As was foretold, we've added advertisements to the forums! If you have questions, or if you encounter any bugs, please visit this thread: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/240191/forum-advertisement-faq-and-reports-thread/

Family Christmas Party- Help me survive this thing

CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
My dad family has a party every Christmas Eve. It's a miserable experience. For various reasons I won't get into, I can't get out of going to it this year. I want to avoid as much unpleasantness as possible, but I'm not sure how to do that and would really love some help. The usual problems are as follows:
  • My cousins ignore me. Once, a fifteen minute conversation with my aunt and cousin "Mel," ended with "Mel" jumping and exclaiming, "Ohmigosh Creagan! I didn't realize you were standing there! How long have you been next to me?" (The entire time she'd been talking to me.)
  • Any conversation with my aunts devolves into a "Why haven't started dating?" grilling session. Lately this has been followed by them asking my parents if I "like boys," and my dad pressuring my mom to "work on" me.
  • My dad gets PISSED when I talk to his family "wrong." Meaning not conversing exclusively in small-talk, using big words, and doing stuff like telling them the real titles of my courses. (Rather than "Mythical History, Paradigmatic Figures: Caesar, Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon," I should say "History," because according to Dad "nobody knows what a "paradigmatic figure" is.)
  • I cannot just ignore these people because my dad gets PISSED when my siblings and I do that. I don't want another lecture on how we need to learn how to talk to "normal" people and stop "shunning" his family. (We gave up after years of being ignored/insulted by his family. But Dad likes to forget about that.)
  • I am weirdly good at party games, and this annoys my dad's family. Party games had been my work-around for the problems listed above. But I've noticed a pattern where the relatives make the game harder for me, get irritated when they notice I'm winning, stop playing, and then ignore me until we leave. (Last year during Pictionary, my older cousins got stuff like "Frosty," and "Santa." I got "Elizabeth, Cousin of Virgin Mary." After I scored they ended the game and my dad's brother in-law was the only one who would talk to me for the rest of the night.)

I'm not really sure what to do. I've gotta have a couple conversations with my dad's relatives (in-laws don't count) in front of my dad, and join some games to make a good show at this thing.

But how can you keep conversing in small-talk after you cover clothing, hair, work, living arrangements, how they like the living arrangements, weather, and pets? How can I keep the "why aren't you dating" to a minimum while only speaking in polite sound-bites? Should I bring a game with subjective scoring to fix the party game issues?

So yeah, any advice is more than welcome.

Posts

  • Donovan PuppyfuckerDonovan Puppyfucker A dagger in the dark is worth a thousand swords in the morningRegistered User regular
    Do you have any non-white male friends that are willing to pose as your boyfriend? Or better yet, non-white female friends?

    I say if they're going to be unrepentant arseholes, let them burn.

  • QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    You don't want to deal with this situation but, for whatever reason, you have to. And pretty much any option that makes you feel better is going to upset your dad which you want to avoid.

    Pretty much the best I can offer is just roll with it.

  • LostNinjaLostNinja Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    If party games have been a successful work around for all these problems in the past then I think that bringing a game like apples to apples where there's scoring, but it isn't really the point of the game would be a great idea. If you can think of a party game with zero scoring then that would be even better. It also wouldn't hurt to just fake interest in the things that you know your relatives are interested in, do some research before hand if you have to so you can talk to them about whatever it is they always talk about at these things that doesn't interest you in the least.

    For the "why haven't you started dating yet?" question, just simply state, "I haven't met the right girl yet." and end the conversation there. It's specific enough that they won't start questioning your sexuality as if it's any of their business and a simple enough answer that they can't really argue with it. Also, maybe call you're dad out on it not being cool to pressure your mom to "work on" you. I would say to have an honest conversation with him about how that makes you feel, but from what you've written he doesn't sound like the type to respond to that.

    Edit: Sorry, I didn't realize that you were a girl and didn't mean to suggest that you play into their wrong assumptions about your sexuality. Change that last part to "I just haven't met the right guy yet."

