes swimmingly. It’s okay to feel happy and weird at the same time, or have those feelings oscillate. It’s okay to miss your FOO, even if it’s best that you aren’t talking to them. I hope it gets better each year.

  26. I’m just not feeling it this year. In the past, this has always been my favorite holiday, and I would feel super excited that Christmas was coming up. But now I just feel old, and tired, and busy, and sad. I finally got our tree last week, and put lights on it, and then kinda stopped. It’s lovely just with lights, and we put up some icicle lights in our loft so it’s really gorgeous when we’ve just got the lights on, but that normal feeling of warmth and contentment is very very faint compared to years past. I feel guilty about being so busy with work and other endeavors and not having a ton of time to spend with my siblings while they’re in town. I feel really sad for my dad, who is going through a divorce. I feel guilty that I want so badly to feel Christmas cheer, and it’s just not happening. Like catefish, I try listening to holiday tunes and they just make me burst into tears. The joy just isn’t there. I’m Christian, I wonder if it’s a symptom of just not being super connected with my faith anymore. Praying, reading, listening to music, etc. usually fills my heart up, but lately I’ve been feeling sort of far away and empty. I miss feeling full of joy, and this holiday season just seems to really drive it home that I’m lacking that connection.

    1. I put my tree up early like I normally do. It was lovely. Then the tree crashed to the ground two weeks ago. We had to take all the ornaments off just to get it back to it’s standing position and frankly I didn’t have the energy, interest, or motivation to put all those ornaments back on. That, coupled with the unseasonably warm weather, is making me feel less Holly Jolly and more Bah Humbug. Add to this the family drama, the lack of money, and the uptick of stress at work as we prep for our busy January season and you’ve got one glum mum here.

      1. ❤ hope you made it through last week, and continue to take good care as you prepare for a busy time in the new year!

  27. I have mixed feelings about the holidays. This year I’m in sort of a weird place with my boyfriend, but my family expects us to be more serious than we are, especially since he’s coming with me for Christmas.
    I’m also a little sad because I’m missing my favorite part Christmas Eve because I don’t have anyone to watch my cat. I know people will say that I could have left him alone for 36 hours, but I don’t feel good about that – so I’ll catch crap for that too. Oh well.

    1. I can relate to how you feel about leaving your cat alone – but he really will be okay. I left my two cats (which are basically my babies) alone for about 36 hours for the first time two months ago (left really early on Friday morning and returned home late Saturday night). It was really, really hard. But I didn’t worry about them as much as I thought I would. I left out tons of food and water and made sure a light was on and brought them both home a special treat. And you know what… they were completely fine. A little clingy when I got home, but that’s about it. So.. if you really want to go, I encourage you to. Your cat will forgive you.

      1. My cat barely notices when I’m gone for the weekend, aside from shrieking at me about not getting his breakfast. (He has kibble down all the time, but he gets a tablespoon or so of wet food in the mornings, mashed with warm water–it’s not vital, or very much of his food/water intake, just one of those things he likes.)

  28. I mostly really like most things about Christmas. But since my mom died the family part of it has been kind of a bummer. She did pretty much all the work of making sure there was a holiday — airport pickups, decorating, food preparation, etc. Now it’s my brother, my dad and me and most years I’ve ended up: 1) traveling a long way (always a big financial/logistical headache for me) to get to my dad’s house; 2) doing pretty much all the cooking; 3) dealing with serious lack of organization/engagement/etc. on my dad’s part.

    The last couple of Christmases I was able to get a ride home (for the 7-hour ride to a remote town) with a friend, which was really great because I love traveling with him. But the second I would get in the door dad would start ranting at me about whatever was on his mind (when he’s in the mood to monologue anyone around him is a captive audience) without so much as asking about how the drive was, without offering a glass of water, etc. No clean sheets in my old bed, no clean towels in the bathroom, the car that I was supposed to borrow to go see my grandma ended up having something wrong with it that meant it couldn’t be driven on the freeway (this had been a problem for weeks, it turned out, but he had plenty of notice that I would want access to the car). Some of this is financial stuff he doesn’t have a ton of control over, some of it is health/mental health stuff I think and worry about, some of it…well, a lot of it feels like substance abuse and narcissistic behavior that was ALWAYS there, and is either just more intense now or more noticeable due to my mom not being around to compensate. But bottom line: it fucking sucks to sit in a car for seven hours and not have a bed ready for you at the other end of the trip, or a host who knows how to have a two-way conversation, or a shower you can use. It sucks to put some thought and effort into choosing or making or buying gifts only to get bupkis, or (some years) something weird you can’t take back with you. (Once a few years ago my brother got a huge machete and I got a giant clock too big to fit in my suitcase. Both of us had traveled by plane that year.) Last year I decided to only do the stuff I like (I decided I still *like* choosing/buying gifts, just that I should expect a lack of reciprocity and in some cases even a lack of acknowledgment/thanks) and that meant no travel. As it happened my cat had to have a big surgery a week before Christmas and was still on a rigorous medication schedule by the time Christmas rolled around, so…whoops, family, I can’t afford a catsitter so I guess I’m gonna have to stay in town to look after him! But my boyfriend’s family had me over and did nice things for me and then I got to hang out with my friends.

    My brother is becoming just as disorganized as my dad – every year he announces a vague plan to come home for Christmas and for the last several years he’s flaked at the last minute, generally doesn’t help out much with stuff like cooking (and worse, was somewhat critical of my cooking the last time he was home and I cooked). He’s also somewhat flakey about presents – again, there’s not having money (not an issue for him though) and there’s doing stuff like saying, “I’ve been really busy and spaced out, I’m going to get you an Amazon gift card though” and then spacing out even on that? I don’t know. Even thinking about the present stuff makes me feel like I’m being selfish/focusing on the wrong things but they also both tend to Make Promises on this front and it feels very…Charlie Brown and the football.

    This year, since I have a little bit more income and my brother lives closer and I haven’t seen him in a while, I’m going to rent a car (since I don’t own one) and drive up to see him just for a couple of days. I decided that the keys to my enjoying the family aspect of the holidays is 1) keeping what I do for them (including travel costs and time, which have ALWAYS been a big headache in the past) within my means so I don’t feel stressed out/sad about having gone to x amount of trouble only to come up against little to no reciprocity, 2) if/when I do travel to see any member of my biological family, to ALWAYS have my own transportation (both so I don’t have to rely on borrowed cars that may not work, friends whose schedules may not line up, and to allow me the ability to either leave early or “just make a quick run to the grocery store” if I need to), and in the future maybe offering to stay at a hotel, 3) keep my expectations for their behavior/manners/reciprocity at BASEMENT LEVEL so anything cool or good that happens (gifts or whatever) is pleasantly surprising and 4) asking for help with cooking or suggesting takeout (not an option in my dad’s town, but probably doable where my brother lives) and 5) making plans for food, drinks, etc. with Team Me once I get back to where I live. Aaaand…due to an issue with my car reservation and my work schedule I’m not going to have the rental car for as long as I thought, so…that means I have to come back a little earlier and will have more weekend to decompress! OOPS OR MAYBE NOT OOPS AT ALL I GUESS.

    1. Can your brother and dad visit you instead of you having to travel to see them? Or, do you think they would flake on that?

      1. Them visiting also ends up being some amount of unexpected work for me – either helping my dad (who *does not listen* when he’s lost and stressed out) navigate my city over the phone when he drives to town (the last time this happened, it took hours before he found my house, which was about 15 minutes from where I lived. (I didn’t have the resources at the time to pull a car share vehicle to pick him up, or call him a cab.) Twice my brother has failed to make any lodging arrangements – once sucking away a ton of time driving around (with me + 2 others in the car) looking for a vacancy, another suggesting an out-of-town getaway he would pay for and plan…and then doing none of the latter, so I ended up leaning on my boyfriend to use his family’s cabin. (This really sucked, because it was during a really stressful period and he wanted to do something “nice” for me, and I TOLD HIM, “I’m really overloaded right now and can’t take on any planning or decisionmaking, but these are the weekends I’m free, so if you want to go somewhere just make reservations and let me know.” And he still fucking dithered until after the last minute on actually reserving a place to stay. It’s not a financial issue, either, he’s pretty comfortable.) But yeah, I’ve also invited them out a bunch of times for Thanksgiving etc. and they’ve flaked altogether. It still feels like my choices are “expect to do the bulk of the logistical/planning work, traveling and emotional labor” or “have almost no relationship with my immediate family.”

  29. Dang it… my comment must have gotten eaten by the spam filter, but I have no idea why 😦

  30. Arg. New freelancer life + new relationship = AWESOME but facing lots of uncertainty. Plus me n’ holiday season have some mixed feelings (growing up they were fraught). And just feeling a bit of the holiday blues in general (one of my projects was just rejected for a festival I was really hoping to get into). I know everything is going to be ok, but right now I just want to sleep until January 2nd.

    1. I feel this! I just recently found consistent freelance work. It’s excruciatingly stressful to live in limbo. I’m sorry about your project. I hope you find some solid footing soon.

    2. Freelancer life! The joys, the pain. I’ve had a rough few months so this x-mas is on a tight budget and stressed me out, so I feel that. I’m also still trying to get everything scheduled past January. It’s interesting to say the least.

    3. I’ve got a bunch of ongoing family weirdness that normally I can sort of ignore but tends to all come pouring out around the holidays. My mental health is kind of in the toilet and I made my niece cry by being several hours late to drop off her presents. I’m glad I’m going to be seeing my parents after all but I’ll have to find something to do for a few hours on Christmas day while an estranged relative comes over for lunch. I’m just tired and I know that I need a break from everything and im kind of getting it but there’s just always something else.

    4. Thanks for the commiseration everyone. I love it, and its what I wanted, but gah – I’m having a hard time getting used to it. It’s like I woke up in Prague or Paris with a suitcase and don’t know how I got there, and definitely don’t speak the language or know how to get around.

  31. My husband and I are staying home for the first time ever. My BPD mother, who I rarely speak to, is upset and wants me to come there or she’ll come to my house next week “at some point”. I live 2.5 hours away. I’ve been having an anxiety attack since she mentioned coming over.

    1. Please remember that you don’t have to open the door! Just because she shows up does not give her right of entry! I lived in fear of that in college, and it sucks. Jedi hugs if you want them.

      1. Same. I wish I’d known this when I had parents dropping by because they were “in the neighbourhood” (5 hours away is not in the neighbourhood, people). Mine got the picture eventually, though my mum used to bitch at my sister that I “never invited them to my house”. At the time I lived in a very small, poorly laid-out rental house on a block with no parking, and the house itself was nearly full of crap, thanks to my late husband’s hoarding tendencies.

        And, oh god, I just realized that Best Boyfriend’s and my plan to move into a 2BR apartment together when our leases end means that I am going to have to make sure my folks don’t know that I have a spare bedroom, or they’ll be visiting like a shot because free room and board, and I don’t think I could handle it.

  32. I thought it was just the warm weather that was keeping me from feeling festive, but the fact is I’m just lonely, and the holidays make that worse. I love my family, but my parents are getting older, and all the relationship maintenance work for my relationship with my sister falls on me. We’re both single, so it’s just the four of us, and it seems less festive every year.

    I have lots of friends – long-distance ones. Locally, they’re more like good acquaintances or circumstantial friends. If someone leaves their job, or quits hobby x, the friendship would die with it. Only a couple are genuinely real friends, but we’re still not close. None of them would call me if they just needed someone to talk to, for example. (I lost a couple of friends with a relationship over a year ago, and in fallout from that. I’ve been trying to rebuild my social circle, but real friendship takes time.)

    Recently I met someone I really am crushing on, but he’s non-monogamous and isn’t looking for a long-term relationship (both unlike me), so I don’t see how getting together could end well.

    I’m staring down the barrel of another birthday ending in 0 and am wondering if 20 years from now things will be the same, except that without my parents, my family relationships will dwindle to nothing.

    And other people have other, worse problems at this holiday season, so I don’t feel like I get to complain. Except I got in a truly stupid online fight with one of my distant friends today, and so I’m feeling like a jerk on top of everything else.

    1. I can relate to so much of what you’ve written. I love Christmas but this year has been difficult. Hang in there, we’ll both get through it!

    2. Other people’s problems don’t lessen the impact of yours. That sounds like a lot to be going through. It’s hard when all of your friends are far away, especially when you realize how tenuous the basis of them is. Jedi hugs and I hope you find someone soon whose relationship priorities mesh with yours.

    3. Swear I commented; must have gotten eaten. Other people’s problems don’t lessen the impact of yours. That sounds like a lot to be going through. It’s hard when all of your friends are far away, especially when you realize how tenuous the basis of them is. Jedi hugs and I hope you find someone soon whose relationship priorities mesh with yours.

    4. I totally get it and relate. I feel like I lean pretty heavily on my parents, emotionally, because I don’t have close friends in my current location, and worry about them getting older. I hope that your holidays turn out to be more merry than you expect.

  33. I’m from the US and living abroad in a non-Christian country that does Christmas as a totally secular thing with (to me) really weird flourishes. This would probably be fine, but I’m so homesick that it feels like a bizarre appropriation. The secular practice means I’ve got the kinds of holiday stuff I want, but it still doesn’t feel right. Also, being far away from all our family means I’m holding everything together myself (partner’s depression and anxiety is flaring hardcore and kid is also really homesick).

    I’m trying to give myself the pep talk about new adventures and traditions, but it’s not working. My family and our traditions are a huge deal to me and missing them is making it worse. Ooof.

    1. Sorry Christmas is rough for you and your family this year. If you don’t mind me asking, how is it celebrated in the country you’re in? Just curious.

      1. I have to say I am curious too, as Christmas in the US has always seemed to be primarily a secular holiday to me. But then again, maybe I’m just unusual in not having grown up in a religious or church going family, or really knowing too many people who celebrate it in a religious fashion at all?
        (NOT knocking those that do! Just acknowledging that I may be an outlier in that respect.)

    2. I always liked the cartoon version of ‘the grinch’, that last part where there’s sparkling light without a tree. I hope you can see the sparkling light this year, despite the tree looking weird ❤

    3. Hey scribblescrabble, I feel you! I’m not Christian, but I celebrate American Secular Christmas (with the tree and the family and the food and the lights) and my bday is the 26th. This is my first year alone – like really alone. I’m teaching abroad in Thailand at a Buddhist school, and we don’t have Christmas off and all of the interpretations of christmas are WEIRD.

      I don’t have anyone in my town that I’m friends with, and tonight and tomorrow will be alone (thankfully, one of my friends is coming in on saturday to celebrate my bday).

      Solidarity to weird foreign Christmas ritual times.

  34. I always feel guilty about my vacillating dislike of Christmas trees. They look pretty and smell pretty and I guess it wouldn’t be Christmas without them, but there’s a large part of my psyche that always internally screams about how stupid it is. You cut down a tree grown for YEARS just for three weeks of usefulness, BRING IT INSIDE, and then hang a bunch of junk on it that you have to store for 11 months of the year, and then send it to a landfill. It bums me out, because I’m sad if they’re not around, but if they are, I get angry.

    Thanks for the vent, because I don’t want to Scrooge anyone’s Dickens’ cheer so never really talk about it.

      1. Ha! I should give it a try. My mom got me a mini tree…like, a tree branch stuck in log, and I’ve been enjoying that.

        1. Yeah, we have a teeny-tiny tree in a pot 😆 It’s going to stay in a pot and be our Christmas tree for a few years and then get planted in the yard when it gets too big

          1. I cheat: I didn’t think of this consciously when I moved in here, but I’ve got a fifty-foot blue spruce just outside my living room window. It auto-decorates with snow and (really-for-truly) icicles, birds, pine-cones, squirrels….

            A Christian friend has been wont to give me a hard time about not doing Christmas decorations. I just point out the window.

      2. That’s what we did for a few years–we’d plant them out in the back field when we were done. Mostly, they survived. 😛

        (Now we just have an artificial tree, because getting a real one is a PITA).

    1. Australian here – aside from our climate not really being practical for a real Christmas tree, my family’s always gotten a fake one to avoid having to buy a tree every year. My partner and I will also be buying a fake tree for our home after Christmas (>75% off Christmas stuff for the win).

      Could this be an option for you? Of course, you won’t get the nice piney smell…

      1. That’s what I used to use air freshner for – Oh it doesn’t smell nice? (PSST) Smells nice now!

    2. My parents always decorate the pine trees they have outside – maybe that would work? They put some stuff out for the birds (peanut butter and seeds on a pine cone, popcorn strings, etc) and some lights and it’s quite nice.

    3. We’ve always had artificial trees in my house. Only have to buy them once, no pine needles everywhere, just take it down and put it in a box at the end of the holiday.

    4. I love live Christmas trees, but suffer some of the same guilt about cutting down a live tree. I don’t have a yard — or someone to help me wrangle the heavier trees — or I’d buy them potted and plant them. One of the things that makes me feel better about it all is making sure they go to a tree recycling collection instead of a landfill. They’ll either get chipped for mulch, or dumped in a lake to provide habitat for fish. I like that last one. 🙂 Maybe that’s an option that you could look at, as well.

      1. Farm-grown trees are grown expressly for this purpose. They’re not good for anything else really because of where/how they’re grown, and they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for being grown to sit in my living room looking gorgeous. And a farm-grown tree is definitely more ecologically responsible than a fake tree made of random metal bits and petroleum plastics that is just going to end up in a landfill in a few years.

    5. Yeah, I hear you. My rationalization is that at least if they end up in a landfill, it’s basically solar-powered CO2 sequestration, which is still probably more of a good thing than not. I’m still glad our town mulches or composts them, though!

    1. That Boring Day When Everything Is Closed And Jews Are Bored. Also, this year it’s raining buckets all week. And my kids and spouse are away, so I’m alone with the baby. And did I mention, it’s raining? Bah, humbug.

  35. So was actually going to do cookies this year…and came down with a head cold. My in-laws’ present is nowhere NEAR finished–takes me about 20 minutes per row, and at 200 rows, it’s going to take about 67 hours, give or take. They’re cool, but, ugh. Head trips die hard.

    Head cold’s giving me sinus ick. Sinus ick is making my upper back teeth hurt. So, yeah. 😦

    1. Are you knitting or crocheting a thing? I’ve been working on crochet earmuffs for my family this week. I don’t have enough yarn for anything bigger unless I combine colors in hideous, eye-searing ways :/

      1. Knitting a thing! My in-laws are totally cool about it, which makes it that much worse, especially if you come from a history of familial head trips, where such things would be the Worst Thing Ever if their present wasn’t done.

  36. Regular-reader-but-mostly-lurker here who needs to vent… my MIL (first holiday season as a married couple) sent me an American Girl doll for Hanukkah. I am a grown up with no children and I do not collect dolls, in fact I find them kind of creepy, and I was really weirded out by this expensive and completely inexplicable gift. My husband asked her about it and her response was that she just thought it would be fun since she never had a daughter to buy dolls for, and we can just save it for our own daughter someday, hint hint hint. Ugh, I know I should be more gracious about someone going to the trouble to send me a gift, but it really came across as wacko and manipulative to buy a gift “for me” that’s really for my hypothetical future child?!

    1. That indeed is super creepy. Best case scenario, she really does think she’s doing a nice thing and did it with a rational reason, but no. Not cool. Maybe donate it to a local charity?

      1. Apparently she even asked my husband about it ahead of time and he told her, no, I don’t think that’s something she would like, don’t get her that. And she did it anyway. So… no rational reason, no. She means well, she’s just a wacko with no self-awareness.

        Anyway, good to know from this and the other responses that I’m not way out of line to be creeped out by this. Donating is a good idea. She sent a box set of the books that go with the doll, too!

        1. I keep waiting for my MIL to do something like this. Would not surprise me in the least. Kids LOVE those dolls though, so I second donating it!

    2. Wow. I can’t even…. if it were me, I’d have some fun with the wackiness of the situation (“Who needs a kid when I have my lovely Delilah here…”) or use this as an excuse to try to out-wack her, present-wise, next year.

      However, if you are a normal human being, think of it this way: if nothing else, she gave you an AWESOME story for future Hannukah celebrations.

    3. Ew ew ew ew. I admire your restraint in not saying, “We’re not looking for kids any time soon, and honestly I’m hoping for sons when we DO have children.”

  37. This is the first Christmas without my father-in-law, my husband is managing his own sorrow on top of everyone else’s, my toddler is sick with a respiratory infection, I’ve been taking care of him with a high fever, and I just give up. The tree isn’t decorated, no presents are wrapped, cookies aren’t baked, I just want a Friday so I can hide from all this family and do Christmas next year.

    1. Oh that sounds so awful for you. I can only recommend that you focus on your kid – wrap only her gifts, remembering that a paper bag with a ribbon is exciting for a toddler. And trees look festive with only lights and bows. And buy the cookies. My husband lost his father this year too, he was the last of our parents, so we feel a little lonely now.

  38. Usually I bake loads but this year I had to admit I’m just not healthy enough to do it anymore. This paired with nearly 20 hours of driving and over a week of non stop family action with no home to retreat to is rough. I want to just spend a day in bed and recover some spoons but it’s just not an option. My family complains I’m hiding and I abandon my husband to them or my in-laws get snooty about how much I sleep. At least everyone has been cool with the reduced baking and my MiL (getting us at the very end and looking after our cat right now) is a saint and gets my being sick means I’m just exhausted sometimes.

    1. Oof. I’m exhausted just reading that – I’m sorry that neither family is supportive of your need to rest!

    2. Update: Made it through surprisingly unscathed. It seems after a few years of it my sister and Dad are getting almost good about my illness. I didn’t spend as much time resting as I should have, but they were good about planning low key adventures this year.

  39. This year is the third goddamn year in a row that my wife and I will be moving over Christmas, except this year we’re leaving the midwestern state I grew up in to move to the tiny southern town she grew up in and this entire month of December has been one giant struggle not to break down and start crying everywhere. I’m having to leave a job that isn’t perfect, but pays well and has excellent benefits, and the few family members I give a shit about to go toward my wife’s family and her hometown support. I want to be happy about this, because it’s so good for her after a diagnosis of chronic illness, but I’m not and I feel like the worst wife in the world because of it.

    This whole terrible year has been a year of profound loss with a miscarriage and breaking off contact with my severely mentally ill mom because she won’t go into treatment and I can’t handle her abuse. And now this, losing the mechanisms of self-sufficiency and independence that have been so important to me scraping together a life that I control — I just want to yell and yell and demand that someone come up with a better option, because this shit isn’t fair and I don’t want to do it.

    1. I’m so sorry. All of the Jedi hugs to you. You will regain control over your life again, eventually, you will see. Hang in there.


    We’re doing Christmas at my terminally ill mother’s this year and my adult brother will be there with his family in tow. He’s my only sibling and we don’t live near each other, so we usually have a pretty good (phone) relationship most of the time. However, because we’re close in age he’s super competitive with me and can be a total ass, so I’m trying to work on strategies for dealing with his potential verbal barbs beforehand. My parents really encouraged competitiveness when we were growing up, so my brother tends to verbally pick at me to get a reaction when we’re at family functions. Then when I get angry I see no support from my parents, since they see me as an equal participant. I feel like will be forever seen as an overdramatic 13 year old. Honestly – sometimes I feel like I should get references from my friends that I am a mature human being who can function well in a group. Gotta be honest, though – I have a sneaking suspicion that mom loves it when we fight for her attention. But the pressure’s really on because this could be Mom’s Last Christmas.

    I am so not wanting to engage this year. Any suggestions for strategies on how NOT to rise to the bait?

    Here’s what I have so far:
    – Smoke up discreetly and try to keep quiet through dinner
    – Sit as far away from brother as possible and try not to engage without being a jerk about it
    – If he decides to act like an ass, change the subject by asking his girlfriend (who I haven’t yet met) polite, interested questions about herself

    That’s all I’ve got.

    Can anybody recommend any good resources or tips for handling my brother?

    1. Argh it’s terrible when you accidentally revert to adolescence in the presence of family members. Maybe he wishes he could stop being a jerk as well? Who knows. I think your idea to talk to the girlfriend is a good one.
      Maybe you could try a phone call before you see each other in person – maybe framing it as ‘Mom’s last Christmas, let’s try not to fall into our old patterns.” But that depends on him recognising and acknowledging the dynamic as well.
      You could also take the tactic of meta-awareness – choose a calm, simple response (Brother’sName, I think we’re both too old for this game/I’d prefer to be kind to each other this Christmas/ I feel a bit attacked by what you’re saying so I’m going to go speak to someone else) and then use that exact phrase, and disengage, every time he picks at you. This can make things awkward but does highlight the unacceptable behaviour.

      Really, what is going on is a particular dynamic – (Brother makes a barbed remark/escalates as necessary – Phalanxgirl gets angry – Brother feels victorious). Your parents are right in one sense, in that your involvement in the dynamic is necessary, although that certainly doesn’t make their tacit approval of his behaviour acceptable or less painful. Fundamentally, the only part of the equation you control is your own anger and expression of it. If you can change your response, and maintain that, the dynamic will change. Maybe it will be a better dynamic. Maybe it will be something you don’t like. You will be taking away the ‘reward’ Brother gets from the dynamic, and people do not enjoy having things taken away from them.

      One note- if you do decide to change the dynamic, Brother will escalate to attempt to get a response. It is important that you don’t give him the response he wants, because then all he learns is that escalating to nuclear-grade material is all that is required.

      1. The phone call seems like a good idea, but he tends to see me as the one who starts it, so his belligerant response would be something to the effect of “I won’t start anything unless you do.”

        Your script is a good one, though. I’m writing it down and memorizing it in case of one-on-one jerkiness. The problem, of course, is that he usually pulls the competitive act when there’s an audience (the dinner table is his favourite venue at which to perform). There’s no escape at the dinner table, so if I talk to someone else, I’ll probably be talking to all.

        I am not looking forward to the escalation (I am anticipating it), but my very shy husband has mentioned that if it gets really bad, he’ll just quietly say “Yes Ryan, yours is bigger,” and let the conversation get awkward as it may.

        1. Would just ignoring him completely be an option? As thought he had just burped or farted really loud – pause, and then continue with some other topic. Or would he just double down on whatever his comment was?

          1. That’s pretty good – I’ll put it on my list of coping strategies. I suspect he’ll double down, as Lish pointed out, but I can ignore it.

        2. … I love your husband’s response. Remember silence has it’s own power, and while it’s the nuclear option, the Cut Direct exists for a reason.

          1. My husband is pretty awesome. The cut direct is tempting, but I’d be accused of being childish. The best option, I think, is exercise the cut indirect and to make nice and change the subject frequently.

    2. There’s always the CA standard of “Wow. /Change Topic/”. or “That was rude. Anyway, pass the potatoes.”

      From what it sounds like, engaging isn’t going to make it better. I like your strategy of trying to avoid and/or redirect the conflict. I think bringing attention to what he’s doing in a calm manner would likely be useful, if you think you can be calm and non-confrontational with him as he’s trying your sanity.

      Do you have someone coming with you who you know is on your side, in case you need to make a retreat and vent? I find that in tense situations, even having someone who I can exchange knowing looks with can make it a tiny bit more bearable.

      You don’t deserve to be picked at, and I’m sorry that this is going to be stressful. I’m also sorry that it might be your Mom’s last Xmas, and that your parents aren’t backing you up.

      I 100% believe that you are a mature adult who can interact with others in a social setting. I also believe that your family isn’t trying to bring out your best self, which makes it a lot harder to be that super awesome adult you are most of the time.

      [jedi hugs] I’m rooting for you!

