Holidays can be very stressful when spent with extended family.There are so many expectations, feelings and a strong sense of entitlement going around. Here are some suggestions on how to get through it all whether you decide to be diplomatic, or resort to extreme measures.
It’s funny, the things that happen when families get together over a condensed period of time to celebrate any holiday. It happens everywhere in the world. In Egypt however, it has a different feel to it for several reasons. Life is very stressful for ALL Egyptians in Egypt. It just is.
Here is a general outline of how the day will go. It is divided into two phases.
Phase One: The Chirpy Cheerful ‘Let’s Get Cosy’ Phase
Sounds harmless doesn’t it? Well it can be very poisonous, depending on your tolerance levels, your insecurities, and mood at the time.
This phase will be about your weight, your relationships, and whether or not you eat chicken skin. No one cares about your career unless it is nonexistent.
Here is how it goes more or less
Did you put on weight? Your face is rounder. It’s ok. You look healthier But you might wanna skip dessert…or you know what…wait till after Eid…but right after Eid ok? Or you could just take a bite to satisfy your craving…but that’s it ok? It’s really abut lifestyle you know…Don’t eliminate food groups…eat whatever you want…just have small bites…and portions…it’s all about portion control…and chewing slowly…but remove the skin from the chicken…and cut down on carbs…and cook with olive oil not ghee…you have a very pretty face…
This is usually the entrance to the following…
So tell me…is there anyone in your life?
This is a trick question that you can’t evade…anything you say can and will be held against you. Yes…No…Maybe…I'ts complicated….ALL answers will lead to the same thing…
Well pick up the pace! We want a wedding! And don’t be too picky…
Don’t be offended though. Advice against being picky has nothing to do with your weight. It is a universal piece of advice, one size fits all. Slimmer people don’t have it easier.
Did you lose weight? Your face is sallow and pale. It’s ok you look fit, but you might wanna eat more fruits and vegtables to get some colour…are you starving yourself? It’s all about balance you know…nothing wrong with a few curves…and really you shouldn’t shape your body for anyone…eat whatever you want…but remove the skin from the chicken…and eat more carbs…you have a very pretty face…
And we know what comes after comments on your pretty face.
Men can’t get a break from this either. They might have it worse even.
You know I have this friend…her nephew’s son had this chest surgery…to you know…get rid of the…flabs…or you could go to the gym…they sell whey protein everywhere now and supplements…but don’t take supplements…too many hormones…you do remove the skin from the chicken, right?
And for slim men…
There’s this new gym that opened near here…they have weights and stuff…Just don’t eat chicken skin.
If you’re a fit well built guy who counts body fat percentage…
I hope you’re not taking supplements…
Say no…always say no even if it’s a lie…YOU DO NOT TAKE SUPPLEMENTS!
Good because that stuff is hormonal they say…but you’re so strict…live a little. Here have a chocolate…please…don’t embarrass me…please take it….You’ll always look great as long as you don’t eat chicken skin.
Then the wedding part comes in.
The way you deal with this, will determine the rest of your day. If you’re feeling in a particularly jolly or perhaps mischievous mood, by all means go ahead and answer with anything you want. Tell them you’re happy with your weight and single life, and have an entertaining conversation back and forth.
If you want the conversation to end immediately. Say ‘yes I will do that. And no I will never eat chicken skin again. And I totally agree with you, you’ll be at my wedding soon.’
Of course if you’re already married without kids…there will be the ‘when are we seeing babies?’ question. Don’t EVER say the following:
-We’re not thinking about that yet (You’ll get a lecture on age difference and not knowing when you’ll die)
-Maybe in a year or two (You’ll get a lecture on how a sparrow in the hand is better than two on the tree)
-We don’t want any (You’ll get lots of shock, lots of questions, and endless arguments that could escalate to your ‘duty’ towards whatever religion you practice- even if you don’t practice one- which I suggest you keep to yourself- as a human being, and what are you living for?)
-We have dogs (Yeah…just don’t say that)
-We’re adopting (Lecture about one’s own blood, and maybe if you’re lucky and are dealing with someone sophisticated, a bit on genetics and evolution)
-We’re trying (Lots of phone numbers of doctors, and endless tags to articles on fertility on Facebook)
-There is one, and only one, answer to the question about babies: “We’ll get on it tonight.” I guarantee this will be the end of the conversation.
