Holiday season is always filled with etiquette gaffs in my family, but one Christmas became a true tale to tell. It is now a seasonal tradition amongst my friends for me to repeat this story!
Christmas Day: per usual, we’re driving down to my father’s side of the family for a large meal and a gift exchange. Also per usual, I’m a little unhappy and anxious about it. We’ve always been the black sheep of the family and as I was eighteen at the time I was very self-conscious about not fitting in.I stopped worrying about it after the following happened.
1. My grandfather made a half-hour long production over giving all the married women in the family a “mystery gift.” They were all forced to kneel in the middle of the room (most of them having known knee problems) while he recited a charming little poem about how helpless they were, and how he was going to help them out lest they impose on their poor henpecked husbands. He then presented them all with a petite pink hammer, so they would “stop stealing your husband’s tools out of the garage when you need something.” It was wrapped with a note designating it the “kitchen hammer.” Being somewhat feminist in leaning, I was seeing red not pink. Most of the womenfolk found it charming, and thanked him for the gift and poem, entitled “To Help a Housewife.” The fact that all of them knew their way around a toolbox already and all worked full time didn’t keep them from enjoying the 1950’s sentiment.
2. There was no turkey or ham this year. Apparently the rest of the family wanted something “nicer” so they bought…ham loaf. Okay, some people like it, but they really kept going on and on about how it was “nicer” and “fancier” than a regular ol’ turkey. If you haven’t had ham loaf, just imagine a giant roll of Spam and you’re pretty much there. I’m not a snob really, but I don’t consider it nicer. Also, a ham loaf is about 1/6 the size of a turkey, and they didn’t think to buy more than one, so only the kids under 10 (who get to go first in line) and the grandparents actually got any meat that year. I think it’s rude to not have enough to go around. We could have pitched in if price was a problem.
3. On the way out, my uncle stopped my dad after my aunt whispered in his ear to, “Ask him, ask him!” My uncle, who worked in HR for a large manufacturing plant, asked my dad if he would be willing to be in a safety video he was doing. My dad was confused, as he was a software engineer. My uncle then went on to elaborate that they had a hard time getting the plant workers to wear safety goggles, and were putting together a video to convince them it was for their own protection.
I see where this is going. My father is legally blind. Sure enough, my uncle wanted my dad “to talk about how awful it is to not be able to see, to scare them into wearing their goggles.” My dad refused, first on the grounds that he has a hereditary eye disease, not blindness by injury. My uncle insists, because “the point is how hard it is.” My dad refuses again, stating that he is not the kind to pity himself. My uncle continues to push it, throwing out the following: “But doesn’t it make you feel bad that you won’t be able to watch your daughter walk down the aisle one day?”
We’re all speechless at this point, while my uncle continues to lay out his brilliant scheme. Turns out than in addition to have my dad talk about how they sure don’t want to wind up like him, he figured that my filmmaker boyfriend would be willing to film, direct and edit this project for him for free since my dad was in it, so it would save him a bundle!
I not-to-calmly informed my uncle that no, my boyfriend is a full-time student and part time worker, he’s not going to drive the *six hours each way* drive to this plant, shoot a video, take it home and spend hours editing it for free. Especially as he had only met my uncle once. The hilarious part was my uncle wasn’t even asking me to ask my boyfriend. He just assumed he would do it and didn’t need to ask!
4. On the way out the door, I was informed that I didn’t get any leftovers from the huge dinner to take home, as I was “just a kid.” I was eighteen, and had brought a made-from scratch pie, but I didn’t qualify for leftovers. My parents didn’t get any either, as they hadn’t brought anything and “it wasn’t fair to take when you didn’t bring anything.” They hadn’t brought anything because I was bringing a pie as our contribution, but why let logic enter it?
5. I was also informed that nobody wanted to eat my pie anyway, as it “looked funny, and we had better ones.” The better ones were the three pies picked up at Costco by other family members. Which is fine, but I was mad that my made-from-scratch pie wasn’t good enough. Incidentally, it looked funny because it was the only one that wasn’t burned on top and in a disposable tin.
So, that’s my Holiday Hell story. To this day it makes my friends crack up, but then they proceed to tell my that my pies in fact taste delicious and look darn pretty. Which is why my friends all get a pie as their holiday gift! 0528-10