Why I'm Not Coming to
Your Christmas Dinner
I’m alone. Utterly alone. It’s soon to be Christmas, and I will have one family member coming to town to be with me, basically out of obligation to do so. My mom is scooting into town on Christmas day, right at around 3pm-ish, or so is the plan. She’ll probably have me swing by Safeway to pick up dinner, that she also had me order. Her new boyfriend is coming with her, and they want to party in Vegas before they come to see me, and, after they see me. Honestly? They will probably lose track of time in the casino Christmas day, and I’ll be lucky if they show by 8pm.
I have five family members in the town I live in, but I’m not invited to Christmas at their house either. Why? I have a dysfunctional family. My brother is in prison as we speak, and my sister is with her abusive girlfriend across the country in their new home. Last time I saw my sister, her girlfriend wanted to ‘take it outside’ after I mindfully expressed my hurt feelings at her insulting my holiday cooking. For real. She insulted my meal, right at the table, as we were eating it. Then, she said she wasn’t hungry anyway, because her & my sister grabbed In & Out burgers before coming over. On Thanksgiving.
My family is nuts. They had dinner with that same crazy lady who tried to kick my ass at Thanksgiving dinner those few years ago, repeatedly, and didn’t invite me. To my own family function.
So, yea, everyone ‘normal’ is getting into the holiday spirit,
decorating, shopping for gifts, cooking, getting excited to see their loved ones, cuddling with their husbands & wives & kids all snuggly. People are stressed, but I can’t relate because I don’t have to shop for anyone. I don’t have to cook. I don’t even have to have a presentable outfit that day, or brush my hair if I don’t want to. I don’t even have to be nice. The year before last, the dinner topic was my childhood sexual abuser. (yay, thanks for that). So yea, if I get a little bitchy over something on the Holiday, it’s like, well, they probably deserved it.
With these circumstances, you can start to feel a little bit terrible about yourself at the holidays.
You can compare yourself to what everyone else has, and feel even worse. You can ask God WHY he put you into a family that seemingly hates you, and lives to ruin your holidays year after year.
You can complain to other people, but they won’t understand. Most people have the privilege, of having a mostly healthy family. They can’t relate to my family problems, just like I can’t relate to their mostly happy healthy holidays.
So now that you know I spend every holiday alone, for the past like, ten years plus, I know, I know, you are dying to invite me to your Holiday dinner.
It’s the right thing to do, no one should have to spend Christmas alone. Everyone should have turkey on this day. You say these things while begging me to come to Christmas at your house, to please, do you the favor of coming for dinner.
Well, I feel you. And I know you all mean well, and really wish me the best during this holiday. I know that if there were a way that you could wave a magic wand, and present me with a happy family for Christmas – you would! And I know you would, Christmas is wonderful for opening the heart and wishing the best for others. It’s a time when we want everyone to feel loved, like you do. I understand, I really do.
But I can’t come to your dinner.
Instead, I’ve mastered the art of lying about my holiday plans in the most gracious way.
I tell people when they ask, that yes, I’m spending time with my family, and it’s going to be so nice, I can’t wait to see them. There’s a house somewhere with popcorn balls & garland, nutmeg & chestnuts, and a warm smile asking how my year’s been. We will jauntily talk about sports, and school, and our new job, the trips we’re taking, the friends we’ve met, in a most civilized way. We will sip red wine in moderation, and never cuss or smoke around the children. We will politely make our guests welcome, and generously offer love to all who come.
Why am I such a big fat liar-face on Christmas?
It’s mostly for my friends & acquaintances' sake, so that they don’t feel awkward about leaving me out during the Holidays. Hearing that I’m alone is distressing to people who’ve never had to deal with anything like that.
I want you guys to be happy, and to enjoy your holiday. I already know what mine will be like, so I’ve cut my losses after ten plus years of this, and I’m generally okay with things. Yes, I look forward to having my own family, so I can have lovely holidays like the rest of the world, but until then, this is my lot and I’m mostly fine with that.
Wanna know what I really do every year?
Ok. Lol. I tell everyone I have wonderful Holiday plans myself, so I couldn’t possibly make it to their family dinner.
Honestly, seeing everyone joyful together, getting along, feasting, enjoying the abundance of love and money all around them, enjoying the security that I’ve never known, enjoying the acceptance, love, & belonging of having a home town, a childhood home, and relatives that have your back (for the most part) – all of that really bums me out.
Because, it’s only a matter of time before someone asks the question, 'Why are you here? Where is your family?'
And my bubble is burst. I am shot right back to reality, that not even my own mom wants to spend the Holiday with me. And your family, no matter how much of a good time I have with them, I will never be like them, and they will always be suspicious of me.
