Monday, December 20, 2004

Married Christmas! Notes for the Dysfunctional

It's the holidays, kids, that time when we celebrate the birth of the Son of God and the Savior of Humankind -- by shopping, getting stressed out, and starting violent domestic squabbles with extended families we can't stand to be around any other time.

Yes, it's time for families to get together to celebrate the Season of Guilt.

Who do you buy presents for?

How much should you spend?

No matter what you decide, you'll always feel guilty: someone gives you a present and you don't reciprocate -- or you either spend too much or spend too little. There is no middle ground when it comes to gift-giving: You're either a nice thoughtful person deep in debt -- or a cheap, ungrateful bastard.

Loving relationships are pushed to the brink of total destruction by another annual dilemma fraught with guilt: "Where do we spend Christmas?" If inlaws live in separate cities, the decision is simple; most couples use the alternating system: "Yours last year -- mine this year."

For those unlucky enough to have local parents, the dilemma is more complicated. The alternating system is also used, but it always has to include the same annual arguments: Whose house do we visit first? How long do we stay? Where do we eat the Big Dinner? Where do we watch the Big Game?

The situation is bad enough if you're in a stable first marriage, but if you're on a second or third marriage, the presence of yours, mine, and ours multiplies the problems exponentially; dealing with half-a-dozen grandparents and a small army of semi-related children is great for the economy, but a killer when it comes to stress. Either way, numerous spats and hurt feelings will precede the same old inevitable plan:

Mom#1's house - Introductions to family members you haven't seen since the last major holiday. Try to avoid the token weird, alcoholic Uncle Bill. Eat the "Big Dinner" -- but go light -- since the earlier negotiated settlement meant dinner with both families.

(Note: Both Mom#1 and Mom#2 use sugar as the main ingredient in all their holiday recipes. Whether it's the glazed ham, the candied yams, or the Fudge of Death, your sugar intake for the day will be equivalent to eating your weight in M&Ms. If you're female, each time you compliment a dish, you'll spend the next 20 minutes jotting down the recipe. This is a psychological gesture that will forever endear you to your mother-in-law.)

At half time during The Big Game, waddle out to the car and repeat all of the above at Mom #2's house.

By early evening, you're bored, depressed, and suffering from severe pumpkin pie poisoning. Just when you're ready to pack up and leave, some idiot suggests a game of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit -- or if you're really unlucky, Monopoly.

Mom #2 begs you to stay -- and you grudgingly agree in order to avoid a later fight with your spouse as a climax to the celebrations.

Six hours later, bankrupted by an eight-year-old capitalist prick with four hotels on Park Place, you head for the house.

What a day: Eighteen hours of food, drink, games, recipes, and guilt.

No matter where you choose to spend the holidays, you'll end up with the blues -- guilty because you're somewhere you wish you weren't -- or guilty because you didn't go and you know you should have gone. There is no way to avoid it.

Say that you decide to put your foot down and stay home for the holidays; on Christmas Day, you'll be imagining Mom#1 and Mom#2 tearfully staring at an empty chair at the dinner table, muttering your name into their eggnog. You'll wonder if the Christmas tree lights will support your weight as you hang from the rafters in the garage.

It's a tough time, but you should be consoled in the knowledge that millions of others are going through the exact same things at this time of year. That's why God made New Year's Eve: It's a chance for everyone to get drunk a week later (That's why it's called the alcoholidays!) and make a resolution to avoid all of this dysfunctional nonsense next year.

And you and millions of others like you will forget that resolution and do it all over again.

It's a tradition.


Blogger CW Fisher said...

Great stuff, Sharkie. Good to have you back.

10:23 PM  
Blogger sadi ranson-polizzotti said...

i loved this, coming from such dysfunction, but then.... who doesn't... and it's all in the eye of... well... maybe my Scottish family takes the cake for eccentricity. It's a kinder word for utterly fucked up.

bisous a toi.


9:39 AM  

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