Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, that you’re a bit of a misfit. I don’t mean that in a bad way, not at all. It’s just that if you’re drawn to what I write about here, your interests and priorities are probably a bit different from that of mainstream society.
As a vegetarian, Pagan, unschooling, polyamorous, self-employed, environmentally-aware, creative, highly-sensitive hippie chick, I feel where you’re coming from.
This can make for interesting times at the holidays, when extended families get together and invitations to parties come flowing in. I’m blessed to have a very accepting extended family. Still, I’ve been in plenty of situations over the years when seemingly ordinary questions prove quite complicated. “What grades are your kids in?” “What do you do?” “White meat or dark?”
“Um, no thanks?”
The holidays can be a rather intense microcosm of life as a whole. We’re here on a planet of widely diverse beliefs, and it’s up to us how we get along with our fellow humans. Here are some tips I’ve found useful for having an enjoyable holiday season, even when you feel like the proverbial black sheep.
Avoid arguments. No matter how unpalatable you find someone else’s opinion, it’s just that – their opinion. You’re attending a family get-together, not rescuing the refugees or saving the planet. There’s no need to lie about your unusual ideas when asked, but you don’t have to engage in a heated debate, either. Be respectful yet firm. Take the higher ground, and let it go.
Kindness speaks volumes. What can you do when you’re feeling on the outside of a discussion of the football season or the half-price sale on purses? Offer to help in the kitchen. Play with the kids. Do the dishes. Your acts of kindness will endear you to the hosts. If you’re hosting the event, you’ll probably have plenty to do to stay busy. Accept offers of assistance, and let the conversation flow over and around you. Smile.
Bring your own food. If you’re vegetarian or have other special dietary needs, you might be the target of rolled eyes or pointed questions. Ignore all that, and be respectful. Avoid criticizing what other people choose to eat, even if you think it’s poison. Bring food that you’ll eat, with some to share. If you’re offered something you can’t or don’t wish to eat, decline politely.
Remember the “reason for the season.” No, I don’t mean the birth story of Jesus, unless that’s something you’re into. I’m talking about your reason. Why do you get together with family and friends? For me, it’s about spending time with people you care about, sharing laughter and good food, and celebrating life.
Find points of connection. No matter how different people are, you can often find at least one common interest. Look for clues, like books or pop culture references that come up – you and your uncle might both enjoy reading sci-fi or watching Dr. Who. Compliment your cousin’s handmade scarf and inquire about the pattern. Ask about an interesting-looking painting or curio, or the garden you can see from the window. If you’re an animal lover, make a happy fuss over the family pets.
Be an excellent listener. As a sensitive and sometimes shy person, I’ve learned that being a good listener helps me enjoy holiday gatherings. Most people love to talk about themselves. Ask thoughtful questions, and let them share. Often you’ll learn something new and interesting about a loved one.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Some family members like to tease, and being different in some way can make you a target. When Uncle Fred asks you what’s up with your purple hair, tell him you fell in a vat of blueberries. I’ve found that most often, when someone is teasing you, they’re really trying to engage your attention – whether negative or positive. Laughter is more fun than taking offense at every little thing. Assume good intent.
How about you? Do you have any additional tips for surviving the holidays as a misfit? I’d love to hear them. Share your stories in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!