Because, I’m not like them - I don’t know joy & belonging and harmony like that. So,
I create my own world every Christmas.
I stay home, turn off all the phones, and plan for one day solid of self care; my own personal retreat.
I make it a spa day, give myself facials, read, play music, go on a special hike that I don’t get to do often, basically, I insulate myself from my family, because they always do something to ruin the day, even if I’m 10 states away. I don’t answer my friends calls, because I’m ‘busy.’ I spend the day doing art or yoga or taking a bath. Basically, anything positive, special and good, I reserve for that day, set the itinerary, and enjoy my own company til it’s over. When asked, I simply say my holiday was wonderful, how was yours?
You see, other, normal people, actually feel bad about leaving someone out at Christmas.
Whereas, my family, I just got off the phone with my mom, and my sister tried to convince her, 4 days before the holiday, to cancel her plans with me, and fly to Washington state just the two of them, leaving me alone at home on Christmas. Which actually isn’t a first. My family often gathers without me or leaves me uninvited to family events. I think honestly, the only reason my mom didn't ditch me this time, is because she already promised her new boyfriend a Vegas holiday.
Without going into too many details, basically, my family has substance abuse & addiction problems, that have torn our family apart through co-dependency, denial, these sorts of things. Morals and values that others take for granted, simply do not exist in my families’ world.
Let's listen to the sound of my people:
The South Park Christmas album:
It was the first time my brand new husband had met my family.....
.....it was Christmas and the day was spent with the song, Merry Fucking Christmas on loop, chocolate martinis, & people smoking pot in the garage. My ‘uncle,’ a 50+ year old, gay man, went around shirtless all day, which is bizarre enough, except he also has his nipple pierced?
Christmas in Vegas.
It’s just all so, Un-Holiday like.
So yea, the reason I’m writing this, is, honestly I’m not sure why.
But it is to let people know, who do have a terrible family that either ruins their holidays every year, or doesn’t even want to spend the holiday with them like my family – you aren’t alone. I feel ya. I know how it is.
Also it's to say to the world, that if I'm alone on Christmas, I don’t necessarily want your pity invite.
Maybe I'm the only one like this, but Inviting us to your house for the Holidays is sweet and well meaning, but honestly, most of the time, these invites are because the person feels awkward and sorry for me. They literally pity me because I’m all alone, and by the end of the night, it shows.
Not knowing any better years ago, I would accept these invites naively thinking, 'Yes, it would be nice to have Christmas like everyone else.'
But, it never fails, if you spend the holiday with someone else’s family, they will inevitably put you on the spot, and ask,
‘WHY, are you here?’
Of course, it is framed in a nice and pleasant sounding way, and is mostly innocent enough, but make no mistake, they literally want to know why you don’t have a nice family like they do. This pointed question will come right after the ‘is the turkey dry’ talk and the ‘thank you for cooking’ talk.
The whole banquet table full of people will crane their heads in your direction when one family member finally gets the balls to ask you what they are all thinking:
How’d you end up at our house, instead of spending time with your own family?
Translation: Twenty-one sets of ears are listening, tell us why no one loves you enough to spend the holiday with you and why strangers are better than your own family?
Although the invite is always under the glorious banner of good Holiday cheer, I can't help but wonder if these invites are more about them, than about me?
Do they feel less guilt about their good fortune, because they are sharing it with me, the one who, 'didn't have anywhere to go'?
In any case, I was trotted about like a show pony, 'The less fortunate one.'
By pointing out how weird it is that I am there, instead of with my own family, they’ve just undone my Holiday by making me feel totally weird and awkward about being there (as if it weren’t awkward enough spending an intimate family holiday with people who aren’t your family?).
I’m sure the people I’ve spent holidays with don’t mean it in a malicious way, and doubt they have even really given the subject much thought. But that doesn't discount my experience of the 'pity invites' as I've come to know them.
I honestly think that my friends' families were just genuinely curious where my family was. They were good people, honestly, but by asking this question, it reminds me of the abuse that I face from my own family of origin..
It's just kind of like, for example, knowing someone had a miscarriage, and inviting them to your kids' birthday party. If they work up the guts to come, you then ask them when their baby is due.
It's just hard.
When I’m having a good time, it brings me down a bit to try to explain to people who don’t understand, that my family is abusive & dysfunctional, and that I choose not to associate with them for my own well being.
People get even more troubled, in my experience, if I were to say the truth, and it would especially make their holiday less pleasant, so I spare them those details too.
If I get the guts to show up - I want to blend in, to pretend that I belong, and I am happy like these people.
