Sue went to her family’s Christmas dinner with a pit in her stomach. Mom is going criticize everything. She’s not going to like the pie I made…. I’m sure it won’t be flakey enough, Sue thought back to prior [failed] pie-making episodes in the past. She’s not going to like my outfit… oh…. and I have gained some weight since I last saw her, she’ll be sure to point out. Sue ticked off some more things that her mom would probably find unacceptable.
She found herself wishing for an angel who could instantly make her successful [and sweep her off her feet; just like in those Hallmark movies], if only so she wouldn’t have to hear the pitiful tone when asked, “Any special men in your life?”
“What, with my cooking and fat behind?” she always wanted to say with emphasis, but didn’t dare, for fear of creating an uncomfortable moment for the rest of the family.
Her grandmother would ask inappropriate personal questions that would be hard to dodge…So you and Rob broke up? Was it because you were too focused on your career, too busy trying to climb the corporate ladder instead of doing anything else?…and even when she did, it was already “out there,” for everyone to wonder about.
Each entirely plausible dreadful possibility created a sickness in Sue, which, in turn created resolve. I am NOT going to let my family bully me like this. I am NOT going to spend another uncomfortable moment with them, not if I can help it. So on the long drive from New York to Virginia, Sue came up with some ground rules, some boundaries, she prayed would work.
When Grandma Jones asked her if she got lucky with her latest crush, she would simply change the subject [trying her best to keep from cringing], and keep doing so until the “INAPPROPRIATE” signal was received. If Grandma kept prying, she would make it clear that this topic was off limits.
When mom criticizes the pie, she’d say something to the effect of “I guess the cooking talent in the family skipped me, maybe you could give me some pointers next time,” and move on to another topic.
She would be very general and generic about talking about her job, her church, her social life and she wouldn’t divulge any more details, least of which about her love life, than necessary.
When anyone aggravated her to her tipping point, she would have to separate herself from the situation, remembering that this was a family member, and they certainly weren’t being malicious, they were just trying to offer advice.
She would remember that this was their dysfunctional way of showing love to her…. and that her way wasn’t any more enlightened. And she would be grateful that she had people that loved her. And she would tell them so.