5 Ways Every Family Gathering Goes Wrong

#2. A Wildly Inappropriate Spouse

Speaking of divorce, know what's awkward? A new and wildly inappropriate new spouse. Like let's say your 50-year-old divorced uncle Henry, the college professor, shows up to Christmas dinner with one of his 21-year-old students. What do you do? (I mean, after you finish high-fiving him wildly.)

Why It Sucks

"Who is this chick, and what happened to Aunt Helen?!?" That's what you're probably asking. (It's more likely if you used to have an Aunt Helen who's been replaced by some bimbo.) You miss Aunt Helen. You liked Aunt Helen, and this chick is a friggin' nightmare. What do you do?

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"Meet your Aunt Bubbles."

What to Do

Nothing. You do nothing. This is your relation's new spouse. Maybe they're great. Maybe they suck, but y'know what? It's their life. They have to go to bed with this person every night. They have to wake up with them every morning. They have needs. They need to work, to laugh, to have sex, to make it through this day. Maybe they've made another bad choice, but if they do, no one will live with the consequence of that decision more than they will. You only have to deal with Christmas dinner. Try shutting up.

#1. Differences in Financial Status

This one's a killer. My brother's are seven and 10 years older than I am. For most of my life, as two bright, successful, accomplished gentlemen, they made more money than me. Then at one point I was involved in a career that proved incredibly productive, and I made more money than at least one of my brothers despite his two degrees and incredible talents.

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Yes, I was a male stripper. See entry above about my ginormous package.

It was awkward. I felt bad for making more. Anyway, then the recession happened, and I lost my house and one of my cars and part of my mind and half of my salary, and I went back to being the poor brother as God had always intended.

Why It Sucks

Because it doesn't matter how evolved you are, having money is nice. The things it buys are nice. Being able to spoil those you love is nice. Not having it, even if you are a very mature, non-materialistic person, can be a drag. Perhaps you've gotten to a place of diminished expectations, but when you go to that family reunion and see that difference between the haves and have-nots in stark contrast, it's a drag.

What to Do

There's nothing you can do except not presume. You're going away to Cancun for Christmas? That's awesome. Good for you. Have a great time. Don't talk all about it and then end with "And what are you doing?" Because if you ask me that, I'll probably reply, "Oh, I dunno, probably stare at a picture of the tropics while huffing glue and sharpening straight razors." There are good breaks and bad breaks. The economy is fickle. Things happen, and you can't control it. To the Haves, just be mindful of what you have and keep it quiet. To the Have-Nots, resent no one. It's not personal. Just enjoy the company, knowing that people of any and all financial backgrounds are equally capable of enjoying the comforts of family.


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