Posts Tagged ‘family


not so thankful

Reader T. B. writes:

Thanksgiving is next week and I’m supposed to go home and “celebrate” with my family. The catch is: I hate my family. What should I do?

Dear T.B.:

My first words to you will be words of comfort. Find solace in this fact:

Everyone hates their family during the holidays.

gourd family

I'm sure the pumpkins wish they weren't related to the acorn squash. Image: Bill Longshaw /

Oh, sure, you’ve got your Goody-Two-Shoes friends who will deny that vehemently and say they love their family, all the time, but in all truth, there is nothing to love about a group of stressed out people who only visit each other once a year and are only loosely tied to each other through DNA and know exactly how to press each other’s buttons.

Of course, some people hate their families less than others. And some have reason to hate their family to a greater extent than others.

So on that note, I have two suggestions for you:

1. Don’t go. Cancel your plane or train tickets, regardless of how much they cost and who bought them. Call Mom right now and tell her you’re putting an end to the madness. If you hate your family that much, she’ll probably be relieved, even if she does get angry at you or try to guilt-trip you. Stand up for yourself. Refuse to come, no matter how much of your favorite dish Aunt Jane is ¬†going to be making. Deny your grandmother’s right to see you one last time. Hold your own orphans’ Thanksgiving with people you DO like, or just stay home and watch whatever marathon of whatever TV or movie series appears on whatever cable channel you can get while sipping your favorite beverage of choice.

This would appear to be the cruel and callous way to go. It’s selfish. You’re hurting everyone’s feelings. But let’s take a step back. Sometimes it’s ok to be selfish. You can’t please all the people all the time, and sometimes you need to make sure you’re actually happy. I have forgone a Christmas or two myself because my mental health couldn’t handle it, and let me tell you, I am one of those Goody-Two-Shoes who says she doesn’t hate her family. Sometimes you just need a break. It can actually be better to remove your grumpy ass from the supposedly happy occasion to let everyone else breathe a little than to show up and be the terrible cousin who’s sulking. At those moments, for me, James Bond and Jack Daniels are all I need to make a worthwhile holiday.

But of course, there have been other seasons in my life, which brings me to option 2:

2. Get over yourself and go hang out with your family for two days. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unless they’re going to physically or emotionally or mentally abuse you (and I mean, really abuse you, not just tease you about that time you wet the bed when you were seven), toughen up and just go. I can almost promise that this Thanksgiving holiday won’t kill you. (There are always those people trying to fry their turkeys who burn down the house, so I won’t make any absolute promises.)

As Americans, we are so adverse to being around people we haven’t chosen to be around that we forget the world is populated by others. Smelly others. Annoying others. Others who voted for the wrong person or talk too closely or watch stupid TV shows. Sometimes those others also happen to be related to you. Being around people who annoy you builds character. It teaches you patience.

And furthermore, if these annoying people are biologically related to you, you can learn a thing or two about yourself that you’d be completely blind to if you’re only allowing yourself to hang around people you like (and who, hopefully, like you, too). You may have one of those surprising movie-script moments where you learn your dad sacrificed a lot to get your family through some giant, meaningful crisis you weren’t aware of when you were seven. Or you may get so mad at one of your siblings that the potatoes end up on the wall with the gravy following soon after. Either way, you’ve got a story to tell, at least.

Plus, why is it always someone else’s job to watch out for your feelings? Make Thanksgiving enjoyable for you, even if you do have to spend it with your crazy family. Just change your perspective and look for the positive side of things, and you’ll probably actually end up hating your family less by the end of the weekend.

I’m never going to advocate “blood is thicker than water” — I think sometimes our families can cause us more harm than good. If your family is truly abusive, I think it is your duty to take care of yourself and stay away. But for the rest of you, who are just annoyed that you have to spend a weekend away from that bar you go to every night anyway, I’d say give Thanksgiving another shot. Enjoy your crazy family. Get some stories to tell your chosen family of friends at that bar for when you all get back. I’m sure they’ll have a few good tales of their own.


pushing someone out of the closet.

Today I’m asking guest blogger and high school friend Pete Henne to add his commentary on the question and the issue in general.

It's Pete!!

Pete Henne, wonderful guest blogger.

A quick bio on Pete (culled from his Facebook page):

Pete grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and went to high school in Albuquerque, after which he spent a year at UNM for college. He ended up in Oregon again eventually, and studied architecture and environmental studies. He currently lives in Washington, DC, where he enjoys beer snobbery, photography, rock climbing, politics and public policy, and (sometimes) job hunting. Some day, Pete may share his story about coming out with us.

Shall we begin?

Reader G. S. writes:

My sister is gay, and my siblings and I all know it, as do most of my cousins. However, my parents and our aunts and uncles don’t know, and are continually nagging her about getting married, having a boyfriend, all that stuff. Most of the time the family just says, ‘Oh, she’s young, she’s just sowing wild oats.’ They think she hasn’t brought a guy home because she hasn’t found one yet. But she’s 24. It’s not a phase. It’s really hard for me to bite my tongue and not tell them why she’s never going to bring a boy home. My parents are open-minded people and they’d probably deal very well with my sister coming out; she just won’t do it. What should I do?

Dear G.S.:

It’s wonderful that your sister is out with you and your cousins. (Unless you’re just assuming she’s gay, which is another post entirely.) However, you have to respect her needs here.

out of the closet and into the fire

Don't open that closet door! Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

I know many a friend who is out in their own community, but not with their parents, and for several (horrible) reasons, including the fear of being disowned, the fear of causing discomfort, and the fear of being chastised for such a personal choice. These are terrible reasons, not just because a gay person should never be ashamed of who he or she is, but because they are valid fears — some parents just aren’t ready to accept their child’s sexual orientation. Accepting that a child is sexual at all can be hard, and if the parent has prejudices against homosexuality for religious or stigmatic reasons, well, the child’s fears are completely understandable.

However, even if your parents are as open-minded as you say, and even if you suspect that your sister’s coming out would be welcomed with opened arms, it is never acceptable to out a loved one. (Whether or not it’s okay to out a hated one is also another post.) Your sister may have her own reasons for not coming out to them. Or she may have her own plans.

So you should keep your big mouth shut. By all means, support her. And support gay rights politically. And talk with your parents about homosexuality in general, if you can do so without letting the cat out of the bag. But let your sister do her thing on her own time.

Pete says:

I can understand the motivation to just want your sister to live honestly with all the people around her. That feeling is love. But if you truly love your sister, you will talk with her and hopefully give her the confidence to do it.

Your relationship with your sister will be better for it. Both of your relationships with your parents will be better for it. The “main event” will be that much easier for it (hell, be there, ready to offer support and/or stiff drinks). It’s really win-win for all involved.

Not to sound like a health class documentary, but coming out is a very special moment in every queer’s life. It is not something that can, or should, be forced. You are literally sharing your inner truth with the people who you think should know.

In fact, Coming Out is especially important for us queers. Besides the underlying reason for doing it, it is the ONE thing that binds us all together. We literally get together and compare Coming Out notes (well, at least with close gay friends and, god willing, love interests). Where, when, why how, other salient details. Its a source of bonding for us that should not involve the phrase, “Well, my asshole brother/sister couldn’t keep their mouth shut.”

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