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  • Writer's pictureTina

It's Not A Hallmark Movie

As I sat drinking my coffee the other morning, a segment on GMA was titled Making It Through The Holidays With Family. It was a series of dos and don’ts to create a nonhostile environment when gathering with extended family. The woman who was the segment’s focus is considered an etiquette guru. Currently, her name escapes me, but she is apparently a pretty big deal in the field of etiquette and manners. While watching the segment, I had to giggle just a little over the fact that people find it necessary to create lists of dos and don’ts to gather with family.

Often the holidays are painted to be times of great happiness, ideal gatherings of friends and family where everyone laughs, remembers the good times, smiles, and gets along. For many families, this is an unrealistic standard. The media sets us up for unobtainable perfection and leaves us feeling like we are inadequate, inept, and dysfunctional. The reality is most families are dysfunctional to some degree.

Why doesn’t Hallmark make a movie about real families filled with relatives with all kinds of issues: narcissists, egomaniacs, ass-kissers, manipulators, alcoholics, and closet smokers? Incorporate children who are ill-behaved, disrespectful, and annoying, along with pets with no manners and owners with fewer manners. You’ve got comedic gold…and a realistic picture of holiday gatherings.

Show us families with power-thrusting parents, co-dependent relationships, snarky comments, eye-rolling, tongue-biting, and backbiting. That’s the reality of most families. Show us gatherings where everyone walks on eggshells, so they don’t piss off the loose cannon in the family. We all know it’s just a matter of time before loose-lipped Uncle Milton says something to piss off the hostess of the event, only to be berated in front of the entire family ending with a dramatic exit or, even better, a food fight.

Oh! How about the passive-aggressive cousin who dishes out backhanded compliments like pumpkin pie and goes out of their way to make one feel small and insignificant? There is also that one crazy aunt or uncle that makes inappropriate jokes and embarrasses and angers the aunt with the stick up her butt. Now, that’s realistic.

The reality is the holidays are usually more stress filled than enjoyable. The weeks leading to family gatherings are generally fraught with hard physical labor, overspending, burning the candle at both ends, and feeling overwhelmed. This nonexistent altered universe where everyone gets along, no one has any issues, where the homes are perfection, and the china sparkles in the candlelight are unobtainable goals.

Let’s be honest; family gatherings are messy. They are one big melting pot filled with time bombs, suppressed feelings, nostalgia, and rose-colored disenchantment. Perhaps, we should remove the rose-colored glasses and accept the holidays for what they really are: gatherings of complex people who sometimes don’t get along. You know what? It’s okay to admit your family isn’t perfect. It’s perfectly acceptable that Aunt Rose and Uncle Larry can’t be within ten feet of each other, or glassware flies through the air. It’s okay to think your cousin’s kids are horrible little crotch goblins with no redeeming qualities as human beings. It’s permissible to walk away from the millionth conversation with your aunt about her terrible divorce and the bastard she hooked her marital wagon to, only to have the said marital wagon's wheels fall off and explode into a mushroom cloud. Go ahead and roll your eyes and wander off when your sister says for the umpteenth time, “when she was in college,” knowing full well she went to trade school but is too insecure about being her true self or rightfully unashamed of her life choices. It’s okay to think your brother-in-law is an ass-kissing opportunist who can’t accomplish anything on his own. It’s okay to be annoyed that Great Aunt Mable only ever asks you when you are going to get married and have kids, completely ignoring the fact that you have a pretty cool life without a relationship and children.

Family is family, none are perfect, and that’s okay. Your feelings about your family are okay. What’s not okay is feeling like you are less than you are because your family isn’t perfect. Most families are more like the Conners than the Bezos. Don’t sweat that your bathroom is outdated, your kitchen cabinets are from the sixties, and there are cobwebs in the corners of the dining room. Don’t feel bad about using paper plates and throw-away pans because you can’t stand the idea of being saddled in the kitchen doing dishes all day. Don’t sweat it, any of it.

Instead, enjoy hearing the stories about when your dad and his brothers were kids. Relish in the fact that everyone ate your dessert, but not a single serving was eaten from your snarky, self-important cousin's tofurkey. Hug those adorable little sticky-fingered nieces and nephews who make you laugh out loud. Enjoy the borderline inappropriate conversation with your young adult cousins about their parents and the ridiculous rules they have in place, like curfews. Share your own stories and watch as people gasp and giggle over your audacity. Sit on the couch holding hands with your grandma or grandpa. You don’t have to say a word; just hold their hand because you love them. Play Skip-Bo after the meal and unabashedly enjoy kicking your mother-in-law’s ass. Go ahead and eat the second piece of pie and enjoy telling your shallow, materialistic, judgmental cousin with the eating disorder that it is the best pie ever. Enjoy yourself and those imperfect people whose family you were born into without any say.

Remember, our time here is short. Those annoying habits and behaviors you complain about now will soon just be memories that make up the fabric of your family history. Enjoy gathering with the complex, flawed, dysfunctional tribe you were born into. One never knows what the future holds. There may come a day when you wish you could hear Uncle Griffin's bad dad jokes or Grandma's rendition of Kid Rock's Cowboy. Accept the holidays for what they are, accept the people for who they are, don’t sweat the little details, and enjoy yourself. Also, remember it’s natural to wish loudmouth Aunt Ruth would choke on a turkey bone…not die, just choke long enough to stop her insistent whining about how childbirth destroyed her vagina. We get it, Ruth; Cousin Chelsea has broad shoulders.

Whether you are hosting a group of fifty or a small gathering of two, enjoy your day. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the people. Remember, it’s okay not to be perfect or have the perfect house or family. These imperfections make for the best stories. Rather than be stressed, annoyed or angry, just go with the flow. You’re not wrong to think rude thoughts, but you’re wrong to speak them. Not everything that pops into your head needs to come out of your mouth. Chances are if it makes you smile when you think about it, it’s not appropriate to say. That’s my rule of thumb. Relish the good food; it’s also realistic to believe that if your mouth is full of pumpkin pie, you will not stick your foot in it. Insert a wink, a smile, and perhaps a wicked giggle. Enjoy your holiday, dear reader.

On this Thanksgiving eve, stay safe, be smart, don’t expect perfection, don’t beat yourself up about your reality, and keep washing your hands.

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Nov 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your Family ( including all the critters)!


Nov 23, 2022

What a perfect blog today for all of us who are stressing out thinking about all the so called perfect families....which we are not. lol Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!


Nov 23, 2022

Right on sister! I can relate. But family does get smaller, and sometimes you wish you had all those dinners back ( ahem, well skip some of the bad ones ) but 98% percent of them I wish I did have back. It can get really bittersweet when everyone passes on from this earth, and family gets smaller. ( lol, they could have made a movie out of my family get togethers when I was growing up! Talk about realistic!! )

To you and your family - Happy Thanksgiving!

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