I am enjoying the 'weird uncle whatever his name is’s talk on paratrooping in ‘Nam, or whatever,
playing board games with dessert in wine glasses, or running around with their adorable & happy kids, when the inevitable question comes. The question that lets me know, that I am the ‘other’ type of person, and that I don’t belong here. Because decent people have somewhere to go on the holidays, and they have people who love them. Me, I’m neither of those things. I’m not decent - I am instead, ‘interesting.’
I’ll never be a part of ‘normal’ people’s holiday tradition, but I can pass an evening pretending, until I can’t. And then, it just sucks.
The adorable kids that are well mannered & coifed,
the genuine banter between siblings, the parents with their memories of the kids growing up years ago, the photo albums and home movies, and horse rides, the clean homes… all of that isn’t for me, because I’m not like them.
I don’t survive the holiday in their world, and they could NEVER survive the holidays in mine.
So I make something up, I say that ya, I’m spending the holiday with my mom, my grandpa, my brother, my sister, my uncle and my aunt, and my Dad. Yes, it was nice seeing everyone. I’m totally stuffed from the turkey, and yes, parents are SO annoying when they want to give your boyfriend the third degree and embarrass you with your naked bathtub photos. Yes, I can totally relate to you, normal people of the world, because my parents too, are totally embarrassing in that ‘yes I’m embarrassing, but in a still totally tasteful sort of way.'
Except mine aren’t.
My parents will tell you that I’m a bitch, that I can’t take a ‘joke,’ that I’m ‘so unhappy’ & I ‘have no friends,’ no one likes me because I’m ‘such a bitch.’
They will talk to you alone in the other room, trying to recruit you for their ‘cool’ club, getting you to join in, so they can leave me out. They will try to get you to talk bad about me too, so you are in on it. If they can get you to agree with them, when they’ve insulted me, then you’ve just joined their club. They will use that as a tool to make me feel even more betrayed and left out.
While usually the part they reserve for behind my back is the ‘she’s such a bitch and crazy’ type of talk, the conversation while I’m present usually revolves around stories, that are far from charming, about my childhood.
They will tell you about how I would never shut up and stop crying when I was an infant, and what an asshole that made me. They will tell you about how my head was so huge, that it was impossible for them to not drop me on it, because I fell head first. They will joke about how CPS investigated them when I fell down the stairs as an infant and had head trauma, and then a little while later, they dropped me on my head again & were questioned again. They think it’s funny. They will talk about my sexual abuser casually, who was later prosecuted for another child’s abuse, but they won’t include the part where they didn’t believe me when I told them my truth.
It’s the stuff I’ve been listening to since I was a child, and actually, it’s not true.
My family is the one without any friends, because they are dysfunctional and mean-spirited.
I’ve actually been lucky enough to make a few genuine friends that have stayed my friends over the years. I definitely won’t win any popularity contests, but anyone who knows me will tell you, that I’m far from, ‘such a bitch.’
All the last ten to fifteen years, of spending the holidays alone, I welcome those days, because it means I’m free of verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse. Even if I’m alone on Christmas, I’d rather be alone, that be abused, put down, betrayed, and left out. And yes, I’d still rather be alone, than to be pitied, misunderstood, and some normal families’ ‘interesting’ friend for the evening.
So, it gets lonely, and people may want to feel bad for me, but don’t. My story is actually a good one.
It’s a story of healing, moving forward, moving on, breaking the cycle, and taking the best out of life, and choosing to think about those parts. I’ve done my work too, moving through the negativity, and emotions of what it’s like to be rejected from your own family and scapegoated for every problem.
I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, just be thankful for what you have. You, normal people of the world, are so very blessed. You don’t even know how blessed you are, to have a family that loves you.
And if you don’t have a family that knows how to show it’s love for you, it’s okay. Fuck it. You’ll be allright. Because you are SO much better off without anyone who abuses you. It doesn’t matter if they are family or not, holidays or not. Staying safe, and building an environment that nurtures you and takes care of you is what’s most important.
And if that means that I have a harmonious & good life all the days of the year, except I’m alone on the Holidays, I’ll take it. Because I choose a life, that’s filled with life – not abuse.
And sometimes that means that you spend the Holidays alone. So me, I pull up my big-girl panties and get on with it.
I, and you, if you are alone, we are survivors. We are badasses, and don’t you ever forget that.
Now go badassery yourself, and have a wonderful holiday. Whether you are spending the day in solitude by choice, or you’re surrounded by your family and friends, I hope your holiday is truly, fucking great. Big big Love, Kai.
Edit: A reader pointed out that however you get through the Holidays is a victory. I totally agree!!