For us veterans out there, that first Big Holiday with your honey's family can be like a visit to a foreign country with new and interesting customs, and a language that's not your own. It can be tough to navigate a terrain populated with inside jokes and references to events that have occurred over the life of a family that is not your own. There are the landmines onto which you will step through no fault of your own - the innocent inquiry into the source of the lovely place-settings can open up a generations'-old blood feud involving several family members (living and dead).
So here are some strategies to keep you safe during your maiden voyage into this undiscovered country:
- Find your Buddy: The trek to this new world can be scary, and, because your Sherpa, who happens to be your honey, is also a NATIVE of this land, prepare yourself to be left alone at some point. DO NOT PANIC!! Whether you've been stranded on the sofa in the family room in front of the overly-large plasma TV with Cousin Jenny who forgot her meds, or you're in the vortex of a heated debate involving your honey and their family, get your wits about you and scan that room for a friendly face. Chances are, you'll see a fellow traveler who speaks your language. Heck, they might even be able to translate for you!
- Familiarize Yourself with the Terrain: Prior to arrival in the new land, ask your Sherpa important questions like where can I go to have a smoke or where is the nearest bar? Find the bathrooms (ALL of the bathrooms, as you never know when you might need a moment of quiet and mental retreat - with the exhaust fan and the gentle tunes of your iPod, it's the closest thing you may get to a spa. Hell, while you're in there, run yourself a bath, too:)
- A "no thank you" Serving Makes the Natives Happy: One of my friends has the misfortune of being a vegetarian in a long-term relationship with a man whose mother believes that dinner plates are for food items that had a face and parents. So the big holiday meal is a test of wills with green beans cooked in bacon fat. It's become a "thing", so, my advice, have a little bit, say a cheerful "no thank you" if seconds are being passed, and that's all. It's an away game for you so let it go and attack that extra bag of pretzels that you got on the airplane! In the words of Conan O'Brien, "eat your mush and shut your pie-hole!"
- Wine NOT Whine: Be of good cheer, and if you're having the worst time in the world, then uncork some joy and save the whining for when you get home. Your Sherpa may have abandoned you, you may have listened to dozens of family tales, and you may have slept on the lumpiest/smelliest mattress ever made, but no one wants to hear it. Your honey may be oblivious to what you might be suffering, but the time to clue them in is not when their family members are in the next room of a house with paper thin walls.
I'm just saying!!