I know what will happen on December 25th. I'm going to travel to my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska (population 25,000, so basically a robust village), and, just as they were last year and the year before, my family will be there. This is great, really, for at least the first 24 hours. Then… my family is still there.
Most of you are in the same boat. One or two days, a week, it doesn't matter, navigating a holiday at home is tricky stuff. So, in continuation of my series of survival guides for the modern curmudgeon, I give you: a primer for happy holidays with the family.
Bring a buffer
You have to spend time with your loved ones over the holiday, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer alone. You know who hasn't put in half the toil and trouble you have with your overbearing older sister? That's right, your significant other. The more your family takes an interest in your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, hell, even your best friend, the less time they'll spend talking to you.
Navigate conversations carefully
Say it with me. Neutral topics. Christmas dinner is just not the time to recant your thoughts on Mike Brown's shooting, or the finer points of the CIA's interrogation methods. What did your mom's cat do when you walked in the door? Talk about that. Forever.
Give baseless and excessive compliments
Didn't your dad lose weight? He definitely lost weight, except for not at all. But if you tell him that, he'll feel great, and the goodwill will flow evermore through your personal holiday purgatory. Everyone loves a compliment. Capitalize.
Revert to your teenage habits
Sure, you're 30 now, and sleeping until noon followed by a day wearing headphones and wandering the house is probably not behavior you engage in in your everyday life (though I'm not judging). But when you're home, the skills of your adolescence may just save your sanity. Shower for 30 minutes. Go to the store for milk and come back three hours later. What are they going to do, ground you?
Fill your dance card
Gee, Uncle Billy, I would love to hear once again about your childhood trip to the Grand Canyon, but that super casual friend of mine from high school just REALLY needs to see me right now. Locating every last acquaintance within a 50 mile radius will give you ever more excuses to escape the family prison. Jimmy, the bag boy from your teenage gig at Hy-Vee? You better catch up with him.
When all else fails, drink
Your little brother may never understand you, but you know who does? Jose Cuervo. There's no shame. You're on vacation, dang it. By beer three, Grandma may just seem downright tolerable.
Hey, I'm not a monster. I love my mom and dad at least as much as the next guy, but you all know what I'm talking about. By day four, I may just sleep until 3 p.m. It's OK, when I wake up I'll tell my mom how amazing her hair looks.