The Grooming Manual
2021 Holiday Survival Guide: Strategies to Save You from Awkward Family Gatherings
Being with your family during the holidays is great… until it isn’t. So whether you just need a quick 5 minute escape from a bad conversation - or to flee the festivities all together - we’ve got your essential 2021 holiday survival strategies here.
Get on your phone and never look up.
Every family has its own unique holiday rituals, but most eventually devolve into sitting around and talking about each other’s personal business. This can get out of control. Quickly.
But it might be dangerous to get up and walk away from these group conversations. That could draw too much attention to yourself and make you the dreaded target of the familial interrogation.
How do you hide in plain sight, camouflaged enough to safely avoid the explosive topics?
Your phone. Death stare that thing.
- Play a mindless swiping game.
- Open a note and start typing furiously, venting about how little you want to be here right now.
- Doom scroll the news.
- Chat with empathetic friends who are doing the same thing with their families right now.
Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with your chatty uncle, inquisitive aunt, or troublemaking cousin. The moment you do, they’ll attack. Remember, the phone is your safe place.
Hide somewhere for a while.
Avoiding stressful conversations is easy when you physically remove yourself from them. But this is tricky. You can only be gone for so long before people start looking for you.
This usually gets worse before it gets better - once family realizes you’re avoiding them, they can get aggressive.
The classic option is the bathroom, but there’s only so long you can stay there before someone knocks or it just gets awkward. Stay too long, and you can draw attention you don’t want.
Another idea - try a guest bedroom. Take a nap. If someone finds you, feign a headache.
Are there kids playing outside? Or in a room that none of the grown people want to go in? That’s a great place to escape the adults, though it could get loud and intense depending on the kids.
All these hiding spots are great for a while, but most have built in time limits. Use them wisely. Mix and match to potentially get away from the stress for hours.
Make an alliance with your cool sibling/aunt/uncle/cousin/etc.
This power move can be combined with many other survival tactics on this list. But it requires some planning.
Do you have a solid family member who gets it and wants to avoid the drama as much as you do? Perfect - pull a Survivor and form an alliance before you ever arrive. There are lots of easy ways to team up and get away from the unpleasant moments.
- Offer to do dishes or other chores that will keep you at a safe distance from the main group.
- Pull away from a troubling conversation to chat about literally anything else.
- Make excuses for each other as you take turns hiding.
Stay near the food, not the bar.
Drinking makes people chatty. They sip and ask and sip and tell and sip and interrogate. It’s bad.
But food? Not as much. So hang by the snack tray or haunt the buffet table. Keep just enough food in your mouth to making talking difficult or rude. Chew slowly - this is a marathon and you don’t want to overeat.
This strategy’s effectiveness depends heavily on the layout and size of your family’s holiday meal and snack habits. But given the right conditions, it can be a real winner and drag out much longer than you might expect - though it may require a lot of standing.
Stay slightly inebriated.
Alcohol is a major contributor to family drama. So this one is potentially dangerous. But if you’re smart about it, you can use alcohol as a tool to your advantage.
Prepare your holiday drink of choice. Sip it slowly. Get comfortably buzzed - just enough to not care what’s being said around you. But beware of crossing that dangerous line where the alcohol loosens your lips and things start getting said that really shouldn’t.
Redirect conversations before they go off the rails.
There are lots of embarrassing, demeaning, overly personal conversations that come up around the holidays, like:
- When are you going to settle down?
- When are you going to have kids?
- When are finally getting divorced?
- When are you going to quit that dumb job?
- Weren’t you on a diet/fitness plan? How did that go?
These conversations suck - but if you skillfully redirect the dialogue, you stay safe. Reflect the question back on the asker. Get them talking. Don’t share anything you don’t want to. Here’s how to do it:
- Uncle Nick: “When are you two going to have another kid?”
- You: “Hmmm. How many kids do you think is ideal?”
- “Blah Blah Blah.”
- “Ahh. Why is that?”
- “Blah Blah Blah.”
- “Ahh. How about other topic?”
- “Blah Blah Blah.”
Get them talking with open ended “why” questions that keep your mouth shut and their’s going constantly.
Warning: This works great with some family members but can backfire with others. If they like to talk, it’s gold. But if they tend towards volatile topics and need to be controlled, beware of giving them the spotlight. Or if they’re a little too clever and will easily figure out what you’re doing… that can be trouble too.
Fake an emergency to leave ASAP.
It's the ace up your sleeve and should only be deployed in extreme situations. It’s the eject button that gets you out of your plane… but now you’re exposed and slowly floating to the earth with only a parachute.
Why the danger? Because if you come up with the wrong emergency story, the entire family will want follow up information. They will talk about you as you leave. And you will draw way, way too much attention to your lie.
The perfect emergency is just bad enough to require leaving immediately, but not so terrible as to require any follow up. Pets are a great scapegoat.
- Buttercup is throwing up.
- Max peed in the house.
- The gerbil has escaped.
House/apartment troubles are also good - but nothing major or sensational enough to make people ask for a photo as evidence. Keep it simple.
- There’s a leaky pipe.
- A window got left open and now it’s raining / a bird got in / I’m worried about a break in.
- My neighbors called and there’s a problem at the building. I have to go now.
Again, this is your last straw, no other choice, nuclear option. You can’t use it every year. And it could invite trouble. So only drop this bomb if things have gotten so out of control that you need to get out immediately.
Enjoy Your Holiday!
Yes, family stuff can get stressful during the holidays. But it can also be a great time. Don’t go into the gathering assuming the worst. Try to make the most of it!
Improve your chances by showing up looking your best. Your appearance is at least one detail that you control. So put on an outfit that fits, feels, and looks awesome. Clean up and don’t skip your skincare routine before you head out.
- Wash your face (try our Purifying Charcoal Face Wash), and lock in moisture so your skin looks great all day (do it with our Daily Essential Face Moisturizer).
- Does your skin get extra oily when you’re under stress? Use our Balancing Toner to refresh your skin, reduce oil, and minimize pores.
- Don’t want to hear about your dark circles? Dab on some Restoring Eye Cream to brighten your skin and impress all the skeptical relatives.
You’ll feel more calm, collected, and confident thanks to your quick skincare routine. Maybe it’ll keep Aunt Cindy and Uncle Tyler talking about how young you look and how much they wish Cousin Brad would take better care of himself.
But even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll look like a million bucks.