    LostNinja on
  • bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    honestly - and i'm not trying to be rude, this is true for a lot of people, especially around this time of year - it sounds like you can work on your social skills a little.

    it's a night with family and party games. it's not necessarily a nightmare situation, in fact it should be entirely agreeable, and nothing you've described suggests there's really anything specific to worry about.

    here are a few things that could help:

    - language does always rely on context. talking to people is something of an art, and if you want to get something out of a conversation everybody needs to at least be in the same book, if not on the same page. perhaps your dad's anxious you're ostricising yourself and your part of the family by using the full technical terminology of your courses, rather than maybe saying "one of the things i'm studying is the way historic figures outgrew their own lives to really define their eras." (excuse the probably rough synthesis - but you get the gist). you have to read the situation more closely if you're st risk of coming off as obtuse. and people have a keen ear for condescension.

    - go shopping for some new clothes ahead of time. this may sound trivial, or maybe you're already on top of this, i dunno - but looking like you care enough to have thought about your clothes buys respect in situations like that, and chances are you'll feel more confident too. even if it's a gawky, ironic christmas sweater, choose it, own it, show it off

    - stop trying so hard to win games, it's not really the point

    - it's hard to change long-standing family dynamics so i feel for you if there's a genuine resentment. but chances are if you guys are playing pictionary together, it's not so bad. take it as an opportunity to have some fun, maybe just make it a point to talk a minute longer with "Mel", ask another question of your aunt, and don't stress about gf/bf/baby/mortgage/job questions because literally everyone gets it. people like to goss and they want you to be happy, in their narrow view of happiness. that's all it is.

    bsjezz on
    sC4Q4nq.jpg
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Oh, family can be irritating like no-one else. So don't take it seriously, play party games for fun - if you are as good as you say you are, you can subtly help others to make things more interesting. For instance, if grandma always loses Risk, make it a challenge to let grandma win without anyone noticing you are doing it.

  • PedroAsaniPedroAsani Brotherhood of the Squirrel [Prime]Registered User regular
    I usually cope by eating and getting drunk, which is an excuse to "go to bed" because I "am tired" and then just get on the internet where the normal people are.

  • RendRend Registered User regular
    Mostly I'd like to echo bsjezz. You may find it particularly difficult to talk to these people, but the ability to hold a "normal" conversation with people you share nearly no views with is not only a skill you can learn and practice, but it's also surprisingly important in the world at large.
    Creagan wrote: »
    [*] My cousins ignore me. Once, a fifteen minute conversation with my aunt and cousin "Mel," ended with "Mel" jumping and exclaiming, "Ohmigosh Creagan! I didn't realize you were standing there! How long have you been next to me?" (The entire time she'd been talking to me.)
    I am assuming this person is joking, but either way just laugh and roll with it. Maybe even lean into it "Oh I've been standing in this exact spot all day, I'm surprised you could have missed me!"
    [*]Any conversation with my aunts devolves into a "Why haven't started dating?" grilling session. Lately this has been followed by them asking my parents if I "like boys," and my dad pressuring my mom to "work on" me.
    Head off the conversation by driving the conversation with your aunts. If they interrupt to change the subject about your dating life, again, realize they are just asking about the sort of thing people ask about. Maybe even indulge them if you have eyes on anyone, that sort of thing. The answer doesn't have to be "no." and that's it, after all. If you treat this conversation as if your aunts were friends asking you genuine questions about your life (because who knows maybe they are!) then this conversation is much less grating and much more comfortable.
    [*]My dad gets PISSED when I talk to his family "wrong." Meaning not conversing exclusively in small-talk, using big words, and doing stuff like telling them the real titles of my courses. (Rather than "Mythical History, Paradigmatic Figures: Caesar, Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon," I should say "History," because according to Dad "nobody knows what a "paradigmatic figure" is.)
    Echoing bsjezz again. Generally speaking I wouldn't say the whole name of that class either (and not just because it's a mouthful). I'd say something like I'm taking "a really interesting history class about some big historical figures, like Napoleon and Caesar. Learning a lot of fun stuff, actually: Like did you know that Caesar was one hell of a ladies man? *you wink, everyone laughs*" You're not "dumbing down" anything here, you're just taking the conversation on a casual branch instead of an academic one. Either one is appropriate for normal conversation, but it largely depends on the group.
    [*]I cannot just ignore these people because my dad gets PISSED when my siblings and I do that. I don't want another lecture on how we need to learn how to talk to "normal" people and stop "shunning" his family. (We gave up after years of being ignored/insulted by his family. But Dad likes to forget about that.)
    I am sorry you have been insulted and ignored by his family for years. :(
    Not a ton to say about that.
    [*]I am weirdly good at party games, and this annoys my dad's family. Party games had been my work-around for the problems listed above. But I've noticed a pattern where the relatives make the game harder for me, get irritated when they notice I'm winning, stop playing, and then ignore me until we leave. (Last year during Pictionary, my older cousins got stuff like "Frosty," and "Santa." I got "Elizabeth, Cousin of Virgin Mary." After I scored they ended the game and my dad's brother in-law was the only one who would talk to me for the rest of the night.)
    Learning how to not win at everything is actually kind of a really important social skill. People don't like people who always win, and playing games against people who outclass you is not fun. You can't make it look like you're letting people win because they'll feel patronized, but basically just don't bring your A-game. This can be hard for a gamer who's always trying to do all of the things and win at everything, but it will make it more fun for everyone, yourself included.