      1. I have to be careful with calling him out directly because he will attack me for being defensive.

        He once made the following fun little verbal barb: “You are way overpaid. At least I WORK for my money.” Context: I work for the provincial government and he’s a chef. I have never once belittled his vocation or implied that he does not work hard, but apparently I’m living my life on the taxpayer’s dollar.

        When I responded that I thought his comment was out of line, he then said “Don’t get huffy with me! I’m just telling it like it is.” And, yes, I could follow up by pointing out a few of his weaknesses that would also qualify as “telling it like it is” – that he’s a philandering asshat whose grip on the truth is tenuous at best, but then I’d be completely engaged in the fight at that point.

        The other possible response he might have to “That was rude. So about that local sports team…” is “Why? Why is it rude? I think you’re just being oversensitive.”

        Luckily, my awesome husband is coming along and he is completely Team Me. As I mentioned above, he’s told me that if it gets really bad, he’ll just quietly say “Yes Ryan, yours is bigger,” and let the conversation get awkward as it may. Not going to lie – it would be worth taking my brother’s crap just to be there to witness my husband doing that.

        Thanks for the vote of support. I hate that I have to stress about this, but I figure if I go in with strategies in hand, I’m more likely to keep control and make things good for my mom. If it’s going to be her last Christmas, this is the gift I want to give.

        Jedi hugs to you as well, Clodia. BTW, your username kicks ass (I have a degree in Classics, so I like a good Roman name).

        1. Your brother sounds a lot like my uncle. Just reading your tales about him are bringing my shoulders up around my ears. This sounds so unpleasant! I completely feel you that you are anxious about wanting to keep it peaceful for your mom (while pretty much being able to predict that your brother will not be putting this much care and thought into his own behavior). That right there is a great example that you are not only a mature and functioning human, you are kind and thoughtful to boot.

          I like the Captain’s past advice about redirecting 2x, and then Returning Awkward To Sender. The first two times he tries to get a rise out of you, maybe a small chuckle and an “Oh, . So, how bout that new Star Wars movie?” or “…huh. *vapid smile* Anyway, can you believe this weather we’re having??” And then if he doubles down or keeps being lame, just a straight up “Brother, you keep needling me, and it’s getting weird. Please stop. We’re all just trying to have a pleasant holiday. Now please pass the potatoes.” Deploy long, frigid stares as necessary.

          Although I am not-so-secretly hoping that your husband gets the chance to use his line, that made me giggle. It’s rad that he is in your corner, and maybe he would be a good source of reference that you are a nice, mature person and your brother is the bizarre one. Best of luck to you!

        2. I tend to respond with, “that’s nice”, regardless of the niceness of the remark. It’s vague, it’s inane, and it doesn’t set up any comebacks. Trying to continue a one-up battle with someone who acknowledges but disengages can be pretty exhausting. Maybe he’ll need a nap and you’ll get a break.

        3. Yup, this sounds definitely like the sort of place where a flat “Wow” as response is appropriate. Anything that leaves a hook for a response seems right out.

        4. Thank you! I also have a degree in Classics and work for my state government! Are you the good twin or the evil twin?

          Yay Husband being Team You! I….I kinda hope he pulls that phrase out as well. (Maybe we’re both the slightly more wicked than Mr. Rogers would approve twin.)

          I’m imaginging giving your brother a wedgie each time he calls you oversensitive or huffy or whatever other “hysterical” nonsense he’s pulling out of his ass. So rude. Ugh.

          I’m 100% behind you on trying to be as prepared as possible for this Christmas. I hate that you have to do it, but I completely understand the reason and would be doing the same thing. I hope that if it doesn’t go as well as you hope, that you can give yourself a break. You’re being a wonderful person just putting forth the effort and emotional labor for this, especially since no one else (but your husband) seems to be doing so. You deserve something really really nice, even if it’s just going home at the end of the night and getting the best cuddles from your husband and a glass of your favorite beverage for making it through.

    3. This is not very nice and I recommend REALLY THINKING about if this is the person you want to be, because I definitely had twinges of regret afterward. Brief twinges. I was not the person Fred Rogers knew I could be. (But I sure felt better!)

      But when dealing with a super-competitive sibling-in-law, one year I took to immediately at every barb saying, “You win.”
      Sometimes cheerfully, sometimes blandly, sometimes really fast and immediately followed by a subject change back to whatever I had been saying a few minutes ago.

      She stopped for a while, came back and tried it again, but quit before I got to Phase Two: Golf Clap.

      1. AWESOME. Ordinarily I would be all over this like my husband on eggnog, but I think it would only make the atmosphere more stressful and I want to give my mom the gift of a peaceful Christmas. Also, my brother is bringing his live-in girlfriend and I’m meeting her for the first time. Since my brother’s A-game seems to be telling people how awful I was to him when we were younger, I plan to be nothing like what he describes. I will be polite and fun and inclusive.

        However, after Christmas is another thing altogether. >:)

    4. I understand the thing of wanting to give your mother one last peaceful Christmas or whatever, but what if this isn’t actually her last Christmas? What if you have to go on, and on, and on, gritting your teeth, letting your brother snipe at you, trying not to engage while also not giving him the silent treatment because either will just make him snipe at you harder… Like, if you know it’s just this one last time, great, you can do anything for four hours, but…what if it just keeps going? Does that change how you feel about silently enduring his shitty behaviour?

      I am not sure that I have many useful tips, because it’s pretty clear that our personalities are different, so my reaction to this kind of thing is unlikely to be something you could make yourself do, but I think that asking the question is useful because it may clarify what you’re really willing to do in this situation.

      1. Oh I wouldn’t be so quick to paint me as a kind and patient person who will take crap willingly. Part of why my brother likes to snipe at me is because I used to best him in physical combat on a regular basis when we were growing up. I hit 6 feet at age 12 whereas he didn’t hit puberty until he was 19. Unfortunately, along the way he learned how easy it is to piss me off (he installed the buttons, after all).

        I can’t beat him up anymore, but I sure can sign him up for mailing lists that are… outside his field of interests (Diaper wearing? Eyebrow worship? Vampire Nuns? The possibilities are endless!). Or perhaps create a less than flattering profile on Plenty of Fish (SWM, 36, DTF. Looking for voyeuristic amazons to share my love of Jello wrestling, Windex, and John Waters films. Would prefer an octogenarian with foot fetish who isn’t adverse to wearing a Donald Trump wig. No freaks.) Or order some intimidating marital aids in both his name and his girlfriend’s to be delivered to their house. Or teach his kids to swear in another language.

        Or just imagine ways to get my revenge and not actually act on them. >:)

  41. (TW for sexual assault)

    – Last week (one week exactly before Christmas) was the one-year anniversary of a sexual assault by my now-ex. Around the same time as the anniversary was my office Christmas party, which featured such fascinating and thrilling conversations as: “I think everyone just needs to have one relationship which *really* breaks their heart, to grow, you know?” (the person who said this was literally a domestic violence worker) and intrusive comments about why I wasn’t drinking (“are you pregnant?” NO I’M CELIBATE POST-TRAUMA BUT THANKS), how much young people like me must like sex, etc. I just got a taxi home and bawled in the back seat.

    – I’m lonely and heartsore and sexually frustrated and I have a crush on a guy who seems nice but is in customer service so his job is to literally be nice to me and bring me food, so I think I shouldn’t read into that. I want to ask him out but instead of a crush seeming like a nice, hopeful thing it’s feeling torturous — like, what, do I really think romance and sex will go well for me? And it’s a ‘Love Actually’-esque time of year where there seem to be shiny pretty couples kissing in the street and one of my friends just got engaged today. I know there’s a bunch of cultural crap that combines to make it seem like it’s the most important thing when it’s not and they’re not being happy AT me but I still wanna headbutt all the happy people who seem to have it easy, out of jealousy, a little bit.

    – Last week I was also diagnosed with ADHD – on the one hand it’s really helpful to have a diagnosis and a path forward, on the other hand diagnosis and treatment is a super expensive process and an initial appointment came up six months ahead of time, so I had to take it, but now I’m down hundreds of dollars. I’ve told a couple of people but don’t really want to tell my parents as they can be both disbelieving and blaming around mental illness and similar — but I need their help to fill in some assessments for further evidence for the diagnosis.

    – I’m so broke that I haven’t bought proper food for a few days and I’m feeling sick and hungry and crappy — and waiting for my next pay to come through so I can conjure the last few Christmas presents.

    – Things in my share house aren’t great and I want to move in the new year, which will be expensive and fraught and will likely feature my housemate yelling and swearing at me and being even more of a dickhead than he is now.

    – I’m emotionally exhausted and worn down and I feel fragile and vulnerable and brittle. I can’t wait to go on break so I can just curl up in a ball, except my home doesn’t feel like a home so I don’t even feel comfortable crying there (I cry really quietly) or calling the sexual assault support line (thin walls = don’t want to be heard).

    – So I’m going to my parents’ after Christmas and it will be really nice on the one hand to be around family and good food and hugs, and on the other hand there will be the small racist comments and just the little disappointments that seem to come when I hope for support from them, so I’m trying to not get my hopes up.

    1. Do you have a little thing that feels like home? Maybe the big house doesn’t feel like home, but maybe you have a little precious thing? I have a mirror decal that says ‘hello, handsome’, and when I put that up, my house started magically feeling like home.

    2. “I think everyone just needs to have one relationship which *really* breaks their heart, to grow, you know?”

      Wow – that’s up there with “You need to date someone who doesn’t have any baggage.” (said by a friend who married her first serious boyfriend)

      Seriously, though, do you have somewhere safe and warm you can go while you’re working on the living situation? If you don’t have friends who live conveniently nearby, I recommend a local library. Do you have access to affordable counselling or even a phone you could use confidentially? It sounds like you really need to talk to someone about the sexual assault. BTW, I am so sorry that it happened to you and that it has now tainted Christmastime for you. Major Jedi Hugs here.

      I was diagnosed with ADHD last year at the ripe old age of 36. It’s a lot to deal with, even if you’ve suspected it for years. I recommend “My Brain Still Needs Glasses” by Annick Vincent. But I hear you on the judginess and lack of support from family – my dad still claims that I was just a sneaky and underhanded kid because I conveniently “forgot” my homework every single day. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I really did forget my homework every single day. When you go undiagnosed as a child, you tend to think of yourself as failure waiting to happen and it’s incredibly weird when you get a diagnosis that forces you to change that perception. It’s a tough ride, even if you do get to move forward. You are not alone. ADDitude magazine is another great resource:

      Also, is there a friend or a local charity that could help you out with food this month? Maybe you could arrange a swap with a friend (feed me until my paycheque comes in and I’ll make a million cookies for you/babysit for free/etc…)?

      As for casual racism at home, I managed to hilariously confront my slightly racist uncle by showing him (and my mom) a few “Drunk Uncle” sketches from Saturday Night Live. Before, if I started with “Wow. That was pretty racist…” I knew I was in for an uncomfortable debate. He knows how I feel, but at the same time has made it clear that he will not be changing his opinions, no matter how much evidence to the contrary I present. Now that we all have a frame of reference, I can stop his racism lightheartedly by saying loudly “Drunk Uncle, I think you’re just too drunk!” a la Seth Meyers and then quickly changing the subject. This may or may not work for you.

      Please take care of yourself. You can do this – it just seems super difficult from the inside.

    3. I’ve been looking for a recipient for a small gift this year and I think that person should be you. Captain, can you connect us (if homeruncommitment wants to, that is)

  42. I’m back at my emotionally abusive parents’ house to stay for a week with them and my sister, who I’m 95% sure has undiagnosed BPD and is currently using me as her combined scapegoat and emotional dumping ground when she isn’t yelling at me. Also no one calls me by my chosen name, which is a constant, low level grating irritation. My parents are pretending my sister is 100% fine and everything is normal, because we’re not the kind of family that has mental illness in it!

    Oh yes, and six years post coming out they still pretend I haven’t. (Cis lesbian.)

    Also I’m not doing great money wise but I can’t acknowledge that or my parents would make me move back in with them, despite me really liking my housing situation and space from anyone I’m related to.

    Uggggh. And I can’t even celebrate being in Washington with a bit of bud because I’m applying to fed jobs.

    …jingle bells I guess.

    1. I can sympathise with you about your sister. My mum has BPD (diagnosed) and recently quit therapy. She does have a habit of using me as a dumping ground for her problems.

      I don’t really know what you can do about the rest of it. You shouldn’t have to spend time around people who refuse to acknowledge who you really are, and normally I would advise breaking off contact. Of course that is always so much harder when it is Christmas and it is family.

      I’m sorry I don’t have any words of advice, but please know that you are not alone and we are all here to help you through it if needed.

    2. Sorry to hear that, are you able to get some time to yourself? Even a few hours with a nice hot chocolate and a book or something?

  43. I’m going on four years estranged from my mother and it has affected the already tenuous relationship I have with my sister. My sister sent me a gift, which of course I feel guilty about because I don’t buy anyone in my family gifts. Which makes me a bad aunt too. My father died suddenly q few years back (he and mum have been divorced for decades) and the anniversary is coming up (plus the last time I saw him alive was Christmas Eve, so that always smarts now). My stepmother is impossible and I get guilt trips when I call on Christmas.

    So this year I’m not going to be the one who calls. I’m going to stop trying to be a good sister, aunt, daughter, stepdaughter. I have a serious case of the fuck its and I can either try to please people who can’t be pleased, or I can please myself.

    My boyfriend and I just got through a very rocky time due to some physical and mental health issues for both of us, and I’m exhausted but also grateful. We had a financially disastrous year that we’ve begun to pull out of due to a luck and a ton of hard work. Turned a corner? I hope so. His mum is thousands of miles away on another continent, but we’ll talk to her and I will feel her love in a way that I never have from my own family.

    We’re having some friends over to hang out on Boxing Day. They all come from supremely fucked up family situations too. Ordering in food. Because. FUCK IT. We’ll have a good time, of that I’m certain. It finally sunk in for me this year, what “family of choice” means.

    As for Christmas itself, I’m going to eat, drink, blast music and play video games.

    Because that’s what I want to do on Christmas.

    Jedi hugs to everyone for whom the holidays blow. All I can offer as advice is to consider whether your presence in a place where you don’t want to be and with people who don’t appreciate you is going to be to anyone’s benefit, and then plan accordingly.

    1. Giant round of applause, your advice is spot on. I haven’t cut out holiday visits completely but I’ve at least learned to limit them to a few days instead of a week. If there’s any “but whyyyyyyyyyyy”s they can usually be shut down by “those are the days we could get affordable flights for, sorry” or “partner just can’t take that much time off work.”

    2. I applaud your decision to stop being the “good” [noun]

      When I stopped being “good” I was under less pressure to be good. I got less nonsense.
      Good luck and cheers to you.

  44. My partner has chronic fatigue syndrome. I have depression. We wanted to go away camping for Christmas but we’re both too sick. For the whole year we’ve been wanting to do fun things but have been too sick. Christmas day will be the same as the other 364 days. Everything is rubbish.

    Sorry for being so negative. I’m just so tired of this life.

    1. That sucks ass 😦 May I suggest if your health allows you build a goddam IRL blanket fort or have a classy duvet day? and do something fun but low stress that you and partner can enjoy? like marathon some favourite/old movies? Something that if you miss a bit or need a rest on’t be critical.

  45. I have nothing solid planned for christmas eve or christmas.
    no one cares.

    okay sort of lie. I vaccuumed a lot today and am still freaking out because of that (HSP, but I prefer to call it ‘my irrational vacuum sensibilities), and I asked the facebook brigade for help and they did in spades.
    but still.
    i feel alone and angry.

    no one invited me to a cast party.
    no one invited me to a christmas party.
    what is the point of being yourself when no one likes or cares about you?

    I have to go for family christmas on the 26th. My family is abivalent about me at best. I transitioned 5 years ago, and immediately had a nervous breakdown because I wasn’t expecting the cold indifference. I was thinking either acceptance or disgust, but not that they just didn’t care anymore.

    Looking in the mirror and thinking you look handsome is nothing compared to having a glitter family who loves you handsome or not. My traditional family doesn’t care, and the people I know around here don’t either. I’ve lived here for three years, and I still don’t have any friends.

    i’m not traditionally depressed, because I am angry too.

    i have spent $37 on this bus ticket, and more besides on christmas gifts, but I don’t have the spoons to pretend that nothing is wrong. (please, O godd of spoons, help me through this)

    I feel like a wraith again this year, whether I like it or not.
    okay, not entirely a wraith, but passing into the shadow world all the same.

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry. It’s the worst feeling that there are these warm and fuzzy communities happening all around you, and you’re not a part of it. I don’t have any advice, just to tell you to lean into your FB community – that’s real love and support, even if they’re not physically around you right now. It’s still folks who care about you, and who see you. Hoping that you get that offline soon, too.

  46. I used to love Christmas until a few years ago and never really understood how anyone could find it a burden, but the last few years that has really changed and this year I’m finding myself wishing it were just Jan 1 already. I have been feeling massively overstretched and exhausted lately and everything I have to do or think about for the holiday, even if it’s a good thing, feels like another thing on the unending checklists. I traveled back “home” to be with my parents, but now feel bad because I am not enjoying myself and spent all this money to come. I work very hard not to get my hopes up with them and am pretty much resigned that there will always be big issues in our relationship. Plus my parents are divorced and sold the house that I grew up in, so there isn’t really a Christmas of any sort to come home to — my mom can’t even be bothered to clean or have food in the house when I arrive which doesn’t exactly make me feel welcomed. I’m hopeful that in the future I will feel way less stressed and be able to enjoy the lead up to the holiday, which is the real fun I think, and, well, I don’t know what I’ll do about my parents.

  47. *sung to the tune of “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas”*

    I’m getting vet bills for Christmas
    (Some folks would like presents instead)
    My credit card’s screaming in protest
    But at least my kitties aren’t dead

    One’s got a heart that’s not working
    (It’s what took his siblings, it’s true)
    The meds have reduced the congestion
    But done bizarre things to his poo

    The other’s 19, and demented;
    Anemia’s also a sign
    That he’s on the edge of departing —
    But gets to the vet’s, and “he’s fine!”

    “He just needs a bit of beef liver
    And other things vitamin-like
    So take this quite stinky prescription
    (No one really needed a bike) . . . .”

    Yes, I’m getting vet bills for Christmas
    Next month will be faced down with dread
    But I’m being purred at and cuddled,
    Those sneering may go boil their head.

    It’s a Very Large Number. And the renewal for my lease came up: they want to raise it by $500 a month, so I’m moving at the end of February. But there’s a cat asleep beside me on the bed.


    I really hate this time of year.

    1. Epiphyta- it sucks this time of year is so crappy but your creativity is awesome! Love the song – and can totally relate to the vet bills (just cause birds are small animals doesn’t mean they have small vet bills!), alrhought at least the fluffy butts have had the decency to avoid illness so close to the holidays. So far. I hope. *knocks on wood*

    2. GoodRX is a lifesaver for prescriptions, and a lot of places will accept it for veterinary prescriptions too. It can’t help with all the vet bills, sadly, but at least the prescriptions, it can make a huge difference.

      I’m glad your kitties are going to be okay and I’m sorry about the Very Large Number. 😦

  48. I try so hard to love christmas because I want that *christmas joy* feeling BACK. Fake it til ya make it, right?! Instead of wallowing & having the pity party of the decade. But here’s where I am this year: relocated out of my city to move in with bf (Feb)…caught him cheating (Oct). Moved halfway across the country to be near my expectant daughter. She secretly steals over $900 from me (found out when she asked to borrow $250) so now I’m out $1200. (Nov). Move into a teeny apt–cuz thats all I can afford after spending approx 4grand to move here & am not working yet–. Daughter ignores all msgs for two wks til I post on her fb that I wanna know her plan to pay me back. Her reply? “I’m expecting a baby so paying you back is not a priority” & promptly blocks me. So. New city. Know no one. Cant afford to move back. Commited to a years lease. Good times.
    Merry fackin christmas lol

  49. Got my wisdom teeth out today, and my mom was super passive aggressive the entire time and yelled at me for being rude to the staff. I answered yup to the question of if I was ready. The doctor also had to ask if I had seizures because they lumped together nervous disorders with seizures on the medical history form. My mom’s response to the reassurance that it was a nervous disorder was that “oh I didn’t know that” when she has seen me have anxiety attacks before… and ugh I have to deal with this sort of thing til I leave on the 30th. Where me asking for respect gets responses of “but that hurts my feelings” and “I didn’t know that”.
    Happy holidays :/

    1. I hope you are in low levels of pain and that you find tasty things you can eat! And I’m sorry your mom was extremely unhelpful.

  50. My husband wrangled two weeks off work, planning to spend most of it in the mountains where we’re building a getaway/future retirement home. He is doing all the interior work (plumbing, electrical, sheet rock, tile, etc.) himself to save money and get it done the way he wants it done, but it’s mostly a weekend effort. I couldn’t join him this week, because I have medical appointments that are hard to reschedule. He decided he should come home either the 23rd or the 24th, and we’d spend Christmas Day with his parents, who live about an hour and a half away.

    So, the week has gone really crappy for him so far. Tools are misbehaving, he’s developed bursitis in one knee and had to drive 50 miles to the nearest Urgent Care for that diagnosis, and I’m struggling not to feel guilty about not having been able to go with him. Now bad driving weather is forecast through Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day. While I’d love to have him home for Christmas, I don’t want him driving in a snowstorm to get here! Californians are generally stupid about driving in snow and ice, and bad weather combined with the holidays will have the mountain passes clogged with fools who can’t comprehend the need for slow driving. Husband’s winter drive in good weather is almost six hours; if he tries to get home on Christmas Eve, it might be twice that… or worse, he’ll get hit by Speed Racer.

    And he’s stubborn enough to try. Worrying about this is taking all the joy out of things for me.

  51. The brother I never want to see is going to be at my family’s Christmas gathering for the second year in a row. I’m scared that my brother will just get to take Christmas with them away from me because I’m too scared to explain why I won’t see him and I don’t think anyone would believe what I would say. There’s so much that I just can’t talk about with any of my family, and it hurts, and it feels impossible to be close to them or even keep up a polite email exchange.

    So this year I’m spending Christmas with my partner’s family. They’re all lovely people, but I still don’t know them very well, so I feel awkward about it. And thanks to mental health shenanigans (and just plain life shenanigans) I haven’t had the energy to do all the baking and thoughtful gift-picking and gift-making that I wish, every year, that I could do.

    It’s a bummer. I want to like the holidays, but I keep ending up burnt-out and lonely instead. It would be easier and feel better to just plan on celebrating with anyone but my family so I don’t feel like I’m scrambling to not end up alone.

  52. At the moment, my Christmas situation is mostly consumed by all the money I’ve ended up having to spend. Partner and I are both atheists, and my family isn’t really religious, but we usually like doing Christmassy things anyway (baking, spending time together, decorating and so on). We’ve all mutually agreed to a dollar limit on presents but I’m still cringing a bit at the hit taken by my bank account. I have plenty of savings and won’t be struggling to live, I am just someone who is really frugal with money and the amount I’m spending is making me feel a bit anxious.

    Part of the reason I’ve had to spend so much money is to help Partner out with a hotel payment. He’s at a big extended family gathering he didn’t particularly want to go to, which they’ve decided to spend at an island resort. His mum asked him to go with her since she didn’t want to go by herself (Partner’s dad and sister are currently in LA). He agreed on the condition that she cover him for expenses, but he ended up having to put in money for the hotel anyway. He works two service industry jobs and can’t really afford it, so I covered him for it. So no one gets the wrong idea, I’m not resentful of him at all for this and I’m happy to help him out – I’m just sad that he’s had to put himself in the red financially for a trip he didn’t really want. He’s been pretty upset with himself for not just telling his mum no, especially when this isn’t the first year he’s been pressured into leaving town for Christmas when he doesn’t want to.

    I’m with my family for Christmas, and my mum would just as soon not do Christmas at all – besides not being religious, my dad died a few years ago. The first Christmas after that was the worst and it’s gotten better since then, but it’s still not really the same. She mainly keeps it up for my siblings.

    On a more minor note, I really really hate going to the shops for anything this time of year. It only takes five minutes in the carpark to put me in a bad mood. Then I actually have to go in. 😡 All I wanted to do yesterday was buy milk. I’ve been trying to do shopping at times when it’s unlikely to be as busy, but I got unlucky yesterday.

    On the bright side, Partner and I have decided to do a Christmas of our own together next year (it’ll be our first one). I think it’ll be a lot less hard for him to tell his family ‘Actually, I’ve already planned to do X for Christmas, so have fun without me’ if he’s already come up with a plan for X and he has some support. It’s fun to think about what traditions we’d like to keep for ourselves and what we’ll do together.

  53. So Christmas this year is… well, Mister Motley and I are having issues. Combine that with a depression/anxiety flare-up, being broke, and a really painful friend breakup and I just… I don’t know how I’m getting through the next few days. I just don’t.

      1. Pretty much. Yours doesn’t sound too fun either. I suggest we exchange Jedi hugs while continuing to mope. XD;

  54. Can I just vent that discovering Gluten Is Not My Friend right around Thanksgiving when the holiday cookie-fests and such start up REALLY GODDAMN SUCKS?

    1. Oh, dietary issues suck SO MUCH. 😦 😦 😦

      I have a tonne of food intolerances (including gluten and dairy) and it is such a hassle.

      For what it’s worth, there are delicious gluten free fruit mince pies and christmas cakes out there… it’s a case of finding a specialty baker, or a supermarket with a good gluten free range.

    2. Aw, sucky. My best friend is in a similar situation – found out about low-level celiac in early November and had to make major dietary changes. She can’t even eat non-gluten grains right now per the advice of her doctor, and also no diary. The whole thing is just made of suck.

        1. Nuts are okay, and I guess they make coconut flour also? She uses it for pan frying chicken and fish and such.

          Apparently she can start reintroducing dairy and non-gluten grains in January, one at a time. Hopefully she won’t have any symptoms to any of those so her diet will be less restricted. In the meantime she’s started approaching food in a very practical way. If they ever invent nutrient pills she’ll be all over it. 🙂

    3. So I really wish I could leave direct links, but I’ve gotten trapped in the spam filter the past few times I’ve done that. Therefore:

      Breads From Anna is a company that does gluten-free baking mixes. There’s a whole laundry list of other allergens that are certified not in the mixes, including nuts, soy, and dairy. The mixes also all have vegan mixing options. They’re a little on the expensive side, but they make fantastic product.

      Allyson Kramer has a blog with vegan, gluten-free recipes. I especially like her lemon olive oil cookies, which I like to bring to potlucks and such. (I have no food allergies or intolerances that I’m aware of, but accessible food is one of my interests, so I like to provide some when I can. And I mostly bring up the vegan option here since I know that lactose intolerance frequently goes hand-in-hand with celiac.)

      The easiest cookie recipe I know is also gluten free. It is literally:

      1 Cup Peanut Butter (or possibly other nut butter)
      1 Cup Sugar (can be reduced to 1/2 cup and still work)
      1 Egg (probably works with traditional vegan egg substitutes, like half a banana or an ounce of water mixed with a tablespoon of flax seed meal, but I haven’t tried it)

      Mix it all together, measure out into ~1 Tb size portions onto a baking sheet, flatten with a fork, and bake at 375 F for 8 to 10 minutes.

      Alternately, if you can do regular chocolate (or if you can find vegan chocolate that’s not ridiculously expensive), you can wait to smoosh the cookies until they’re out of the oven, and then press them down in the middle with a Hershey’s Kiss or equivalent for peanut butter blossoms!

