Links: The Holidays and What To Do About Them


As you can imagine, the “How do I get throughThe Holidays™ with weird family stuff?” questions are proliferating again, with a side of “My family is pressuring me to break COVID-19 safety protocols.” 

The VICE Life team has put together a thoughtful guide to the holidays during this weird year. I really love working with those folks, and my piece about the first Christmas I ever spent by myself and a pitch to do only the stuff you can safely do and actually want to do went live today. 

A smol black and white cat with a feather toy posing on a coffee table in front of a wee Christmas tree.
From Christmas 2009: It was just me, #smolcat Beadie (RIP) and my equally tiny Christmas tree.

Rachel Miller has advice for how to break the news that you’re not coming home for the holidays this year, and S. Bear Bergman and Amy Rose Spiegel have ideas for what TO do to celebrate, respectively: 

If you have the opposite problem, where you will be at home with family for the entire season and wish you weren’t, they’ve got that covered, too. 

Safety First, or, have you considered Just Not? Nothing has changed, pandemic-wise, since I wrote this, except for the body count and infection rates have grown exponentially. The case for not traveling or gathering has never been stronger.

Nicole Chung, joining the pretty great trend where everybody from The Toast becomes an advice columnist eventually, gives excellent advice to new parents about visits from enthusiastic-yet-risk-ignoring grandparents: 

“First, you and your husband should discuss and set the conditions under which you, together, would feel comfortable hosting. Maybe what you need to green-light a visit are flu shots, two weeks of aggressive social distancing, and negative COVID tests. Maybe you need all of that, plus masks, and no kissing the baby. My point is, you two need to decide on the conditions together, and your husband should then clearly explain them to your in-laws. They get to decide whether to go along. If they don’t? That’s their choice, but then they’re also making the choice not to visit you. (For the record, I also don’t think it’s wrong if you decide, as others have, that you want to just hold off on lengthy indoor visits indefinitely, or until there’s a vaccine, etc.)

Obviously your husband is worried about making his parents mad. But people who would visit you every weekend if they could aren’t going to cut you off over this. They may be upset at first, but they will also know exactly what they need to do if they want to see you—and you’ll have begun establishing the healthy boundaries you clearly need, better late than never.”

On the topic of general socializing (or lack of), Brandy Jensen’s most recent column hit me right in the empty, guilty spot where “How have you been?” texts go to die: 

“Covid has obviously eroded or destroyed countless things in all our lives including, for me and perhaps for your friend as well, the ease with which we maintain a lot of our relationships. That vast array of people you talk to somewhat frequently but not every day, the people you have dinner with every few months, the people you would see but not stay with if you are visiting their city. All of those relationships that add immeasurable texture to a life and are predicated on the simple joy of catching up.

The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard. Even the things that qualify as events don’t feel like enough to sustain any real contemplation. How have I been? Well, I moved to a new city, and now I’m in a new place doing the same things as before, mainly dishes and fretting.”

A reader recommended Kat Vellos’s book Connected From Afar: A Guide for Staying Close When You’re Far Away, which I am adding to my reading list, and I concur with Jensen’s suggestion for how to replace texting to ask people how they are if you’re not getting the responses you want: 

“This is all to say that I wouldn’t be so quick to imagine you have done something that caused your friend to stop responding. These are strange times, and they cause us to do strange things. Or not-so-strange things, like become depressed in response to depressing circumstances. I certainly hope that some of the relationships I’ve let wither away through neglect can flourish again, when things are different and hopefully better. In the meantime, if you care about your friend you should can and should, on occasion, just tell her how you’ve been feeling. “I watched a great movie tonight and I think you would like it.” “Hey did you see that guy got caught cranking his hog on Zoom.” “I miss you.”

We may not all express it in the same way but we all miss each other. At least, I think that should be the operating assumption for as long as it remains difficult to tend to each other’s needs.”

John Paul Brammer of ¡Hola Papi! is on the loneliness beat this week as well, with Will Anyone Ever Love Me? and this stunning short film “How To Be At Home” from the National Film Board of Canada (whose app is now the best thing on my phone) is well worth four minutes of your time. 

And finally, because I am sure the inevitable “But how do I deal with loud Trump supporters in my family right now?” questions will be rolling in for a while (tbh they never stopped), I sadly do not have some secret advice for cult-deprogramming that I’ve been sitting on for five years. The same things that were true in June are true now, organizing with people who believe in reality to remove the cult’s power to harm people is still the best way forward, and it’s not over yet. Love and solidarity. 

Daniel Jason Mendoza Striped Tiger in a Santa costume from my Mother-In-Law
Daniel Jason Mendoza Striped Tiger, starring as “Betrayal” in 2019’s AwkwardHaus Christmas Pageant