The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more, and he's got all the advice your life can handle.
Dear Door Guy:
I know the holidays are supposed to be happy times, but I dread it every year. Because family.
To be totally honest, my family drives me nuts. I moved out of the house eight years ago. Every Christmas since then has been nothing but unending drama. My parents are weird, my siblings are angry, and my extended family seems like they spend the entire year saving up all their asshole behavior until Christmas Day to avoid lumps of coal in their stockings. It’s a depressing mix of passive-aggressiveness and hot dish. How can I make this end? I read your house party column and want to do something like that. What do I do to lay down the law, Door Guy style?
--Beginning to Look a Lot like Fuck You:
(You didn’t think I was going to call you “Fuck” for this, did you?)
Family problems over holidays? Say it ain’t so!
Dealing with dickish hipster dudes at a house party is one thing. But come the holiday season even this Door Guy has to relax and just Suck It Up to some degree. I’ve been out of the house a lot longer than you, Beginning (at eight years, I place you somewhere between 25 and 39 years old, because who the hell knows anymore in this top-heavy economy) but reviewing almost three decades of post-residence Xmas gatherings, I have bad news for you: Some things just aren’t going to change.
I’m relatively lucky: I don’t have a drunk, racist uncle. Nobody in my family voted for anyone outrageously stupid recently (nobody who would admit it, at least) or even digs into a bunch of political talk. (Dad Door Guy in particular likes to brag that the last time he voted Republican was for Eisenhower, which makes both of us very, very old). We all sort of like each other. Mostly. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to kill each other.
Mom Door Guy sighs heavily every time the topic of work comes up. “I’m just concerned that you aren’t doing enough with your real career, sweetie” is a vaguely pleasant way of saying that currently I’m not doing anything for a “real career” at all. (Aging boomers somehow still believe everyone is morally obligated to seek the financial security they eliminated as an option for the rest of us over the past 30 years.) Dad Door Guy usually dozes off in his recliner. Brother Door Guy is just about my favorite person in the world, but in the past three years we’ve ended up almost punching each other in public and he vomited in my car. Sister Door Guy and I don’t speak.
And, of course, there’s the hot dish—or casserole, as they say in some regions, or, in some areas of Oregon and Idaho, if it’s specifically tuna with cream of mushroom soup and rice, “glop” (so I’ve been told).
But I count myself pretty lucky, when all is said and done. I love my big bunch of weirdos, including the Aunts and Uncles of the Door Guy clan, because I have literally spent my entire adult life studying and herding weirdos—yes, I’m talking about working the door—and have come to accept that you can never control them. You just have to take them as they are or throw them out. (Sometimes both.)
Some people have truly toxic family situations, and I am not trying to minimize that. I certainly don’t know enough from your letter to know if any of that toxic is going on. But on a grading scale from A to F if your family is say a C+ and my family is a solid B, there are some definite cigarette burns and abuse Fs out there who have it way worse. Even the A families have some barely suppressed rage bubbling up at the holidays. Because the holiday season is a time for many things—joy, cheer, and completely unattainable expectations.
How can any of us live up to what we think the holidays should be? Take a bunch of people who once lived together and don’t anymore; stick them in a situation based on 1) sentiment, 2) childhood nostalgia, and 3) intense expectations of perfection; turn them loose. It’s a total recipe for disaster.
But I would argue that, for those of us in the C+ range and above, that disaster is part of who we are and what makes us family. We aren’t carrying dark dirty secrets, we aren’t terrible people, we’re just annoying and often stupid and sometimes drunk, just like we are every single day. It’s the pretending that it’s not that way that gets us.
So no, you can’t throw your drunk uncle or anyone else out of dinner, unless they start doing actually fucked up things that downgrade them to D or below. Yes, you have to put on a happy face. But lower your expectations. Breathe. And then when it’s done, go hang out with people you choose to be around all the time. Listen to them bitch about their families. And know you aren’t alone.
Got a question for The Door Guy? Email [email protected]