      Finally, if you want to read a cute fantasy novel about gluten- and poultry-intolerant Jewish lesbian, check out The Second Mango (and sequels/side stories) by Shira Glassman. She also has to deal with assholes gaslighting her over her intolerances, and worries about what she can eat when she’s out and about, but she and her BFF still save the day and live happily ever after.

    4. Ugh, I am SO SORRY. I went through that a couple of years ago and it was horrible. (In my case it ended up being a false alarm… but it took six months and flat ignoring my doctor to figure that out.) Even with all the steps you can take — Betty Crocker gluten-free recipes in the grocery store, the Expensive Natural Food Aisle — there is nothing quite like going to ten million holiday potlucks and having to eat carrots — or all the times you have to turn down appetizers offered to you by well-meaning folks who aren’t in the know, or have forgotten. Gluten is in fucking EVERYTHING.

      All the food I had to turn down at Thanksgiving and Christmas… and some of my family just didn’t get it, and asked me to dinner at fancy restaurants where I could eat nothing. I feel for you so hard.

      If you have a smartphone, check out the app ‘FindMeGlutenFree.’ It was a lifesaver for me when I was traveling for the holidays.

  55. Guys. I am so, SO tired and so, SO lonely. Long story short, I have had a HELL over the past few years, and I have fought so hard to come out of it and still be a tender (not bitter), strong, and loving person. I have so little to show for it and it seems like the bad times are dragging out FOREVER and there will never be an end, just a numbing and resigned-ness for the rest of my life. I will be alone this Xmas with no fucking home to go to (and no home to ever return to) and my friends are all far away or with their families/partners. I have weathered so much – abuse, being a hobo (had no place to live for a while and had to crash with/rely on mercy of friend due to abuse sitch), and omg. So much abuse. Coming to terms with a rape I endured years back (Jessica Jones re-triggered it). I have gone to so much therapy, done so much work on myself, busted my ass to try and create a life that is my own and that I love and can live with and it’s. Just. Not. Coming. Together.

    If anyone can spare and hugs, prayers, good vibes, magick, please…send them my way.

  56. Apologies if this is a double post (phone browser being weird):

    Guys. I am so, SO tired and so, SO lonely. Long story short, I have had a HELL over the past few years, and I have fought so hard to come out of it and still be a tender (not bitter), strong, and loving person. I have so little to show for it and it seems like the bad times are dragging out FOREVER and there will never be an end, just a numbing and resigned-ness for the rest of my life. I will be alone this Xmas with no fucking home to go to (and no home to ever return to) and my friends are all far away or with their families/partners. I have weathered so much – abuse, being a hobo (had no place to live for a while and had to crash with/rely on mercy of friend due to abuse sitch), and omg. So much abuse. Coming to terms with a rape I endured years back (Jessica Jones re-triggered it). I have gone to so much therapy, done so much work on myself, busted my ass to try and create a life that is my own and that I love and can live with and it’s. Just. Not. Coming. Together.

    If anyone can spare and hugs, prayers, good vibes, magick, please…send them my way.

    1. All the good vibes and Jedi hugs to you!

      (If it helps: I totally know the frustrating of everything Just. Not. Coming. Together, in spite of the mountain of work you have done to build it for yourself. I know it so well. I was there a few years ago. And despite not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel at that time, it did eventually appear. No platitudes about how it will all be fine from me – I found that to be not-helpful – just to say that I acknowledge and empathize with what you’re feeling and that while I can’t speak to your specific circumstances, it is possible that not all of these feels and circumstances will stick around forever. I sincerely hope, wish, and will that that will be the case for you too. Hang in there.)

      (If the above does not help: ignore, delete, whatever makes you feel better!)

    2. Sending hugs and magick 🙂 And seriously, it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job. Be kind to yourself.

  57. I have this past week been diagnosed with depression. I can’t write. I can’t go to the gym. I have to talk to myself loudly to make myself drink when I’m thirsty, or get out of bed when I’m obviously done sleeping.

    My elderly cat is eliminating just barely outside whichever poopy bin is nearest to him. Nothing has changed, inside the house or out. Veterinarian says no medical indicators. No other behavior changes in him OR the younger cat, except for this pee-on-the-outside-of-the-bin nonsense. He’s slowly destroying the floor and baseboard.

    My mother thinks my entire adult life has been two-dimensional.

    My father corrected me for being unhappy about my appliance troubles, and then corrected me for being sarcastic about his correction, and when my husband told my father that I had not either been sarcastic and Dad should maybe not default to thinking the worst of me, my dad told me that he’s the injured party so I am certainly not owed any kind of apology. Or acknowledgement.

    My brother can only get along with me if I’m an admiring mirror.

    My sister and I are strangers to each other, which is about 90% my fault. At this point I have no idea how to correct that. Or if she would want to. Or how to ask her.

    My best friend reacts to every mention I make of “and during the holidays, we could do such-and-such!” by telling me his time out of town is going to be even longer than I had previously been led to believe. At this point I am out of no-work days to suggest an event.

    I can’t seem to make myself stop *trying*.

    It’s been most of a year since I was able to dance. My new foot doctor has no idea what the hell my previous foot doctor was THINKING. No New Year’s dance party for me. Again.

    I am a burden on my husbands and they have taken on a lot of the Christmas stuff I used to do, except first I have to reference that something must be accomplished like present shopping for the nieces or putting up the cat-proof tree. Otherwise none of it would happen and they would be confused and forlorn when Christmas Day shows up with nothing.

    1. Question about your elderly cat–are the boxes covered? My elderly cat was doing this kind of thing a few years ago and it was suggested that I take the hoods off the boxes. I had tried everything else, so I took the hood off his box and he immediately stopped hanging his rear out of the doorway to go.

      1. Boxes are not covered. Yesterday we tried getting him a new box with much shallower sides, and he’s still eliminating outside the box AND inside the box. Like, gets halfway, stops, moves, and makes a point of it. The little jerk. And they’re in separate rooms so it’s impossible for the younger cat to be invading personal space, not that he is.

        1. Ugh, cats, amirite. Furry little jerks. I’m sorry–I hope you can get this sorted. I was at my wits’ end when mine was doing this, because I am an apartment dweller so I just can’t have a cat that pees everywhere.

  58. Thanks for the thread. I’m feeling pretty low at the moment because I’m in another country spending Christmas with my in-laws. Who are OK, but my brother in law still lives at home, is really cheap and occasionally spews racist shit and the mom has an eating disorder and coddles her 30 year old sons like they are toddlers and my father in law keeps complaining about how much my husband and I are costing them when we stay which… Don’t invite us then?

    But the worst, the worst part is that because it’s in another country, people seem to think I’m going on some big vacation and living it up. And it is really emotionally exhausting having to pretend like it’s this big treat to take a 10+ hour flight to go somewhere I don’t want to go with people I don’t like.

  59. First Christmas without my dad. Second Christmas without my mom.

    I just want to curl up in a ball and be left the flock alone.

    But no, must job hunt because we are broke and have to move and will require additional roommates, which will add huge amounts of stress and anxiety on top of everything else.

    I’ve been the primary breadwinner most of my life and in all of my relationships, except for the past year and a half, during which I’ve been sitting on the couch alternately sobbing and staring off into space. (Yeah, I know, therapy. Except, see part about no job and no money.)

    Passing out hugs to everyone else here, because I’d rather talk about your problems than think about mine…

  60. Sigh. Sib is flying in tomorrow morning (er, I guess I mean THIS morning now) and I told my dad I wanted to go pick Sib up at the airport, about half an hour from where we are.

    “No, don’t be silly, I’m going. You can come along if you want.”

    “Dad, I really wanted a bit of time to chat with Sib one on one.”

    “You can do that once we get back from picking Sib up.”

    No, Dad, I really can’t — one thing I’ve discovered is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get any privacy, especially with my grandmother well into dementia, who demands to have EVERY comment repeated for her benefit because she feels like she’s missing out. Which is one of the things I wanted to discuss with Sib away from the rest of the family.

    Maybe we’ll go out for beers later.

    The week’s worth of work I brought with me is definitely not getting done. Argh. I love this vacation and I love spending time with my family, but I kind of wish I’d driven down yesterday or today instead of planning to spend more than a week.

    1. Ugh, I feel your pain. My sis and I are having a harder time with that these days as well (although for different reasons, namely that she has small children just now). I don’t know if this will work for you or not, but we’ve had a bit of luck with things like going for a walk/running errands together/wrapping presents in the same room/etc. Errands are especially good if you have the sort of relationship where you can squeeze a lot of info into a short amount of time. If you think your dad may keep trying to tag along, I’ve had luck at waiting until Person X was busy doing Preferred Activity Y so that they were less likely to want to jump in on, say, running to the store for milk. Or whatever else you can invent.

    2. Just posted a response to this and not sure if it got eaten or what, but just in case I’ll retype it. My sis and I try things like going for walks or errand-running together, wrapping presents together, etc. Especially if you can manage to cram a lot into a short amount of time, a quick errand (going to get milk or pick up the pizza, for example) can give you a chance to hang out. If you wait until your dad is engaged in something else, chances are that he’ll be less likely to try tagging along for something short like that.

  61. I’m going to do the emotionally irresponsible thing and pretend nothing’s wrong at the big Christmas dinner at my parents house.

    10 days ago I had a very unpleasant argument with my father. He yelled at me because he thought I accused my brother of causing a bubble in the plastic covering my phone screen and I was a horrible person for implying that. (I wasn’t, but apparently I was lying about that as well) After that, it took me me a couple of days to remember that I am a fairly competent adult, and generally speaking a good person. I’s just that every time my father tells me that I’m worthless, or wrong, or silly, for a couple of days this has more power over me than my own sense of self. Seriously, why is a bubble in plastic more important than treating your daughter with a modicum of respect?

    (I typed a list here to demonstrate that I really am a nice and responsible person, but seriously, why would I need to justify that? It would mostly serve as a much needed reminder to myself 😦 )

    I love my family, I really do. Right now I’m just not very sure if I like them. I don’t respond very well to being scolded or ignored, and these seem to be the two default settings of my father and my brothers. Normally I feel I should be able to ignore all these hurtful remarks, or be strong enough to weather the shitstorm that happens when I actually call them on it. Now, I’m thinking that walking that particular tightrope might ask more of me than I have to offer, and maybe not seeing them for a couple of months would not be the worst thing.

    However, I don’t want to cause my mum, my grandmother and even my father and my brothers a lot of grieve by not showing up on Christmas, and frankly I’d feel very sad if I’d have to spend it alone. So I’m going to sit at that table, without anything being resolved, and just pretend everything is ok.

    Thankfully I’m spending Christmas eve with my wonderful friends, and boxing day is dedicated to videogames and movies :).

    1. Blerch, for peace of mind bring the number of a taxi firm that works on Christmas, then if you need to leave early you can.

    2. “It would mostly serve as a much needed reminder to myself”

      There’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps write something down and put it in your pocket, so you can excuse yourself to the bathroom and have a moment to remind yourself that you’re a good and worthwhile person. Because you are.

      And also Bubbles’ taxi suggestion, that’s gold.

      1. Ha! I like that! After some thought, I also asked my friends to send me fun texts, and I’ll do the same for them. So three survival mechanisms: 1. make sure I can leave 2. have something to remember that I do have friends and 3: carry a reminder about all the ways I’m actually not so bad. Things seem manageable now. thanks!

        1. Ha! Dinner has happenrd, sanity still intact! What helped enormously was: the ability to leave at any time, the adorable bulldog that was an unexpected guest and required lots of cuddles, and a long list of inane discussion topics that weren’t super boring, such as the relative qualities of marvel movies.

  62. I’d just like, for once, to be left alone and not get shitty, passive-aggressive comments when I try to back away from the whole Christmas thing.

    Long, rambling diatribe follows. 🙂

    I just don’t care for the holiday. I’m not Christian, so I have to connection to the religious aspect of it, I don’t feel much for the secular part, and working retail and having to deal with the two month consumerist shitshow leading up to the holiday has made me go from apathetic toward it to straight up hating it. I’d just like to be able to bow out, let Christmas people do their own Christmas, and be able to celebrate Festivus (Yes, people do celebrate it!) in peace.

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuut the sticking point is my mom. I live with my parents because I can’t find a job that pays enough to allow me to live by myself, so I’m stuck in close proximity with “I LOVE CHRISTMAS AND SO SHOULD YOU. YOU’RE JUST BEING OPPOSITIONAL” (her favorite word when I don’t pretend I’m not an extension of her own self and conform to her opinions) “AND A GRINCH AND I’M GOING TO THROW A PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE TANTRUM AT YOU UNTIL YOU AGREE WITH ME.”

    The big shit I don’t care for is gift exchanging, though. I don’t care for societally compulsory gift exchanging situations (Christmas, Valentine’s, etc.) because nine times out of ten, it falls into the whole materialistic/consumerist/classist bullshit of “money and material goods = worth as a human, make them appreciate you by transferring that worth to them by giving them shit, a return transfer of worth is expected; if not, guilt with CHRISTMAS SPIRIT”. And that whole shit is tiresome and shits on what gift exchanging should be (“I like you! Take this thing because I like doing nice things things for you! Nothing is expected in return! I just like being nice to you!”).

    I know it’s not just my family because the general (US) culture is set up with way, but especially with my family, there’s always a fucking angle with gift giving. You know, I just don’t care for being required to buy somebody else’s affection with material goods, and I don’t appreciate other people trying to buy my affection with material goods. Which I know is the fucking deal when I say, “I have enough stuff. You yourself complain about me having too much stuff in the small space I have for myself. Please don’t buy me more stuff.” and I get in response, “STOP BEING OPPOSITIONAL. PEOPLE GIVE GIFTS AT CHRISTMAS. THAT IS WHAT’S DONE. DO WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO.”

    All that shit gets tiresome when you can’t avoid it. And I can’t just refuse the gifts and avoid visiting shitty family members (and yes, the shitty parts of the family are truly shitty) without having the parents screeching in my ear like tantrumming infant banshees 24/7 because same living space = no escape. That shit just wears you down. So I can’t escape this crap until I get a better paying job and move out.

    (Of course, there are many, many other reasons why I don’t care for my parents, but I’m sticking with Christmas to stay on topic right now.)


    1. “I LOVE CHRISTMAS AND SO SHOULD YOU. YOU’RE JUST BEING OPPOSITIONAL” (her favorite word when I don’t pretend I’m not an extension of her own self and conform to her opinions) “AND A GRINCH AND I’M GOING TO THROW A PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE TANTRUM AT YOU UNTIL YOU AGREE WITH ME.”
      “I have enough stuff. You yourself complain about me having too much stuff in the small space I have for myself. Please don’t buy me more stuff.” and I get in response, “STOP BEING OPPOSITIONAL. PEOPLE GIVE GIFTS AT CHRISTMAS. THAT IS WHAT’S DONE. DO WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO.”

      Do we have the same mother?! These are exact quotes from my mother. I’m very glad I moved out, and my dearest wish for you is that you can one day too.
      You have all the Jedi hugs in the world.

      *For the record, I like Christmas a little, I just like Christmas very quietly. And would prefer to work on it and get overtime pay then go to parties.*

  63. (Warning: long whine ahead.)

    I remember that when I was a kid, I used to look forward to Christmas. At least, I think I did. I was into finding stuff that seemed appropriate for my family (maybe not what they really wanted, but that was impossible, anyway), decorating the trees and putting up the Christmas tree. When I was a teenager, I remember sneaking stuff into people’s stockings and when they emptied them pretending I was just as surprised as they. Of course, I was into the getting, too, but at some point I realized that there wasn’t anything I could get that would fill up the nameless holes in my life.

    But for a long time now, this time of year has been just something to get through. Too many expectations, I guess. It’s not just the stuff you feel you have to do, it’s the idea that it’s supposed to give you joy. And maybe the idea that you’ll get together with family and feel like you have family. My birth family doesn’t get together much any more, but when we do, it doesn’t feel (to me) like we’re family, we’re just random people pretending to be family. It always feels like they’re mirages: if I look too close or get too close, they’ll vanish. My parents are dead, but even when they were alive, I always had the weird feeling: they _act_ like my parents, why don’t they _feel_like my parents? When my mother died, I felt no grief; if I mourned anyone, it was the mother I wish I’d had. In a way, I envy people who have dysfunctional relationships with their family — at least that’s _some_ relationship.

    My younger son has been living with me ever since he dropped out of college, but can’t seem to get his life together to do much but play online games. (He’s in therapy, but he still keeps sabotaging himself whenever he starts to make some progress.) My older son has an engineering degree, but he can’t seem to go on job interviews, due to his Asperger-related social anxiety. At this point, I’m telling myself I can’t wave some magic wand and make it better, it has to come from them, but it really hurts to see them stuck like this and I keep feeling like a failure as a father.

    This year, I seem to be getting closer to actually naming (and maybe facing down?) the demons that have haunted me my whole life, which _sounds_ good but actually feels like hell. I’ve decided to transition and started HRT two months ago, but my dysphoria is getting bad enough that I can’t ignore it even temporarily any more, so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to keep living as a man until I’m ready to (socially) transition. To deal with it, I’ve been consuming TG stories the way an alcoholic consumes drink, with rather similar effects.

    I’ve made plans which I think are doable. I plan to host my ex and my kids for Christmas dinner (which means no arguments about who the kids are with, plus I can insure no drama about the cooking.) I’ve managed to reach out to someone I met on-line and plan to drive down to visit her for an afternoon. And for New Year’s, I’m going with the kids to the 3-day New Year’s celebration at the retreat center my kids went to youth weekends at. No obligations, I’ll know my kids are enjoying themselves, I’ll be with people I know, maybe make some music (or work on another dress.) Maybe by then I’ll be ready to face another year.

  64. I normally love the holiday season, but in the past three weeks a close friend from undergrad who’d I had a falling out with over something stupid and never fixed things between us died in a car accident at age 23, my dad had a seizure, my uncle died of cancer, my boyfriend’s grandma died, and my graduate school advisor has completely stopped replying to my emails or calls.

    I have so much to do and so very little motivation to do it.

  65. The dread I’m feeling right now is less Christmas than university end of semester related I guess. Getting to the end of the semester while passing all my classes was absolute hell for me. Sure there was the whole “getting an official autism so I could maybe get access to actual ressources” thing going on, and the service I went to (the one related to my university because of money reasons) wasn’t really equipped for this type of diagnosis at all and the people I talked to were uninformed, condescending and just awful which stressed me out and drained all my energy, but still I had a “part time” load of classes, no part time job or extra curricular activity whatsoever and I barely even made it. It’s not even my first semester at uni, just a very different field than what I was doing previously. I’m starting to think that I just can’t do it, or, even if I can, I’m just not convinced it’s worth it anymore.

    Meanwhile, I have to pretend to my family that everything is going fine and my reduced work load is just me “taking it easy” instead of me being literally unable to do more. Bringing up the autism thing with them is just… nope. My parents and I aren’t really close, and my mother’s abusive-ish treatement is one of the reasons I’m first getting officially diagnosed at 22. So the holiday celebrations this year are going to involve a lot of lying and changing the subject.

    Excuse my english and thanks for the space to vent.

    1. Autism runs in my family and getting any kind of help is an absolute nightmare, stopped talking to certain members of the family over the shitty treatment they gave my autistic sibling. Only to hear years later one of them screamed at an uncle of mine whilst out shopping with autistic cousin. 😦 Have you looked into contacting an autistic specialist charity/non profit?

      1. Most if not all ressources (including charity/non profit) are for autistic children or their families so yeah as I’m an adult it’s not gonna help much. I don’t actually live with my parents and talk to them maybe once a month if even that so they probably won’t know I got a diagnosis and they certainly don’t need help “dealing” with me. Sorry I’m kind of bitter right now.

        1. It’s totally OK to be bitter! and I wasn’t suggesting they needed help dealing with you, more like if you feel like you need help or someone to talk to there may be help out there. Sending Jedi hugs.

  66. I can’t shake this cold and I get to spend my Christmas in physio. Because I got t-boned by an idiot who doesn’t know how to slow down on icy roads.

    I want to be cheerful but mostly I’m resentful and angry and in pain. Whiplash is so awful. And I miss my car. And my insurance company sucks balls.

  67. It’s the first Christmas since my grampa passed away this summer. We’re still going to visit Gramma, but she lives in an assisted care facility so I can’t do the one thing that really makes any family holiday for me, which is cook the meal, and now it’s 2 days out and I’m wondering where we’re all going to sit? It’s been on my mind a lot all week. But I made my great-gramma’s (grampa’s mom’s) cookies the other night that we only ever had at Christmas as kids and it’s easing my rough edges a bit. I just don’t know how the rest of the holiday is going to go and that makes me super-anxious.

    This year I realized that I’m not as OK with my parents’ separation 27 years on as I thought I was and my mum keeps telling me (without telling me) that she wants to do Big Happy Family which I Just. Cannot. Even. Although it just occurred to me right now that the spirit of which her invite was extended was likely kindly meant (after all, first Christmas without grampa!), but there is just no WAY its going to happen, probably ever.

    1. Well, a few days after the holiday, I think next year I need to start planning things for myself.

      I hadn’t quite realized how much “glue” my grandparents had provided. I spent the morning with my heart-family, having brunch and opening presents, and then we all managed to coordinate to drive out to my gramma together, but because of the other stuff, we were only there for about 2.5 hours. My family largely spent the time playing on their phones or napping. I was knitting and trying to keep a conversation going and not doing so well at that. I just realized now how sad my gramma looked. I haaaaate that we live so far away from her. Next year I think I’ll do my own things and visit my gramma (if I can, she’s 85 after all) on my own terms.

      And yeah, Big Happy Family just was not happening. My sister and I ate spaghetti for Christmas dinner. I preferred it that way.

  68. Having had 30+ years of stress and drama around family gatherings and Christmas in particular, I’ve just run out of energy to enjoy Christmas. It’s the years of gritting my teeth when particular family members come out with wildly inapprorpaite comments, pass snarky, rude comments about (and to) the women in the family with no reason or justification, having to pretend gratitude and appreciation for presents that people have spent good money on but are so wrong for me that I wonder if they even understand what I’m like. As a result, although the grips might seem minor, I really don’t enjoy the festivities as it is just a haze of anxiety, stress and relief when I finally got to escape (given a choice, it would have been about half an hour after arriving). Since the worst offenders have since died or moved away, exposure to the greatest excesses have been really reduced. But, it’s been too long since I remember having a guilt free, stress free, calm, quiet, relaxed Christmas that I would quite happily skip the next week and not have to worry about what this one will be like. Despite the fact that it will probably be quite a reasonable, pleasant one.

  69. I don’t like this time of year in any case (I am estranged from family of origin by choice; also I was regularly sexually abused by an extended family member around this time of year), but this year is worse than usual.

    –I had to fail an unprecedented number of students who just could not be arsed to turn in final papers. I feel really bad. I am wavering between “not my monkey, no longer my circus now that I have turned in grades” and “I am so sure they are having life problems too what should I have done to fix this.”

    –I am going to stay at my very best goddaughter’s house and I love her and her family but her dad (divorced) is abusive and she is not at an age to see it, so she is being gaslighted like crazy and there is literally nothing I can do about it.

    –My manuscript got returned to me by my editor after I made a magnificent effort to get it in by Dec 1, with the curt instruction to cut it by 25% and he won’t look at it until then. I want to FORCE CHOKE HIM. I worked 60 hours a week all fucking semester just to get that in on time!

    –Because of manuscript, no one is getting as much of [delightful holiday treats] as usual and of course I feel guilty about it, because since I am estranged from my birth family, I feel as though I need to bribe my way into my Inlaw Family, not to mention all the Friends who get them, because my fucking parents made it pretty damn clear all my life that I was only loved for what I could do.

    –My inlaws are very elderly and nice people who are racist as fuck and I am depressed, full of anxiety, and pretty sure I’m going to say something rude.

    –To top all this off, I have to drive 10 hours to the inlaws’ today and I have a virus. I feel as though I have stuck my head in a lab hood full of hydrochloric acid gas and inhaled deeply, circulated silver nitrate through my sinuses, and then gargled with hot sulfuric acid.

    I feel like a bag of very angry Grumpy Cats and will bite if provoked. Who the hell will invite me back after this?

    Maybe I can purvey the virus into an excuse to not visit the inlaws.

    1. From a certain point of view:
      They’re elderly, you’re possibly contagious, you have Miss Manners’ permission to tell them that you would simply PLOTZ if you gave them whatever you have, so you are staying home and just treating your cold. Please take and post pictures so you can see what a lovely time they are having without Head Cold From Dantooine!

      Otherwise, I am so very very sorry about your paper and your editor’s lousy response. Shame on him! Jedi hugs if you want them. When I was working as a copyeditor, we had an agreed-upon maximum length ahead of time *in order for me to meet benchmarks of returning the marked up draft to them*, which is a totally different thing from “Surprise!”

  70. I’m really homesick for the southern hemisphere right now. Not helped by the fact my attempt to make my life in London isn’t working out. I miss my family and I miss summer and it doesn’t even feel like Christmas, it feels like midwinter.

  71. This is the last Christmas my mom will be spending in the country. She’s moving overseas, so I feel pressured to spend Christmas with my family, even though I super don’t want to because they are quite frankly neglectful at best and outright abusive at worst. I have invitations to spend Christmas with people who love me and want to be around me, not people who will pretty much ignore me or nitpick everything I do or try and tell me that I’m taking too many medications to manage my freaking bipolar disorder.

    I’m on the wrong combination of meds anyway, and my psychiatrist is the picture of unhelpful, and I just don’t care about anything. I want Christmas to be over, which makes me feel like an awful grinch. I want to see my friends unwrap their presents, but I also don’t want to receive any presents because gifts are transactional in my family and I know my friends spent too much money on me this year. I’ve already had at least one breakdown about it because I know for a fact I haven’t done enough for everyone else.

    My family didn’t even want me at Thanksgiving and my mom only invited me because I’m her daughter. How do I know that? Why, she told me. Over the lunch that I invited her to for her birthday. To my face. And when I told her I wasn’t sure I was welcome at Christmas given what she told me, she said “Don’t be silly, it’s Christmas,” because Christmas is a magical time of year that heals dysfunctional families. /eyerolls into eternity and space

    I don’t know what I’m going to do. Christmas Eve is the big thing in our family, because we’re Latin, and mom expects me to stay for Christmas Day, when really I’ll just want to take an Uber home after Christmas Eve dinner and wake up and unwrap presents with my roommates in the morning and go play Cards Against Humanity with my friends later. But I feel like I have to stay for Christmas Day at the house of the uncle who hates me (because I dared to get my own life and put treating my mental illness ahead of handing over half of my paycheck to my mom every month – seriously!) and watch Love Actually YET AGAIN because faaaaaaamily. Ugh.

  72. Everything is mostly good with me, but I feel bad because my boyfriend (who was visiting my family this year pre-Christmas) missed his very early flight this morning due to unforeseen crowds at our airport. And is now sitting in the airport until mid-afternoon (I offered to pick him up, but he said he didn’t want to deal with security again).

    There’s nothing I can do about it now, and it’ll be a blip on the radar in a few days’ time, but I’m bummed out for his sake.

