The holidays are coming. When you read that in your head, do you read it in an echo-y ominous voice? The holidays are coming. Or perhaps you read that sentence in a normal tone because you have the most perfect family there ever was, everyone gets along and no one fights or complains. No one has to be seated at a certain end of the table because they run the risk of strangling Aunt Irene in a sudden blackout rage if sitting next to her. If you were born into that Hallmark Channel family, congratulations. Also, you might want to skip this post because you’re probably not going to relate.
If you’re still with me, let me first say, I feel your pain. There is absolutely no family that is without some kind of interesting dynamic. If your friends try to convince you otherwise, they are lying. Or they’re delusional. Or they have some seriously repressed family issues. If that’s you with the repressed family issues, come sit by me, I’m about to take you on an eye opening and soul cleansing journey.
The following is a list of the 5 personality types that can almost always be found at family dysfunctions. Sorry, family functions. If my family is reading this, you are absolutely, 100% not called out in this post. If you see glimpses of yourself, it’s purely coincidental and in no way an actual representation.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
- The Debbie Downer – oh this auntie, or cousin, or brother is the one you try not to get stuck sitting next to during dinner. If you try asking overly general questions about how the family member is doing: Danger! You’ve opened the gate to the 7th circle of hell. He or She is going to take this opportunity to let you know how absolutely horrible their life has been since the last time they got to update you about their constant stream of misfortune. From the unexplained and incurable medical diagnosis, to the inability to get along with all of their psychotic coworkers, to their horribly punishing ex-spouse drama. You will hear about it all, in great detail, throughout dinner. Fill up your wine glass. You’re going to need it for the melancholy journey they are about to take you on. You might even pop an anti-depressant or two, their stories can really break a man (or woman) down.
- The Conspiracy Theorist – I hope you like to hear exactly all of the items in your daily life which cause cancer, because this generous soul is about to share his or her wisdom with you. I use the term wisdom loosely here. The first rule in dealing with the conspiracy theorist is not to engage. Do not argue or debate their opinions. God have mercy on your poor unwitting soul should you ask any clarifying questions or present data that seems to discredit their opinions. Aliens are real because this family member has personally experienced the alien abduction and has the journal entries to prove their time in outer space. They also have the scar where the tracking device was implanted during their space odyssey. When you point out the scar is actually a small pox injection site, be sure to put some distance between you and their mouth, because they are about to unload some knowledge on you in a very articulate manner, which includes particles of food flying out of their mouth and potentially landing on your face. The conspiracy theorist and The Politico are interchangeable, it’s really just the topics of debate that differ. Good luck!
- The Golden Child – If you are the Golden Child, I apologize. Everyone resents the Golden Child. The Golden Child didn’t ask for the title, but it was bestowed upon them and now they have to bear that cross. Everyone in the family simultaneously praises the accomplishments of the Golden Child while also complaining about constantly being compared to the Golden Child. No one can ever measure up to the standards and accolades of the Golden Child. Family members either adore the Golden Child or have an especially bitter loathing of the Golden Child. If you are the Golden Child, you’d do well to just keep your mouth shut. Don’t say anything. In this situation, your family is like the police, everything can and will be used against you.
- The Mooch – Oh Mooch, how we love thee. The Mooch never has any money. If the Mooch has gifts to give, keep in mind it’s the thought that counts. The Mooch is never going to bring anything more than potato chips to dinner. If a dip is presented a long with said chips, assume the dip came free with the chips. What the Mooch lacks in monetary contributions, they more than make up for in not starting family drama. Mooches prefer to fly under the radar so as not to alert anyone to their pilfering ways. The Mooch is especially helpful in retrieving people a refill on their beer, primarily so he can swipe for himself at the same time. Also, please remember to pack leftovers for The Mooch and understand that, no, you will not be getting your Tupperware dishes back.
- Guilty Granny – I call this person Guilty Granny, but really it can be anyone in your family. I just like to use alliteration. Guilty Granny makes you feel, well, guilty. Haven’t called her in a while? Don’t worry, she did notice and she’s going to ask what you’ve been so busy with that you couldn’t call a poor ailing woman such as herself. Did you see your spouse’s grandmother more than her? I hope for your sake the in-law grandmother had a life-threatening illness that you can let Guilty Granny know was the cause for your more frequent visits to the other granny. She doesn’t need to know that the other granny is more fun. Religious Guilty Granny is a special hybrid. Just accept that you did not go to church, confession, Wednesday mass or any other church function nearly enough. Nor did you do enough for the poor, the homeless or visit with her enough. Now that Guilty Granny is at dinner, do make sure to sit close to her and tell her all about your life, mundane details and all. Should you fail to do so, the post-holiday gossip will focus on how you didn’t speak to her at all, barely even uttered a hello. Guilty Grannies may also be the same family member making slick remarks about your lack of procreation. Take a deep, long pull on that wine, or whiskey, and smile. You can’t very well enjoy the holidays in jail.
I hope despite all of these somewhat challenging family dynamics you can enjoy time spent with family, the food on the table and the history between you all. Despite each of our family’s unique personalities, the drama, the fighting, the love, the history, is what makes a family. The perfect family photo with smiling faces, pressed ties and coiffed hair is not reality. In reality, there’s at least one child trying to get out of the photo, possibly away from the other child who is trying to mortally wound them. The father figure might be standing in the back, pie-eyed from the whisky he drank to get through the photo session, and mom is usually looking at the camera, wishing like hell she could have just one damned photo that made her family look like she had her shit together. Don’t worry harried mom, no one has it together, and we’d all be much better friends to each other if we just admitted that.
God Speed and bring on the holidays! I love you all!