Thursday, 24 December 2015


Don't you just love this time of year? No? Me neither! 

Many of you fare much better bent over Santa's knee, but for people like me, this season of peace and goodwill is like we're the protagonists in the survival horror video game Resident Evil: The North Pole Chronicles; set in a mansion full of creepy, grinning and singing characters wearing pointy red hats who cannot be reasoned with and will inflict harm to maintain their Christmas cheer, casual racism and misogyny. And the adults are much, much worse.

Clearly I'm not the only one who looks forward to this time of year about as much as they look forward to the 2016 season of The Next Celebrity Sex Monster reality TV show. The mountain of bland articles on how to survive the holiday season are jolting reminders to me that some people do really enjoy the holiday season and just like to read some vague motivational cliches to keep them going and forge ahead with all the environmentally-unsustainable meat preparation required and the elves on shelves to move around and teach children about the safety we enjoy in our modern surveillance state.

That has not been my experience unfortunately. I was born into a family with many similarities to a cult; scoring about seven out of ten in typical cult checklists. Many families operate this way and it appears to be part of our evolutionary programming. Be thankful that your ancestors very likely engaged in extremist cult-like activities to ensure they survived while the tribes around them did not. Fortunately, this is no longer how we are expected to behave and I certainly don't want to be a member of any cult; except for Lady Gaga's Little Monsters obviously.

After many trauma tears have been shed, I can now mostly shield myself from the cult except for during this time of year. I am very concerned over what the leader might do to me and my wife if we don't participate in at least some of the Christmas functions. And we must try our hardest to not be perceived to cause trouble. As is standard for cults, even mild challenges to the false facade of not being a cult and of a tight-knit group that all love and support each other is forbidden and breaches in such rules have disproportionately harsh consequences. I am a trouble-maker with a heart of black gold so your assessment may be that it would be better to stay away. And you may be right and I'm definitely crazy.

Despite all my concerns, we are going to join in on their Santanic rituals on Xmas day. At least my family are non-violent and will only inflict verbal pain. Their one bargaining chip that we care about is that they can partially block us from seeing the children. The kids are too young to make up their own minds about whether the family cult is the right fit for them, so we kind of feel it's our duty to show them that there are other gentler ways to maintain cohesion within a group. Mind you, they're smart kids, so will probably work it out for themselves anyway.

So is there any way that we can at least try to minimise the trauma that is likely to be inflicted on us? I have some ideas that I'm toying over that might help, could make no difference, or might even make things worse. We will keep experimenting. If you are in a similar predicament to me, then tell me what works for you and what failed miserably and I'll include the best and worst ideas in next year's Xmas survival guide. 

All the best this year with surviving the depriving.

See part 2 for strategies I'll be testing out this year.

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