  73. “[This Holiday], I wish I had more middle fingers.
    And a cake made of Xanax and Optimism.”
    — James Gummer

    I am definitely not a fan of “The Holidays”. It’s the Christmas decorations at Halloween. It’s the same seven or eight songs played over and over again. It’s the prevalence of the Killer Holiday Bushes (being deathly allergic to the Pinus family is SO MUCH FUN this time of year). It’s the crowds and parking making running normal errands that much more fraught and time consuming. It’s the entitlement to things folks have around gift giving and shopping. It’s the visual chaos with all of the sparkling and blinking things. It’s the lack of daylight, which plays havoc with the Head Weasels. It’s the burden and expectations of emotional labor this time of year… Because faaaammmily.

    So, yeah, Bah Humbug, yo!

    This year has been particularly bad because I’m fighting a multi-front war in the realms of health, finances, work, and relationships, all of which started to cascade, snowball-like, down the Mountain of Suck mid-September. I’m taking baby steps to get it all back on track (as well as developing several Alternate Plans), but doing this takes energy I don’t particularly have, in a body that is being particularly difficult, and in a time frame where I might start seeing some relief six weeks from now.

    I’m all out of even.

    1. Hugs your way. Plus one on the stupid store decorations (and Christmas music!) right after Halloween. I especially hate that very repetitive song that has the “Siiimply. Haaaving. A wonderful Christmas time.” I’ll walk right out when that one starts.

      1. That would be the absolute worst thing Sir Paul McCartney has ever committed to tape, or whatever they record songs on. I hate that song so damn much.

  74. Strange. I posted yesterday and it disappeared. There were no other posts at the time.
    I’ve always felt stressed by Christmas, even when I was a kid. My mother made it this photo opportunity and spent much of the morning ordering my father to “take a picture of the tree.” “Now take a picture of the kids all standing in front of the tree.” “Now take a picture of all of us standing in front of the tree.” “Now take a picture of the kids wearing their new pajamas standing in front of the tree.” It’s a wonder he didn’t just hand her the camera and say “Here, if you want all these pictures, then YOU do it!!!”
    It was as if it were a film production and she were the director, making sure we had all this photographic proof that we were a nice happy normal family (we weren’t). One year I “smiled the wrong way” and for the next several years dreaded the family slide nights as I knew she’d go on and on and on about how I’d ruined the picture by putting on a fake model like smile. Um, Mom, it WAS a fake smile – we were ordered to smile on command for the picture!
    So, right from the start Christmas seemed like this fake thing that we had to perform a role in. When we unwrapped a gift, my mother would say something like “Do you like it? If you don’t like it, give it back to me so I can give it to someone else.” Yeah, no pressure there. Express wild enthusiasm for something you haven’t even had a chance to try out yet or lose it immediately.
    As an adult, I’ve hated company Christmas parties for the same reason, you have to perform a role.
    I’m just happy when it’s all over and everything gets back to normal.

  75. I normally love this time of year. But the last four years, my husband and I have spent all of Christmas week driving around the state to make sure every single goddamned family member is appropriately accommodated and it’s exhausting and we have never had a Christmas at home our entire relationship. (TW REALLY GROSS) Monday I caught my finger in our immersion blender and very nearly cut the end off and had a moment before I assessed the damage where I thought, “Oh my god, if I cut this off I bet I can stay home.” And then it hit me yesterday THAT IS NOT A NORMAL WAY TO SEE THE HOLIDAYS.

    Arriving on the heels of that realization was an invitation from brother in law and wife to their baby shower. We only receive contact from wife when she wants us to buy her a present, and this was addressed only to me (because women + babies) but addressed to Me Husbandslastname. I am normally not hugely bothered by that, EXCEPT at our wedding this October I spent well over half an hour with BIL (not his wife, she didn’t come because she’s pregnant and can’t drink and therefore didn’t waaaaaaaant to but buy her presents please) discussing why neither of us are changing our names and his attempting to persuade me to become a Husbandslastname and seeming to take it as a personal offense that I didn’t want their name. And Husband has had a couple of conversations with him about it. So it was very intentional that they’re ignoring my choice and hoping they can wear me down. And I’m spending two days in the car so that we can see them and Husband’s Mom who takes their refusal to travel as the priority over trying to accommodate us once, ever. And I’m so, so over it.

    1. Tl;dr I’d rather have my finger cut off than spend another year traveling the entirety of the week of Christmas, and my husband’s family is ignoring my preferred name.

      1. Oooh, I have felt that feel- before Thanksgiving I caught myself thinking, “hey, maybe this pain in my abdomen is appendicitis and I won’t have to spend hours in the car with my family!” It was not appendicitis. It is never appendicitis. It was cramps.

        Your husbands family’s behavior is bull. Good luck. Be strong and awesome.

    2. Well, since you’re not Mrs. Husbandsname, you’re Ms. Yourname, then technically that gift-grab solicitation is not addressed to YOU, right? 😀

        1. I did once threaten a family member when we got into this argument that if she ever sent me a letter/card addressed to “Jackalope Husbandslastname” (or even worse, Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname) I would return it unopened saying addressee unknown. I’m not married yet so it hasn’t been an issue, but I remember how angry I got during our argument. (Also, the argument that I would be disrespecting my husband’s last name by not taking it [what about the disrespect to MY name for dumping it??] and that it would be a sign that I didn’t trust him. Yeah, that conversation didn’t go so well. I think they’re all hoping that I’ll “grow up” before getting married and see the light. [I’m in my 30s. Think my mind’s made up already.])

    3. Oh yeah, it’s not just the attitude of entitlement toward gifts during this season, but the attitude of entitlement that your time and energy must be spent on accommodating others so they can have the holiday they want.

      A few weeks ago, my stepmom said that my brother an his family should come out to spend Christmas here (where four parental units plus stepmom’s son & family live). But what this means for my brother, who lives three time zones away, is to use precious leave time from work (IF it’s approved!) to pack up his family of him, wife, and a 4-year old and a 1-year old, pay expensive airfare for all of them, and travel at a horribly chaotic time of the year. Then add a bunch of stress around dividing time with the divorced parents, and gifts (bringing them, and if they can even take all the stuff the kids will get back with them).

      Why can’t people accept that people’s lives change, and at some point, the way the holidays are celebrated WILL change?

      My sympathies, paintedlady — I hope you and your husband can find a way to stop the driving and celebrate at home next year. I get where you are coming from about cutting your finger and staying home! I really wanted to get the flu for Christmas. Seriously! So I could have good reason to avoid everyone this holiday. A cut finger wouldn’t work since I’m related to nurses, but a good, old-fashioned, contagious virus would have worked very well.

      1. Yeah, it was that split second of disappointment between cutting it and realizing that I had not actually *lost* it (a real possibility the way it happened!) that made me go, ohhhh wow. And there’s also a lot of “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” because my family lives nearby and his doesn’t plus also a bit of majority-rules-we’re-all-here-you-visit-us that makes this feel like a contest. Speaking of which, we will be greeted by a warm welcome and a hand of cards when we walk in the door tonight – they all love games and I so, so do not and they are just convinced that I’m holding out because I Don’t Know What I’m Missing and Come On Just One Hand Just One More Are You Sure? Soooooo….

    1. I think the Captain is on vacation, and the spam filter is super-sensitive as of late. So there’s no good way to get posts out of spam purgatory.

  76. I am not as down on Christmas generally as I used to be but I HAVE BEEN SICK SINCE DEC. 10TH AND I AM READY TO NOT BE SICK ANYMORE. Like, it’s just a cold, but it won’t die, and it’s manifesting as a cough, and while the lying around delirious and weak bit is over with I have managed to pull a muscle in my side and maybe one in my leg from coughing so hard. My mother and brother are on vacation and returning Christmas Eve and I did not go because (a) work (b) sick and (c) I just spent all my money on a new car. (I was planning to get a new car *after* the winter but then I brought the old car into the shop for brake work two weeks ago and it ended up going into the shop FOUR TIMES that week so I gave up and bought a new car last weekend. Also clearly my mechanic is terrible.) And Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t even on Netflix this year, so I’m not all that in the holiday spirit.

    I had been all ready to be like “I’m just going to enjoy baking cookies and drinking wine this year since I don’t have to travel!” and my body was like, no, only soup and DayQuil for you.

    Anyway, I know many have it worse, but there’s my grumping for right now. *coughs all over Christmas*

    1. I was sick one year around Christmas. It started the day after and ran through New Year’s. I couldn’t get out of bed. My partner was self-employed and had a contract he had to fulfill so he wasn’t around a lot. I was asleep most of the time. Coughed and coughed and coughed. It sucked and you have my deepest sympathies.
      I hope you are feeling better soon. It’s gotta pass, right? Hang in there.

    2. If I could take your illness for you, I would! (As I replied to thepaintedlady, I could use a good reason to avoid everyone this holiday. I’m not into the holiday spirit at all this year.) But I can’t, so all I can do is wish for your to get better very soon — two weeks is more than enough!

  77. I find christmas time hard. I’m zero contact with my family for good reasons. And that doesn’t change at holiday time. To have a good life and not be subjected to abuse, I had to go zero contact. BUT, during a time of year that pushes family at me, and pushes hard, this is a challenge.

    I went through a friend’s group break up about a year ago, and it’s affecting the party invites and the social connections I maintain, and that’s challenging. It takes time and work to build new connections. At this point, I probably wouldn’t want to return to the broken up friends group, but I still feel sad about the rejection, if that makes sense. (I said that when people do X, I felt unsafe, and the result was a truly amazing and nasty FeelingsGram sent me by one of the key people in the group.)

    So the holiday hits some very sore spots for me, and they involve losses I can’t change. I am working on moving forward and finding connections that fit me better, but that’s slow, uncertain, and hard work. It’s hard to think about the growth and change which drove me to set boundaries with my family and to do the self care that caused me to see that things in the former friends group left me feeling unsafe, when I’m feeling the lonely and rejected so much right now.

  78. I’m in a pretty bad period of depression, and I can see that it’s prooobably going to get worse- it’s like standing on the edge of a pit, looking into the dark. I’m doing a lot of work to manage it, getting help from trained professionals and support from friends, but I’m pretty “eh” about the holidays anyway, and being down makes this time of year so much harder.

    I’m going home to see my parents, which will be so lovely, but will require a lot of managing, because apparently their love language is a previously unknown love language: squabbling endlessly in a way that leads to name-calling and shouting. Fun! I have become very good at saying things like, “hey, that’s not nice; by the way, parent 1, how’s thing going?” As I am doing all this peace-keeping, care-taking work, plus cleaning and cooking and hanging pictures and being a great daughter/only child, I really just want to be taken care of because I am sad. But that’s really hard to say and it would make my mother cry.

    Also, this year I asked my parents for money for Christmas (instead of my usual, “socks? earrings?”) because I am travelling for New Years. Even though they are happy to shell out filthy lucre, it is making me feel SO MUCH GUILT. So much.

    (ps thanks for this thread- i feel less guilty about venting my woes, and happy to know i am not the only one who feels conflicted)

  79. (SUPER RANT AHEAD) I normally enjoy Christmas, but I am Just Not Into It this year for a variety of reasons. First this entire season has just fallen extremely flat for me this time around. First the weather is really bumming me out. We’ve gotten one measly snowfall so far and it’s long gone, and the snow that we are getting will be when husband and I are on the road. Traveling in the winter makes me extremely nervous, plus I just hate winter with the fire of 1,000 suns (I get seasonal affective disorder pretty bad and it’s just starting to ramp up) We are traveling ~7 hours to spend Christmas with his mom, sister, sister’s boyfriend, and niece and nephew. I love my in-laws dearly but it threatens to be a very stressful time for me. I’m a super introvert and will be stuck with constant people for four days, plus I am not a kid person and even though my niece and nephew are fantastic, they’re still kids and it will be my first time staying overnight in the same house with them for any length of time.

    I’m also a little resentful that we will be going there at all. Part of me is really excited, but the main reason we’re going is that SIL bullied us into going. I had planned on going there this year anyway since we’ve spent the last couple of Christmases with my family, but she started pestering us about it in MAY. That pretty much made any desire I had to see them over the holidays fly out the fucking window. She is one of those people who will JUST NOT let anything go until the event has passed or she has gotten her way. So I caved into going to see them this year and there’s just a lot of pressure to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER on that side because we’re all together as a faaaaaaaaaaamily and just look how awesome holidays are after SIL’s divorce! Super awesome, right? That means she’s winning at the divorce, right?

    And speaking of SIL bullying people into things, her latest project is to try to guilt husband and I into having kids. Neither he nor I are ready to have kids yet, and I’ve actually been super emotionally fraught about that lately. Because I know for sure I don’t want kids right now, but I really can’t decide whether or not I want kids EVER. Because honestly, a huge part of me just really does not like kids and thinks I would be a terrible mother, but I also don’t want to just completely write the idea off, you know? I might change my mind someday. But just thinking about it is really stressful and I don’t have the mental energy to ward off the constant ‘YOU TWO NEED TO HAVE A BAAAAAAAAAABY’ comments from SIL, MIL (less so) and even Niece (age 9) and Nephew (age 8) (who follow their mom’s example and just think it’s SO FUNNY to also bring it up).

    Money is also a thing…husband and I had so many people to buy for this year (all family) and I’ve been really stressed about how much that has cost us. Especially since husband really likes giving me nice gifts so he just keeps buying and buying and buying and so I feel like I have to match that or I’m a TERRIBLE wife (jerkbrain is saying this, not him at all) and as a result, I’m terrified to even look at our bank account.

    I’m also a Christian but I feel like I am rapidly losing what little faith I had. This has been going on for awhile now, but it’s been especially noticeable this Christmas. I’m having such a hard time separating God (loving, accepting) and the actions of other Christians (bigoted, hateful, racist, etc) in my mind, and it’s made me start questioning whether God actually cares about me at all. Add on to that a heavy dose of undiagnosed (likely) depression and/or anxiety/social anxiety into the mix and I’m pretty deep in the pit of despair. I keep leaving church practically in tears this Christmas season because I’m not feeling the warmth or love that I need to feel so desperately.

    Last, it will be my first Christmas away from my family (which seems weird since I’m in my late 20s, but there you go). And I am a bit sad about that, but mostly guilty that I’m not more sad about it. We had my family down for Thanksgiving and it was, in my opinion, bordering on disaster. I’ve just run out of fucks to give for my mom’s bullshit. I adore my dad and sisters (with minor complaints, obviously. but that’s just life) but I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my mom and I don’t know if she’s gotten worse or if I’m just now noticing it in the ‘holy crap, my parents are adults and so am I’ stage of life, but I cannot handle how critical and negative she is anymore. She constantly has to be in charge of everything and is constantly making snide comments on anything that we want to do (especially aimed at my dad) and just does not seem to be handling the fact that I am an adult and can make my own decisions well. Over Thanksgiving she basically ripped me a new one because I made a comment about how it’s cute that my dad thought he had a say over whether husband and I got married or not. I am a liberal feminist, she is extremely conservative. And her saying that I as a FULLY GROWN GODDAMN ADULT cannot make MY OWN GODDAMN DECISIONS made me want to just throw her out of the house. Headfirst.

    We are seeing them over New Year and I am absolutely dreading it. I just want to spend Christmas and New Year at home alone, not seeing or interacting with anyone but husband and kitties. I’m super resentful that faaaaaaaaamily is eating up all of my holidays off from work since I could really really use a nothing holiday right now. I’m sick of them monopolizing all my free time. I just want to move across the country and have a legitimate excuse to avoid them over the holidays. Just mail the presents to my house and leave me alone, thanks.

    1. Oh boy do I feel you on the bullied-for-babies thing! I hate that. Hate hate hate. Husband and I were ready to buy a Cabbage Patch Doll and do the custom name “birth certificate” thing and hand that to his dad, who wanted the *achievement* in his life “I have a grandson with my name and genes” but did not care about the actual human being who would come into existence. Our last holiday visit before father-in-law suddenly became very ill and passed away, Husband was going to step literally aside and I was going to ask, “WHY do you have such an interest in what your son does with his penis? That’s not okay.” Right in front of the stepsiblings and all their kids.

      (I may have mentioned, I am not a very nice person any more.)

      Anyway I am sad he got so ill so suddenly, and I am sad for my husband that all these things can never be handled, and mostly I am sad because my husband’s family of origin does not really love HIM, they love how he alters the story they tell their peers about their own lives. And now I kind of feel that for you, too, because it sounds like Sister-in-Law wants you and (her brother?) Husband to fill in some backup singer roles for the stage musical of her life, She chose to have kids, you have to validate that her choice was right! She chose to go to her parents’ place for the holidays, you better choose the same thing!

      Too bad you can’t stick SIL and your Mom in a cruise ship cabin together and send it off on a one way trip to the Azores. You deserve happiness. You deserve respect.

      1. Ugh, seriously, thank you for saying that. It’s really comforting that I’m not the only person who feels this way about babies. *fistbump of solidarity* I’m trying not to be bitter about Sister-in-law, because in most ways she really is a great person. And I think she’s putting a lot of pressure on herself to make this an awesome Christmas and prove that life goes on after her (very messy) divorce. But my husband (her little brother) and I can’t help but be stressed at all the pressure it puts on us. And yes, it really does feel like she’s trying to cast us in her super awesome life story, instead of us being autonomous human beings with our own desires and needs. And the fact that we’re of babymaking age and haven’t made a baby yet is baffling to her, apparently.

        It’s just really jarring to me that’s she’s pushing so hard for this, as everyone else is (mostly) respectful of our choices. It just gets really frustrating sometimes.

        I’m so sorry about how things went down in your husband’s family. I can’t imagine how he feels dealing with the grief of losing a family member and the confusion/frustration/possible guilt of having not dealt with unresolved issues.

        Here’s to a better 2016, yeah? With everyone respecting everyone else’s life choices? 🙂

    2. Oh ugh. Catholic, here, so I totally get where you’re coming from on the church front. I look around at what’s going on in some parts of the world with people of faith (not just Christian ones), and then look at the over-entitled, over-privileged fundies here who scream about persecution when called on their bullshit, and….yeah. It helps knowing there are people with the same things I’ve been struggling with lately, so thanks, in a real way. 🙂

  80. My family hasn’t wanted anything to do with me for years now. I’ve only got a couple of close friends, but they don’t live locally and they have families of their own. My depression has been bad this year and the tickle in the back of my throat tells me that I may be having chicken soup rather my traditional enchiladas. My emotional state is so bad I covered all the mirrors in my house so I wouldn’t have to see my reflection. Oh and my senior cat went blind and I didn’t notice until a few days ago.

    My coworkers give me patronizing looks whenever I try to join the conversations, I can tell when I’m not wanted. One of my bosses is telling me I need to step up and catch up (my job at my location is usually two people at other locations). And just yesterday one of my other bosses basically called me a slacker and made me feel two inches tall. I spent some time crying in the bathroom and haven’t bounced back yet. I feel like I’m on the “to be fired” list and they are just waiting for an excuse.

    Being broke is just business as usual.

    Only bright spots this year are my furbabies, Star Wars, and Doctor Who.

    1. I hope the coworkers aren’t actually feeling that way, that it’s just your jerkbrain shouting at you, making you feel superfluous.

      You’ll want to decide how much of the bosses’ analysis is accurate (if depression demotivates you), and how much you’re willing to fight back. Perhaps a “You’re right, I _am_ behind… why don’t we hire me an assistant like offices A and B?” Even if they have no intention of getting you that help, that might make the connection that’s so obvious to you overt to them.

    2. Starwars and furbabies are an excellent choice for companions! Depression suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, and cats and great movies are a perfectly effective way of emergency coping devices! My depression told me that I was worthless, that everyone disliked me and that they were right. Of course, depression LIES! That is much easier to see when your not in the middle of it, though, so jedi-hugs if you want them.

  81. This is the worst holiday season in a long time. I lost my job. I used a connection from old job to get new job. Lost new job. Was behind on bills already; got evicted. Boyfriend invited me to stay. I got into a car accident while taking some of my things to his house. I flipped my car over 3 times and landed upside down in a ditch on a rural road in the middle of the night. My neck, shoulder, boobs, and worst of all my entire right ribcage was badly bruised by the seat belts and airbags. I spent a couple hours waiting for motorists to come by and call for help while I desperately dug through broken glass for my phone. I also got covered in poison ivy.

    After that my boyfriend came to get me and take care of me, he even helped me go get my furniture and the rest of my stuff in his truck, then he got bronchitis and then pneumonia! So I’ve been taking care of HIM too with my injuries that make it hard for me to get up and down and breathe. My entire life is on hold while we sleep fitfully in the Den of Sickness and Injury in a house he “shares” (aka pays all the bills) with a disabled college buddy and teenage son. Nobody cleans in this slovenly bachelor cave and it’s really gross and I don’t want to live here. Disabled buddy also got a random internet girlfriend and she’s been in the house for two weeks freeloading as well.

    This is going to be a very stressful time until we can both recover and have to have serious talks about or relationship and future living situation. I can’t do this forever.

    1. Holy crap, this is made of suck! so sorry for you. Really, lots of respect for the fact that even in all this chaos, you’re making choices on if this is do-able for the rest of your life or not.

  82. (Abusive Parent) and (Abusive Parent’s Family) keep calling and asking about the holidays and uuuuuuughhhh, noooooo, whhhhyyyyyyyy. Thankfully have long ago decided to let housemates answer the phone, because I’m pretty sure I’ve already made myself clear on this one. Fuck off forever, thanks! And yet they still call, and I still have to worry that they’ll try to show up here, and I still have to nurse off panic attacks and get weepy over the holiday dinners we used to have, while (Abusive Parent) actually gets to go to them! Uggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh, noooooooo, whhhhhhyyyyyyyy. And telling myself that, okay, it’s their choice to support (Abusive Parent) over me, it’s their mistake, and I don’t have to play that game. It still… hurts. It hurts not having a real family when it’s ~The Holidays~. It hurts that they think they can just call, and expect us to explain whhhhyyyyyy we’re not in their life. You know why I left, you were there when it happened! And now it’s my responsibility to explain what you did wrong? You’d rather have (Abusive Parent) at Xmas dinner than us! Why do you THINK we don’t want to visit? UGGGGGGHHHHH, nooooooooooo, whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyy.

    And then, doing holiday stuff with housemates just feels like going through the motions. I want a family, dammit. I deserved a loving family as a kid. I’m just tired, and I’d say I was lonely, but it would be kind of dishonest to day I’m “missing” them. We never really had a real connection. I was trying to be a good daughter to avoid being abused, and they weren’t interested in my life. They don’t actually know anything about me. I have no reason to try to reach out to them after all of this. But it hurts. I hate having this shit rubbed in my face for like, two months straight. Bah. Humbug.

  83. I used to be so excited for Christmas as a kid. Not just the presents, but just the whole thing—spending time with family, decorating the tree, picking out presents to give to people. Now that I’m an adult, I’m painfully aware of the sheer dysfunction of my family. Now it feels less and less like Christmas to me every year.

    I’m job hunting and the only thing I asked for from my mom is some money to cover my bills next month. She won’t give me a straight answer, instead giving me long rants about her financial worries (real concerns but used more as a manipulation tactic than anything else). I’m going Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, something I swore never to do, because my grandpa won’t take “No, I’m not buying Mom anything” as an answer.

    My aunt and uncle are hosting their annual Christmas family get-together. The deal is that everyone is supposed to open their own family unit’s gifts on the Christmas morning by themselves and then, when everyone arrives at the party, the extended family trades gifts. Unfortunately, my uncle’s family tends to be really lazy about getting around and, for some reason, always wait to open all of their presents in front of us. Their family is well off, as opposed to the rest of us who often struggle to scrape together the money for presents at all. My mom feels that this is rude and obnoxious, but instead of confronting him about it, she gives me the same rant several times every year.

    While I generally get along with my family, politics are a touchy subject. They’re Catholic Republicans with racist, homophobic, transphobic, and generally shitty views on things. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become the opposite. I’m also a girl in a two-year relationship with another girl. She’s currently teaching overseas but it’s serious and I hate that I have to keep it to myself. This is compounded by the fact that both of my female cousins have boyfriends and I’m sure they’ll be around for the holiday. I don’t begrudge them their relationships, it just hurts to look at them and know my girlfriend will never be accepted into our family like their boyfriends always are.

  84. I love Christmas. I’m a big romantic ritualistic dork who loves all the lights and goodwill-to-men and the (good) music and the childlike feeling of excitement in the air — and I can’t seem to access any of that feeling this year. I’ve been off medication for most of the last year while I wait for Medicaid and me to get our shit together (my plan finally takes effect in January, but then I have to find a primary care physician and a therapist, things I have no education in how to do since I grew up poor without any healthcare or parents’ healthcare to model after) and I’m just tired and sad or numb all the time when I’m not going over the edge and having screaming sobbing panic attacks. and while my partner and I finally have a house of our own — the first place either of us has had that was REALLY our own — we’re struggling with Being 100% Adults For The First Time and working a lot and trying to keep track of all the bills and deciding when we can buy what groceries. I work clothing retail and while it’s not toxic like my last job and my coworkers are good people sometimes on frustrating days I come home and cry because I don’t care about anything I’m doing even though it takes up most of my day and I’m afraid I’ll never have the skills to work anything but retail environments I don’t want to have to shape my life around. and partner’s workplace is understaffed but under new corporate management that’s trying to fire everyone for minor offenses to ~lay down the law~, so my partner, one of only two people in his department who can do the skilled trade part of the job and not just the retail part (they’re trying to fire the other guy, too), is on the verge of losing a job he’s worked incredibly hard at, despite it being physically exhausting and requiring him to get up at 5am. who threatens to fire someone — one of their best and most skilled workers — in the next thirty days two weeks before Christmas? so we’re both depressed and scared about the future while he looks for a new job and tries to keep from getting to work even a minute or two late ever again so he doesn’t lose his current job before he has a replacement.

    and in addition to that two weeks ago I burned the hell out of my leg with hot grease and it’s FINE, it’s healing, the scarring shouldn’t be too bad, I’ve gotten past the stage where it hurts to walk, but it’s been really frustrating and sad-making and I’m sick of taking antibiotics that make me queasy and having this massive bandage sticking through my jeans and stockings at work and not being able to zip up my favourite boots and I still feel awful about how much money we had to spend on bandages and tape since Urgent Care only gave us prescriptions for antibiotics. I want desperately for this stupid bandage to come off before Christmas but it’s not very likely. I’m still pissed at myself for being so clumsy and knocking over a pan and causing weeks of pain and expense with a moment of pure carelessness.

    so it’s our first Christmas together properly — last year we’d just gotten together and this year we’re living together and did our own decorating and bought our first tree, and both of us want to make it special somehow — but we’re both so tired and depressed it’s awfully difficult to think of HOW. partner has to spend a few hours of Christmas dinner with his abusive parents, and while I have a nice evening planned for myself with cocoa and X-Files Christmas episodes (there would be a Lush-y bath but, uh, leg injury, sadface), I feel awful for him, and worry that he’ll come home defeated and miserable. last Christmas, when we were still long-distance, he called me on the way home from his parents actually sobbing after they picked a fight. he can’t cut ties with them quite yet — they still pay his car insurance and phone (but refuse to help with anything else, even though they are No-Joke Actually Wealthy and we are poor enough to be trying to apply for food stamps — if they WERE more generous taking their money would just be a way for them to guilt and control us/him, but it still STINGS), and we can’t afford to take that over. a year ago he was unemployed and catastrophically depressed and living in a place his dad owned and was constantly threatening to evict him from if he didn’t uphold this or that randomly decided upon standard of behaviour (and I was sleeping on my not-terrible parents’ couch!), so we’ve both come such a long way, and they have so much less ability to control him than they did. but “less” is not “none”, unfortunately. I wish his parents didn’t specifically loathe me so I could come along as moral support without it being The Worst, but… not the case. (partner, for the record, has never at any point expected I should put myself through being around them and 100% supports me Never Having To See Them Again; I just foolishly wish there was a way to help his Christmas suck less without ruining my own.)

    we’re going to see my parents and siblings a few days after Christmas (they’re in the next state over), and that will be lovely — oddly I’m not sad about not spending Christmas The Day with my blood family (whom I love and enjoy!), though feel a little guilty as First Child To Move Away Forever (like six years later than I should have, with one aborted attempt, but). but. I don’t know. I’m looking for that spark of magic and delight and wonder and the ability to be delighted and excited by the smallest things I used to have before the last two years when my mental illness got so fucking bad. and I’m scared I’ll never feel that again — about Christmas and everything else. everything’s just going to be another day after another day forever, when being the one who went into ecstasies over everything used to be a cornerstone of my personality. and my damn leg itches.

