Avoid 5 types out to dis­rupt your slice of peace on Earth

Austin American-Statesman - - BAL­ANCED VIEWS - Bar­reca is an English pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Connecticut, a fem­i­nist scholar who has writ­ten eight books and a colum­nist for the Hart­ford Courant. www.gin­abar­reca.com.


se­cret to life is that there is no se­cret. In heaven they ask you to ex­plain all the times you missed an op­por­tu­nity to find joy.

There is, how­ever, a se­cret to sur­viv­ing the hol­i­days, although it has very lit­tle to do with heav­enly mat­ters.

It has to do with avoid­ing five types of peo­ple who suck joy out of a room the way air gets sucked out of a pres­sur­ized cabin in “Snakes on a Plane.”

You need to pro­tect your­self when you’re near these peo­ple; they are sea­sonal vam­pires.

They don’t come out af­ter dark; they come out af­ter Black Fri­day. They drain dry life’s emo­tional bal­ance un­til all that’s left are dregs of good cheer and a bunch of cranky crumbs.

Let’s iden­tify them so that we’re safe this sea­son.

Type 1: The Vain Man. There are now guys ask­ing, “Does this Santa suit make me look fat?” They’re ask­ing for hair plugs and eye lifts from Santa. These guys are try­ing to pick up cute elves. They think they don’t need Santa’s bi­fo­cals to read gift lists. They think they are the prize. They are wrong.

Type 2: The Sen­ti­men­tal Lady. A woman who makes her daugh­ter’s ice skates into ear­rings is a woman who needs to un­clasp her fist from the throat of The Ghost of Christ­mas Past. This is a per­son who launches into speeches about how happy her fam­ily was be­fore the: a) di­vorce; b) fail­ure of the cul­ture to value im­por­tant tra­di­tions such as light­ing mul­ti­ple scented can­dles to eclipse the smell of ex­pired pot­pourri; c) her chil­dren’s mar­riages to hea­thens, for­eign­ers or peo­ple whose fam­i­lies won’t ac­knowl­edge that, be­cause they self­ishly live out of state, they have no right to claim time with the lit­tle ones be­tween Hal­loween and Ar­bor Day.

Type 3: The Nut-Avoider. Don’t write letters to the edi­tor; I’m not talk­ing about you — or, at least, about only you. I have al­ler­gies and half my fam­ily is ve­gan, so I know what it’s like to make com­pro­mises. At any gath­er­ing in my home, there are peanut-avoiders, meat-avoiders, salt-avoiders, al­co­hol-avoiders, fruc­tose-avoiders, gluten-avoiders and dairy-avoiders. But any­body with a sanc­ti­mo­nious in­abil­ity to be within spit­ting dis­tance of those who mate and vote — let alone eat and drink — dif­fer­ently from them­selves should not ex­pect to sit at the ta­ble with oth­ers un­less they com­pro­mise. I have pro­found phys­i­cal re­ac­tions dur­ing meals that I must con­tain. If I can man­age, so can the ve­gan sodium-free Wic­can friend who’s co­zied up to the Pen­te­costal ba­con lover.

Type 4: The Ter­ri­fy­ingly Happy. These folks send cards with pictures of their adorable off­spring but with­out sup­ply­ing ei­ther a re­turn ad­dress or their own iden­ti­ties, thereby re­main­ing as anony­mous as those un­der wit­ness pro­tec­tion. These are the fam­i­lies who name their kids af­ter house­hold ob­jects or Norse gods. Their cards read “Happy Hol­i­days from All of Us! Here are the kids — Ooe­grd, Kick­stand, Beret and baby Nim­mer­mehr!” You have no idea who they are. How­ever, such fam­i­lies are usu­ally fully oc­cu­pied by tak­ing pictures of each other. The dan­ger of see­ing them in the flesh is low.

Type 5: The Com­pet­i­tive Do-Gooder. This per­son wields ran­dom acts of kind­ness as a blud­geon. If you men­tion you do­nated canned goods to the soup kitchen, she’ll ex­plain how last year she made and served stew. If you boast about giv­ing money to the lo­cal animal shel­ter, she’ll trot out her two three-legged dogs and her deaf fer­ret. So you end up putting the soup kitchen and shel­ter in your will. You then dis­cover she’s al­ready done that. Ha, ha! You lose!

Yet be­cause every­body else wins, it’s not real de­feat. What you found in­stead is an op­por­tu­nity for joy. Laugh­ter brings us a lit­tle closer to heaven — or, at the very least, closer to each other. And that’s what the hol­i­days are for, af­ter all.

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