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Your guide to making it through those excutiating family get-togethers – featuring lager shandies and off-brand crisps

Living your liberated life in the big city, falling arse-first out of Ubers and gurning your way down back alleys with handsome Italian strangers, you’re free to live your best life where obligatory social functions are a distant memory.

Floating on a cloud of immoderation and profligacy, you answer to no-one and go where you want to, when you want to. That is, until… IT HAPPENS. Out of the dark recesses of your family’s Whatsapp group chat comes the news that next month is Nan’s 90th Birthday, and they’ve hired a room in the local golf club. In an instant, you’re hurled back to being your twelve-year-old self in the back of your dad’s car in an ill-fitting party outfit dreading your Aunt Judith’s impossibly wet kisses. 

After exhausting every excuse, you just have to give in to the inevitably of that Virgin train journey towards an evening of painful small talk and a nostril-full of your uncles eau de midlife crisis. These evenings are agony to most people, but being a far cry from the normative child your family had hoped for does add a delicate shit-smear to the whole thing. Whether it’s having to lie about where you were the weekend before (‘Anal House Meltdown’ is never going to come off well, no matter how much you explain it) or telling your gran “Nope, still don’t have a girlfriend” because coming out to someone that close to death doesn’t seem quite worth the hassle. 

Fear not. There are ways to survive the experience without being left with a need to Google whether you can surgically remove your genes. Here’s our guide to surviving your next family gathering:

The Arrival

Arrive early. It might sound like awful advice but hear us out. This way you’re not walking into a crowd of semi-familiar faces that are eager to hear all about you, just the odd eager beaver who can’t wait to get LIT on larger shandies. You grin and bare those conversations, and hopefully you’ll have a parent and some siblings to buffer these interactions. Every person arriving after will be approached by those same eager beavers and so they’ll be much less eager to sustain a conversation. If all goes well, for the last few people who arrive you’ll only need to muster a “hey, yeah great thank you” before heading to the bar for a large Pinot Noir. When you’re walking in, suppress all your gay urges to make an entrance. This is a scabby function room, you’re not Billy Porter at the Met Gala. 

The Outfit

Just because most of your relations are boring stiffs doesn’t mean you have to be too. Never stop expressing yourself through your clothes, even if it might raise the eyebrows of your cousin’s UKIP-supporting boyfriend. Yes, Derek. It’s a skirt. And WHAT? However, there are a few things that should never be worn at a family function. One should never wear a pair of ripped or distressed jeans to a family function unless you’re a social masochist. You can only hear “Oh, poor thing can’t afford new trousers” so many times before you violently shove a roasted parsnip into someone’s eye-socket. The second no-go is a slogan t-shirt that is in any way ironic, this is not a language understood by relatives. Plus if it’s a niche reference to some viral thing, a la “Sunday, a day of rest”, be prepared to explain who the Cockdestroyers are to your senile great aunt. 

 

The Meal

If you’re sitting down for a meal, you’re already doing great in avoiding the horror that is a tin-foiled potato hedgehog covered in pineapple and cheddar chunks and large bowls of off-brand crisps. Sit next to a parent, it gives them the chance to whisper who it is that’s waving to you from the other end of the table. They can be the Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt to your Miranda Priestly at that charity benefit. “That’s Gary Herbert, he’s your second uncle who ran over his 2-year-old with a lawnmower back in the day.” It’s not always the most enlightening introduction, but it makes it stops it being a Guess Who of family scandals. 

The Drinking

Do it. A lot of it. Responsibly, of course. 

The Conversation

Just like a first date, you should never discuss politics, religion or exes. But let’s face it, you are going to have to listen to the aforementioned Derek going on about immigrants in front of your sister’s Danish boyfriend.

Here are a list of handy conversation topics you can introduce that always prove to be safe territory:

The weather, gardening, Gogglebox, pets, the royal baby, your mum’s hip-replacement, Tess Daly, public transport, that woman who was on This Morning this morning, technology, the neighbours, Neighbours, the price of things in London, the weather again, holidays and that time your cousin saw Michelle Keegan in the frozen aisle in Tesco.

The Exit

When the open bar has ended is as good a time as any. Grab yourself a taxi into town to meet some childhood friends, and thankfully your family understand because you’re rarely home. Opt for hugs, and let others kiss you on the cheek if they want to, you’ve had too much wine to be going in for them. An accidental kiss on the lips with Aunt Judith will stay with you for your entire train ride home. 

by Ifan Llewelyn

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Drag Royale at Zodiac bar, a gay bar in London

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