    1. Ugh, sending Jedi hugs your way! The bit about not being able to zip up your favorite boots really got to me somehow; I’ve had lots of stuff going on recently and somehow it’s always the things like that that send me over the edge. Hope it gets better.

  85. I usually love the holidays but this year is bit rough:

    Cat has a “growth” on his skin that may or may not be bad news – diagnosis inconclusive, but this cat seems to have an Annual Xmas False Emergency so here’s hoping it fits that pattern.

    Planning visit in-laws (abroad) in January, but just got email that FIL has been sent to the hospital for observation…nothing obviously wrong but his wife/carer couldn’t manage to get him out of bed this morning. The hope is that is more a function of her changing needs than his changing health so they’re keeping him a few days for observation while they get a new care plan in place (including more physical help for her at home). Torn on whether to send husband out sooner than we had planned, which would be quite expensive, but we don’t know how much longer FIL will be with us.

    Meanwhile, in the small potatoes category: Christmas gift from my sister is a bunch of rocks. Not kidding. I was perplexed but eventually figured it out. I recently had my tonsils out and these rocks are meant to “open my throat chakra”. No judgment on those who believe in that sort of thing (as my sister clearly does), but I…don’t. And she knows this. I know I should feel grateful – it’s the thought that counts and all that – but it feels more like she’s trying to shove her beliefs down my throat (ha) and I’m finding it hard to accept this graciously. Oh well.

    On the upside, I feel like these are all not-pleasant things but I am handling this with a lot more emotional aplomb than I could have mustered in the past. Put on in the win column for improved mental health.

    Wishing everyone here as much peace and comfort as possible in your various circumstances.

    1. Could you possibly, for next year, give your sister a metal colander and spend an hour excitedly telling her all about your newfound belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? 😀

      1. Ha! It is very tempting…but I doubt it would have the desired effect. The great thing about my sister is that she is pretty equal-opportunity about beliefs and seems to collect them ALL like a magpie. Case in point: she is a chiropractor, which has some legit science behind some aspects of it and then there are a lot of practitioners that dabble in more fringe/alternative stuff as well. She just got back from a professional development course on some serious hardcore neuroscience and she is totally excited about that…and crystal healing too it seems. So, she might fully embrace the pastafarianism in addition to all these other things without a nod to the intended irony.

        Once I get done being annoyed by the box of rocks under my tree I’m going to find this pretty funny, and I will continue to admire her ability to to be so all-encompassing (open-minded?) in her beliefs even if I can’t get on board with the magical thinking. At least she’s moved past her vaccine skepticism and is now acknowledging that they can work (along with crystals?). So long as she’s not rejecting the stuff that we know is effective, I guess that’s OK.

  86. I’m just very stressed and depressed. I feel stressed around my family because they are emotionally difficult to be around, are passive aggressive, make me feel guilty, and they don’t respect my gender. I’m out to my mom but she ignored it, still uses the wrong name and pronouns and it’s been months. I don’t think it’s safe to come out to my dad. I think I seriously could be cut off financially. (It has been brought up) I know that they are flawed human beings and I don’t need to seek their approval but I do anyways and don’t know how to stop. I just want to be loved. I don’t have a lot of friends and at college I’m just lonely even around other people, or stressed about academics and housing. I feel lonely there but even more lonely at “home”, and it’s also like stepping back in time to some trippy alternative reality because they still see me as a girl. I’m thinking maybe I should get a dog or another comfort animal so I won’t be so lonely. Also I’ve recently gone down in dosage for my anxiety meds and I’m still not sure how it’s playing out. before my physics final I ended up drinking vodka to calm down because I was shaking so much. I’m really tired and sick and lonely now.

    How normal is it to struggle with existential loneliness? I started having trouble with that when I was about 7 years old, and on through middle and high school I used to cry myself to sleep at night for weeks on end from the idea of being alone, dying alone, and death of loved ones. (Both family I had and people I made up in my head.) I don’t know how normal that is, especially because I had a good family, but it just got worse with all of the gender identity crisis bullshit and physical dysphoria, and also crippling social isolation. I don’t know what to do anymore. Will I ever be truly happy again like I was when I was very small? Can I ever not be lonely, if we can never truly know other people in this world?

    I’m also vaguely pissed off all the time because my back is going out from binding and I’m only 18 and I just get this hopeless frustration and despair at feeling of having boobs and being stuck with them. Mixed up with the fear of surgery and feeling like no one will ever love me. I don’t think I could have surgery without someone to support me through it, but now I have no one.

    1. “How normal is it to struggle with existential loneliness?” Seeing as there is a significant branch of philosophy that pertains to the question of existential loneliness, it certainly isn’t rare. I do think that people whose personalities and life experiences fit with social conventions do not experience this to the same degree that those of us who find social convention suffocating and trapping! I’m cis-gendered, but I struggled with existential loneliness starting at an early age. Over time, it became clearer that mine was based around the suspicion that people only liked/loved me when I was acting like whom they wanted me to me to be as opposed to who I was or the were liking/loving me out of social obligation (I was taught I had to like everyone, abuse and bullying was to be minimized and forgiven). So how could I ever know that I was truly loved and accepted? I imagine that these types of angst would be amplified in the case of a gender transition, especially with the identity, dysphoria, and isolation you are experiencing.

      For me, it took a couple of decades to realize how not good and actually quite destructive my FOO (because of course they all have good traits that they express some of the time, particularly when they are getting their way!) And of course I noticed that there are really bad people out there–not to mention the throngs who have various emotional and physical issues, or strong and quirky personalities, on par or more intense than mine–who are loved and accepted by friends, partners, and families. So it had to be at least possible for me, too. And you! Although I’ve moved around a lot, I have found “my people” from time to time, including friendships which I’ve more or less been able to maintain over the years. Which doesn’t mean periods of loneliness don’t recur, but I recognize these as temporary as opposed to eternal. It does take the risk of putting myself out there and knowing that there are more people I am not going to click with than people I will. I do have my child-like (but wiser!) joie de vivre often, and I’m even able to let some of the darkness show and it turns out that people can like/love me. From my own social groups, I know that generally open-minded people still need a large does of trans* awareness and normalizing to become fullly welcoming spaces, but the good news is that even in my more conservative part of the country, it’s the college-aged who are at the forefront of organizing and creating safe and welcoming spaces across gender and sexuality spectra.

      I hope that you are at a college with a trans* supportive group or two, but if not, do check out the resources in your region. Definitely take advantage of any free therapeutic services at your college, because they should be able to guide you through the difficulties you are experiencing. As long as you’re not at a very religious college, there should be at least one therapist on the counseling staff that has some relevant training. Regional and national organizations also maintain lists of therapists and physicians who specialize in treating or receive good reviews from trans* clients. If you have to call or email someone outside of your region, do it! These are all organizations and providers who really really want to reach you and connect you with others in supportive, healing belonging!

  87. Blargh. About to go spend time with my in-laws, who pretty much LIVE in the Worry Wyvern and are masters of using the Dragons of Disappointment to do their bidding. in their minds, absolutely anything that goes wrong MUST be due to a personal failing or a lack of will – there are NEVER institutional hurdles or unreasonable/inane obstacles.

    It’s pretty disheartening trying to justify why I haven’t personally made everything in my life shiny and rosy, while struggling with study and caring responsibilities. I still think they’re very disappointed their little girl chose me and not someone richer/more successful/more upper-class. You’d think they’d stop holding that grudge after a decade.

  88. I am not looking forward to Christmas this year.

    My parents are difficult people at the best of times. I have to be on my best behavior at all times or I invoke the Dragons of Disappointment and get an hours-long lecture- I’m older than 30. One of the major sticking points in my relationship is my partner, whom they judge from jokes he posts on Facebook, the fact that he had been unemployed for a while (he took some time off to take care of ailing parents, and his job field kind of crashed when the internet showed up), and the fact that he’s about 7 years older than me.

    We had an excellent visit over Thanksgiving from my perspective, but apparently they felt like they were “walking on eggshells” around me, which I found out in a huge telephone-mediated blowup about two weeks ago on Saturday. This! This right here! This is why I never tell you anything, and why I keep my visits to a few days two or three times a year!

    I’m going to do the best I can to keep my cool, and get through another Christmas, and put it at arms length for my own sanity until the next time I visit. Jedi hugs are appreciated.

    1. Sith hugs, here. If they start with their shit, how big would it blow up if you excused yourself and left? Hours-long lectures are not OK.

      1. Well, I’ve tried hanging up when they start their shit over the phone, but they regard it as trying to run away from the problem of I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-them, instead of realizing that their behavior is causing the problem. It’s incredibly frustrating because I love them both so much, but their behavior is crazy-making.

        Plus, leaving isn’t really that great of an option. I’m a five hour drive from home over some rough and isolated terrain, so the leaving would have to occur during daylight hours or I have to get a hotel somewhere.

        Add to that my suspicions that part of the problem is that my dad is losing his hearing in the higher ranges (where my voice is) and is in denial about it. He seems to mishear about everything that I say, which started a nice little argument this morning about some slippers that I got my mom. I need to figure out how to get that grumpy old goat to go in for a hearing test.

  89. So, so homesick. The past 5 Christmases since moving to the UK I’ve managed to distract myself via good times with family or friends, but as things have fallen out this year my wife and I are on our own in a freshly renovated and entirely undecorated house in which literally nothing is where it belongs. We’re having a Christmas dinner of sorts and giving each other a gift, but the rest of the time will probably be spent painting the house, Ikea-ing the crap out of our bedroom, and taking stuff to the tip.

    I want to be home in Perth with the heat and the magpies and the right food cooked by the right people in the right kitchen, and I can’t be.

  90. Longtime lurker, de-lurking at last because this community is amazing and, thus far, my Christmas is not. 😛

    I’ve always felt the aching gap between what Christmas apparently *ought* to be and what it turns out to be every year…but now at least I can put my finger on the *cause* of those feelings, as I’m now old enough to acknowledge the various ways my family is broken.

    I finally got myself a (wonderful, practically-affordable) therapist at the beginning of December, so at least I’m going in with three sessions’ worth of affirmation and empathy. But so far…

    1. My Dad recommended me an ‘un-PC’ book that I’m 99% sure is colonialism-apologetics
    2. My Mum went all concern-troll/fear-of-female-sexuality when she heard that my 10y/o cousin has started putting on makeup when a boy visits (and when I said that my primary concern would be to ensure that Cousin has a healthy self-esteem & can enjoy makeup while also knowing that her worth doesn’t lie in her looks, Mum replied “That’s very academic…”)
    3. The holiday home we’re renting is more expensive (but much less clean & comfortable) than the lovely place we stayed last year, and the landlady has left passive-aggressive notes over everything (“We will charge you if this/that/the other”). My parents can hardly afford it, and the way the landlady treated Mum on the phone is making her very tense and angry.
    4. And now Mum is starting up on the importance of placing your knife & fork together neatly on the plate at the end of a meal, and rebuffs my gentle attempts to suggest that I don’t prioritise that by repeating anxiously “a lot of people think it’s important, though”. And I know I have no chance of making her understand that those sort of etiquette games are quintessentially classist.

    But on the bright side, I’m seeing some old high school friends today, and have a day-late-Christmas on Boxing Day with my partner’s large family.

    And in the meantime, I’m compiling a document titled “Things to Tell My Therapist – The Christmas Special!”

    Jedi hugs and the best wishes to all of you!

  91. I had a lull from acute divorce grief in November, but then December arrived and I got walloped hard. I cry a lot, every day. It’s the first holidays without my husband, or his family, and our anniversary is/would be next week, which means not only am I processing a holiday without him, I’m remembering significant dates from the weeks leading up to our wedding. And while I’d absorbed that I’d be doing New Year’s without him, it didn’t hit me till last week that he’d be doing New Year’s *without me.*

    I chose to opt-out of Christmas, sort of. My parents and cousin were here for my chorus concert a few weeks ago, so I gave them their gift then and declared that family Xmas. They’re being very understanding about why I don’t want to come up, which makes it easier. I put up my tree (and I am weirdly okay with the fact that it’s from our wedding decorations) and pulled out the colored lights but never got them up. Friday I have tentative plans for a Jewish friend to come over and watch X-Files with me, and a newer acquaintance who can’t get home to her family will be there too.

    Still no plans for the anniversary itself. I’ll just see how I feel that morning. NYE I am going to an all-evening zen meditation.

    My friends and family are still a really great support network, so one project will be to write them thank you letters and cards.

    There’s so much about grieving my marriage that is just work that only I can do.

    1. That’s so rough. Firsts can be so hard. Sending you Jedi hugs. I hope it gets better. I don’t know if this will help or just be more annoying/obnoxious, so ignore if needed, but I have found comfort in the past in knowing that there will be only one First of each thing, and then next year it will be better. Which is a long time away and so may not help, but I found it to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

      1. Thank you, Jackalope. Jedi hugs back to you. It is helpful and I absolutely agree that there’s comfort in knowing there’s only one First for each thing, having gotten through quite a few already (the anniversary of the day we met, our first milestones, our birthdays, my first day back at work…). I pulled out wrapping paper for some gifts and discovered saved wrapping from our wedding gifts and paper from his mom to him. It sucked, I recycled, and then I went, “Well, that’s another boil lanced. Won’t have to find wrapping paper again.”

  92. Hey, Awkward Army, I could use some advice.

    Some background: I’m a middle-aged single lady with a small but widespread family. I’ve been dealing a lot of physical health issues the past 2 years, including a surgery in May. I’ve been trying to cope and recover, but have just been hit with a new tentative diagnosis that will probably involve another surgery in the next couple of months. I’m still in the testing/information-gathering stage and don’t yet know a lot about the treatment options or recovery process. I prefer to keep the news to myself until I know more and have sorted through my own feelings about things before trying to provide answers and reassurances to family. I know they love me and are concerned about me, but I don’t have the spoons to manage their emotions in addition to my own right now.

    So, I’m traveling up to gather with the siblings at dad’s for the holiday. A thing my sister and I usually do is visit our aunt in Florida in the spring and we often plan and book our trip during this time together. This year, I’m a) not feeling it and b) pretty sure I’ll be recuperating at that time instead. How can I tell my sister (and my aunt!) that I don’t want to do the trip without explaining my medical situation or triggering a “but whyyyy???” I can’t answer.

    1. No is a full and complete answer, but probably one that won’t be accepted. -_- This sucks. You could call financial hardship, citing your recent surgeries with a “Sorry, it looks like I can’t afford the trip this year,” and leave out that the currency you can’t afford to spend is spoons instead of dollars. Or just, “It looks like that’ll be a busy time of year for me this time around, I’m sorry I can’t make it, so we’ll just have to make the following year super-awesome.”

    2. Also, is there any other time of year you could go? Could you say something like what killiara suggested, but then add that maybe in fall (or whenever) you might be available? Not sure if this would be more of a hassle (sister reschedules and then it falls through again if you’re still not well?), but if it’s something you’re still wanting to do but just not yet, that might be an option. Of course, if you’re not feeling it at ALL then I think killiara’s on the right track.

  93. I was so, so excited for Christmas this year. My family is Jewish but we’ve always visited my dad’s Catholic family for Christmas. It used to be a lot of fun with a big family celebration, presents, Christmas dinner, the whole shebang. But that family has almost completely fallen apart- my grandma is dead, my grandpa is an alcoholic, racist, Trump-supporting asshole, my cousin’s an alcoholic, my aunts are alcoholics, and they all love to make tons of racist, homophobic, and transphobic jokes while drinking shitty red wine which I can’t even drink. I stormed out in tears last year and drank screwdrivers downstairs while watching the Doctor Who marathon on BBC.

    So this year we were going to go away without the extended family to a nice resort. On the second day my dad (emotionally constipated and in serious need of therapy) threw a temper tantrum, broke an expensive thing, and nearly got us kicked out of the hotel. He used to be like this when I was a kid but I haven’t seen him this bad in about a decade. I guess he stopped going to therapy. So now we have this big, awkward hole where fun family times were supposed to be. On top of this, I’m 1000% done with Christmas cheer and Christmas songs and male entitlement and just UGH. I just want to go back home and cuddle with my kitty :/

  94. It’s just so lonely. Christmas really drives that home. All my friends seem to be paired off this year, and I’m venturing into middle-age with a history of 15 years of singledom. (15 years! What’s wrong with me? I just want someone to tell me the secret so that at least I know what invisible red letter I’m wearing. Though… a red letter would actually indicate I’m doing better than I am, wouldn’t it?) I socialize, I make friends, I meet men, I’m interested in them, they… never seem to be interested in me. Nothing happens. I want to throw something and cry and crawl in a cave, every time I see a Kay Jewelers commercial.

    I’ve had a PhD for four years and can’t get a job in my field, and the last three years have been a barrage of job rejections. The stereotype is that women sacrifice a career or a family, one or the other, but I can’t seem to get either right. I’m not giving in. I feel like I’m doing all I can, and I don’t know what else to try. It’s like I’m scrabbling at this glass wall that hems me in on all sides. I don’t know how I got here. I want out of my own story; can I have someone else’s story, please? My story sucks, and I don’t know how to rewrite it. I usually get into the excitement of the season, but this year I’ve felt like there’s a ton of bricks on top of me.

    So… I know others have more serious woes, but that’s what’s giving me the blues this Christmas.

    1. I have a friend who is going through something VERY similar (except he is a man, but also single and searching for a LONG time, has an MFA and PhD but recently had to move in with family because he couldn’t find a job + he’s not a US citizen, which made job hunting tricky for a while b/c of the very limited jobs he could take due to visa). He’s one of the best people I know and I’m sure you are also as awesome, but I also know it sucks to hear that when it feels like no one wants to be with you.

      I hope the upcoming year has you smashing through those bullshit glass walls and I’m rooting for you!

    2. There are some similarities between your situation and mine, but I’m afraid I have little advice that would help, seeing as I’m well into middle age with ~20 years of singledom. (There was a period of about 5 years where I was involved with a verbally and emotionally abusive man who at first I considered a boyfriend, then an annoying roommate, then an obnoxious freeloader. I don’t really count that time as not being single, for obvious reasons. And I’m now rather picky about who I get involved with, for obvious reasons.)

      I have been trying my best to resist becoming cynical as the years wear on me psychologically, and I normally do not encourage cynicism. When it comes to jewelry commercials, however, I say embrace the cynicism! That ring or necklace or whatever in that commercial is worth less than half of whatever the dude paid for it. Maybe worth less than third, depending on the markup. The whole “jewelry=love” concept is the result of very successful marketing, especially with regard to diamonds. If anyone asked me what the most successful cartel in history was, I’d answer “De Beers.” If the commercials get to be too much, you can try reading the following to distract you:

      All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers – nice, short article
      The Incredible Story Of How De Beers Created And Lost The Most Powerful Monopoly Ever – a bit more history
      Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? – a old (1982) but excellent article with history & info on the diamond business

      [and I hope my html formatting of those links turned out ok…]

    3. I left my PhD programme ABD because I took a long hard look at the numbers in my field (current applicant to opening ratio is 300+ to 1) and didn’t like my chances. Because I was going to school in a foreign country, I had to leave a city I loved in the country I’d been living in for six years and move back to the US. I was subsequently unemployed until I ran out of money and then underemployed for what felt like forever. I was widowed at the beginning of my PhD and then single for five years as I dated what felt like every single man in Vancouver, BC, most of whom were absolute pricks.

      I’ve been back in the states for just over a year. I am now working in academia again on the admin side, about to get a huge promotion in something that isn’t even my field but which everyone says I’m going to be WONDERFUL at. Best Boyfriend–who is smart and funny and hot and so amazingly wonderful–and I are celebrating our 1st anniversary on New Year’s Day, and the two biggest problems in my life are that in moving in with Best Boyfriend, I am moving away from the best roommate anyone could hope for, and that my BFF might, instead of the faculty job at the university I work at, get the faculty job at a university overseas and we’d have to fly to Hawaii twice a year to meet in the middle instead of living in the same place year round.

      Stuff can turn around before you know it. I hustled like mad, of course, but a lot of it was just sheer bloody persistence. I really hope that things turn around for you too.

    4. Hi, just wanted to comment that I’ve been single all my life, (well, a couple of ill-fated boyfriends for a few months) and honestly, I don’t consider myself a broken person.

      I love to be around people (in moderation 😉 ) , I have great friends, and I don’t seem to be particularly socially inept, I just don’t have relationships. For me, this works just fine and of course it sucks if you want one and can’t find it, but just wanted to add to the voices telling you that not having a relationship does not mean you’re broken, or that something’s wrong.

      1. If you don’t have relationships and don’t want them, that seems like basically the ideal state. 🙂 For those who want but don’t have there tends to be a lot of pressure both from the “you’re fine without a relationship” side and the “you need to do whatever it takes to get one NOW” sides, and neither is all that helpful, in my experience. For a lot of my post-widowing single years, I had two close friends, one of each inclination, so from one side I was getting “you don’t need a relationship! you should learn to love being single!” and from the other “your standards are just too high! if you want a relationship that much you should just settle!”

        I understood that a lot of that was about where each of them was coming from, but I still sort of wanted to scream occasionally.

        (My standards are fine where they are, because the wrong relationship is way worse than no relationship, AND there are a lot of nice things about being single, but almost all of them are, for me, trumped by regular access to sex, stimulating conversation, and cuddles.)

  95. Was hoping for a nice, relaxing holiday visit with my parents after a busy year at Professional School Far From Hometown. But a few weeks back, my sister, who’s had an assortment of substance abuse/life instability problems and does not keep in consistent contact with the family, resurfaced after she and her boyfriend ran out of money and had nowhere to stay. (They had been staying with Boyfriend’s mother, but there was some sort of conflict during which Boyfriend’s mother’s boyfriend punched Boyfriend in the face. Details are thin on the ground.) My parents let them and their cat stay for a couple days on an emergency basis (many previous attempts of my sister staying with my parents have not worked out because she steals things and abuses substances and gets verbally abusive when people don’t do what she wants) and have been paying for them to stay in a motel. This was supposed to be on an emergency basis until they could find a place to live that would take their cat; it’s been almost two months in and they’re still paying. I’m not sure how genuine the housing-seeking efforts have or haven’t been, but they clearly have not been working out as hoped.

    My parents have invited my sister and her boyfriend to come over for Christmas. (They have failed to clearly nail down what time/duration this will be, which is not very comforting to my anxiety disorder and neurological weirdness.) I have not seen my sister face-to-face in two years, and even social media/email contact can be pretty fraught and unreliable at times. I do not want to see her in my childhood home on Christmas right now, but my feelings of obligation to my parents and fear of being the one whose “fault” any ensuing drama is and somehow… ceding the filial moral high ground are making it seem impossible to either not attend or try to get them to change the plan? I feel responsible for protecting my parents from her and magically stop them from getting their hopes up about my sister making lasting changes in her life. I will not feel comfortable taking my eyes off my purse while they are here, will have to be prudent about protecting my stuff and making sure nothing goes missing, and needed two Ativan to get to sleep last night. Honestly, I think I feel a sense of hurt and betrayal that my parents (like they have since we were preteens) have always talked a good game about the ways my sister has treated me not being okay and feeling bad that I’ve been subjected to some of the things that happened. But thinking that also makes me feel like a bad daughter and a selfish person.

    1. That sucks. You can’t stop your parents from enabling your screwed up sister, but you can protect yourself. If you’re driving over, I’d suggest locking your purse in the car (and keeping the keys on you, obv). Or hide your purse somewhere boring, like a linen closet.

      You’re not a bad daughter nor are you selfish and any drama that happens isn’t on you.


    That and hearing more of the looping christmas carols that make me want to pull my eardrums out. On top of the usual ‘why do you have an eyepatch I want to see underneath’ (Wtf no DON’T TRY TO GRAB IT OFF MY F**KING FACE) and pirate crap I always get. And having to put up with people asking about my family (don’t have one) and this one lady I work with who constantly brings up religious stuff and preaches at me (she knows I’m not christian and takes it upon herself to Jesus at me, even though I’ve told management about it. Most of the songs that we play over the system are blatantly Christian – little drummer boy, Mary did you know, that kind of crap, there’s nativities everywhere and christian-themed everything with nary a Star of David or Kwanzaa item in sight) and all that good stuff.

    1. Jedi hugs for you, but I’m mostly commenting to say that using Jesus as a verb is my new favourite thing. Thank you for that Midwinter Holiday Of Choice gift!

  97. I have given up xmas due to atheism, but the family still celebrates and I’ve had to move back home. I’m a trans guy, eight months pregnant, and my partner’s mental health problems just cycled back to abusing me today, though I listened to my fear and ran at the signals early enough to avoid physical abuse this time. And by early, literally the first words I spoke upon waking got me screamed at so I grabbed my bags and sat in the car in -20 from 6am on.

    Yesterday the Facebook posts were about how much my partner loved me and the baby and our modern family, today they’re public abuse and lies and I didn’t ignore it I engaged and it went on for a significant portion of the day.

    The hardest part is that I love my partner so much, but I have to let them go because their chaos just couldn’t ever benefit the baby. They really tried but they can’t keep their illness under control.

    I can only hope they’ve done as promised and gone to the hospital when they blocked me rather than going for their sixth suicide attempt in eight months. I just want to go back to the last month we had which was stressful but supportive. I miss them talking and singing to my belly already even though this only blew up again today.

    I’m scared that I won’t want to raise this baby alone when it comes. And it sucks that all the mental health resources I need are going to be out until January, like I hate this holiday to begin with why do so many public things have to stop for this religion?

    1. Oh, man, I’m *so* sorry that’s happening. I hope that you’re doing okay today, it’s been a lot of days since your post.

      (If you’re in the U.S.) I haven’t been a single parent but a peer support program called PEPS helped me, and in some places they’ve matched up groups specifically of single parents, since it works best when people really understand each other’s situation.

      Maybe people can suggest other resources for single parents. BTW I’m not concluding you’re single, I don’t know where you are, but since single parenting is on the table I bring it up to look at for a sense of “how would you do this?”

  98. We’re not having the entire family over for christmas this year, as about half are going to my aunt’s family, but I’m still dreading it.
    I don’t like my nan, and pretty much everyone else there who isn’t immediate family (and my sister’s Jewish boyfriend) I have never progressed past the small talk stage. Mum’s already pretty much said I can’t disappear upstairs, even though hello, introversion! So basically I’m going to be stuck awkwardly quietly sitting around the dinner table hogging the jug of Pimms and trying not to bug my friends on social media, since I dunno if I’ll have an easy exit D:

    When I’m moved out of home I will not be coming to the big family christmases – I will do the immediate family gift exchange in the morning, and then go straight back home thank you very much.

    There’s a reason one of my cousins has booked herself back into hospital for the christmas season, is all I’m saying.