    The situation may not be ideal for you, but at the very least you can treat it as a growing experience to teach yourself how to talk to people you would never hang out with in day-to-day life. As I said before, this skill is not only something you can learn and get better at, but it's also very important to know. People who are better at this simply do better at everything, because when comparing the loner with the boss's friend, assuming comparable skill parity, guess who gets the promotion?

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    For the party games, maybe be the score keeper or something. Take yourself out of a few rounds.

  • PantshandshakePantshandshake Registered User regular
    Well, people seem to covered option A pretty well, so I'm going to go ahead and come at this from a different angle.

    Aside from being your father, is there any reason to care if he gets mad at you? I mean, are there any repercussions aside from him being mad? If the problem is in fact your way of socializing with these people, I doubt you can really change what is probably a core bit of your personality by Christmas time. So, you know, go ahead and be you, and if they get mad, that's fine.

    Unless he's doing something like paying for your schooling, or wherever you live, or your car... Or maybe you owe him a bunch of money from a favor, or something, then I'm of the opinion that you don't really need to go out of your way to appease a house full of people. If you do have something important hanging over you, though, then yeah, try to be gracious about that.

  • TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    Here's your answer to the dating questions: "Oh, I'm doing some casual dating, but I'm not ready to settle down or anything yet." I don't know how comfortable you are with lying, but in this case I think it would qualify as a white lie - you're sparing unpleasant prodding with an exaggeration. I mean, going out with a friend could be construed as a date.

    Tell me, if you asked what I studied in a "small talk" situation, which of these responses would you expect?
    1. "I studied convective and advective heat transfer and modeling utilizing computational and numerical approximation methods to simulate forced dynamic fluid flows."
    2. "I studied heat transfer, mostly convection."

    1 is acceptable in a professional environment with one's colleagues, while 2 is what you would tell a layman. Most people are going to consider it rude to use 1 in a 2 situation, which it sounds like you've been doing. If you mention (for example) that you're studying history, and your audience prods a bit deeper, then you can explain in a bit more detail. Talk about your professors, which ones you like, which ones you think are weird. That sort of story will be a lot more... "universal" I guess? If I hadn't seen it written down, I wouldn't have known what a "paradigmatic figure" would be, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to figure it out in the midst of a conversation. I'm no dummy, either.

