The holidays mean something different for everyone. For some people, it’s a time to get together with the family to play football and eat stuffing until you feel like a hot air balloon. For others, it’s when you stock up on anti-anxiety meds and slip two bottles of vodka into your suitcase and then wish you'd done the same in your carry-on.
For most people, it’s a little bit of both; a time to reconnect with your parents, cousins and whoever else happens to be invited, while trying not to stab your mother with the carving fork every time she asks you when you’re getting married.
We all know the holidays are an exercise in patience, fortitude and alcohol consumption; an already precarious time when throwing anything besides relatives, booze and gift-giving into the mix could potentially result in a red and green Chernobyl.
This is why bringing your partner home for the holidays requires extra care and consideration. In fact, you would be well-advised to think about your trip as a special ops mission and prepare accordingly. If it is good enough to get the Marines in and out of Baghdad with minimal casualties, it might work for getting your partner in and out of Buffalo.
Plan of Attack
Obviously, the first step is to give your mission a fun name, like "Operation Deck the Halls with Homos." This will help to keep planning light and fun and relieve the tension when your mom's had one too many eggnogs and is asking your girlfriend if she's ever had a boyfriend. Once you have your code name, begin strategizing. Clearly, YOU CAN”T PLAN FOR EVERYTHING. For example, your uncle getting drunk and telling everyone at the table about his love for Nigerian prostitutes, causing your Women’s Studies girlfriend to start fingering her steak knife. You can, however, plan for the fact that your mother will be stressed out about the turkey that won’t fit in the oven and your father will have too many scotches while watching the football game. Basically, we're saying that if your family drinks as much as ours do, all bets are off.
Plotting out various scenarios and your responses will leave both you and your partner feeling calmer and more prepared, as now you at least have some OPTIONS. For instance, maybe you want to drive instead of flying because scrambling to find an earlier flight out can be expensive! Keep your ultimate objective in mind at all times, whether it's fostering familial devotion towards your significant other or just getting out without anyone having to breathe into a paper bag.
If your parents are not yet down with the gay, MAYBE your partner shouldn’t wear a suit to Christmas dinner, or the "I Love Fisting" tshirt you bought her for Fisting Day. Just saying. It’s not that you shouldn’t express yourself, but sometimes it's good to blend in a little. I love my jeans and I feel like myself when I wear them -- I realize, however, that sometimes it’s just not appropriate to wear jeans. I’m not saying your girlfriend should put on a dress if she's more on the masculine end of the spectrum and end up looking like RuPaul's Drag Race: Thanksgiving Edition; however, maybe there is a happy medium. Are pantsuits still a thing? Do people wear those? Look into it.
This is essential. Imagine you are stranded on a desert island, aka a house in suburban America, and you will be interrogated and subjected to weird rituals. What do you need to bring with you? GIFTS! That's right, nothing says "your daughter made the right choice when she decided to scissor me" like a nice bottle of red wine. Bring a gift for every member of the family, especially if this is a Christmas visit, because you better believe her mother wrapped something for you and threw it under the tree (or Hanukkah Bush, whatever). Even if she hates you. In addition, be sure to pack all other essentials:
+ A book -- For downtime and to make you look smart. NO SELF HELP BOOKS.
+ Music -- To drown out the sounds of her annoying cousins while you are trying to sleep or exercise.
+ A sports bra -- You will probably need to go for a run so you can at least pretend you are running away from the house for 2-3 miles.
+ Alcohol -- For every reason.
It's possible that despite all your planning and packing, something will go terribly awry that may or may not have anything to do with you. Your mother, inundated with hallucinatory Norman Rockwell visions, could short circuit and start yelling at you that you need more men in the family not more women. Or maybe your Dad has one too many and backs the new family car into a lightpost at the mall. If it becomes clear that you will not be able to make a recovery of this trip, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Leave with grace and make up some other reason (work emergency, girlfriend family emergency, ran out of Xanax) so you won’t start fighting about the fight, but get out of there.
Nothing can do more damage to a relationship than forcing your partner to be traumatized for days by a family that is not her own. If you perform an emergency extraction there will be a special place in heaven for you and hopefully when the situation is reversed she will return the favor. Remember, your family will always be related to you and it's statistically unlikely that they'll remove you from the will because of one Thanksgiving; they'll still be there to eat turkey with you next year, lucky you! The girlfriend... maybe not. Protip.
It's like the post-game show -- you need to relive the highlights and talk about how to avert potential on-the-field disasters next time. This is a conversation that needs to happen with both your family and your lady, thanking both for their patience and grace while also maybe offering some constructive criticism if need be! Be sure to keep it respectful because while completely mental, this is your family after all. However, give her a chance to express to you how she felt about it and how she thinks you can make your next operation more successful. There WILL be a next time (unless you break up of course) in which case your next time will just be with the next one.
The holidays are a test in survival and the most magic time of year rolled up into one insane tinsel covered four week shit show. At the end of the day we are all just hoping to survive it with our dignity, and our relationships, intact. Which is why it never hurts to plan and be prepared.