The body part most closely associated with the winter holiday festivities is the mouth, and not only because of all the singing and eating. At any social gathering, there is generally quite a bit of loose talk, the kind that does damage. This is true of many different environments — work, school, and especially family gatherings. Is there anyone who has not been hurt or insulted by the words of some relative or family friend, at the exact time of year when everything is supposed to all be love and light?
Despite the common belief that nobody should be alone for the holidays, a lot of people would pretty much rather be on their own rather than put up with a lot of nonsense. They don’t want to hear about how overweight they look this year, compared to the same time last year. They probably don’t even want to commiserate with other parents about how difficult it is to keep the children from ballooning up.
A family get-together can turn toxic pretty fast. Children might face an excruciating dilemma, caught between two equally vital concepts. Your parents warn you there are certain kinds of kids you shouldn’t hang out with, because it can only lead to trouble. Then, you meet one or more kids that your personal spidey-sense tells you are bad news — except you have to hang out with them, because they are your cousins.
Enforced tribal cohesiveness
For many people of all ages, another unattractive aspect of a big family gathering is that you’re expected to stick with it for the duration. Some sensitive children get very unbalanced from being around too many people for too long. But to be separated from the grownups does not help, because some of the kids you get banished to the rec room with are obnoxious. At least an adult might go on a helpful or necessary errand, and make a temporary escape. A grownup can choose to drive away, or walk away, or find a place to be alone for a while.
A very clever grownup may engineer some quality time with a favorite relative while avoiding the less agreeable ones. It comes as no surprise that even super-sophisticated folk like psychologists, trained therapists, and clergy members can be thrown off their stride during the holidays.
Children are expected to be polite, good-natured, respectful, and most of all they are expected to cheerfully put up with personal remarks about their appearance. A lot of children and teens are defenseless against cruelty, especially from relatives. An overweight young person is aware that he or she will be critically scrutinized and discussed, and probably photographed for reasons other than a desire for fond memories.
What is worse — to endure this kind of discrimination alone, or as part of a group? There are family get-togethers where every adult considers it her or his sworn duty to issue an opinion about every single other person who is present — especially the kids. It’s as if critiquing each body, young or old, is their job, and they’re trying for a promotion. Somehow, you just know that Aunt Nell intends to go back home to her circle of evil witch friends and show everybody how much fatter her niece is today than a year ago.
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Image by Ben Askins/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED