Though most of our Instagram posts may show us at a poolside with friends, few of us care to show off our annual visit with our extended family members. Your grandma’s “famous” meatloaf isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as a fruit- and granola-laden acai bowl. We get it. Our required visitation with our elderly cohorts oftentimes are unexciting and present many inconveniences. So, while we can’t stop your great uncle from inquiring about your nonexistent sex life, we can try to help you deal with such circumstances as they occur.
The first moment of discomfort usually arises within the first few seconds of visitation. After the hugs and kisses, someone brings up your change of appearance since the last family gathering. This can either be over-the-top complimentary — such as, “You get taller and more handsome every time I see you! — or not-so-constructively critical — such as, “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds since our last visit.” Both can be unappealing in their own ways, and responding to such commentary can be incredibly stressful. The answer: Turn the tables so you don’t have to respond. Before they can utter a single word about your freshly-dyed blue hair, ask them if they’re aging backwards, or tell them their final transition from blonde to grey couldn’t look better. They’ll forget all about what they were going to say — as the elderly often do, are we right? — and you’ll get brownie points for sure. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
Once everyone has established how beautiful they are, conversation topics may turn toward the scandalous. Gossip of recent separations and declarations of bankruptcy are always the best accompaniment to a hearty family dinner, so don’t be surprised if you get roped in. This is usually when family members inquire about a potential significant other you have back at school. Ugh. Not again. You already got this from your parents. Whether you are 110% single or found someone the first day of freshman year and haven’t looked back since, your grandma isn’t always the first person you care to share the information with. So, what do you say when asked about the potential flames back at UC Berkeley? You make something up. Create the man or woman of your dreams and give them a highly detailed description of this person who does not exist. Not only is this a great way to get your creative juices flowing — juices that may have been left stagnant since finals ended — but it also satisfies your family’s desire to know each and every detail without actually knowing anything. We recommend starting with your favorite homeless member of the Berkeley community and building from there. You can take their passion for religious or social activism and incorporate it into the identity of your fake beau. Yep, tell grandma that you’ve really delved into the Berkeley culture this year.
Though answering questions and dodging awkward commentary can be stressful, the most common problem faced when visiting with family is boredom. We’ve all been there. After the initial hellos and the meal we all waited hours for, there’s just nothing to do. Our first instinct is to reach for our phones and refresh Instagram and Facebook until our thumbs bleed. Although this can be helpful in providing five minutes worth of entertainment, it both makes us look like the tech-dependent generation we’ve come to be known as and is super rude. So don’t do it! If you’re going to use your phone, use it to show your grandparents pictures of your life at UC Berkeley (though, preferably, not Cal Day or any other day you can’t remember). Take videos of the family dog in slow motion and share it with them. Or avoid technology altogether and actually try to listen to what your grandparents have to say. If you can do this seven hours a day during the school year, we’re sure you can do it for a few hours once or twice a year with the people that brought you into existence.
So there it is, Bears — a not-so-comprehensive guide to visiting with family this summer break. Now you can go back to live-tweeting your annual summer road trip.
Image Source:Ben Smith via Creative Commons
Contact summer Langton at [email protected].