Family reunions, like bikini season and the holidays, are known to induce either dead panic or sheer joy. You’re either a lucky member of one of those elite, near-extinct broods in which rousing games of Jenga and long walks dominate the reunion schedule, or you belong to a less happy-go-lucky clan, where an odd assortment of bossy aunts, bratty (or alternately, just plain weird) cousins and passive aggressive grandmas crowd the kitchen table whilst trying to figure out how in the world they’re related to one another.
You would be correct in assuming I belong to the latter group.
Memorial Day occurred Monday, and, as per tradition, families across the country jumped ship and evacuated their respective, heat-oppressed cities for fairer locales. We high-tailed it out-of-town bright and early Saturday morning (in my opinion, too early), and headed for the ranch. Yes indeed, dear friends, another Texan with a ranch, and before we continue, I want to clear up a few things: The last time I rode a horse I was thrown into a fence, I have never pitched hay and the only time I’ve worn a cowboy hat was to a theme party. Sorry to burst your John Travolta-Urban Cowboy bubble.
The ranch, as you may (or may not) expect, is a vast tract of cow-speckled land with nary a Starbucks to be seen. Armed with a book, my dog, vast amounts of food and a puzzle, family time began. There will always be family members that irritate the crap out of you, but there are a few things you ought to avoid unless you crave the radiating tension that is a natural by-product of family bickering.
1) Save your passive-aggression for the PTA meeting. It is a fact that compared to the other family members present at our Memorial Day Ranch Retreat, I am a city girl. Guilty. However, underhanded comments disguised as jokes suck. Also, they’re not funny.
2) Don’t pretend to be an expert. This is especially pertinent to male relatives. The Jeep is broken? Uncle Bob says he can fix it? Doubtful. Nothing fuels a man’s desire to prove everyone wrong so much as doubt in his ability to complete said project. So, to all the Uncle Bobs out there: We know you’re not an expert in Jeep-fixing, horse-trough-fixing, grill-fixing or sattelite-dish-fixing. Most people over the age of 4 have the ability to tell when someone is BS-ing. Let it go.
3) Dishes: do them. Or at least pretend to help. Nothing is more irritating than the family member who sleeps through breakfast prep, conveniently wakes up in time to snag a cup of fresh joe to accompany his (or her- this is not a male exclusive) pancakes and eggs, then mysteriously vanishes when there’s a pile of dishes the size of the Eiffel Tower in the sink. Not. Cool.
Also relevant to this section: laundry. Don’t start laundry then disappear for six hours. No one wants to fold your boxers and socks. Seriously…no one.
4) Stop whining. Yes, yes, we know there’s an awesome party-cookout-bbq or some other shindig you’d rather be at. But you’re not. I was guilty of this during my petulant teen years, but have since out grown it. Included in this category are also any adult family members who maintain a constant stream of thought regarding all the work they could be doing. Again, you’re not, so plaster a silly smile on your face and grab a burger.
5) Do not, under any circumstances, bring work to the reunion. For example: I have an uncle who is a cop (excuse me police chief), and he has an extraordinarily difficult time differentiating between police officer Bob and Uncle Bob, and therefore we are subjected to his snarky tone, overly bossy manner and extremely high expectation of getting exactly what he wants. Likewise, if you happen to be a kindergarten teacher, maybe put the baby voice on the shelf before you leave school and talk to us adults in a grown-up voice.
So in conclusion, before you pack-up and head-out into the wild blue yonder for some good old-fashioned family bonding, ask yourself if you’re going to be a jerk the whole time, or if you’re going to try and enjoy it. If you still insist on being a jerk, there’s always plenty of space in the barn.