By Angel Perkins
The holidays come with cheer, bows, hot cocoa, tinsel and loved ones. The latter are a blessing … as long as you all get along. Nerves are often rubbed raw when relatives come uninvited or for extended stays. Relatives can also cause headaches because of not knowing what to buy for them. The simple task is often difficult, not only because the person may already have everything imaginable, but because that person is ridiculously picky, or because the gift, regardless of how well-intended, will never impress. Some people you could buy a Mercedes for and they would be unhappy because it was the wrong color. Others are happy with a left-over ham sandwich.
In-laws are especially tricky, because regardless of your feelings for them, you have to assure their gifts equal what you're giving your own parents and when you ask your spouse for ideas that will meet his or her approval as well as his/her family, they answer with the always-helpful: "I dunno."
Those are the same spouses, that once you race aisle after aisle mumbling to yourself "Necktie? Hankies? Maybe a gift card — no. Too impersonal. Cologne? But what brand? A belt, but one that's not too big. Now, which belt buckle would he like? Okay, okay. Tool section." and when you bring home that "perfect" gift, asks you, "What did you get him/her THAT for?"
Family can also be a headache during the holidays if they are early, late, controlling, indifferent, snoring during church, or telling you how to do everything the RIGHT way. Same goes for in-laws.
Some rules of thumb to follow to assure the holiday goes smoothly, at least when it comes to family:
• Be a sleuth and pay attention all year long. — What perfume are they wearing? What is their favorite color, music group, type of clothing? Do they complain about something you could replace for them? Note these things and have it ready when it's time to shop.
• Be politely dishonest. — Depending on how they normally arrive to planned parties and dinners, plan accordingly and tell them 15 minutes to a half-hour earlier or later than everyone else is planning to arrive.
• Be blunt about what you and yours want. — You can't complain that Uncle Joe buys you that bottle of liquor every year if you haven't told him you went sober five years ago. Tell people what the kids, yourself and spouse have on their "wish lists" but only give certain ideas to certain people so gifts aren't duplicated. Also, give options on both ends of the checkbook so they have selections from all price ranges to consider for their recipient.
• Remember that kids are kids. — They don't want to open clothing unless they specifically asked for it. Little Billy WILL, at the very least, roll his eyes and sigh when he opens the knitted mittens Aunt Betty made him. If she likes to give things that are handmade, suggest beforehand that she box a dozen cookies as a gift made from love.
• Don't talk about personal things. — This is the tricky one. Keep conversation light. Talk about TV shows, music, the newest technology, the neighbors escapades, but not anything that would cause the "pin-drop" moment when everyone is holding their breath to see what a reply will be to something said inappropriately.
• Choose to be deaf. — Regardless of what is said that irks you, choose to not hear it. Imagine windshield wipers sluicing off mud or bird droppings and wash the words out of your mind. You will have to plan ahead for this and in anticipation of a touchy subject, make a mental list of conversation switches.
THEM — "When are you going to get married? You know there is a nice boy down the street from Edna's house that is single. Maybe I can get you two together."
YOU — "Why don't you just let me be happy single. I like meeting new and interesting people. You are always on me!"
YOU — "You know who shouldn't have gotten together? That (insert any Hollywood couple here) deal was unbelievable! Am I right?"
YOU — "You know there is a series based on people who found out their spouse was a serial killer/bigamist/spy/fugitive. Sometimes you just never know!"
If playing deaf won't work, stuff your mouth with food until you are no longer annoyed, or until they leave and try not to bite your tongue completely off.