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Your Holiday Survival Manifesto and Mantras

The holidays are coming, and they usually entail spending a great deal of time with family members you may not see on a regular basis, perhaps because you choose not to. For some, holiday time with the fam is a blessing; for others, a curse. For those of you feeling cursed right about now, BWB's got your Holiday Survival Manifesto and accompanying mantras to get you through the holidays without your having to ask someone to post bail on your behalf.

First, the Manifesto. There are some simple realities of family life that we all need to remember around this time of year. In the words of my sister, The Writing Diva, I'd like to think of each of them as a holiday "slap upside da hed." Here goes:

1. To borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, you don't go into the holidays with the family you want; you go into the holidays with the family you have. Spending countless hours huddled around a large table over a perfectly (or imperfectly) roasted dead bird and cholesterol-enhancing side dishes isn't going to change your family into the Cosbys, which leads me to my next slap:

2) Past is prologue. If Aunt Sadie Mae acted a fool last Thanksgiving, well, guess what? She's probably going to act a fool this Thanksgiving. For you, it's drama; for her, it's an encore performance. Either way, it's coming. This leads me to my next slap:

3) Expectation is the mother of disappointment. If you expect people to act differently than they always have, you're doomed to be disappointed. No expectations, no disappointment. See how that works? I have a relative who once complained to me about another relative he didn't want to have over for holiday dinners because she always got drunk and it annoyed him. My response: Stop expecting her to do anything other than what she's always done. If you stop expecting her to be sober, you won't be disappointed when she isn't. Not serving any alcohol might help, too.

4) Unless you raised them or or abused them, your relatives' dysfunction is neither your fault nor your problem. During the holidays, in the spirit of charity and good cheer, we often take on the problems and dysfunction of folks not of our own creation, often to our own detriment. Stop with that. Right now, I said. Besides, even assuming these dysfunctional folks could be fixed, you sure ain't gonna fix them over the holidays because there's simply not enough time.

5) You are not "Save The Children," and you don't have to feed the world. Money is tight and time is even tighter. Everybody needs to pitch in and help to make Thanksgiving dinner "accessible" to everyone who's coming. Instead of footing the bill by yourself for some mondo Thanksgiving dinner, hold a potluck and make everybody bring something, even if it's just two liters of Coke. It's a recession, you ain't Donald Trump, and neither am I, so let's stop fronting, shall we?

Now the mantras. Invariably, there are situations that will occur during the holidays that will make you want to take your guns out of the gun safe (You do have a gun safe, don't you?). Don't do that. Instead, recite and live these mantras or the duration of the holidays:

1) I will prepare myself as much as possible. That means having a game plan going into Thanksgiving, in particular. If you're hosting, plan your menu, stick to your plans, be the biyatch, and tell everybody else what they're going to do or bring in language that makes it sound like you 're asking them to do it. Starting off with the Southern sweeteners such as "sugar" and "honey" might help, as in, "Sugar, you make the best damned sweet potato pie. Think you might be able to bring one to Thanksgiving dinner? I'd surely 'preciate it if you could. You know Mama just loves your pie." Or, "Honey, could you help me clear the table so we can play Pokeno?" You know how to do this, especially if you're a married woman. Do your thing.

2) I will not let the perfect get in the way of the good. Mess up the turkey? So what. When's the last time you cooked a turkey, anyway? Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. Do what you can to fix it (one year, I had to roll through Boston Market at the last minute because I totally blew the turkey, but they hooked me up), but get on with the holiday and enjoy yourself. There are no medals for a perfect dinner, anyway.

3) I will not take personally anything anyone says about me. Inevitably, Cousin Shanice, whom you suspect has an eating disorder and/or a weave but you can't prove either, is going to make some comment about your weight, your hair, etc., that will usually start off with the falsely familiar endearment "girl," as in "Girl, you sho have put on some weight. Hmm, hmm, hmm!" You will show Cousin Shanice grace and not take personally anything she says about you. Remember that most snarky criticism comes from people who have far more severe personal issues than you can even imagine, e.g., inability to keep down food or grow their own crop of hair. Your happiness just kills them, so smile in their faces and party like it's 1999.

4) I will not respond negatively to stupid stuff. Then again, there's always that one person who decides that Thanksgiving is the time to share news of stuff they should not be proud of but don't have the good sense to be ashamed of. For example, people who should not be repopulating the earth tend to break news of an impending birth around this time. You know these people -- men with more baby mamas than they can count on one hand, women whose children have been taken away from them by the state. Your natural instinct is to slap them upside the head and say, "Fool, you need another child like you need a hole in the head." The problem is that, deep down inside, they know this. You telling them this and responding negatively is only going to raise your blood pressure, not theirs, because they're too stupid to know they shouldn't be proud. In fact, I'm counseling you to do the opposite: Indulge them. Yep, I said it. Indulge them. Ask about the baby's due date, whether they've chosen a name, if they're having a baby shower. Join in their misguided excitement. But don't you volunteer to host that baby shower or I will personally come and slap you upside da hed.

5) I will not let anyone mistreat my children, especially in their own home. This comes with some caveats, however. During the holidays, people who have not seen your children for a while might feel free to make undue comments about their appearance, etc. Now, if these comments are directed to a girl entering puberty, you definitely need to play defense and play it fast, especially if they're coming from an older adult male. Give the offending party notice that your child is sensitive about whatever -- her budding breasts, his growth spurt, etc. -- and that you'd appreciate it if they'd leave the topic alone. If the offending party keeps coming with the remarks, you need to pull them to the side and tell them to shut the eff up and, if you're in your home, tell them they need to go home. No child should be verbally assaulted in his or her own home.

Now, there are some caveats. If you're a guest and a parent, you don't get to take a parenting vacation and let your children run wild in someone else's house, and I don't care whose house it is. You need to keep your children well-behaved and under control because they aren't anyone else's responsibility but your own. Bring books, games, whatever, but it's your job to keep them occupied. As my mom used to say, "You laid up and made them kids. Kids don't ask to be born." So, if someone disciplines your bad-ass child because you didn't take care of it first, well, shame on you.

6) I did not create the dysfunction, and I cannot fix it; therefore, I will sit back and watch it like really bad dinner theater. Chances are, the eff'd up things about your family are not of your own creation. Chances are, you can't fix the dysfunction. Since you didn't cause it and you can't fix it, you might as well pretend that you're at some really bad dinner theater, fill your plate, and sit back and watch as if you don't know these people. Pretend you're invisible and detach yourself from the situation. Trust me, you'll have some good stories to share with your co-workers the following week.

With that, you're prepared for the holidays.

P.S. Happy Birthday, BMNB!

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