Holiday Survival — Dinnertime Dogma, Snooping Houseguests, and Christ’s Bar Mitzvah

By Piper Bayard

This month, Holmes and I are dedicated to spreading cheer and relieving the tension of the holidays. We invite you to send your questions to me, a pragmatic author/belly dancer and not-so-closet redneck, and Holmes, a man with experience in intelligence and covert operations who thinks 90% of life’s problems can be solved with sex, C4, or hollow points.

Brendan Stallard has a serious question for us, and it’s one that we’re sure many people have had to deal with over the years:

His problem relates to relatives who parrot dogma at the dinner table. “It seems as if all they want is to sit around the table and moan about the welfare mothers, tax dodgers and the grasping poor, and nod like idiot donkeys at one another at their meanness. They are all wealthy, and have never known much of hard work or poverty. I love them all dearly, as mad and crazy right wingers as they are.”

Reindeer fences SeppVei wikimedia public domain

Image by SeppVei.

Note how this reindeer fence makes an excellent boundary.

Some come in, some stay out, and we can still chat with them through the bars.

Bayard & Holmes:

You’re going to have to set some boundaries, and you have every right to do so. It’s your home. When people visit your home, they have to play by your rules or leave. And while hollow points and C4 might be fun, Christmas is always better if you can get through dinner without them so let’s look at alternatives.

You might want to call a truce to political discussions in advance of the gathering with a little, “Let’s agree to make this fun for everyone and stay away from politics this year.” People will still wander back to that topic by habit, at which you would be in a position to smile and say in a warm tone, “Hey, nooooo politics guys! It’s the holidays.”

No politics at a dinner table was a common social rule not very long ago so instituting that rule in your home would not be a radical departure from social norms. A smile and sweet tone of voice can make almost any rebuke acceptable to the other person. Just make sure you don’t answer their assertions with your own or the fight will be on.

A second approach would be to ignore their chatter and their opinions the way you might ignore a loud advertisement on the television. Envision yourself hitting a mute button and tune them out altogether.

The more extreme solution would be simply not inviting them. Our guess is that with good communication prior to the visit, though, you will not have to take that step.

Good luck! And please let us know how it goes.

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Susie Lindau has an issue with nosey guests:

I wonder how to handle the obnoxious guest who tours the entire house including my closets and medicine cabinets?

Bayard:

The first thing that comes to mind is the memory of a young woman in my college dorm who was having issues with someone stealing her shampoo. My solution—I mean her solution—was to fill the shampoo bottle with hair remover.

Along those lines, I think it would be fun to take some sort of popular and attractive medication, like Ativan or Percocet, and put the bottle front and center in your medicine cabinet. However, before your party, take the real meds out and fill it with some sort of extreme laxative. Just remember to switch the meds back after everyone has gone home. When your guest is too “busy” the next day to leave his or her house, you can sit back and smile, knowing you’ve done the world a service.

Holmes:

Snooping when you are a guest in a home is something that CIA agents risk getting shot to do to targets in enemy states. It’s not reasonable conduct for legitimate guests.

Texanne and other readers suggested rigging loud alarms or other surprises to your medicine cabinet. This would be effective as long as you are up for the ensuing conversation with the violator. Perhaps I am naïve, but I have to wonder if your guest list is a touch to long. If these folks can’t be trusted with your medicine cabinet, can they be trusted to be in your home with your children?

Julie Glover is out of sync with the Holiday spirit:

How the heck can we get Christmas back down to 12 days? I’m a Scrooge until about December 15, when I think the Christmas season really should begin. If it wasn’t for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and my church’s candlelight service, I might want to give up celebrating Jesus’ birthday altogether and see if there’s a quieter holiday for his bar mitzvah instead. (Okay, now that I re-read that, maybe the question is, How can I get in the holiday spirit?)

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem uploaded by Alwynloh wikimedia

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem. Not Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah, but no doubt similar.

image by Alwynloh, wikimedia commons

Bayard:

I think you may be onto something with that bar mitzvah idea, especially since Christ’s bar mitzvah would have been the same time of year, I’m guessing. When people wish you a “Merry Christmas” respond with “Matzel Tov!” Then write up their reactions and publish them. That way, you haven’t offended anyone, you aren’t celebrating Christmas before you’re ready, and you get some fun and a blog out of it. It’s win/win all the way around.

Holmes:

Christmas season starts for YOU when YOU say it does. Decorate on the day that you want to and ignore Christmas until then. The fact that others are in a “Christmas groove” doesn’t mean that you have to be. It’s YOUR Christmas. Make it what you want it to be.

Carry a water pistol with you, perhaps something in a festive red and green, and when people assault you with their Christmas spirit, give them a quick squirt and say, “Merry Christmas, my ass!” That should serve you with the dual purpose of putting them in their place, and you in the holiday spirit.

