Preparation is the key to surviving Christmas with your significant other’s relatives | NevadaAppeal.com

Preparation is the key to surviving Christmas with your significant other’s relatives

Jarid Shipley
Features editor

As you read this, I am winging my way across the country, bound for a meeting with Kate’s entire family on their home turf.

That’s right, I’m spending the next eight days in a small town in Pennsylvania, where the state motto is, “Still hoping to be annexed by New York.”

To further add to the irony, the name of Kate’s hometown is Holidaysburg. Or is it Holidaysville? No, Holidaystown?

I have spent the last 20 days preparing myself both mentally and physically for the task at hand. I have developed a strategy to combat awkward land mines.

I have undertaken a regime designed to train my body and increase my ability to complete the mission of spending a week with people I have never met but who know all about me.

I have done everything I can to prepare. I know what you are asking – after all this, am I scared?

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Like a pit bull at Michael Vick’s house.

So while you are lazily enjoying your coffee this Thursday morning, I am hurriedly studying the notecard study guides I created for myself to prevent the dreaded awkward moments.

OK, cousin Ned is the son of Aunt Dottie, who doesn’t like Uncle Jasper because he had that affair with Uncle Jimmy. But Uncle Jimmy’s wife – whose name is Jemima – doesn’t know that.

It’s not that I’m worried, it’s just that I have no escape plan. No way out if something Meet-the-Parents-esque happens while I’m in Holidaysville.

“Jarid, we’d like you to meet Uncle Jimmy.”

“Oh, the gay one.” Strike one.

“Jarid, Kate tells us you write a column. What was last week’s about?”

“How I don’t like to shower in front of other men.” Strike two.

While I understand that there is no way of avoiding all the awkward land mines – and let me assure you, Holidaysvilleburg is loaded with them – my hope is to minimize the damage by sticking to my strategy, which is twofold.

I call it: Operation That Dream Where You’re in School and Don’t Have any Clothes On.

OK, I admit the name needs work, but the strategy is still useable.

Fold One: Stick to the people I have already met. I know her mom; she’s very nice. I know her sister, whom, at age 16, I believe is smarter than me. I know her brother, who tolerates me, and I know her dad, who only makes me nervous to the point that I sweat a little bit.

So, if I stick close to them, they will run interference for me. Like a family buffer.

Fold Two of Operation TDWYSDHCO: Only get into conversations that have no chance of turning awkward or embarrassing. As a precautionary measure, I have eliminated all topics that make me angry. They include politics, religion, sports, food, alcohol, low-fat mayonnaise, guys named Nikki, robot overlords and “Sesame Street.”

“But, Jarid,” you are asking your newspaper. “What happens if someone accidentally backs into a conversation about low-fat mayonnaise?”

Simple. I have a simple – yet effective – way out of the conversation.

Relative: “So did ya hear that all the Subway locations in Holidaysvilleburgland are only using low-fat mayonnaise now?”

Jarid: “I’m sorry, I’d love to discuss this further, but I have gas.”

So, with my study guide of family dossiers and my “fool-proof” conversation plan, the only possible way I could screw this up is to simply say something offensive. So I’ve decided to stick to safe statements.

Jarid: “So how stupid of an invention was the Slinky? I mean really. What’s that? Oh, the Slinky was invented in Holidaysvillburglandhamlet? You don’t say.”

“Did I mention I have gas?”

Strike three.

Got a meet-the-parents horror story? Tell me about it on the Party of One blog at http://www.nevadaappeal.com/partyofone

• Jarid Shipley is the Features Editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him a jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.