Don’t think you’ll get off if you have kids. I’m not an expert on this particular matter, but there will be lots of questions and demands.
Which school? Do they play sports? They should play sports. Which club? Musical instruments? They should read. Don’t get a PlayStation. Don’t order in. Don’t get a nanny…
Now these holidays are long…and it is never a quick lunch. It is always an expanded day with people coming and going, and you visiting in and receiving visitors, and the conversations recycle themselves.
There is no harm in conversing with people. The problem is that they always tend to bring up the topics that stress you out. Things you have no answers to even though you feel you should. So a weight is added to your already existing burden.
If you feel overwhelmed go to the bathroom for 5 to 10 minutes…smoke, wash your face…breathe, and remind yourself of the good things happening in your life.
Phase Two: The ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ Phase
After everyone settles down, usually after lunch, when bellies are full and tea is going around and everyone’s business is sufficiently probed, with everyone well advised and scolded, another conversation begins to brew on the dark horizon of the evening as it creeps in.
Although this conversation is inevitable and happens every single time without fail, it always takes everyone by total surprise.
It always starts with a random comment on a random event in a random story on some random media source. It could be anything…a Facebook comment, a neutral piece of news, an innocent remark on some irrelevant incident somewhere in a part of the world no one ever heard about…this is usually the initial trigger. Immediately dynamics in the room begin to shift silently. If the group members know each other well, some will see the cloud beginning to form. Muscles tense up, smiles freeze, some people get out shields, others sharpen their claws, as the evening launches itself into the chaos of politics and religion.
Unfortunately I don’t know who you are or where you stand, so I can’t advise you on a particular scenario. This battle is always unpredictable and depends on the family, the spouses, the kids and their ages. Wherever you stand on whatever topic is irrelevant and these are your options.
- You go to the bathroom/balcony/kitchen. Try to circulate all three so it doesn’t look suspicious, though I doubt anyone will notice you’re gone amidst the chaos except fellow refugees. But it’s every man for himself, and you need to make a strategic exit. If the door is out of sight, you might want to take a walk to the furthest kiosk/pharmacy.
- Play devil’s advocate and confuse the shit out of everyone just for the fun of it.
- Charge straight in with all your passion and rage and have a blast in the bloodbath. (You know you love it.)
What you should NEVER do is defend yourself or appeal to anyone’s sense of reason. There is no reason here. Only passion for the cause and irreversible convictions. This is why you need to decide as soon as you see the cloud…do you want to be part of this war or not?
If you’re staying, this is what you need to do:
- If you can’t yell as loud as the other person with whom you are engaged, use stronger language. Find your edge, and power and invest in it.
- If you feel you are losing a battle, don’t give it a moment’s thought or hesitate, or try to think things over. There’s no time and your head will be chopped off. You need to be quick on your feet, and retort with anything even if it’s irrelevant, and quickly scan your brain for a link and burst it out.
- Use the time the other person takes to process the confusion of the irrelevance to prepare for an attack.
- If at a total loss of words/information/response…Scream out the following with passion “WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?" This sentence applies to absolutely anything. While the other person is in shock, as the word ‘children’ will unsettle them, incorporate children into the argument in any way, and keep going with it, until you regain your balance.
- Say shocking facts related to your cause. You must know some.
- Exaggerate the truth, but never lie unless you’re sure your opponent has no way of finding out within the coming 2 hours.
- If the other person is more cultured, and well-read than you are, you’re in a bit of a pickle. At this point…turn the tables on them by asking them a question that starts with “Why are you so terrified of…(fill in the blanks)?” they will deny feeling terror. Calmly insist that they are terrified. This will make them instantly vulnerable. Use that moment to either launch another attack or play psychiatrist and pretend to be genuinely interested in addressing their concerns, slowly winning them over, and quietly ending the war without further damages by changing the subject.
Tools you will need regardless of whether you are walking away from the war or are in the heart of it:
Ready rolled joints
A flask of tequila/rum/vodka etc…
A well charged phone with 3G
A friend who knows where you are, and is on standby
Unshakable self confidence
A strong desire to live
Happy holidays and good luck!