Please tell us about your Holiday Survival dilemmas in the comments section below. Nothing warms our hearts during the holiday season like turning your problems into our opportunities. And remember, no question is out-of-bounds, but our answers might be.

Bayard & Holmes Savoir Faire Consulting Service

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Holiday Season is upon us. Soon, life will be a whirlwind of dinner parties and fetes. We realize that we will be the main topic of discussion for many of our readers at these parties, and we’d like to do our best to help our reputations and yours. We’re proud to bring you the Bayard & Holmes Savoir Faire Consulting Service.

image by Ugllbe, wikimedia commons

As a recovering boy from the hood and a bellydancing closet redneck, we are more than qualified to assist anyone, even the most long suffering Je N’ais Pas Faire victim, in developing the necessary social savvy and handy fake veneer of sophistication.

To help you determine precisely how much coaching you’ll need to maximize your social success while mingling with sophisticates, our intelligent, educated, worldly team of Savoir Faire Savants (us) have developed these questions.

A)   You receive a formal invitation for dinner at 8:00 p.m. What do you do?

  1. You arrive at 8:40 p.m. with a re-gift of the same crystal bird statue the hostess gave you six months before.
  2. You arrive at 8:00 p.m. with a bottle of wine and flowers.
  3. You arrive at 7:45 with no wine or flowers and ignore the hostess while hovering over the oven, waiting for the hors d’oeuvres.
  4. You arrive empty-handed at 7:15, compliment the hostess on how great her a$$ looks in her dress, and demand the TV and a cold one.

B)   When you’re seated at the table, you discover an abundance of silverware at each place setting. How do you react?

  1. You point out that they have forgotten to include an oyster fork.
  2. You confidently use the silver in order as each course is served.
  3. You cautiously wait to see which fork the host and hostess use when, and then you mimic them.
  4. I don’t need their utensils. I brought my switchblade.

image by HopefulRomntic, wikimedia commons

C)   The hostess’s aged and not-altogether-there grandmother is attending the party in her wheelchair. She attempts a conversation with you but is having difficulty forming sentences. How do you respond?

  1. Mrs. Vanderbilt, I see you’re not on your medication. And why don’t they dress you properly any more? I’ll get the nurse to attend you.
  2. It’s so good to see you. I always think of our last time together and how much fun we had. You’re looking great this evening.
  3. You quickly grab the elbow of the unattractive, self-important flirter who regaled you with his tales of grandeur and whisper seductively into his ear, “Oh, Chauncey. You must meet the world’s most important business women.” Then you deposit Chauncey with Mrs. Vanderbilt and escape.
  4. You pretend to be her caring nurse and roll her outside behind the garage. You leave her there shivering and pleading for mercy as you return to the party.

D)   A man in a dreadfully tailored tuxedo with the odor of gin on his breath arrives late to the party. While staring at your chest, he attempts to engage you in a plebian conversation concerning politics. How do you respond?

  1. You point him to the kitchen and tell him he is late for work.
  2. You excuse yourself with an urgent but polite tone and seek out conversation elsewhere.
  3. You look down your nose and ask him, “Is that really your tuxedo or did you steal it off a homeless man?”
  4. You whisper seductively, “Come closer,” and when he does, you deliver a hard blow to his head with a candlestick.

E)   You’re feeling sleepy. What do you do?

  1. You announce your departure to everyone, explaining that you can’t stay late tonight because you’re expected at Buckingham Palace in the morning.
  2. You graciously thank your host and hostess for a lovely evening and quietly depart.
  3. You tell your host you’ve had a bit too much to drink, and ask him if he wouldn’t mind having his wife drive you home.
  4. You take the host’s 18-yr-old daughter to the guest bedroom and retire for the evening.

image by Haber1000, wikimedia commons

Now add up your score for your Savoir Faire Social Quotient.

1 = 1;     2 = 2;     3 = 3;     4 = 4

Score of 4 or less

This is not the proper curriculum for you. You might consider some math tutoring.

Score of 5 – 7

You’re an arrogant, insufferable snob. If anyone is still inviting you to parties at this point in your life, we advise that you decline those invitations. They are probably only inviting you in the hopes of drowning you in the pool as a source of amusement for the rest of the guests.

Score of 8 – 16

You’re the sort of person who could most benefit from our Savoir Faire Consulting Service. Stick with us, and you’ll be at the top of the social list in no time.

Score of 17 – 20

Not all the news is bad. For one thing, there is no need for you to attend our Savoir Faire Consulting Service. You’ll almost never find yourself invited to a party, and if you did, it’s unlikely that the penitentiary where you are serving time would grant you a release to attend. Think of the money you’ll save by not having to upgrade your evening wear.

Now that you have your starting point pinned down, we here at Bayard & Holmes stand ready to assist you with all of your Savoir Faire dilemmas.

What was your score? What questions do you have this Holiday Season for our worldly Savoir Faire Savants (us)?