It’s the most tormenting time of the year,
With the talk so repelling,
And Uncle Ted yelling, “We’re all out of beer!”
It’s the most tormenting time of the year!

I know that you’ve all probably been dreading it just as much as I have, so why skirt around the inevitable? Winter is now upon us, and with winter comes roughly a thousand different holidays and of course, an equal number of family get-togethers to boot! From afar, it always seems like a grand idea to gather up all of the relatives in celebration, yet skip ahead to about midday and I’d be willing to bet that at least one out of every three people stuck in that house would be more than willing to give their right arms, or any other appendage you might desire for that matter, just for an excuse good enough to set them free from the servitude that is family bonding…

And honestly, I wish that I could just rattle off a list of them here for you right now, but unfortunately there are some forces that even a savvy, strapping genius like myself simply can’t contend with – grizzly bears and pop music aren’t really all that impressive after all when compared to the wrath of listening to Uncle Marvin ramble on about his days in the circus until you’re just about ready to take your own life! Nevertheless, even though I may not be able to help you avoid the frightening experience altogether, I am confident that I can teach you what you’ll need to know in order to cope with the situation…which, according to my therapist, is the first step. The second and third steps, however, require some pretty hefty prescriptions that I’m technically not qualified to just handout, but we’ll worry about that whole mess later!

First of all, before you even walk through the door, take a few deep breaths and get it in your head early on to take anything and pretty much everything that could possibly bother you with several industrial-sized grains of salt! You already know that things are going to be said, repulsive stories are going to be told, and at some point there’s even a chance that one or more of your relations may even get drunk enough to hit on you – rather than letting all of these things build up inside until you finally release it all in a furious rant like you did a few years ago that has still left Aunt Betty afraid to mention beets around your presence, just let it go, man! As a general rule, nobody ever takes anything their own family says seriously anyways, so why start now?! Merely write it off to ignorance or the booze or the alignment of the stars and move on – you’ll be happy you did the next morning…

And speaking of the next morning, unless you’re one of these old-fashioned families that gets together for the whole weekend, gathering at the farmhouse so everyone can wake-up Christmas morning and open presents together, sometimes the easiest way to get yourself through this ordeal is simply by repeating over and over again in your head that it’ll all be over in less than twenty-four hours – feel free to keep a running ticker in your head if need be! Today you may be forced to listen to a three-hour long discussion about the pros and cons of living above ground or getting a real job or some other such nonsense, but it won’t be long before those final goodbye hugs are being exchanged and you’ll be riding those slippery roads back to your normal life, where you can take refuge in the fact that it’ll be another whole year before you have to let Uncle Morty walk you through all of his war scars again!

But of course, if these past words haven’t been enough to help you in the very least way, let me remind you of one last fact that will hopefully turn your head around – we’re all in the same boat together, people! No matter how alienated you may feel because Aunt Yuanita always seems to get a little tipsy after her third or fourth glass of “cider,” often forgetting about the fact that you are her nephew, or because Uncle Frank always seems to want to get in on the games with the kids, even though he’s a very, very bad loser who likes to throw things, or because you never seem to get to try out the duck and all of its moist juiciness thanks to the pigs ahead of you in the buffet line, I can pretty much guarantee you that the rest of us are dealing with the same kinds of people in our own families, too, and maybe even a tad bit worse! Nevertheless, even if in retrospect, there are very few incentives to gather the clan during the holidays, we still do it year and dreadful year because hey – they’re family! Would you really ever expect anything less?!

My advice is this – “If you can’t beat ‘em, and you certainly can’t avoid ‘em altogether, then you might as well join ‘em!” so just throw back another glass of eggnog, dive right into those raging discussions, despite the fact that you don’t even know what they’re talking about, and just have a good time with it!

There’ll be insults and whining,
Our gene pool’s declining,
This all seems oh so clear…
It’s the most tormenting time of the year!