Photo: Modern Family

The Five People You Tolerate at Family Gatherings

There’s always a baby.

The holidays can be a trying time for many of us. Returning to our own beds and spending time with friends from home can be amazing, but the holidays also bring endless events with extended family we’d rather not see. Dragged on long car journeys to your weird uncle’s Christmas party, or your grandma’s sister’s husband’s stepchildren’s house, you end up meeting all sorts of people who are somehow related to you (remind me again, Mum, how we know them?) but seem to be non-existent for the rest of the year. Now that we’ve mostly staggered clear of these gatherings, let’s look at a few characters who seem ubiquitous to every family tree.

1. A very small, very loud child

This child’s parents seem to have no desire to discipline their progeny, and as such, this terror runs around, screaming over every conversation, demanding attention, breaking things, failing to flush the toilet, and generally causing uncheckable havoc. It is the ultimate wish of every person within a two-mile radius to put a ball-gag on this creature, but unfortunately, you’re invariably not sure if you’re closely related enough to them to have the right.

2. The old person who smokes like a chimney

Probably your grandfather, or maybe one of his sisters, this person smokes something terrible-smelling and unending. Whether it is a pipe, or menthol cigarettes, or even a vape pen, the scent transfers from their clothes to yours when they embrace you for an uncomfortably long time, and you cannot escape. Good luck on smelling like anything else for the next four weeks if the event you’re attending is in their house.

3. The not-quite-young anymore, but still single relative

Maybe they’re a “lone wolf”, maybe they’re a “hopeless romantic” (whose standards are too high, according to their ageing mother), or maybe they’re just not that good-looking. Whatever it is, this “young at heart” individual is unattached, and is quickly moving past the age at which their parents can reasonably hope to attend another wedding and have some more grandchildren.

You’ve probably caught them searching for a potential partner among the scores of strangers / family, hoping beyond hope to not have to turn up alone to one of these horrible events again. Unfortunately, nobody is interested in their stories about their gap year to India twenty years ago, nor in hearing about how they “work in IT.”

4. The teenager

Aged somewhere between twelve and sixteen, this relative is literally too awkward, embarrassed, and uncomfortable to function. They probably have a lot of hair covering large proportions of their face, and maybe more piercings than their parents know about. They can’t possibly speak to anybody of another gender, and spend a lot of time with earbuds obstinately pressed into one or both ears, letting anybody who comes too close know that they are not interested in conversations about how school is going. When you go on walks, they drag behind, alone, and shoot their parents death glares at every possible opportunity.

Your heart aches for them, but that was you a few years ago, and you know that they just have to get through it as you did.

5. The absentee

This is probably a relative you actually know, and like. The only reason you even let your parents drag you along to this event is that you hoped they’d be there. It turns out that they sent gifts with their sister, and are “sorry [they] can’t make it this year.” Every time grandma falls asleep into her pudding, or one of your aunts has a bit too much wine and says something awful, you want to look over at this person and commiserate.

Alas. It is to be another year before you see them, and whether they are a favourite cousin, or a particularly witty grandfather, you don’t think you’ll quite forgive them for abandoning you to the horrors of a family gathering.

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