Although we may love our extended family that doesn’t necessarily mean we always like them very much. Some folks spend all year avoiding their relatives then are forced to endure them during family get-togethers. The following is a guide to maintaining sanity when your relatives have lost theirs.
There’s always one at every Thanksgiving. This is the relative who thinks Thanksgiving is simply the next excuse to pound booze in the spirit of celebration, and who becomes obscenely drunk before the turkey is ever carved. The Drinker talks too loud, trots out embarrassing stories best left forgotten and may or may not break the vase you hand carried back from your trip to Greece two summers ago. The children are mesmerized by the sight of Uncle Ned breaking every rule you’ve taught them, and nearly everyone else simply wishes they were someplace else as he pontificates the merits of lager over light beer.
Managing the Drinker starts the moment he arrives and will take some finesse on your part. As soon as he arrives, give him a task to perform. This will keep him busy and away from the drink table. Once he has started the task (preferably a lengthy one), ask him if you can get him a drink. Make the drink very weak with a lot of mixer but add a splash of booze to the top and deliver the drink. This will fool him into thinking it’s a regular drink that is becoming watered down as the ice melts. At regular intervals, stop by the Drinker and have them “taste” a dish. Hopefully his hands will be full and you can just pop the food into his mouth. This will help balance out the booze intake. Continue delivering fresh drinks throughout the day which allows you to maintain some measure of control over his boozy intake.
One alternative to this strategy is somewhat nefarious but may be necessary depending on the relative. Have the Drinker come to the party several hours before it actually starts. Make him incredibly strong drinks thus ensuring the expected outcome. By the time the party is close to starting, suggest a nap so he can be fresh when it starts. Put relative in spare room, close door and forget until morning.
Nearly as offensive as the Drinker, the Arguer is incredibly invested in his own opinion. Pleasant conversation is downright impossible as the Arguer weighs in, rarely yielding the floor. Completely lacking in social graces, the Arguer seeks debate to recruit listeners to his point of view. Others opinions only matter insomuch it allows the Arguer to tell them why they are wrong.
To combat verbal diarrhea, use the following techniques. Avoid making eye contact with the Arguer to minimize your exposure. Also, the Arguer cannot argue if you do not take the bait. One of the most powerful words in the English language is “Okay.” Use it as a response whenever the Arguer makes a statement. It doesn’t mean ‘I agree with you’ or ‘I don’t agree with you.’ It means “I hear your words.” The Arguer will quickly become frustrated with the conversation and move on to other people.
The Cheek Pincher, Face Kisser or Chronic Hugger
Kids are especially prone recipients to this activity and, more often than not, loath it. Cheek pinching or sloppy wet kisses on the face rank alongside massaging their mother’s feet after a long day at work or weeding the garden, and should be avoided at all costs.
Since this activity normally occurs right when guests arrive, make sure you are present for greetings and spare the kids by stating they are just getting over a cold and can’t get too close. To save yourself, a good idea is to have a tray full of drinks in your hand. You could also keep a piece of furniture between you and the overly enthusiastic guest. If all else fails, spill the drinks on her as you offer up a cheek for the kiss. Maybe she’ll get the message for next year.
Alas, some relatives have to keep score. For whatever reason, the only way they can feel good about themselves is by tearing you down. Your spouse, your kids, your job, all are fodder for the critic, and he takes a miserable delight in delivering a negative message about you.
First and foremost, do not take anything the critic has to say personally. Although the words out of his mouth may refer to you, the message is truly all about him. It is his inadequacies and insecurities that drive him to say the things he does. You are merely the vehicle for him to deliver the message of self. He truly has no idea have offensive he sounds and will often try to diffuse angry response with that old standby of ‘I was just teasing.” No matter how ugly the words are, remember that it really has nothing to do with you. Once you understand that, dealing with the Critic becomes much easier. The Arguer and the Critic are, sadly, often the same person. Employ the use of the word, “Okay” as much as possible when talking to the Critic. He will become frustrated when you stop reacting to these words and move on.