Surviving Rude Relatives…
I did this article for Natural Medicine Journal, December last year (2010). You are so welcome to add your own (horror?!) stories!!
SURVIVING RUDE RELATIVES
Sarah sighs with delight: she can hardly wait for their Sunday afternoon nap. Just as Sarah and Nic are getting into bed, the bell rings… Sarah hears the bellowing noise of her father-in-law: ‘Come on, come on, put on the kettle!’ She gives Nic the evil eye, jumps out of bed and disappears into the bathroom – slamming the door. The sound barely drowns the animated ‘put on the kettle, put on the kettle!’ coming from outside.
Rude relatives? You are not alone! The greatest challenge with these near (and sometimes not so dear) ones seems to come with the festive season. This did not deter Natural Medicine and we decided to enter the family battlefield. Here are some stories about rude relatives from our readers, and, most importantly, a few handy holiday tips on handling your Next of Kin this season.
Worst Case Scenarios
23-year old Elizabeth Venter* from Port Elizabeth, has an uncle who tries to set her up with random men at the holiday resort where they go every December. “On the beach he usually calls the first guy (never mind if he seems to be half my age), jovially yelling: ‘Check this handsome guy, Beth? Hi there, young fellow, what’s your name? Come here, meet this lovely lady…’”
Ben Anderson* (44, Somerset-West) worries about family members staying over at their holiday home, without saying exactly when they will arrive and when they will be leaving: “I like to prepare myself psychologically for the arrival of people at our house and my wife likes to plan and do all sorts of preparations for the holiday season. I have spoken to family members about this, but they feel I should lighten up and enjoy the spontaneity of life!”
Time in front of the braai is the most stressful part of holidays for Dean Smith* (33, Stellenbosch): “Whenever I braai, my cousin would quietly stand there with a dissatisfied look on his face. When I turn my back for just a moment, he immediately moves in, adding some spices or turning the meat over. Am I just oversensitive, or is that extremely rude?”
I am sure you can share worse stories than these! The meddlesome grandmother, the tipsy brother… But let us be progressive in this matter! Here are some tips for smothering the festive fire.
Disagree Graciously without Arguing
When disagreements arise, stay focused: do not interrupt or raise your voice. Listen to what the other person is saying, as you might have misunderstood the issue. If you simply cannot agree with what has been said, state your position clearly and then immediately change the subject. Arguing will only add tension to the holiday – something you have enough of during the work year.
Avoid the Trigger
If you find it impossible to keep your sanity in the presence of your racist uncle or gossiping cousin, avoid spending time with them. Avoidance is essential to a drama-free festive season. This is a good time for long walks or challenging mountain bike rides (or perhaps a long cup of Chai at your favourite coffee shop).
Another way to avoid family drama is to consider inviting more people to big events: the more people, the more difficult for a diva to be a diva – there are simply too many people’s interest to hold. Supplement your guest list with genuine friends or the relatives you really like: your interaction with difficult relatives will now be varied with time interacting with the people who feed your soul.
Play the Game
Can’t seem to avoid being the butt of the joke? Consider ‘shocking’ the family (just a little!). Tell the aunts who want to know how you survive being a writer, that the colleagues at work are sexy and that you really enjoy the benefits… They probably won’t ask you any such questions again. Playing along with being the joke, also takes the joy out of it for the teaser and the focus will then shift to someone else (hopefully someone who doesn’t mind getting teased).
Perhaps December is not the ideal time to visit the family… Decide to go for a few days over Christmas and rather go again for another week in the new-year. Three peaceful days are much better than eight days of which the last two are disastrous. Time management is an important part of missing the drama. If it is a one-night event, there is nothing wrong with showing up a little late and leaving a bit earlier.
Consider Loved Ones
You may feel like crying when the holiday draws near, but if it means a lot to your husband to see his parents in December or if your sister really needs your moral support hosting the Christmas supper, swallow those tears and set your mind on what is noble and upright. Focus on your husband enjoying time with his brother or on the fact that you are really helping your sister, mentally and physically.
You now ought to be equipped for the summer holiday! Just one last tip: refrain from saying or doing something that you will later regret: “What’s done is done, and cannot be undone…!”