The introvert’s guide to awkward family gatherings

BY VINCENT VARNEY

For every culture across the globe, there is an abundance of traditions that are held dear. Unfortunately, every tradition seems to go hand-in-hand with oppression, with far too many celebrations overshadowing cruelty. In Australia, there is one tradition in particular that creates unease among a small but long-existing group when it rolls around each year – the awkward family gathering.

Even at the best of times, awkward family gatherings are painful, but they’re especially unbearable for introverts. I can be pretty talkative, but the idea of being trapped in a room for a few hours with a bunch of people I rarely share a word with can be borderline hellish. However, if introversion has any benefit, it’s the pensiveness to find a solution to such a situation.

Do some Facebook stalking beforehand
Facebook stalking is usually reserved for sussing out potential love interests, so the mere mention of relatives might sound vile, but it’s innocent, I swear! If introversion prevents you from feeling compelled to conversing at gatherings, you might not have a great (or even the faintest) idea of who you’ll be meeting with. If you’re naturally bad with both faces and names, like me, this can lead to additional unease. Facebook can covertly brief you on your relatives and their interests. You should also take a quick squiz at their photos – if they’ve got holiday snaps, you’ve already got a conversation topic worked out.

Be vague
Brushing up on current events is a good idea, but let’s be honest – it’s a lot of work and you’d probably rather spend your valuable free time watching Survivor. It’s much easier to talk about “the game” and “yet another hamstring,” or for the less sports-oriented, “the dumb one” on whichever reality show comes up.

Don’t stop eating
The longer your mouth is full, the longer you have a valid reason for not speaking. Also, nothing fills silence more comfortably than the tender squashing sound of teeth gnawing into flesh that comes with chewing. Every few bites, be sure to close your eyes, sway your head and moan a little. Doing so will signal your appreciation to the cooks and let the other guests know that you’re having a foodgasm and need to be left in peace.

Play with the little ones
When the toys come out, the younger kids will always drag an older buddy along for the juvenile fun. You’ll want to be that older buddy, not just because hanging with the tykes gives you an excuse to escape intelligent conversation and build cool stuff with Lego, but because you’ll be doing the kids a favour, too. Usually, this role is reserved for the borderline clucky girl who half-jokingly threatens to steal little Timmy or Stacey for herself because they’re soooooooo cute, but you know her type and know all-too-well what’s she’s capable of. At any moment she could crack and kidnap the kids, and before you know, she’s evaded the police and fleeing for (ugh) Queensland, ready to start a new life with her “adopted” family. Don’t let her do that; don’t let that happen.

Cause a scene, go for a walk and never come back
I’ve never done this, but I imagine it would be fool proof. All you need to do is wait for someone to bring up politics, and then start arguing and storm out. You don’t even need to disagree with the other person – I mean, I’m as big a supporter of the humane treatment as animals as the next guy, but if I really want to ditch, I’m more than willing to sacrifice my morals.

Vincent Varney is a Sydney-based writer whose off-kilter behaviour is probably the sole reason family gatherings are ever awkward. You can follow him on Twitter, and follow BULLSH!T on Twitter and Facebook.

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One thought on “The introvert’s guide to awkward family gatherings

  1. Pingback: The introvert’s guide to awkward family gatherings | Twenty-Something

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