Point Of View: Family Ties

Mike Albo offers his survival guide for dealing with tricky relatives at holiday gatherings.

FAMILY_45020069_xxl_BGNOV17

All the hot yoga and mindfulness meditation in the world won’t help you when you head home for the holidays. You may think you have it together, but wait until you are sitting around the table with those triggering beings in your life known as family. Every year, they find new creative ways to get under your skin. But you are going to stay positive and bring people together, no matter what. We’re here to help. Here are the seven people you will encounter this holiday season and how to deal with them.


The BEAST of a Niece

She got a drone for her birthday. Her pet teacup pig only eats organic. Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.15.00 PM
She has her own YouTube channel. Typical conversation at dinner: “Why don’t you try that sweet potato pie? Grandma worked real hard!” “No.” “But it’s really good!” “Then you have it.” You are minutes away from holiday cheer entirely leaving your body.

How to deal:

Try your best to think of her as amusing. Pretend you are watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. And try to remember you weren’t such a little angel yourself, especially if anyone came close to your Princess Leia action figure.


The Uncle WHO VOTED THE OTHER WAY

You know where he stands politically, and it’s the opposite of everything you believe in. Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.14.38 PMHe knows that too, and he is waiting on the other side of that table for you to start arguing with him and turn this holiday dinner into the Bill Maher show. Every conversation is a land mine. Even the most innocuous subjects will inevitably lead to him scoffing and saying, “Huh! Well, of course you would say that!”

How to deal:

Don’t give up! Think of this as a challenge to find common ground. Herbal tea, humidity, the new shade of white they chose to repaint the porch— something will click. If all else fails, imagine his words are coming to you from far away, like the echoes of loons across a large lake.


TED-TALKIN’ Grandpa

Someone discovered the Internet. All year, he has been watching those well- practiced Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.16.16 PM16-minute TED talks, and now he excitedly spouts out factoids. Did you know that a beehive is as well-designed as the streets of Paris? Or that there is a giant mass 1,000 times the size of Earth in space, and astronomers have not ruled out that it could be a superstructure built by aliens? Well, pour yourself a big glass of cab, because you are about to find out.

How to deal:

Just sit, listen and enjoy. He may not stop talking, but at least he isn’t going off like he did last year about how the new neighbors are lowering his property taxes.


Sis who just had HER FIRST BABY

Sis has a new baby, and she is nervous—afraid that if she doesn’t handle this child FAMILY_44339967_xxl_BGNOV17correctly, it will explode like a small nuclear device. All afternoon, you have had to patiently listen to her talk about organic baby wipes and the off-gassing of chemicals from plastic sippy cups, but you are about to snap.

How to deal:

Sis needs to be tactfully reminded of the insanely toxic things you did together as kids: “Remember when we sat on the porch and ate sticks of butter dipped in sugar and then peroxided our hair in the sun till it turned bright yellow?”


The SCREEN-ADDICT Son

Your family is all together, opening presents, laughing, and he sits there bowed over hisScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.17.53 PM device, tapping away, with a furtive look on his face. What is he doing? Being a sullen teen is normal (you did it too, way back when, in your goth phase), but at least you had to look up through your bangs and eyeliner once in a while to ask for things.

How to deal:

Quick, run upstairs, find your old mopey mix tapes full of goth and shoegaze music and crank up the volume. Then forego the annual family viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and choose a teen angst classic like Rebel Without a Cause, Donnie Darko or The Breakfast Club. Reach across generations and share the malaise.


The BODY-OBSESSED Brother-in-Law

You have been pretending to be interested as your bro-in-law talks about his Fitbit, six-hour workout Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.18.54 PMroutine and cognitive-enhancing nootropic supplements. All the while, you shovel another mound of crab dip on a cracker into your mouth. Then he explains how he gets full from a lunch of five almonds.

How to deal:

Time to play mind games. At some point during dinner, say, “Weird. Did you hear that new Tim Ferriss podcast in which he says that mashed potatoes with bacon and butter are a superfood?”


The SPIRITUALLY SUPERIOR Cousins

She made a zillion dollars selling her app that delivers luxury eye pillows, and now she and her husband float from sangha to silent retreat to Sting’s summer house in a constant blissful state of self-evolution. Because of their inner work, they regard other human beings as if they are advanced aliens observing a primitive race. When dessert is passed and you joke, “Oh man, this second piece of pecan pie is gonna give me cankles!” they gaze at you with watery eyes filled with sympathy for your lower plane of existence.

How to deal:

Don’t even try. Some people forget that the real meaning of the holidays is about eating to your heart’s desire and then passing out in front of the TV. Do all this with pride.

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