Look out! Like a freight train, bearing down on us with gathering speed and menace, I mean twinkling and jollity and goodwill toward mankind in general, here come The Holidays.
Or maybe that goodwill, try as it might, doesn’t quite extend all the way toward those specific people who are going to turn up at your house at 3 PM for the family get-together you’ve been dreading, I mean looking forward to with glee.
Many of us were lucky enough to find allies and support among family members, and we all more or less banded together and did what we needed to do to get through the pandemic and an extreme silly season in politics safely and sensibly.
But many . . . didn’t. Many discovered, over the past couple of years, that they’re related to a passel of absolute nut jobs who never met an inflammatory slogan to dumb to reject, a conspiracy theory too ridiculous to believe, or a tentacled creature too sentient to struggle up on the side of the petri dish, wave hello, and squeak out in a miniscule voice that only they can hear, “You really need to lay off the sauce, Janet!”
If the past year or so has left you feeling somewhat bruised and battered in the psyche, and the thought of playing host to a crowd of people who perpetrated that battering just makes you want to scoot out the back door and not stop until you hit salt water, then don’t despair. There are actually strategies you can follow to make the day work well for you. It doesn’t have to be your favorite day of the year, but there are things you can do to survive when the loony tunes you’re related to come to call.
Be respectful. Maybe you’ve spent the last several months reading, with increasing horror, the blithering insanity that streams forth on your family’s social media feed. Maybe you’ve gone from wondering if you should check in on cousin Ted, to wondering if someone should check in on you, because anyone displaying such high levels of non compos mentisemente has got to be some kind of genetic carrier, and it’s only a matter of time before the wack-a-ding-hoy starts to manifest itself closer to home.
But still, family is family, and it’s important to show respect. Practice in front of the mirror if you have to. Make yourself immune, so you can come out with phrases like, “No, indeed, I haven’t yet met any transhuman babies born with pitch black eyes because of the vaccine; how very interesting! Would you please pass the yams?” or “And you heard this directly from the Chair of the Finance Committee; I see! It’s been very humid lately, it seems to me.” It’s a matter of muscle memory, same as learning to ride a bike or manipulate a yo yo. You can do this.
Dazzle them with compliments. Even someone who turns up in your living room spoiling for a fight will not be immune to the wiles of a honeyed tongue. The trick is to be sincere, and make sure it’s something you really mean, so it hits home.
For instance, let’s say you’re hosting your cousin Cameron, who drives around town with a flag so huge, it patriotically drags on the ground at red lights, and whose favorite party trick is licking doorknobs to own the libs. Cameron has rune tattoos, his three daughters and his four dogs are all named Dixie, and last Thanksgiving, he rated all the dishes according to how “soy” they were, even though you’re actually a pretty good cook and bought a nice but rather expensive turkey from your farmer neighbor, whereas Cameron lives largely off gas station chicken nuggets which are, in fact, about 68% soy. Cameron is also most definitely going to bring up how thousands of people mysteriously dropped dead after receiving the covid vaccine (which didn’t happen, but then again, neither did important parts of Cameron’s cerebral development, so what can one do).
So what you can say to Cameron is: “Cameron, I know there are lots of people in the world who agreed to get the vaccine, because they think it’s just a little prick. But you’re helping me see that the world is full of much bigger pricks to worry about.”
This is not especially clever, but it’s okay, because Cameron is an absolute moron and has been drinking heavily since breakfast, and it will not even occur to him that you don’t think he’s rad.
You can test out recipes by cooking up a batch ahead of time, loading several portions into a sack, labelling the sack “Cousin Richie Who Believes in Lizard People,” and kicking it. If it falls over easily, you probably have a winning dish. If it resists, add butter.