    1. After the hot food/dessert, could you excuse yourself to go to the toilet “Back in a moment” and then just not come back? It might give you 30 minutes of much needed peace and solitude

  99. I fucking hate the holidays.

    It’s all judgemental assholes who question my lack of religion (because y’know it’s perfectly ok to tell a child at a young age that because they’re being raised in a non denominational christian church and they’re mum isn’t roman catholic that they’re going straight to hell), and this year is going to be full of “we’re not talking politics” while simultaneously talking politics and their support of trump (because yay for conservative republican families?).

    I’ll get made fun of mercilessly. Because I’d rather read than socialize with them. And they constantly refuse to hear/acknowledge my requests to stop teasing me. It’s fun for them but it’s torture for me. And constantly ignore that I’m on the Autism spectrum, bi polar, depressed, and have anxiety and asthma (and a good portion smoke). Because their right to tease me is more important than me feeling safe. And short of me getting sick, I unfortunately have no out from this.


    I feel a little better now that I’ve vented a bit but still not too happy.

    1. this year is going to be full of “we’re not talking politics” while simultaneously talking politics and their support of trump (because yay for conservative republican families?)

      Oooh, yes. I know that phenomenon well, and it is extraordinarily annoying.

      1. I just found out that I don’t have to go this year. I get to stay home, cuddle with the dogs and read/catch up on my book reviews. I am so happy that I could cry.

        But yeah that phenomenon is unfortunately almost every single day in my house and just exacerbated during holidays. And incredibly annoying. Because me liking history and knowing politics with it makes them not want to hear what I have to say

  100. I’m hiding in “my room” at my parents’ place, having travelled roughly 600 miles to be here. They are hoarders and the place is absolutely filthy. For the last two days I have partaken in the annual tradition of listening to my mother complain about how bad her health is and how terrible it is that she has so much to do this time of the year, but of course as soon as anyone else attempts to help they are doing everything wrong and then there’s more to complain about.

    My father is the main target of her abuse, so I’m pretty busy protecting him and trying to keep my mom from blowing a gasket because “Everyone is always protecting him”, while he behaves like a child. My brother can absolutely not be told anything other than that he is fantastic and everything he does is magic, because that is what my mom does, and he will take it personally if you so much as breathe at him the wrong way. Of course he cannot be excpected to clean or cook either. That is typically my job, but of course whatever I do is wrong. So whenever I attempt to clean any part of this house that hasn’t been cleaned for a year (with 3 cats and a dog living here on top of the 3 humans) I am corrected in some way or yelled at.

    After two days of this I just lost it when my mom yelled at me for trying to clean the brown stains off the white carpets, because her cats might walk on the (perfectly safe) carpet cleaner and that might irritate their paws. Full-on tantrum, vowing to never lift a finger to clean their fucking mess ever again. Now I’m stuck in this room, with just about 6 hours until the rest of my family comes to visit.

    So, instead of cleaning, I am now playing the “What should I feel most ashamed about?” game. I should have learned to be more patient at this age. I should have reminded myself that it’s only two weeks out of a whole year. I should have understood that my mom is stressed out, too. If I couldn’t put up with it for her sake, I should have thought of my father and brother. If I didn’t want to clean for them, it would still be worth it to not have to sit in the disgusting living room, with my other relatives either pitying or judging me. Instead I am now the main cause of all the drama and can be blamed for everything that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. My family turns me into a person I really don’t want to be every fucking year.

    And while I am seriously pissed, I mostly want to stay hidden under this blanket and slowly waste away, because my parents still don’t have their shit together and they are going to lose the house, and the dog is severely neglected, and my brother didn’t even finish school, and he will never work a day in his life, and none of them can be trusted with their own health, and there won’t be many christmases left…

    Bottom line: I can’t save them and they won’t save themselves. And I have nowhere else to go until January.

    1. You didn’t do anything wrong! You are correct: you can’t save them. You can’t! And they won’t save themselves unless they come to the point where it costs them something they want more than they wish to keep their inertia.

      I hope you tell the relatives “please rescue me”.

    2. I am so very sorry you’ve got hoarders in your family. You can’t save them and I know that feeling too well, I grew up with hoarders.
      Jedi hugs if they help, and I hope you find a space of your own soon.

  101. My partner and mother haven’t spoken for 18 mo for reasons I won’t get into (basically they both showed their ass and then painted themselves into self righteous corners they won’t come out of). So I’m doing a lot of Christmas day at my folks house and then coming home to make a dinner for Partner and his dad and sisters (his mom died two years ago and none of them can cook so it feels good to make something and have them over, when otherwise they’d be eating frozen dinners). I don’t mind the split, and I like cooking. My partner hates being alone on holidays and is whining about it to which I say “too bad you won’t even try to make up with my mom and I wanna see my family”. My mother is having a HORRIBLE time letting go of the holidays we had as kids, so she’s pissed that we won’t all be there for presents in the morning AND a big meal in the afternoon, and especially with me since clearly I’ll be spending the rest of the day with her new archnemesis, my partner. PLUS my favorite aunt is in town and my mother keeps maneuvering her away every time I try to invite her to dinner, or countering with plans for each day she’s suddenly had for weeks that no one knew anything about until I made an invitation. I have no idea what she has told my aunt (I would never share anything about the fight and stuff though I think she is worried I would) and her version is one sided almost to the point of delusion. Plus it’s Christmas Eve and I still have to go out for stocking stuffers for my kid because work has been so hectic I completely forgot. I feel like everyone is mad at me and I’m a crap mom/daughter/partner. Ugh!

    1. That sounds like such a rough place to be in the middle of. I hope things work out, and I also hope you manage to get time with your aunt. Could you pull her aside/call her cell phone/etc and ask her for some one-on-one time? Say something like, “I know you want to see my mother, but could you set aside some time away from her plans so we can go do Fun Thing X together”? Don’t know how the dynamics are with her, but if it works it could get around what your mother is trying.

  102. Thank you for this. I was so excited about coming home for Christmas this year, for my one year old’s first holiday with his grandparents and a week of relaxation from a dumb job and a long job search…but I find myself lashing out in anger and crying every day over the job situation. It came to a head Monday, I had to accept a part time temp job with a 2 hour commute that barely pays enough to break even, and I am just so mad and embarrassed that I am 30 years old with a kid and no “real” job in sight.

    The worst part is that I got an awesome offer about 6 months ago, but turned it down because my partner had accepted a dream job in our current city a month or two before (long hiring process), and living apart with a kid seemed too awful. Now I think it was a mistake because I am terrified I will never get another offer so good and it will just be years of low level jobs and following my partner and always being the one with the compromise job and long commute because I won’t have the earning power to support the family. (Partner knows this and says it is “my turn” next time i get a good offer, but what if there is no next time? What if I got one chance but my resume is decaying while I work filler jobs?) So I am anxious and dreading the new commute and jealous of my partner and that gives me a very short fuse.

    How do you stay good to others and stop crying when you are sad about life stuff like this? Has anyone else had rough holidays due to coming home and feeling like a failure? And too OLD to not have it together?

    1. I think there are many more people in the world who don’t have it together than those who do. I’m 41, married, two kids, and I still don’t have it together.

      I don’t know if this will help you but it helps me gain perspective when I’m freaking out about something that is really big. “One day not too far from now this will be a blip on the timeline of your life” It helps me remember that while it’s huge and all encompassing in the moment, overall it turns into one of those “remember that time” things.

      In 2012 my husband wanted to try living in Florida and we moved over 1200 miles across the country to make that happen. He found work right away. I did not. We lived in Florida for nearly 2 years and I found only one poorly paying, very pleasant to work at, hard to commute to job at a theme park. The whole time I kept thinking “OMG did I make a huge mistake? I am never going to find a job where I get paid as well as I did before.” I was wrong. We ended up moving again…to a different state (not the one we originally left) and I found a position with a company only minutes from my job, great pay, challenging, etc. So there’s hope for you yet!!! Your resume also doesn’t have to be about paid positions. Any chance you could volunteer or freelance to build up experience in your field?

      Having kids….especially such a young one…exacerbates the horrible feelings you’re going through right now. And you’ll hear people try to give you all the advice about how your kid won’t remember or some other drivel like that…but it never helps because you will remember and it kind of sours the whole thing for you.

      1. Thank you. I really appreciate hearing that people do recover from mistakes and setbacks like that. I hope it is just a blip.

    2. I’m 20 years older than you and I’m underemployed in a job a moron could do. In fact, one of my coworkers is pretty close to one so that proves it. 😉
      I too worry about my resume decaying and wonder why I went to college.
      Talk about feeling like a failure: I got fired once on Dec. 14. I was so ashamed I didn’t even tell my family till after Christmas.
      Please, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Especially about the age thing. One thing I can tell you from my Wise Old Throne is that things will change job-wise. A two-hour commute blows, sure. Just keep telling yourself it’s not forever, ’cause it isn’t. If I could go back in time, that’s what I’d tell myself.
      How wonderful that you have a child experiencing the holidays for the first time! I am fortunate enough to have wonderful memories of childhood holidays.
      And kudos to you for keeping it together. I don’t have kids but anyone who does and is trying to be a good parent deserves so much credit!
      Hugs if you want them.

      1. That must have been a hard Christmas! Thank you for empathizing, and I hope you find a job that fits you better soon.

        I definitely don’t feel like I am keeping it together but at least my partner is really understandingood and forgiving even when I lash out. My family, not so much, but we know how to drive each other mad and I am as guilty as anyone. At least my kid is having a fantastic time with his grandparents!

  103. I am generally not too enthused about Christmas as I hate all the crowds. This year I am spending Christmas with my boyfriend’s family in another country (which is awesome!) but I don’t speak the language very well, so communication is really hard and it feels lonely sometimes.

    In addition, back home, my sister told my mum via text a few days ago that she wasn’t going to go with her and my other sister to see mum’s family for Christmas but would be spending it with her friends instead. When mum asked if she could pay her back for the flights that have already been booked (weeks in advance and sister wanted to go), she replied that she didn’t owe mum anything. So… yeah.

    That sister is living with my Dad and his wife and her family right now and I think they’re influencing it. I’m kind of mad because I know my mum is hurt and upset, but I also think I know why my sister did it. My mum hasn’t treated her very well in the past few years due to other issues I won’t go into.

    It just seems like an extreme gesture when she’s upset with one person to completely cut out the rest of the family who have not done anything. I know she loves our grandparents and they are getting on, so their Christmases will be limited. Am I being too judgmental here? I am weary and skeptical because this is a pattern with my sister but also want to be supportive and not alienate her, but I basically got told it was none of my business when I tried to talk to her about it.

    I don’t know what to do and I hate feeling like this is my responsibility when I’m halfway across the world but it has definitely left a dampener on Christmas for me. 😦

    1. It’s definitely not cool that your sister left your mom on the hook for the airplane tickets. But I don’t think you should be getting on her case for not going to a family gathering that you are also skipping. Neither of you are bad kids for making that choice, by the way; you are putting some love and attention into an important romantic relationship, and your sister is putting love and attention into her important platonic relationships.

      I’m sorry that you feel responsible for mediating family conflicts. That’s a stressful position to be in and it’s not fair to you. You have every right to lay down that burden. If you feel like you absolutely must do some peacekeeping, perhaps focus on connecting your sister directly to the grandparents. (It could be a joint project for both of you to call/skype/see them more often.) That way you are respecting your sister’s feelings/boundaries with regards to your mother, but the grandchild/grandparent relationship isn’t being sacrificed as a result.

      You sound very caring, Catfish. But we can’t change or fix other people, even when those same people seemingly expect us to. Be kind to yourself this Christmas and enjoy your time with your boyfriend and his family.

      1. Thanks Philae. I feel like my situation is slightly different since I had this holiday planned for months and do not owe any parents money for it, but you are right that I am a little hypocritical in my feelings towards this the situation (Christmas is always a bit of a drama with my family so I was glad to get away!). If I did the same as her I would not appreciate guilt tripping.

        I have decided to support her for her decision, even though my mum definitely does not understand it. She did call my grandparents on xmas and I skyped them. My grandmother was not too happy with her for not coming and did not understand either unfortunately.

        I think that when I get back I will try to remain as neutral as possible to both sides and limit my involvement, which is difficult to do when my mother usually recounts everything back to me looking for me to agree. But I will try. I have not been very good at boundary setting with parents in the past but I will try again!

        I did have a lovely Christmas despite everything and I hope you did too if you celebrate it!

  104. I’ve been dreading visiting my parents this holiday. Last Christmas was a bit of a shitshow – the Black Lives Matter movement came up and I ended up making some grumpy social media posts that my family found and everything just fell to pieces. “I don’t know if our relationship will ever recover; why do you hate cops; how can you be so ungrateful” etc. I spent most of the time hiding in my bedroom. I’m in my mid-twenties.

    I’m also queer and nonbinary (pronouns: they/them) and closeted to my family. And dealing with a lot of mental health and body image issues. And struggling at my job due to mental health issues/lack of structure/a general dislike of the atmosphere. Fun times all around. It doesn’t feel emotionally safe to be vulnerable. I arrived home yesterday and have been feeling very tense/feeling like the atmosphere is kind of awkward and cold.

    And, since I feel like this crowd will be very validating about my job woes, a selection of cringe-worthy stories:
    I work in the tech field (cis white straight male dominated to the maxxxxxx). The company is small and only has two HR-ish people. One of them is the wife of one of the head dudes, let’s call her Sue. Around Halloween, one of the company leaders mentioned that Sue’s favorite halloween costume was “the crazy lady on X Street.” Sue followed this up with a mocking impression of said “crazy lady.” This was in the middle of a company-wide meeting.
    Another story: one of the sets of bathrooms has some western-y murals. One bathroom has some gunslingers. The other bathroom has a sexy white woman without pants pulling off some high heels and wearing an “Indian headdress.” :/
    Last one: I was having a breakfast meeting with the head guys and a few other coworkers. Someone walked by with a surgical face mask (like the kind some people wear when sick) and one person said “What was that?” I said “They’re probably sick?” and they said “But they weren’t Asian.” (They were black.) Another person chimed in “I think it’s a fashion thing. I’ve seen some thuggish people wearing them looking [r-slur].”

    Lots of jedi hugs to everyone in a low place this season.

    1. Indeed! Jedi jugs to you… and all of us! Although I’d like to give you a Jedi high-five, if you wish to accept it:

      I don’t work in tech, but I’ve worked in fields with similar demographics (I’m a cis white straight female), and Lee… you brightened up my day with “cis white straight male dominated to the maxxxxxx”! I want to use that, abbreviated, as an adjective: CWSM to the maxxxxxx. If spoken, I’d go with “see-dub-ess-em” for the acronym. And yes, I think the extra x’s are necessary when typed out. Optional: capitalize the M for effect: CWSM to the Maxxxxxx!

      Those bathroom murals? Ew! Like, so CWSM to the Maxxxxxx!

      1. I accept your Jedi high-five. I’m glad I brightened your day. 🙂 Go forth and make it a thing! Hahaha.

  105. SO INCREDIBLY SICK OF THE HOLIDAYS! I am sitting here at work freaking out because I still have SO much to do before bed tonight. Once it’s done it’s over and I will be able to enjoy some of the day tomorrow but OMG getting there is going to be rough. The good news is Hubby and I are taking the kids to see the new Star Wars movie tomorrow night so I am over the moon excited for that.

  106. I’m just praying and hoping that nothing rotten happens before the 26th. I’m doing OK today so far but I often have the Annual Holiday Meltdown on the 24th.
    Some stuff that has happened around the holidays (I swear I am jinxed):
    1. This year, my BFF’s sister died. They just buried her Monday.
    2. Last year, I had a huge fight with DH Christmas night, and our little rabbit died on the 28th. I quit my MFA program three days later, after a meltdown. I always look forward to NYE and I remember it striking midnight and thinking, “This is the WORST NYE EVER.”
    3. One year, our dog died on Dec. 30.
    4. I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed one year.
    5. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer 28 years ago. He’s been gone a long time and we never got along in real life but I always feel sad about it this time of year.
    6. Had a huge fight on Christmas Eve with DH years ago, he drank an entire bottle of wine and passed out. I ended up at Midnight Mass crying my eyes out. (This is only one of many Xmas fights).

    That’s all I can think of right now. I know some of these events were of my own doing (fighting, for e.g.) and at this point, I consider Christmas a success if I get through it without an argument.

    I am, however, looking forward to seeing the “Doctor Who” special in the theater on Monday. And I saw a great meme from Cheryl Richardson yesterday. It says, “Plans change. People disappoint. Traditions expire. Release your expectations of the holidays and be open to surprise.”

    P.S. If I never here “Christmastime is Here” by Vince Garaldi ever again, I shall be a happy girl.

  107. I can’t tell if it’s depression, or stress, or just things changing, but I’m just so tired and numb and not experiencing any part of the holidays this year. Thanksgiving? No turkey, no cranberry sauce, just rushing from one family dinner to another. And this Christmas season? Half-assed shopping, no Christmas cookies or egg nog, just working until I feel like I’m asleep on my feet, and not being able to take any time off. I strung Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving, but other than that and one half-day of shopping, this “holiday season” is indistinguishable from any given three week period in January.

    My brother is in town, but he’s not reaching out right now. He’s doing things with his girlfriend and her son and my parents, and I know they’re all busy and I’m exhausted anyway, but before he came up, he said he wanted a very traditional Christmas, and it stings a little that my wife & I weren’t invited to come over and bake cookies or trim the tree or do anything but show up Christmas morning. And because I know they’re busy, and maybe because of the crazy in my head, I don’t want to invite myself to something when I know they’re trying to fit as much in as possible.

    I very sneakily refused the Christmas bonus at work. On the one hand, I’m so far behind on some things that I wonder that I’m not fired, so I don’t think I’m worth a $50 bonus. On the other hand, yesterday afternoon I made phone calls and found a way to save the company over $5k in taxes after the company CPA gave up on the problem, and part of my brain says I should be offended by such a small amount. Basically, I’ve found a way to be unhappy about the issue no matter what happens. Yay!

    The last few years, I’ve spent part or all of Christmas day sick, crashing from stress. It’s not exactly healthy, but I’m looking forward to it this year, because it means I can just *stop* for a day. Except there’s Christmas morning presents, Christmas dinner, and the day after Christmas, a lunch with my father and brother to discuss money and health issues regarding my parents. Oh, and because of the holiday timing, I’ll probably work from home over the weekend.

    I just want to win the lottery so I can quit my job, sleep for a week, and not worry so damn much.

  108. So I’m binge-watching on Hulu and the Pioneer Woman’s ad for Walmart might be the worst thing about this holiday. How much Xanax is she on? Why does the food look gross?

  109. Every year from we got our second child to the year before last, someone in our house had the rota or noro virus. What does it say about my husband and me when we would fight over who got to stay at home with the puking child while the other one went to the family christmas dinner with the healthy child? And even worse? We were really disappointed when noone got ill last year or this.

    We moved 500 miles away, on the other side of a mountain and a couple of fjords. Still, when we got to november and the kids said the only thing they really wanted for christmas was to visit the grandparents, we caved. Next year, my sister has promised to deal with them, and I WILL have a year off.

    We have done some major boundary settings the last year (including the move), and it has hjelped. We are still exhausted after having been here for 24 hours (60 to go), but the grandparents are behaving decently enough. They are very good, although a bit over enthusiastic grandparents for the kids. And I will endure a lot of discomfort for my kids.

  110. We live on the other side of the continent from all our family and friends. My in-laws have been so good at sending cards and gifts and love, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. My family? Oh, my foreign family (aka, my dead mom’s family) is great – cousins have sent cards, gifts, and my Jewish half-sister even called to wish us Merry Christmas, all things that cost money and time and fuss, but is worth it according to them.

    My American family? My dad hasn’t even sent a card, despite my sending a card and gifts (modest) to both him and his wife, and to his elder brother (my only surviving uncle, who did send us a Christmas card and said thank you for his gift). My only American sibling hasn’t even sent a card, despite my sending a card and gifts (less modest) to him, his wife, and their kids.

    I love my husband, and I love my in-laws. They are genuinely decent people who adore me as a welcome member of their family. But I still am wounded by how *my* American father, my only surviving parent, ignores me and ignores my husband. When I think of the years that I spent obediently driving 4+ hours to visit him and get put to work on the farm, the cards that I always sent, the gifts that I always sent (and that were always criticized in some shape or form), I just don’t understand why he can’t take 5 minutes and send a card. He does it for other people – including my brother – just not me.

    I think this is the year that I’m not going to call either of them on Christmas day. Nuts to them. If they want to talk with me, they can pick up the phone and dial. And going forward, I am going to put zero effort in keeping in touch. I feel like a puppy that’s been kicked one too many times. I’ll keep in touch with my family abroad because they acknowledge my husband and I exist. But my American family? They clearly don’t value me, so why should I waste time on them?

    *Fighting tears on Christmas eve as I write this, because my husband is already upset for me, and I don’t want to make his Christmas any worse. It’s been a hard year, and we’re really hoping to get new jobs and relocate to a different area where we have friends and a better life. One that I’m increasingly realizing cannot include my American family, for my own mental and emotional health.

  111. I have one foot out of the closet and just finished a stressful conversation with my mom about attending church service. The pastor at this church has publicly disclosed that he refuses to marry same-sex couples. I’m not looking forward to having to listen to his sermon knowing that about him. I’m only going to spend time with my family. I wish I could be more honest about my (lack of) relationship with God with my mom, but her faith is very important to her. I don’t want to worry her over something that she can’t change. It also just felt weird and gross to talk about my bisexuality with my mom; I think it was a combination of “who wants to talk to their mom about who they want to sleep with?!?!” and “I never talk about my same-sex attraction with anyone this is massively uncomfortable!!!” and now I feel like crap about everything. I wish spending time with family didn’t come with so much baggage. I really need to find people to talk to about this because it’s lonely, and I feel like I have no one in my corner over the holidays, especially.

    1. I’m sorry your holiday was stressful and hope it got better and less lonely. I can relate to talking with your mom; I came out to my parents a couple of days ago and rather than relief, I felt really exposed. It’s common to hear people say coming out felt like a weight off their shoulders, but it wasn’t that way for me, so you’re not alone in feeling uncomfortable about it.

  112. I’m just really tired of every Christmas ending up the same way. My dad’s family think my mom’s family consists of snobs, and my mom’s family thinks my dad’s family consists of inbred idiots.

    No matter what you can’t trust either side. Dad’s family will always find a way to blame you for whatever upset your parents, and mom’s family will use whatever you say against you at any given moment.

    Holidays in my family are not meant for relaxing, and celebrating; nope, it’s just people badmouthing each other and finding a way to put you down. And since I’m working on my master thesis people will always come up and find a way to poke fun at me for taking so long (I’m 29, and started studying when I was almost 23). I already have issues with working on my university stuff and feeling useless and feeling like a terrible person already, I don’t need them to tell me that I’m already “soo old, and will never find a job”. It’s not helping.

    I really don’t like Christmas this year. I just want to curl up in bed and binge-watch Gotham.

  113. I’m just really tired of every Christmas ending up the same way. My dad’s family think my mom’s family consists of snobs, and my mom’s family thinks my dad’s family consists of inbred idiots.
    No matter what you can’t trust either side. Dad’s family will always find a way to blame you for whatever upset your parents, and mom’s family will use whatever you say against you at any given moment.

    Holidays in my family are not meant for relaxing, and celebrating; nope, it’s just people badmouthing each other and finding a way to put you down. And since I’m working on my master thesis people will always come up and find a way to poke fun at me for taking so long (I’m 29, and started studying when I was almost 23). I already have issues with working on my university stuff and feeling useless and feeling like a terrible person already, I don’t need them to tell me that I’m already “soo old, and will never find a job”. It’s not helping.

    I really don’t like Christmas this year. I just want to curl up in bed and binge-watch Gotham.

  114. My best friend has been texting/long distance totally-not-a-relationship-ing with a guy who sounds terrible (I haven’t met him, but the stories I’ve heard are low levels of Darth Vader). Even she seems to lowkey realize this because she hid the fact that he would be spending three days over Christmas with her and her extended family from me and her other best friend until we explicitly asked about it. This is my second year spending Christmas away from my family, which I don’t mind for me, but I know it really makes my grandma sad because half of the family is working and won’t be at her house for the holiday.
    Why does this time of the year need to be so stressful!?!

  115. Christmas fucking Eve, and I’m at my second bar of the evening. I’m sure there are people who enjoy this and can make it festive, but for me, dating someone who needs to get drunk with strangers is a deal breaker. I fucking hate this shit. I had a nice meal planned- and now I’m trying not to breathe cigarette smoke and had fucking happy hour nachos for dinner. Fuck this.

  116. This is relatively small potatoes compared to everyone else’s complaints here… But this is the first Christmas where I’ll be completely alone. My dad is working, the rest of my family is 1500 miles away, and I have no significant other or IRL friends. I didn’t think I would be this bothered by it, but I feel incredibly isolated and am missing my traditions something fierce.

  117. I love how this thread is packed and the other one…isn’t. (Makes sense, since people who like the holidays aren’t going to spend them online, but funny when viewed from afar.) Happy commiseration, my fellow would-be holiday-hermits!

      1. It seems like nobody’s feeling it this year. Not sure why. I personally have some minor financial and family troubles, but that’s not really it… Things have been bad before and I’ve felt the season. But this year? Nothing.

  118. Well, I managed to avoid Christmas Eve family stuff today, mainly the present unwrapping at stepbrother’s house. I do enjoy the company of the family members I acquired when my dad remarried, but watching the gift exchange among the spouses and kids when I have neither of my own… really, really sucks.

    I remember when I was an undergrad in college, walking through a local mall during this time of year, looking at the decorations. I was a bit depressed at being single at the holidays that year, but I consoled myself with the thought that someday I would have a husband (not necessarily kids, though), and we’d have our own decorations to put up and our own holiday traditions that we started together. Now it’s 20+ years later, and that never happened. I suppose it still could, and I still want it, but I can’t let myself start thinking it will ever happen — hurts too much when another year passes and I’m still single. I cried a bit this morning about it, but it’s not as bad as it was several years ago; it feels weird to grieve something you never had, but that’s what it felt like then.

    Anyway, it’s been a nice, quiet day of lounging in my pajamas, surfing the net, and watching TV by myself. Not what I would have chosen, if I had better options, but it’s free of any stress and drama, and I didn’t really have the energy for anything else this year. I’ve even been watching a couple of my favorite classic Christmas movies: Die Hard and Die Hard 2. I’m bummed none of the cable channels are showing Gremlins tonight. Guess I need to get a copy on DVD or Blu-Ray so I have it handy for my new tradition of a Christmas Eve triple feature.

    I know many of you out there are having a much more difficult holiday season than I am right now — I wish you all the best. You are not alone — hang in there!

  119. I’m finally pulling out of a 3.5yr, incapacitating depression, so yay!, but this Christmas is sucking a major one.

    My 17.5yo dog, who’s been ill before, suffered her 3rd major stroke-like episode, tore her ACL in the process, and is rapidly mentally and physically decompensating to where I’ll probably have to put her down at the beginning of the year (at the latest). She’s my best buddy; she’s saved my life more than once; she’s the only family I have.

    I’m really nervous that no matter how much I’m preparing myself that I’ll be pulled back into that horrendous depression, which I’m not sure I could survive this time around. I do have a weekly talk therapist and my meds are some freaky miracle magic cocktail (after 15 years of mixing!).

    Any ideas on how to practice some broke-as-a-joke “furious happiness” in an effort to override my brain juices?

