"You are not judged by the heights to which you have risen, but the depths from which you have climbed."
- Frederick Douglass
Family gatherings. Every family’s got ‘em. At one time or another (or all times or anothers), every person dreads them.
There’s always someone who shows up begging the question:
Why did she give birth to/marry/invite him?
And there’s always at least one who’s so embarrassing that you dread seeing her – let alone engaging in conversation.
Then there’s the relation (or two or more) with a drinking problem. If that person drove, is anyone brave enough to take away the keys?
Why is there always an unruly pet or child? Haven’t they ever heard of setting limits?
And why is he always so late/early/rude to say he’ll come but then doesn't show up/thoughtless when he doesn’t RSVP?
Then there’s the person who thinks he’s too good for this family. Of course, you do too, but you’re not so obvious about it. I mean, really.
Try to avoid the jokester:
“No, I will not pull your finger."
"You told me the one about the maiden and the goat last time.”
Why is there someone who always equates success with money?
“He made six figures last year? You must be soooo proud.”
Is this a conversation or an interrogation?
“YES, I’m exercising/looking for a job/thinking about taking that class.”
“Yep, we’re both graduate students. How many years? Five, so far. A PhD takes a long time. When will he get a real job? Umm...”
Then there are those who don’t have a clue:
“I’m still writing. What kind? Children’s books. No, not picture books. Uh, no, you don’t need to be an illustrator to write a picture book. I write mostly for older children and teenagers. No, I don't have any books published yet. Right now? I’m trying to get an agent. Well, it’s really competitive. I enjoy writing. Yes, I’ve heard all about the success story the women who wrote the Harry Potter books. Mmm hmm, she wrote her idea right on a napkin. Oh really - she had only seventeen rejections? How many do I have? Uh yeah I did hear she’s the richest woman in England next to the queen.”
While others want to know why you haven’t succeeded, others want to ensure you feel like a failure:
"You never bought maternity clothes, preferring to wear your husband’s clothes? Wow, that is a small amount of weight-gain. And you lost the baby weight in two weeks. How lovely.”
Then there are the judgmental ones:
“Yes, that is my second piece of cake.”
Which is why you shouldn’t (outwardly) judge others:
“Training to become an Ultimate Fighting Champion sounds like a fine idea!”
And then there are the "race" relations who think life is all about jumping over the next hurdle. I wish she’d stop pestering her to get a boyfriend. Then to get married. Next to have children. And what after that? "When are you buying a burial plot? You really should get on that before the best spaces are taken."
Discussions to avoid with family members (unless you know beyond a reasonable doubt their philosophies are the same as yours):
You won’t convince them.
No. you. won’t.
Then there’s the frail person sitting in the corner who always seems too old for proper conversation. And when she’s gone, you’ll lament that you didn’t ask her to tell more stories about the old days. And maybe you should’ve written them down…
Big gift? Showoff. Little gift? Cheapskate.
And if it’s your party, a guest or two will be sure to mention what a hardship it was getting there. Whether it’s the distance/date/time/other. Why didn’t you send tentative dates and let everyone take a vote for the best one? And why not get consensus on other details? Shouldn’t planning a party be a democracy?
Why does everyone insist on destination weddings these days? As if the grand day itself were the point of the marriage. Besides the cost (airfare, hotel, meals, GIFT), you’re stuck with these relatives - not for four or five hours – but for two or three DAYS.
But then, sometimes, you spend all this time eating meals, taking walks, and having conversations. Real conversations. And you find you never knew this much about that person. Small talk never covered these kinds of topics. You realize, these people aren't so bad. Maybe outside of this crazy, mixed-up family, if you met each person on the street, maybe you’d become friends. Okay, maybe not friends, but at least acquaintances.
Look at it this way:
Plane tickets, $1000
Hotel room, $200 per night (EUROS!)
All that writing fodder… Priceless