    Rend is right that carrying on a normal conversation without sounding condescending is a really important life skill. You can make or break your career in a single conversation with the right (or wrong) person. If you think it might help, have a glass of wine or a beer, but no more than that. Getting sloshed at a family party will not make your father any happier. Another thing you might try is to find some way to help out with the event. If there's cooking going on in the kitchen, offer to help with that, or with setting the table. If you're searching for something to say, you could do worse than "Aunt <blank>, that casserole smells delicious!"

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Assuming you can't say "I'm not going to your parties anymore because they suck," I tend to handle these things by speaking when spoken to and just being myself. This is terrible and never works but I don't really care because if I don't want to go to something I don't and if I'm not having fun I find a reason to leave.

    My husband though.. he has a trick for these things (also great for interviews, btw). That trick is "talk about them." People love to talk about themselves, and if you give them lots of chances to talk about themselves they will walk away with a generally good impression of you without even being sure why. Ask questions, and then for elaboration on the answers. They will usually find ways to keep talking if only you can keep finding details to ask about. If you are asked a direct question, if you can give a short answer with a quick turnaround question, you can get them going again until they get tired of talking to you and find someone else to talk to, or distracted by someone else, or your interview time has run out. Give as few details about yourself as you possibly can during this, because every new extraneous factoid is a chance for them to form a negative opinion of you or their compatibility with you.

    It really does work, you just have to be able to feign interest for a really long time. Again, I have the attention span of a drunken flea so it doesn't work well for me, but you might have an easier time with it for the length of conversations you're talking about.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Thanks guys, you gave me a lot of helpful stuff to think about. (And sorry for the super long post.)
    Aside from being your father, is there any reason to care if he gets mad at you? I mean, are there any repercussions aside from him being mad?
    Right now I'm living at home for free while I commute to grad school. There aren't "real" repercussions in the sense that Dad would block my ability to pay for classes, or kick me out, or something like that. So it'd just be him getting mad at me. But I think I may have drastically underplayed how awful it is to be around him when I make a bad show at these parties.

    The car ride back is one long rant about how completely awful I (and sometimes my siblings) were were his relatives. That I'm horrible at talking to people, I "make myself out to be strange on purpose," and that my siblings and I ignored his relatives and humiliated him in front of his siblings. Basically that I'm totally socially inept and my siblings and I are just awful, terrible human beings. Then he's in a really volatile mood for the rest of the week where he'll start the rant back up again at a moments notice. The rest of the month is filled with him getting my mom to try and pressure me into dressing differently. And occasionally he'll say stuff like "You and the dog need to get over your fear of men. Maybe the two can help each other work on it!" as a 'joke."

    This is also why I hate going to the parties and probably a big contributing factor to how awkward I come across at them. It's hard to appear relaxed, comfortable, and interested in what somebody is saying when you know your emotional safety for the next 7+ days depends on you preforming up to snuff, socially. Also, you know, the death-glares from Dad whenever I start to mess up don't exactly help either.
    bsjezz wrote: »
    "one of the things i'm studying is the way historic figures outgrew their own lives to really define their eras." (excuse the probably rough synthesis - but you get the gist). you have to read the situation more closely if you're st risk of coming off as obtuse. and people have a keen ear for condescension.
    Rend wrote: »
    "a really interesting history class about some big historical figures, like Napoleon and Caesar. Learning a lot of fun stuff, actually: Like did you know that Caesar was one hell of a ladies man? *you wink, everyone laughs*"
    I guess I didn't really explain this well. Both those suggestions have way more detail than I'm supposed to give. Seriously, I can't even say "Empire builders." Conversations with Dad's family are supposed to go like this:

    Uncle: "How's school going?"
    Me: "Great! Is Rob enjoying Harvard?"
    "Yup. He really likes it."
    "Oh good!"
    "What classes are you taking?"
    "Three history classes."
    "Wow, you really like history then?"
    "Yup! It's fun."
    "That's really great. Rob's been taking mostly Math."
    "Whoa. What's his major?"
    "Econ."
    "That's really cool. How's he like his classes?"