    1. I don’t have an immediate idea regarding your question, but may I suggest making a self-care plan for when you have to put your beloved dog down? You know, what to do in the hours, days, weeks afterwards – things that might help keep you more stable. Maybe also something you can prepare beforehand (like planning a trip to the movies or preparing some meals for yourself so you won’t have to cook when you’ll be exhausted anyway). If you’re going to meet your therapist before the date, they might be able to assist.

      In any case, I’m really sorry your dog isn’t well.

  120. Long time reader, have benefited greatly from the advice and ideas of CA. Currently sighing over being subjected to dad’s BFF, who I find exhausting on the best of days. Today I am jetlagged and migrainey, so not one of my best days. She talks really, really fast, usually loud, and every conversation has to be confrontational / competitive. I told dad I’d like to have peace for Christmas, and just the two of us at least for one of the three days of Christmas that we celebrate. (We’re going in a visit tomorrow.) Dad let me choose, the principle being that I would have one quiet day with him. I opted for people tomorrow, quiet today. Then he sprung the BFF on me anyway, so I will have to people two days in a row. Of course it’s his home so he can invite anyone he wants, but it’s a matter of giving me the info to manage my peopling, and not going back on decisions. And I can’t back out of tomorrow, which is the visit I wanted to do in the first place, but I am worried about being overwhelmed and tired and grumpy.

  121. Oof… Normally I enjoy the holidays, but this year… Well, this year is the year I will look back on in the future as I say, “At least it’s not as bad as December 2015”. Blech. Some of the stuff is big; a family member (not someone I’m super close to, thankfully) just died, another family member has cancer (this one I AM close to), another is getting divorced (and I found out in about the most awkward way possible). Some of it’s smaller; I missed a day of work (and had to use up my precious vacation time) because of a snow storm keeping me on the wrong side of the mountain pass, my tire was destroyed when I finally made it over (and I had a huge tow truck bill), the family that was going to come visit me for the holiday (for the first time EVER! Which I’ve been wanting them to do because the travel is awful and it’s nice to trade off on it) couldn’t because of the same mountain pass, and I had what would normally be a survivable conflict with a friend, but thanks to everything else I’m having a hard time coping with it (and it’s the one thing I can actually work on, so I keep picking away at it in my mind instead of letting it go for a few days since I won’t see the person again until January anyway). The last few days have involved a lot of crying and snarling and the use of what the movie industry euphemistically calls Language. I’ve had some bright points over the last few weeks (including an awesome Team Me who has jumped in on several occasions to help/rescue me when I was stranded with a busted car/rescue my unfed kitties when I was stuck/etc), but it’s still been awful. In just a few days I will be with my extended family for awhile, which is a Happy Thing and I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve got to get to that part of my vacation first. Sigh.

  122. This is an utterly ridiculous thing to be so irritated about, but I live on my own now. I am a legal adult, and living more or less independently. Yes, it’s only been a few months, and yes, I’m living in residence– but I’m still basically a grown up. So please, for the love of God, can my mother’s friends stop asking her what I want to eat and drink when I’m standing right there. I am so sick of being lumped in with my brother– what do “your kids” want for dinner, do “your kids” drink apple juice (wtf, no), and on and on. It was irritating enough when I was 15 and he was 6. Now it’s just stupid. If you want me in your house, treat me like an adult, not as an extension of my mom. Do not ask her if it’s “okay” for me to do something. She does not give me permission to do things anymore– that is part of moving out of the house. She is great about acknowledging that I’m in charge of myself now (probably because she never really told me what to do in the first place), but her friends are driving me up the wall.

    I mean, I get it if you’re offering me alcohol, since I’m not technically legal for another couple months. But then again, like, it’s illegal for you to give me booze no matter what; it’s still you suggesting that she’s the boss of me, and she’s not.

    (I recognize how completely childish this rant sounds, which is why I will definitely be refraining from complaining about it to my mom. But it’s got my back up, and then I get aggravated about tiny innocuous little things like her reminding me to bring a jacket– yes, it’s nice, thanks for looking out for me, but I remember my own god damn jacket every day while I’m living six hours away! Leave me alone!)

    1. You don’t have to complain to your mother, but you can still get help from her. When one of her annoying friends speaks to her instead of you when you’re standing right there, she could say “why are you asking me? Kayla is standing right here.” When one asks her if it’s okay for you to do something, she could say “She’s an adult. I couldn’t dictate that sort of thing if I wanted to and I don’t.” Give her these scripts and ask her to use them. If she doesn’t– and I can see that it’s easier for her not to bother– burst out laughing. You’ll be asked what’s so funny, and you’ll answer “Auntie Mae, I’m 21 years old, and you just asked my mother if I drink apple juice! What an adorable and funny habit.”

    2. I have had some success with jumping in and saying, “I can speak for myself, thanks. No, I’m not an apple juice fan, but I’d love some water,” or whatever your feelings on [apple juice] would be. Or, “One of the awesome things about being an adult is that I make those choices for myself.” (You can probably find a better way to say that if that wording doesn’t work for you.) Especially if your mom isn’t willing to jump in, or if you don’t want to ask her, it can be helpful to be low-key and just mention it in a way that’s direct but not making a big deal out of it. It’s a reasonable reaction to have. For that matter, some of the questions like, “Do your children want apple juice?” should be addressed to your brother, who if I’m doing the math right is 11 or so. Even children as young as 2 can have an opinion on that, let alone an 11 year old.

      1. Another option that has pretty much the same effect is to skip the clarifying statement (“I can speak for myself”) and simply answer the question, possibly in a bland, friendly tone. (I tend to avoid saying anything that might sound antagonistic in these kinds of situations, because if I’m irritated it WILL show and I will end up sounding immature or rude.)

        With the same goal in mind, your mom could also bounce her friend’s question back at you:
        “What do your kids want to drink?”
        “Hey, Kayla, what would you like to drink?”

        I suggest these options as a touchy person who grew up in a family of very touchy people. In my environment, a direct call-out — even about something as small as this — is likely to cause DRAMA. You know your environment best, of course.

      2. Oh, and I agree that it sounds like some of these questions should be addressed to you and your brother anyway. I remember people asking me what I wanted to drink, at least, far earlier than when I was ten.

  123. So, I got my period right before starting my vacation. Yeah, I know, compared to some of the things other people are going through in this very thread, cue world’s tiniest violin! In my case, however…well, let’s just say most times I can make peace with the biological sex I was assigned at birth. Getting my period, however, makes me hate the everloving fuck out of my body and being female. I can’t even have children–I got sterilized a year ago in hopes of calming my tokophobia and alleviating some of the disgust I feel toward the under-7 set, and, well, I had more success with the former than the latter. But that aside, there is absolutely no need for my body to put me through this, so whenever it arrives (it’s always been irregular), it feels like my uterus is giving me a glaring hate-fuck. I feel betrayed by my body right now, but I also can’t tell if that’s just the hormones raging out of control. But then I also start thinking that if my body would just stop with the goddamn periods already, I wouldn’t have the hormones, so that sets off a vicious cycle I really do not need.

    So…health goal for 2016: trace down every gyno, if necessary, in both states where my insurance coverage is guaranteed and beg for an ablation. Also maybe start asking about double mastectomies, because I think it’s bullshit that the periods will eventually take care of themselves if I just wait long enough, but I’m otherwise stuck with these other unwanted relics of puberty until…well, after I’m dead, actually.

  124. My friend Clàudia is 26 and she is spending the holidays in the hospital where she is receiving a very strong chemotherapy. Her parents are there with her every day. Yesterday night, all the group of friends of her parents, including my parents and I, went there to surprise them. We couldn’t enter where Clàudia is because she needs to be isolated in a sterile environment but she was really surprised and grateful, and we hanged out with her parents outside. It was the saddest Christmas night we’ve lived but also the nicest because of friends’ love and support.

  125. This morning I checked my FB thread and found a post from a friend about remembering all those who might be alone or struggling at Christmas.

    I wanted to breathe fire. Then post on his thread, “Oh, you mean like you forgot about me all those years I was too sick to do all the work of managing the friendship? After I dragged myself out in severe pain all those times to help you or hang with you? And as soon as your life got better, you didn’t lift a finger, even though you admitted you could have and couldn’t be arsed?” (I didn’t. But I thought it. It’s stuff I’ve said to his face, in a slightly more polite manner, and gotten a kind of apology. But nothing ever got better,)

    My life has gotten a lot lonelier since I started returning the awkward to sender. But it’s lonely on my terms. I get lest aftertaste of bullshit.

    There’s some pretty awesome emotional support in my life. I’d have been dead ages ago without it. Trouble is that everyone’s far away, or swamped, and it’s hard for me to get to see them. I make plans to see people and BOOM, Evil Chronic Health Condition kicks me in the ass and it’s everything I can do to sit upright or walk myself to the bathroom, much less visit. Public spaces are not friendly to my disability and my ability to tolerate them is random. To get a visit, or be able to visit, feels like a super special thing instead of normal life. When it happens, it’s great, and I feel normal. The rest of the time, I feel like I’m in some invisible prison.

    So my support is mostly virtual. Very little in meatspace.

    I have one parent in a nursing home and I’m the only kid. There are other things, too. Basically, if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. If I don’t manage the details, they won’t happen. If I can’t manage the details of my friendships and my wonky random health and every other fracking detail in my life, I’ll suffer and suffer alone.

    I don’t HATE the holidays. They just remind me how isolated I am and how little I can do about any of it. The “return the awkward to sender” thing, though? BEST PRESENT EVER.

    1. “My life has gotten a lot lonelier since I started returning the awkward to sender.” Ugh, tell me about it. I’m such an introvert that I wish wealthy people still hired hermits to live in secluded homes somewhere on their vast estates, but of course this also means that I don’t meet many people and only have a small group that I would consider real friends. This year, I made two friends! Then had to African Violet both of them, which also kinda reinforced my sense of, “Oh, what’s the point?”

  126. I’m in Australia, so Christmas Day has just come to an end, and thank heavens. For me, it was… awful. In past years, I’ve been able to handle our conflict-filled, noisy, chaotic extended family. I’ve felt that despite the tears and the yelling, it’s been worth. But not this year. Is it that my relatives were particularly obnoxious, or have I changed?

    I can’t deal with the constantly raised voices and the fights about nothing and the martyrdom complexes. I can’t deal with racism or sexism conspiracy theories. I can’t deal with drunk feelingsbombs that involve triggering subjects and I can’t deal with no less than six different relatives trying to guilt trip me because my partner is in a different city with his own family this year and because I moved to a different city 10 years ago. I am introverted, sensitive and absorb emotion and stress very easily… I felt like I was drowning, or in a wind tunnel, or gasping for breath.

    I feel a bit emotionally unsafe still, because I’m staying with my family and I’m a long way from my partner and home and it’s all a bit full on, but at least Christmas day is over. Man, thinking about the crazy amounts of mansplaining, manipulation and sexism I just put up with actually makes my blood boil. Anyone but family and I’d be walking out the door, so why did I subject myself to that?

  127. Oh Awkwardeers, I feel so lonely and distant from my friends. (warning: misery-fest approaching!)

    Last year I made an effort, drew a special Christmas picture for all my friends and emailled it out and did Christmas texts and tried to feel close to them, but it didn’t work. This year I just didn’t bother. I’m worn out from retail, Christmas is bookended by two long exhausting days for us. I’ve lost touch with so many friends. In 2015 someone I thought was a close friend moved to the other side of the world without any advance warning and without saying goodbye. She keeps saying ‘come and visit!’ but it feels even more hollow than when my friends usually say that because when will I ever find the money or the time? Why do I always have to be the one to travel and keep in touch? Most of them all forgot me and my miserable self years ago. I’m sick of friendship being so painful, sick of the constant urge to just break all these friendships and start affresh. I have a lot of issues with friendship as you can see and recently I’ve been thinking about how I have very few female friends (I am a woman) and whether I should try and make some. But I don’t know how. I’ve recently realised that my deeply suppressed romantic feelings towards women have not helped me in this area. I’m always second guessing, should I even add a new friend on facebook in case I seem too keen or creepy? I just don’t know how to shut off these worries. All my friendships with women get ruined. Most of my friends are trans men or non-binary cafab and a few cis men. I try really hard not to be the ‘cool girl’ who is ‘different from those other girls’ (you know what I mean) so that’s not what it is..I hope. I don’t know. I sometimes feel guilty for being so lonely as I have a wonderful boyfriend who is my best friend, so I shouldn’t need more (but I do). I have to keep reminding myself that its normal to want friends AND a relationship, in fact its healthy for your social life to not all be one person. And i have a family to be with even if we fight sometimes. I often feel guilty for wanting to come out to my friends as bisexual because I’m with a man (why would they care about this part of me?) I have so many friends who I seem to support and help but they don’t do the same for me, and I don’t know how to ask or even if I should.

    Next year I want to get to more London Awkward meets and bring my craft stuff and enjoy the company. Or maybe I’ll try and find a craft meet nearby. Thanks for making this thread Captain. ❤

  128. I’d be enjoying the holiday a lot more if my little nephew hadn’t spent the entire day alternately screaming and whining. It’s a never ending unpleasant noise while his parents look on apathetically. Just. Shut. Up. For two seconds! Now he’s howling.

    He’s only 1 and a half so its not exactly his fault. But he has everything a child could want, he’s not ill, and he’s *always* like this. I swear I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile.

    Sigh. Am I an asshat for finding this tiny child so bloody annoying?

    1. Well, I cannot be around tiny children for any length of time at all without literally seeing red (yay synesthesia), and I’m pretty sure I am an asshat. Of course, even the sound of them giggling or any other allegedly cute noises feels like someone stabbing rusty nails into my spine, so I may just have a particularly bad phobia, but at least you’re not alone?

    2. I’m on the other side from nottakennotavailable, since I can enjoy kids a lot (although not always, and not all of them), and I have a large amount of patience with screaming fits and tantrums (not that the kiddos get their way, but I can endure them well). And to me that sounds incredibly annoying, and… wrong somehow. How often do you see him? Because if it’s only every now and then, I’d say maybe this is an exception. Or maybe he has something like sensory integration issues and being around the whole family is unbearable for him at present. Or maybe a parenting issue. Or something else. But most 1 1/2 year olds have periods when they are pleasant to be around.

    3. Nope. Not an asshat. I’m a mom to two kids and really understand that not every person in the world finds them as delightful as I do. Most parents don’t understand that. My sister is one of them. She’s totally disconnected. She refuses to parent her child but gets irritated when others step in to do it for her. Her idea of parenting falls into two categories: sit and yell or sit and ignore. My niece, who at one time was an adorable toddler, is now a not-so-cute six year old who can’t follow basic instructions and has no manners. She will literally step into a person’s line of sight while they’re talking or doing an activity to take all the focus. She does this smile that I know at one time people thought was cute, but all it does is make me want to slap her. My sister says stuff like “Chillax” or “Step off” to her kid as if those are parenting terms. I have another sister who has two boys that I can’t even be around. Her oldest has autism and because of his diagnosis apparently she’s decided that she doesn’t have to set up rules or boundaries for him. He gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it. He wanted to ride in the front seat at age 3? Yep! Because he’s autistic. (Seriously…that is what his parent’s told the cops when they got pulled over. Cop told them he didn’t care what the kid had, they were putting his life at risk!) He is mouthy and rude. His mom LAUGHS when he is rude. Why? Because he’s autistic. Now she’s got another kid…who isn’t autistic…and he’s as big an ass as the autistic kid. I’m thinking they’re not asshole kids because of Autism. I think they’re asshole kids because they have asshole parents.

  129. Two boundaries I have enforced today: Correcting my mother out loud and in public, every time she claims that I “don’t like” the food to which I am seriously allergic. (Seriously, an unimportant side dish, and the only food I don’t eat, but one regularly used to make the implication that I am a hugely picky eater who destroys family meals.)

    Saying “I don’t like it when you call me pretentious and I want you to stop” both times that my sister has called me pretentious today. Once when I provided an asked-for French translation (I speak French), and once when I knew what decanting was when someone asked.

    The result is that I’m on my own (with incidental roller blade-related concussion) while the rest of the family laugh together, but I guess it’s always difficult at first?

    1. Good for you for sticking to your guns! Yes, enforcing new boundaries is always most difficult the first few times until everyone else learns that this is the new normal, but make sure you keep sticking to it and eventually it gets better. (And if you prefer, I know CA has had some lovely alternative boundary-enforcing scripts; the super direct one for the first few times, and then after that something referring them back to the original conversation, or changing the subject, or whatever would work for your family.)

      And as a fellow French speaker, I will add that totally aside from any issues in your family, one of the things that drives me crazy is that so many people think that French speakers are pretentious just for speaking French. I know that centuries ago the French took over England and their words became the “upper-class words” because they were in charge and so richer. I know that this makes native English speakers cranky about French, as a rule. But it’s just a language! Spanish or Japanese speakers don’t get that grief. Sheesh!

      Anyway, Jedi hugs and I hope things get better soon.

      1. Thanks! I have had success with the super-direct method with my family and fat-shaming in the past – my immediate family just seems to have got over that now! So I’m hoping it’ll continue with the pretension thing.

        I’ve actually been living in France for two years now, so it’s less pretentious that I speak French and more… A basic necessity for being able to communicate with the people around me! And also it’s a pretty language, and I like feeling like I have a semi-secret code when I’m at home. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that!

        Thanks for the Jedi hugs! I’ve never commented here before but people seem so nice!

  130. Awkadeers, please someone relate to this!

    Does anyone else have parents that buy them clothes during the holidays? My mom always tries to buy me clothing, and although she’s lessened these attempts, they 1. never fit properly 2. they are never in a style that I can actually wear 3. she gets hurt/seems put out when I cannot wear them or won’t (usually it is the former due to sizing, but in the past it was both).

    It’s hard to talk about with people because the gut reaction is “well be lucky you HAVE parents who buy you clothes”, but that means nothing if it’s something I can’t wear and ends up in a giant guilt trip afterwards.

    And I think, when people hear this, they are thinking reasonable style differences or something; I am not very chic or hip, the clothing I wear is fitted and suits me but I’m not some fashion diva rejecting comfy, cozy clothing. It’s more like….garish, clashing colors or jackets that don’t break the wind but still look awful.

    I’m 26 and she’s 66; I just don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want to be ungrateful, but this stresses us both 😦

    1. I absolutely relate – my favorite grammy sends me care packages that are terrible. I simply say thank you, try it on when she is around, and promptly put it in a goodwill bin. When she asks about it later, I tell her it didn’t fit right or that it got messed up and I am sorry. I get the frustration.

    2. Fortunately, my mother doesn’t buy clothes for me other than the occasional pair of slippers, but sometimes she tried to pass on clothes she got from someone else to me. On the other hand, I’ve been able to spend most of the last decade telling her “no, that won’t work for me.” Actually, what bugs me now is when she tries to buy stuff for my living space (dishes, kitchen utensils, bathroom accessories, etc).

      But I can still relate, because the stuff falls into similar categories: 1) not something I’d ever use, 2) colors or design I don’t like, 3) falls into a realm of kitsch far beyond pink flamingos and dancing, singing Santa figures that I’d never, ever want to own. And she does feel hurt or acts put out if her gifts aren’t a big hit. I figured out a while ago that she has some sort of thing where she buys the things she wants and gives them to other people. (Actually, she has a whole lot of unconscious issues around gift giving that have become issues for the rest of us.) And this isn’t limited to the holidays. Surprise gifts of some sort come a couple of times a month throughout the year, at a minimum. It’s tiring, and both my brother and I now have a sort of quasi-PTSD related to surprise gifts from her. Nothing scares us quite so much as hearing her say: “I got you a surprise!”

      To stave off getting stuff I don’t need or want, I will sometimes suggest going shopping for a specific thing with her — that way I get the thing I need or want, and she gets to give it as a gift. Plus we get to spend some time together. I don’t know if this would work with your mom. Have you tried asking her straight out, “Mom, please don’t buy me clothes unless I am with you to pick them out and try them on. I appreciate you thinking of me, but it hasn’t worked out very well for either of us in the past.”?

    3. It was a revelation to me when I started thanking people, including my mother, for the gift they gave me, not the gift they thought they gave me, as in: “Gosh Mom, that’s awfully sweet of you to want to buy me clothes. This doesn’t fit, and it’s not my style, but the thought is lovely, and I can always drop off what doesn’t suit to Salvation Army. They love new clothes, and it can make us both feel good that that someone will be delighted to find it for a good price.”

      1. Following up on my own post to offer another way of thanking someone for the gift given: “Mom, the clothes you gave me are the sort you wear, not the sort I do. Thanks anyway, but it’s like you’re hoping that if you can dress me differently, I’ll turn into a sort of mini-you who wears and appreciates these things.” If I’ve hit the nail on the head, your mother will argue like crazy, and you can say “oh, maybe that’s not the explanation,” but the inappropriate clothing gifts will stop. After a fashion (heh), that’s a win. I mean, it’s as close to a win as you can get under the circumstances. If I’m wrong and that’s not the dynamic for what’s going on, you can still say “oh, maybe that’s not the explanation.”

    4. My grandma does this. But since she lives far away and its only once a year, I can put up with it. I always used to lie and say I loved it, but then my sister came along, with her tendency for honesty, and we all just started telling the truth (as nicely as we could) about it. Though it still makes me so uncomfortable to be like “it’s a great fabric, but it’s not my style so…”. In fairness, I still tend to lie a bit. With a mum, that’s got to be more difficult! No advice really, but sympathy!

    5. I sympathise. My mother tried to buy me clothes when I was in my 20s. Usually it was a near duplicate of something that I’d already owned in the past and no longer wore. Sometimes it was just baffling – what on earth made her think I wanted a brown western shirt with cactuses appliqued onto the front? I suppose she had trouble getting over the fact that I was an adult.

  131. So far I have had to endure blurry cellphone pictures taken of old photographs Darth Sister found of us as ‘happy sisters’ together as small children. I’m going to assume in an attempt to guilt me over all my ‘utterly unreasonable boundaries’.

    And then my dad accidentally poisoned me. He decided the scrambled eggs needed a good big glug of milk, forgetting that me and stepmom are both very lactose intolerant and have told him dozens of times not to sneak milk into stuff. This is why I have food trust issues.

    1. Yikes! Jedi hugs! Would it help if you asked each and every time if something had dairy in it, or would he lie/conveniently “forget”?

      1. He wouldn’t lie, I just totally forgot to ask because I have never made eggs with milk in them (for obvious reasons) and he’s always made eggs with milk. And it is easy to forget. (Heck, I’ve somewhat recently had some issues with potatoes and I still sometimes go ‘oh, hey, perogis! I haven’t had those in a while. I should buy some’ and either then remember, or my husband reminds me that they’re potato) And I’m also blaming my Darth Sister some too. Because the whole time he was cooking she was finding excuses to yell at him to talk to her, come in and see something, or coming in and shoving things at him. Because she must have attention 24/7 or she explodes. So he was already busy and stressed and it’s hard to think with someone shoving presents in your face and loudly going “This one says to A, but it looks like one of the presents for B! Is it for A or B? Do you remember wrapping it? I mean it says for A, but…”

        The good/bad followup. Went back to dinner and mentioned (and got) a law laid down. No touching any of the cooked food with bare hands. Half the family’s been getting over some sort of cold-type virus, several more have been getting sick. There’s no reason not to have good food safety. Dad started to reach for a chunk of stuffing, I reminded him “Oh, right, right. I’ll get a fork.” Sister’s boyfriend started to reach to pull some skin off the turkey and dad stopped him “Fork!” “Right” and he went and grabbed one, no problem.

        My sister comes in, sneezes into her hand, wipes her nose with it, and starts to jam her hand into the platter of cooked turkey to grab some. “Fork!” She ignores it and keeps going. My dad and her boyfriend both bellowed “NO!” and my dad physically grabbed her hand and stopped her from touching the turkey. Go dad!

        Except then she threw a temper tantrum, stomped off to the back bedroom to continue her tantrum and both dad and her boyfriend had to go back and console, bring her a plate of food that she ‘was allowed to eat without getting yelled at’ And immediately after dinner she decided she was just too sick to be around people (really hamming it up) and would need to be driven home, made her boyfriend pack up all her stuff. So on the negative I had to sit there and listen to about an hour of everyone making sympathetic sounds and consoling her and trying to convince her how much they wanted her there and etc. But then on the plus side she left, she left! And we got to have a quiet evening visit afterwards.

        1. Your sister sounds like my mom when she’s in a bad mood. (I’d describe my mom as a recovering Darth…? Not sure, still have a lot to unpack about our relationship.)

          I’m sorry you had to deal with that! It’s so frustrating to set perfectly reasonable boundaries and have someone react like you’re doing it just to be mean, and then to have the rest of the family reinforce that narrative (either because they truly agree or because they’re afraid to go against the person who’s throwing a tantrum). I’m glad you got to have a nicer time after she left, at least.

  132. Just bought tickets to Star Wars, got good seats – and the kiddo got sick as the credits started rolling. We made it home in time for her to throw up at least…

  133. I wish I had the energy to tell my coworkers that every single time they tell me to have a merry Christmas when they know I’m converting to Judaism, that’s a microaggression.

  134. Still have my period, still have a massive dysphoria spike compounded by the fact that I forgot to pack clean sports bras and the cigarette smoke was so thick where I stayed last night (dammit, Vegas!) that it penetrated my shirt and rendered the one I’d been wearing unwearable, so now I’ve got the discomfort of freewheeling under my shirt combined with even more anger that genetics dealt me this hand in the first place. Oh, and I forgot to pack the books that I left in a place where I was certain not to overlook them. Apparently I underestimated my own powers of obliviousness. Time to break out the iPad and download some free classics.

  135. I’m really unhappy with my fiance right now, but I’m hoping it’s just a phase. We’re in a weird place in life right now where I’m in law school and he has a crap job that doesn’t pay him what he deserves and we are just poor and listless. I know myself enough to know that I’m the sort of person who just likes to hit the self-destruct button every now and then because I’m afraid of building something meaningful with other human beings. But at the same time, part of me thinks that maybe marriage will be a mistake? I don’t know!

    Merry Christmas.

  136. I’m fortunate enough to have a family that mostly gets along. During the holidays, it’s usually just like a party with friends.

    Except this year is different. My brother started an intense round of chemo, and today was his fifth straight day of treatment. He’s in rough shape and it’s taking its toll on the whole family.

    The holidays basically aren’t happening for us this year. I’ve tried getting into the holiday spirit at times, but there’s no point. I think we’ll do a do-over christmas when he’s done chemo.

  137. Hi? I’m late, anyone here? I have mixed feelings this Christmas, so I would love to read some words. I will summarize my life/2015:

    Good things:
    – After two years of failed attempts (self sabotage) I entered for studying to be a lit teacher.
    – I really like what I’m doing and it makes me happy.
    – I did well academically, my family is proud of me.
    – I have a very small group of people to talk to (5), we’re not friends-friends yet, but still I want to try.
    – I have health and a family that loves me and supports me.

    Bad things:
    – My grandma died a month ago, I love her and miss her like crazy, I had never experienced this feeling before. 😦
    – It took me 8-10 years to return to the real world (severe depression) and I still can’t see the extent of the consequences of it/that:
    – I’m 30 and none other than the secondary studies.
    – I’ve never had a SO/romantic relationship.
    – I have no job and everyone (job wise) rejects me because I’m old and w/no exp (and a dark skinned fat woman). In Argentina at/after 30 you’re dead meat (for jobs, love, society in general).

    The thing is, I have many things to be grateful, but I’m scared: I’m an adult by age, but without a job I feel half-adult and the possibility of not getting work or being poor, gain mental and financial stability and love in the future scares me (especially with my age -30- and in the country where I live -Argentina-). So, Christmas/life in the real world is strange, I feel happy to finally be here and to be honest, a lot scared too.

    1. I’m sorry you’re feeling so down. 😦 For the record, I think lack of response is just due to the fact that it’s the bottom of the thread. I just had the idea to start at the bottom and work my way up, which is the only reason I’m seeing this.

      I guess I’m just writing to say… I like how you express yourself and the fact that you have a good grasp on your own situation. It’s been my experience that people gravitate toward that if only they can see it. Without knowing anything else about you, I know I’d like to be friends with a person like you. I have a hunch there are other people around you who would, too. I hope you find what you’re looking for. 🙂

      1. Hi, thanks, I really appreciate the gesture. I will work hard to have a nice future, and and hopefully,job, friends, love, etc. too. Thanks a lot, I hope you have a beautiful 2016. 🙂

  138. Now it seems I had another failed batch of Botox for migraines. I’m in agony again. I get it through my insurer (who has a spectacularly crappy reputation for billing “errors,” run-arounds, and maybe even dirty tricks) and now I’m wondering if deliberately letting it go bad before shipping is their new way to kick migraine patients off the rolls. “If it’s not working for you anymore, why should we pay for it?”

    I give up. The alien invasion can happen any time now.

  139. I hate hate hate Christmas. Last year, I was visiting my mom and it was just her, her husband, her brother, and me there. Except my uncle decided it was a good time to laugh at me for not being racist like him (and I find it very triggering to be laughed at especially by old men and especially when I’m talking about something important) so I screamed at him how people were dying because of people like him then drove home to my apartment 2 hours away to spend Christmas alone. I had so many panic attacks and anxiety that I dropped out of college (I’m trying really hard to go back).
    This Christmas was just another funky twist on that. I waited for my uncle to leave (he was going to spend Christmas with his other sister) but he ended up not leaving until I got there anyway. And my sister was there but we don’t really know each other anymore. This time, my mom’s husband kept laughing at me for being mad at his not-really-jokes about hitting the dogs, so again, I didn’t scream at him but I had to leave because my mom wasn’t going to make him apologize or kick him out. At least this time I have my little dog to keep me company. Although I’ve been feeling so guilty that I haven’t been playing with him much lately or taking him to the park.
    Also, my boyfriend and I have been living together for over three years and he is nearly 30, but he still gets taken away by his family to visit their extended family across the country. He never asked me to come even though he knows my last winter was traumatic enough and this one would either be spend with my miserable family or alone. I just feel so unimportant to the people who are most important to me. 😦

    1. Boyfriend may not realize you might *like* to meet the extended family. Some people hate that kind of thing (like me). It may also be that he has one or several Crazy Relatives he doesn’t especially want you to meet. Just say that you’re sick of sucky christmas with your family and you’d rather go meet his side of the family next year. See what he thinks of that.

  140. I have a lot of work to finish before 2nd January. So I kind of skipped Christmas this year. I live in a foreign country, my family is far away. My boyfriend went to his home country for Christmas to spend it with his son and I stayed here working. First day after he left I wanted to clean up and hide his laptop so it doesn’t get all dusty. I opened the laptop case and found 4 photos in lovely frames there, from the consecutive 4 last Christmases. All of them with his ex(???)-wife and son, the perfect happy family, hugging, holding each other, their fingers intertwined. Them wearing fucking wedding rings.
    I left my country for him. I left my job. I live with him every day, having a home together, sharing everything I have with him. I trusted him completely. I work crap job that does not let me be completely independent only because here I can’t find anything decent. I don’t complain because you know, I love him,and together we seem to make so much sense.
    Now I just don’t know where to go, what to do. I’ve been living a fucking lie. I’ve been turned into a joke. All of his friends who knew me obviously knew also about his wife not being so ex. Everyone knew and never said anything. It was only me who didn’t know. I guess they all secretly laughed and high-fived him, what a macho man he was, two women at once.
    I met him at a very low point in my life. Fighting an illness, between surgeries, after an end of a relationship that was meant to be forever. After a miscarriage, dealing with the probability of never having kids of my own. In deep financial hole. And he knew all of that and yet decided to pursue me and lie to me all along. I guess it was easy for him to live this double life as we are from two different countries, and live in a third country where we could start everything from the scratch.
    I spent this week just crying, unable to work though I should. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low in my life. I simply want to close my eyes and never open them again.
    Worst Christmas ever.

      1. Thank you! I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it, I can’t stand the thought of anyone in my life knowing. Not at this time, maybe one day. I feel shocked, and I feel so much hate right now, and anger. I would like to make him equally hurt. I think about sending some of our photos to his wife. Or posting them on his fb wall for all his contacts to see. Which I won’t do of course, but some part of me wants to make him suffer.
        And I hate myself as well. At my age, and I am turning 36 next week (by the way he’s coming back then especially to celebrate with me), I believed that a man could be a savior and a solution to my life problems. How could I! There were so many red flags but I didn’t want to see them, I wanted to believe I found my safe haven. Stupid, stupid, worthless idiot, that’s me. How could I made myself so dependent on anyone!
        Worst part is that right now I cannot leave. I work at projects where I get paid after a certain stage of the work is completed, not on regular basis. Now I will only get a small amount, and my real good payment will be in spring, that will be for all winter months of working. So before that I am simply dependent on him. I cannot move. And at this moment I am also too shaken to think where to move and what to do next. But I must survive till that time when I have money. I have no clue how to handle it all in the meantime…
        God I feel so shitty.

        1. Ah shit. Try taking a deep breath. You’re going to make it, you’re going to be fine.

          You’re not stupid and you’re not worthless. You were lied to. That makes him the bad guy, not you.

          You can search in the CA archives for some more advice and more stories, maybe starting with the “BREAKING UP” tag or “the gift of fear”–the first one is more general and the second one is for worse situations than yours. Your dude doesn’t sound dangerous, but he sounds like a horrible liar, and some of the advice for getting out of a bad situation safely might help you.

          Do you have all your documents? A separate bank account? Your own keys?

          Is there any place you could think of to stay if you had to stay? A hostel, a coworker’s couch?

          What’s the lease situation like where you are living? Is it all in his name?

          Can you ask for an advance on your next paycheck at work? Is there someone you could ask for a loan, for moving expenses? Could you look into house-sitting for someone for a short-term getaway?

          You’ve got a lot of big steps ahead of you, it sounds like a really scary situation, but just remember that you can take it one step at a time and we’re all rooting for you. You do not have to solve all of these problems now and you don’t even have a deadline–it sounds like you’re pretty certain you’re breaking up, but that doesn’t mean you have to get out beforehand. Figure out what you want from him and ask for it. Remember, he lied to you–he owes you. If he’s unreasonable, you can leave, and you’ll be okay. One way or another, you’ll be okay. You’ve come this far already and you’re going to make it.

        2. I am so so sorry for what you are going through. I have lived through it. You will survive. I could not leave (for many reasons) for a long time but eventually I did and you will. Just know you are not alone in having this experience and that it is not a reflection on your worth.

        3. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. That’s a truly shitty thing for him to do to you and to his wife(?). Do you have any local friend or coworker who may be willing to rent you a room knowing you may not have the money until spring? If you don’t plan to stay in that country anyway, can you just grab your things and go home immediately? You don’t have to tell your family anything except that the relationship went bad and you need an emergency place to crash.

        4. You need to tell *somebody*. Team You needs to know about this or they can’t help. I have no idea what to say other than that this is not your fault. He lied to you. A lot. That’s not your responsibility–that’s on him.

      1. I don’t think the Captain is able to respond with advice right now which is why she made an open thread so that we, the commenters, can offer advice and support.

    1. And guys. Guys. I dont even know… oh god. I wonder if he set it up on purpose for me to find out. Usually whenever he is away he calls and writes a lot. Not this time. No reply to my mail with wishes that I sent him earlier. No calls. And right now I logged in to fb and there he was tagged in the post by his “ex-wife” that they are eating brunch together…
      why does it hurt so much. Why can’t I just only hate him.I feel like my world collapsed.

      1. PaniKa, can you go by an embassy or consulate for your country of origin? Even if they can’t get you into a safer situation, I want someone to be keeping track of you and aware of your situation. I know you don’t want anybody who knows you to know all this, but this kind of thing is part of what a foreign embassy exists for.

        If you are from the US, you can go to the embassy or consular office, whatever they’ve got near you, and tell them you just found out you are the victim of fraud and the confidence man who scammed you is returning to the country soon. Tell them you have no resources and no options because of how he manipulated you. Tell them that you at least want someone who will check up on you every few days, to make sure nothing even worse has happened to you.

        For all I know, other countries’ embassy programs have similar resources. They WANT to help you! They want to know if you’re in trouble. And you certainly are, but you are not alone.

    2. Really… thank you so much for all your support and advice. It means so much.
      The situation looks really crappy because we moved here recently. Previously it was the same country but another part of it. Now we’re in the new city, for about 2 months. So I know nobody, and have no place to go here.
      And the rent is on his name of course as he is the one with permanent job, I only work contracts and the landlords want someone more stable to be the main tenant. So…yeah. I think my only option is to go back to my country. More chances for a job there, and there are friends living there. But before I get money I am not able to do it. I have to survive these few months here. And then prepare everything step by step. I also have to transport my cat overseas which makes it all a little bit more costly and tricky. But no way I’m leaving her. These few days… I don’t know if I’d even make it till today without her. She keeps my alive. Mainly because of the cat I prefer to move without warning him earlier, too. He likes her a lot, he could try to keep her by force. I mean I know it sounds ridiculous but I just think right now that I can expect anything from this man.
      And I just cannot move in with my parents, even if it would speed things up. Been there, done that, I don’t think I could survive it again.
      I am calmer now but it changes all the time and I guess I will get back to the crying state sooner or later.
      I had no clue something like that could ever happen to me. I mean… like a bad novel or movie. Like… in the past I’d think “but how could she not know and see it earlier?”. Well, now I know how.
      I just can’t imagine I will ever be able to trust a man again. Or myself, because really, 4 years together. I was blind, deaf and thoughtless.
      Or maybe I just wanted to be and I wanted to believe.
      I did search some old posts here and I am at least documenting everything right now, making copies of anything I can think of.
      I will call the GP tomorrow as well, I’ve been seriously depressed 2 times in my life and I think I am on the direct way to this state again. I need some medical and chemical support to even think clearly.
      The good thing is that even though now I cannot get paid earlier, when I finally will, it will be a lot of money. Well, not a fortune, but good money for a few months of my work. So I will be able to pay for the move, and sustain myself back in my country where everything is cheaper anyways.
      You know… I really did love him very much. I think I still do and it hurts. We suit together. We have very similar tastes, ideas, thoughts. It’s easy to go through the day with him, no compromise needed. I was happy despite the job issues. And now all of that is just such a joke… it was all not real anyway. Then who am I really?

      1. Oh, hell, I;m just catching up and WHOA. I’m so sorry.

        Let me second/.third/fourth everyone here who reminds you HE’S the asshole in this equation. You’re not stupid, either. Ain’t one of us who couldn’t be played by an asshole liar on the wrong day. You met yours on the wrong day, that’s all.

        Please be safe, and take care of yourself however you need to until you can get the hell out.

      2. Have you got a high enough limit on your credit cards to get the funds you need from that? Not ideal, I know, but it’s one avenue. Or perhaps contact a friend back home and ask for a loan?

  141. I’m having a hard time this holiday. I love my family and don’t get to see them very often but I have a difficult relationship with my sister for various reasons, including a history of emotional abusive behavior. I’ve been dreading it and, at the same time, determined to stay positive and not get drawn into drama. But having to sit and smile and keep on turning the other cheek is sooo hard. She’s very manipulative and turns our normally happy family into a war zone.

  142. I’m having a hard time this holidays. I love my family and don’t get to see them that often because I live far away. But, I have a difficult relationship with my sister because of, among other things, a history of bullying and emotionally abusive behaviour. I’m also pretty introverted and have a hard time with conflict. I was determined to keep smiling and positive this year, but it’s soooo hard when my sister is constantly snapping or just making insulting comments. And she’s very manipulative so if I’m quiet or need any time for myself she will complain to my parents that I’m avoiding her or being antisocial and then they want to know why we can’t just “get along.” The last few days have just been so tense and tiring. I know it’s a small problem in the grand scheme of things and I should be able to deal with her for a few days but she makes me doubt myself and just kind of crushes my spirit.

  143. Spoke to my parents on the phone this morning (they called). It was..okay. Nice in some ways, and they listened to me talk about my life, which has happened like 2x in 8 years, but they are still completely ignoring any mention of Best Boyfriend (which hurts my feelings! he’s so great! why can’t they just be happy for me and not pretend he doesn’t exist?). I talked to them for a while and it was okay during but then I got sad and anxious afterward, which is sort of normal for my interactions with them–they mostly don’t say anything that they intend to be out of line these days, because I’ve amply proven that I don’t mind just disappearing–but the routine fat-shaming about people I don’t know, and just the general history of awfulness means that I spent the rest of the afternoon being stressed and sad, and Best Boyfriend is out of town. :/

    1. Would Jedi hugs help?

      I also spent the day feeling angry, stressed out and sad after interacting with my parents. I’m sorry we’re in the same boat, although from a selfish point of view it’s comforting to think I’m not alone.

      1. Thank you, yes. 🙂 And some for you as well.

        It makes me angry that this still happens; I’m 40yo and I left home 23 years ago. You’d think I’d be over it by now. And they don’t run me down verbally anymore, but the tension is still there in case they might. I just can’t get out of the habit. It has been so long since I interacted with them in any way but text that I didn’t even recognize the feeling right away.

        1. Thank you. 🙂

          I totally get why you’d feel angry, but at the same time I think it’s important to keep in mind that this stuff runs *deep*. I’m in my early thirties, and I just very recently started to question some things about my relationship with my parents that in retrospect seem fairly obvious, like, hey, maybe I’m not the one who’s weirdly oversensitive for not wanting to put up with random comments that shame me for being lazy or incapable of taking care of myself (two things that are not true), and maybe it IS weird that I’m literally afraid to disagree with my own parents, or to make my own life choices without taking their preferences into consideration. (Especially since they’ve always been very “do what makes you happy”, on the face of it at least.) I’ve been sensing things were not ok at least since I was twenty, and it took me ten years just to begin to put actual words to that feeling of not-okayness. (And this is with a ton of advantages, like, my mom got therapy in the meantime and became more self-aware, I also got some quasi-therapy, I was able to live on my own, etc.) It’s super unfair, but it appears that these things take a shitload of time to work through.

          Anyway, I hope you’re having a better day today. I felt much better when I woke up this morning, which was a huge relief.

  144. So my father proposed to his girlfriend this week. She’s only seven years older than I am. I am completely skeeved out.

  145. My Christmas wasn’t bad, per se, but there’s a lot of stuff just combining to make it frustrating. My Grandfather brought his ‘friend’ again. No one really likes her – she’s nice, but she and my grandfather will flirt in front of the whole family which makes it awkward for literally everyone else because public displays like that Do Not Happen normally and it’s super uncomfortable to watch. This year he made a comment to her like, “Well, if you had married me…” (They’ve been friends for, like, 70 years). I saw mom exchanging looks with my sister’s BF. I’ve never known a man so intelligent who could stick his foot in his mouth so much and not even know it. Mom usually talks to me after everyone leaves and kind of does a breakdown of how she thought the celebrations went and I was too nervous to ask her what she thought of that comment – I didn’t want her to think about it if she had tried to forget about it.

    My other grandfather died last month, so it was our first Christmas without him and it felt a little weird. We spent some time cursing in his memory Christmas morning so it wasn’t too bad.

    I’m also starting grad school in Jan and I’m terrified on so many different levels, but mostly financially. My parents are super supportive financially, but I’ll be paying for a good chunk of my degree and I’m worried about that, especially because I had /plans/ for that money I have socked away. It’s all pretty much going to be spent on school now.

    This is on top of one of the health issues of one of my cats. He’ll be fine, but I literally worried myself sick over him and I’m trying to make his recovery as stress free for him as possible, which is difficult considering he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat.

    All in all, nothing overwhelmingly terrible, just a bunch of things that combined to make the holidays feel a little weird.

  146. My mother died Dec. 22. Christmas with family was actually kind of fun, but it’s the after Christmas part that is sucking. And I am dreading New Year’s. Whether I like it or not, the calendar will roll over to 2016, and I’ll be left with the knowledge that 2015 was the last year with my mother. She was so wonderful and had so much left to do. Cancer sucks and life isn’t fair.

    1. I’m so sorry. I hope you have strength to endure this, or people who cry on about it. People we love should live forever. Many hugs and I hope, I really hope that you can go on. And I hope that instead of remembering cancer more, you remember the good times that made your mother a wonderful woman. Hugs. “Y que la luz que nunca se apaga, brille para tu madre.”

  147. I just realized two people I thought I were friends were more like acquaintances and were actually kind of invalidating. I think my instincts are bad when it comes to people.

    1. On the other hand, your instincts are rapidly getting better. You made a mistake about those two for some length of time. Now you’ve corrected the mistake and will be less likely to make it again in the future. Give yourself a pat on the back for that.

  148. I am packing up my partner and kids and leaving family Christmas (which I usually love) two days early to escape the nightmare stress-ball that this year’s holiday has become. I am sad and guilty about cutting short my kids’ time with all the extended family that they love, but I need to get away before I blow up and nuke a relationship that I value but that is VERY rocky right now. And my phone managed to delete my 1 am venting comment, and I’m very thoroughly bummed. And still too frustrated and stressed and guilty and upset to fall asleep… Despite the multi-day drive home that is suddenly scheduled to begin in 6 hours.

  149. Normally I’m less than enthusiastic about my job, but I’m beyond thankful to be back at work today. Just spent 5 days with my family and it was about 3 days too long. I felt like I needed to be there and have my happy face on since my father just underwent surgery for a (very treatable! thank goodness!) form of bladder cancer, but my mother became her usual impossible self.

    Job I Don’t Like has put me in a weird place personally and professionally. While I am considering going back to grad school, I’m really in no position to do so until I get a new job and some career stability. At Christmas dinner my mother began to berate me about going back to school, when I’m going to do it, blah blah blah, even though she knows FULL WELL the situation I’m in at work right now. My partner, goddess bless him, tried to stick up for me by saying, “She doesn’t *need* to go back to school for what she wants to do.” Hoo. Boy. Mother dearest latched on to this and took it as my partner saying “Women don’t need more education” and then accused him of trying to hold me back. While he maybe didn’t phrase what he meant to say as tactfully as he could have, he was just trying to stick up for me in the heat of the moment. Stretching what he said into making him (of all people!) a patriarchal asshole takes a bit of mental gymnastics.

    Now she has gotten it into her head that partner wants me barefoot, pregnant, and uneducated all because of one comment trying to stand up for me coupled with the fact that he ADORES his niece and nephew. I adore his sister’s kiddos too, but he and I have discussed and agreed that we don’t really want our own children. Niece and nephew are great because we can play, color, run around, give silly gifts, and do all the fun things with little kids but without the responsibility. We’ve left the door open that hey, yeah, maybe we will change our minds in 10 years or so, but we are both mid-20’s professionals in a major East Coast city and aren’t planning on it. He talked about his sister’s children a lot in the context of telling my parents about the lovely weekend we spent at their house and the mini-holiday celebration we did. He clearly loves them and wants the best for their whole little family, but again it doesn’t translate to him wanting me to be a baby factory.

    The fact that she thinks she knows my partner better than I do, coupled with the fact that she took this Christmas of My Father’s Cancer Scare to berate me and spew nonsense about him at the dinner table bothers me to no end. I stuck it out for 2 more days after that for my dad’s sake, but I’m really looking forward to Christmas with partner’s family next year.

  150. So I had fun for a lot of Christmas. I was depressed for some of it and never quite at 100%, but it was pretty nice to see my family. I thought we were going to be okay.

    But of course, I couldn’t be allowed to leave without a reminder that my opinions and feelings are childish and invalid. Mom decided that a book club meeting was a good place to be disparaging about a friend of mine (an opinion she has voiced multiple times before and really doesn’t need to express ever again, let alone in public). Then when that upset me, she decided the way to handle this was with baby talk and telling people I was the queen of temper tantrums.

    Gee, thanks, Mom.

    All of this was in the last hour before we left yesterday, so no time to sort it out face to face even if she DID accept that she’d done anything wrong. But seeing as invalidation is the norm there… it’ll never happen.

  151. Third year in a row not being able to afford to see family or friends at the holidays. Third year in a row not hearing from family all day until 8:30 or 9 PM at night. But other than that, I enjoyed the day off and got some rest and there was a little “Netflix and knit.”

  152. Finally home at my own place after time spent at my parents’ home. I didn’t have a horrible Christmas, but I just have to have somewhere to say this – and there’s no one else I can say it to right now. I stayed at my parents’ place for Christmas, and my sister was there too, with her kids (they arrived a few days before me.) During that entire week, my sister never, and I mean never, raised her behind from the sofa to either help prepare a meal, or help clear it away, and that includes any snacks or meals made especially for her kids. She sat on the sofa, went to the table when it was served, and left it (and her plate!) when she was finished. I could see my mom and dad were doing all the work when I arrived, and pitched in wherever I could. One day I was up first, and started hand-washing my mom Christmas stemware which can’t go into the dishwasher, when my sister got up soon after me, and instead of grabbing a dishtowel and drying, she sat down on the sofa and fiddled with her iPhone right in front of the kitchen. And the same goes for picking up any of her kids’ toys, clothes, swiping down the bathroom after they’ve bathed and brushed their teeth or anything but playing candy crush.

    My mom doesn’t want to say anything, even if she vents to me privately, and since it is her house, I haven’t said anything either. However, I have told my Mom that since Christmas will be on a weekend next year, my stay will be shorter next time. I need to clean my own house, and I don’t want to be one of three people doing the work of 7 without a more equitable sharing any longer, especially since my Christmas hols will be a lot shorter next year.

    1. A reasonable conclusion.

      I get the vibe that this is not out-of-character for your sister?

      1. No, it is not unusual. It seems like she thinks that since she’s the only one with kids, she deserves a holiday more than the rest of us, so when she’s staying at my Mom’s, she lets everyone else do the work. A couple of episodes have been really memorable, like the time a few years ago where my Mom and I had to scramble to make everyone dinner as my sister’s dinner plans with her brother-in-law had fallen through. While I was literally hands-deep in the washing up afterwards, she told her kid, while sitting on the sofa doing nothing herself, to ask me for help to turn on the computer! Or the wonderful time when I had a cold at Christmas (it later turned out to be pneumonia, which I got again three months later) and the only thing she did was tell me to cough more quietly because I was disturbing the baby.

        It’s really up to Mom to set her foot down, which she won’t. But my Mom knows that I will not spend too many days doing this when I also have to go home and do all the housework myself – I don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot when I am a house guest, but I do expect that sharing all the work will make a lighter load for everyone. However, when my sister brings a family of 4 into the house and then proceeds to do none of the work associated with so many people, that means that those of us who do the work don’t get a holiday. My Mom is still relatively young, but that will change. Both my sister and I live in different cities than our parents, so we have to travel to see them at Christmas. However, when my parents are gone (a long time in the future, I hope) I think I will celebrate alone.

        1. There’s so much work having lots of people in the house, that even *if* it’s divided evenly, it can still feel “unfair”, but, yeah, I would definitely be at the point where I’d say, “Hey sis, Mom & I cooked & cleaned up breakfast & lunch, it’s your turn to do dishes for dinner.” As statements, not as questions. If people can’t get the clue to offer, then for me, it’s important to tell them it’s their turn. Cooking & cleaning 3 meals a day for so many people usually means there’s only one hour free between breakfast & lunch, and one hour free between lunch & dinner, and that is not fair to you & your mom if it’s not something you are choosing for yourself.

  153. I kept getting the five of cups and other “warning” cards concerning watery matters in my Tarot readings… was on guard spiritually and psychologically but not prepared when flooding physically caved in the ceiling of my workplace. We have an alternate workplace, twenty-five miles away, but I have no car and there is no public transit, and our shifts are deliberately staggered, for Reasons, which prevents carpooling… this is a pickle. May be able to work remotely, but would need to get equipment I can’t afford. Bah!

    Keeping in mind good ol’ Avenue Q. Problematic in many ways, but so true that, “It Sucks to Be Me,” and “For Now,” are the same song. It gives me hope, somehow.

    1. Aaand I am being evacuated from my home today. And expected to come into work, because they need me to pick up the slack for those who have left the state.

      I do not expect much from this; it definitely feels like my small-town mayor is throwing his weight around. Nevertheless, if it SHOULD happen that my small voice is silenced, let it be known that my last words were, “Fuck you, climate change denialists!”

        1. I have a feeling that the flood zone os going to be a lot more expansive this year than it is already. Thanks for the kind Jedi hugs. May you profit from your kindness in unexpected ways.

          If I may grumble some more… I decided to stay home from work until the motorways were clear. I didn’t want to find out I wouldn’t be able to get to my cat or my house for two weeks, and even though there are local shelters offering pet storage, I had a weird feeling about them— don’t trust shelters that think TNR is a bad thing. I have since found out that I WOULD have been eligible for unemployment, except that those unexcused absences conveniently pushed me into “chronic absentee” territory. D’oh!

  154. I’m new to the blog, but my sister has mentioned this site a lot. I sort of wanted to ask a question to Captain Awkward but I guess the inbox is all full up. D:

    Anyway, my holidays have been pretty good. I have been spending a lot of time with the family, playing board games, eating turkey. I think overall it was a very happy visit, but there’s been this sort of gnawing in me that just seems to keep growing and growing. I recently turned 24 and I really want to be dating. Or I guess, more accurately be in a relationship. I feel like I’m getting older and older and my time is running out. All this talk of kissing under mistletoe and partying for New Years Eve reminds me of another year that I’ve been single. I’ve went on some dates, started some conversations, but all of them have ended in “ghosting,” basically they just disappear and are never to be heard from again.

    My aunt has told me stuff like, “Don’t give up! You can’t find love if you aren’t looking for it!” and on the completely opposite end my Dad has been like, “You’ll find love when you aren’t expecting it. Wanting love makes you seem desperate.”

    I’m signed up for OkCupid and HER, and the question I was gonna ask Captian Awkward was, should my New Years Resolution be to give up, or at least put things on hold for a while? I worry often if maybe I do seem desperate, if my Dad’s right;, but on the other hand especially living in a somewhat rural state and being gay decreases my odds, and I feel like I have to keep looking. I’m so torn.


    1. My approach would be to listen to yourself. Do you feel desperate? Or do you feel that you are doing the best to fulfill your own life and simultaneously seeking companionship? Wanting love doesn’t necessarily make you desperate, and I think if you’re gay in a rural area, the “love when you aren’t expecting it” would have a much longer timeline than for straight or urban people. My approach is to use apps to meet lots of people with the minimal expectation that I have an interesting conversation with a pleasant person, and hope that someday my expectations are exceeded by meeting someone to love. Even as an urban person, as a bisexual I recently signed up for HER and OKC to look for women thinking that there are men-liking-women everywhere, and anything to boost my odds of meeting women-liking-women could only help.

      FWIW, I wasn’t looking, not really at 24, when I met my first relationship, my now soon-to-be-ex-husband. If you want to look, look. If you decide you want a few weeks off, take a few weeks off.

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