    This is, as close as I remember it, and actual model conversation my dad had with me as practice for talking to his relatives. He's giving me a refresher course this year. I asked for it. Cutting down my responses to that level is really hard for me. (Normally, I speak almost exactly the way I write online.)
    bsjezz wrote: »
    - stop trying so hard to win games, it's not really the point
    Rend wrote: »
    - Learning how to not win at everything is actually kind of a really important social skill. People don't like people who always win, and playing games against people who outclass you is not fun. You can't make it look like you're letting people win because they'll feel patronized, but basically just don't bring your A-game. This can be hard for a gamer who's always trying to do all of the things and win at everything, but it will make it more fun for everyone, yourself included.
    I'm not trying to win. That's the thing. I'm just really good at Pictionary and Catchphrase. But come to think of it, part of the problem may be the fact that Dad's family almost always makes fun of the person who loses whatever game we're playing, and that's something I never do. (Being too good a sport is the reason my best friend refused to play board games with me when we were little. She got mad because I didn't get worked up over winning/losing like she did, which made her feel bad.)

    I can totally start cheating to lose or really not trying, though. (I used to do it when I baby-sat. If you lose badly enough, the kids make fun of you instead of their siblings, and then they don't cry when the game's over.) Or bring Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity if I'm just playing with my cousins.



    As for the not dating stuff... I don't think lying is a good idea here. I suck at lying. Also, I've never dated, so if I say I've even gone out with a guy once, that'd be a really big deal and I'd have to provide way more detail than I can make up on the spot. But I like the suggestion to talk about seeing guys you thought were hot. I didn't think of that, and there were some very attractive firemen who came to check out an electrical fire at my house a few months ago. I can mention that & give my aunts something to make fun of me for.

    Creagan on
  • PrimePrime UKRegistered User regular
    ceres wrote: »

    My husband though.. he has a trick for these things (also great for interviews, btw). That trick is "talk about them." People love to talk about themselves, and if you give them lots of chances to talk about themselves they will walk away with a generally good impression of you without even being sure why. Ask questions, and then for elaboration on the answers. They will usually find ways to keep talking if only you can keep finding details to ask about. If you are asked a direct question, if you can give a short answer with a quick turnaround question, you can get them going again until they get tired of talking to you and find someone else to talk to, or distracted by someone else, or your interview time has run out. Give as few details about yourself as you possibly can during this, because every new extraneous factoid is a chance for them to form a negative opinion of you or their compatibility with you.

    It really does work, you just have to be able to feign interest for a really long time. Again, I have the attention span of a drunken flea so it doesn't work well for me, but you might have an easier time with it for the length of conversations you're talking about.

    This, I learnt this in my teens and it works a charm. I do have to be in the right frame of mind to care to do it though. Give it a shot.

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Prime wrote: »
    ceres wrote: »

    My husband though.. he has a trick for these things (also great for interviews, btw). That trick is "talk about them." People love to talk about themselves, and if you give them lots of chances to talk about themselves they will walk away with a generally good impression of you without even being sure why. Ask questions, and then for elaboration on the answers. They will usually find ways to keep talking if only you can keep finding details to ask about. If you are asked a direct question, if you can give a short answer with a quick turnaround question, you can get them going again until they get tired of talking to you and find someone else to talk to, or distracted by someone else, or your interview time has run out. Give as few details about yourself as you possibly can during this, because every new extraneous factoid is a chance for them to form a negative opinion of you or their compatibility with you.

    It really does work, you just have to be able to feign interest for a really long time. Again, I have the attention span of a drunken flea so it doesn't work well for me, but you might have an easier time with it for the length of conversations you're talking about.

    This, I learnt this in my teens and it works a charm. I do have to be in the right frame of mind to care to do it though. Give it a shot.

    Yeah... this works in pretty much any social situation that you can lighten up a bit.

    Volunteer a little information about yourself as a tiny bit of bait, and then just ask questions and give attention. You don't have to be the most interesting person in the world to keep things moving, just interested. This is especially good advice when people in interview situations ask "So do you have any questions for me/us?". Asking them how long they've been at the company or why they like to work there will go a long way. People appreciate it when someone gives a shit about what's in their head.

    Edit: If they ask you about dating, just say you're looking forward to finally being done with school so you can have the free time to build social life. I don't think anyone will give you anything other than a nod and a bit of, "Yeah you must be really busy!".

    dispatch.o on
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    The easiest way to be liked in casual situations is always to be super-positive. Never use ironic or negative humour. Never complain about anything, even in jest. So you want to avoid jokes like "Yeah, school's going well... if you like being around a bunch of philistines who think that Napoleon is a kind of brandy." Because anyone without your specific set of knowledge will just give you a funny look, because they didn't understand what you just said, but get the impression that you are in a bad mood.

    So you *can* talk above people's heads as long as you are positive. Like "I'm going in for a scholarship on paradigm shift in early 20th century haute couture. I'm so excited, but nervous!" And if you are genuine, they'll pick up on your enthusiasm and ask you to explain what you just said, which is a conversation opener.

    Sounds like your whole family is convinced you are a lesbian. Well, not much you can do about that if you are not dating or interested in dating. "I haven't found anyone yet, too busy with school." should do. Let them draw their own conclusions. Don't fake a crush. Unless they are complete bigots they are really just curious about Miss Snarky & Mysterious. Is there anything that can crack her aloof shell? So, talk about your friends. If your best friend just got married and your course supervisor adopted a baby, that is a nice bit of human interest to talk about. If you don't open up about your life at all, you give them the impression that you think you are "too good" to talk to them.

  • ComradebotComradebot Lord of Dinosaurs Houston, TXRegistered User regular
    My relatives from Mississippi have been here for less than ten minutes.

    I've already lost count of how many BS stories and racist jokes my uncle has told.


    There is hell on earth, and this is it.

  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    My relatives from Mississippi have been here for less than ten minutes.

    I've already lost count of how many BS stories and racist jokes my uncle has told.


    There is hell on earth, and this is it.

    A powerful lesson there for the OP -- its easier to be a charming jerk at a party rather than well meaning but willfully abstruse!

    fwKS7.png?1
  • noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    OP,

    I know family is a powerful thing, but what you described goes far above a strict parent. Your dad sounds like a controlling, emotionally abusive asshole, and at some point you're going to do something about this-even if that 'something' is simply moving away.

  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    noir_blood wrote: »
    OP,

    I know family is a powerful thing, but what you described goes far above a strict parent. Your dad sounds like a controlling, emotionally abusive asshole, and at some point you're going to do something about this-even if that 'something' is simply moving away.
    Yeah. My mom and I are working on the situation and there's been some degree of improvement from a year ago, which is when we started. That's why I have some hope this party might not be completely awful. Normally I just resign myself to the fact that Dad'll throw a fit no matter what I do, because I'm not actually socially awkward the way he makes me out to be. The real problem is I'm not my cousin "Mel." But he's been a lot better, and it's been fairly consistent for the past several months. So if I'm lucky and things go well, I may be able to get away with him just lecturing/encouraging me to stop being so anxious, which is by FAR preferable to the way things usually go.

    As for moving out... I am hoping to do that eventually. But the reason I'm living with my parents now is because the last time I moved out everything blew up in my face. (Dad had nothing to do with that. He actually helped pay to get me out of what was a really dangerous, abusive situation with my now ex-roommate that was way worse than living with him ever was.) I want to finish sorting out everything that surprise move home messed up before I try living on my own again. Also, I have to be in a position to live without a roommate. (The last one literally almost killed me.)

Sign In or Register to comment.