With the holiday season coming to a close, and with it being that time of year where all the people who travelled far and wide across the globe to be with their families, are now preparing their luggage to travel back to their homes ready to kick start their new year; I thought it would be fitting to write a piece on the different relatives we are fortunate enough to meet once a year when all the family get together.
Whether it’s a festive season, a wedding, whether it’s a birthday celebration or even a funeral, we all go through them rare occasions where no matter how much we may try to avoid them, we are unable to get away from the good old FGT!
The Family Get Together for those who aren’t aware is when the extended family get together to reminisce and laugh about old and gold memories. Food is prepared weeks before the actual get together and is eventually cooked from early hours in the morning to serve the hundreds of children, aunties, uncles, the grandparents, the third, fourth and fifth cousins.
You could feed an entire village with the amount of food made!
I come from a South Asian family and with us the number of relatives runs into thousands! With us, there is very little reminiscing and not so many jokes. There are hundreds of stories about how things were better in the old days and lots of pokes and elbow digs in the ribs about how this generation is living their lives entirely wrong!
I’m just kidding! It’s always nice seeing faces we don’t see often, to catch up on the lives we’re connected to by blood but don’t have the chance to speak to on a regular basis. Although we may not get on with all of our relatives, you’re lying if you deny the fact that when all your relatives come together under one roof, to share food around one table, it helps strengthen the bond we call family.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to the types of relatives you meet in EVERY family get together.
Attack: Prying into your personal life.
Now normally this is an Aunty Ji – she can be easily recognised by how decked up she is in her heavy silk sari, her neck and wrists ornamented with jewels, put together perfectly with her beady eyes that scan the room for virgin blood. In this day and age however, don’t be alarmed if an uncle approaches you to ask whether you’ve finished your studies, are in full-time work before throwing the trump card
“Have you thought about marriage yet?”
Before even being given the chance to answer any of these questions, The MM will bombard not you but your parents with information regarding a suitable potential. The Match-Maker takes it upon themselves to wield colossal power in the lives of young men and women who plan to walk down the aisle or who fit into that ‘I do’ age.
The MM’s of our lives prey on sad mothers and draw them into their webs with their words of honey. Mothers are drawn to them as Matchmakers pretend to be concerned and really worried about our futures and Mothers are Mothers at the end of the day so they easily succumb to these aunties and uncles as they feel its best for their child!
To all my Aunties and Uncles, put down your contacts cards, stop hunting for potential brides and enjoy the time you have left of life! Instead of trying to push other people’s daughters out of their homes, empower them to achieve the goals they set for themselves, push them to make a life for themselves, encourage them to build a foundation for themselves before entering a new home!
Defence: Avoid at all costs.
Attack: Spreading Rumours
As you enter the party, you quickly skim the room to acknowledge all the guests when you notice them.
Sat on the mean girls table, dressed in pink Saris because on Wednesdays they only wear pink; we have the families very own Gossip Committee. These aunties are professionals at finding any given opportunity to talk about next door aunties daughter and how the Committee caught her standing in the queue with another boy. The funniest part is, they caught next door aunties daughter from misbehaving so terribly in public by spying on her clumsily from behind the streets lamp posts!
There’s a reason our mothers tell us, daughters and sons, to wear appropriate clothing, to watch what we say, and to be good children at all times during these get togethers. My mother tells me to be careful when walking down the street and be careful of family eyes that speak to the whole Asian community.
You’d think we would share all of our troubles and talk openly about lives with our families, the people we share our blood with. Instead, we frequently pretend everything is okay and engage in purely superficial talk. Our whole community, not just our relatives hold a prominent and dangerous practice of hiding. We hide our problems, we hide our struggles, we hide our downfalls, we hide our failures not because we believe in the rights to our privacy, but rather because we are TERRIFIED of what others will say and think and how that will affect our standing in the community. Gossip is a weapon which I see as being destructive to you, your soul, your family, your loved ones, and most importantly the person being gossiped about. It divides the family and makes it harder for there to be any form of trust between you and your relatives.
There are those who are unable to find happiness in themselves so they bring joy into their lives by speaking and judging other negatively. It helps them feel better about themselves momentarily as they aren’t capable of generating discussions based on knowledge or ideas.
Defence: Don’t get involved
The family gather together in the living room, content and satisfied with their bellies filled to the brim with good home food. The children find a quiet corner in the room to play games, and the rest of the family huddle closely around the families very own George R.R Martin.
As we sit and listen intently to the stories about post-war times, the stories of betrayal and revenge, the stories of love and heartbreak, and stories of honour and duty, we learn of our courageous ancestors and the battles they had won. We come to know of the hundreds of immigrants who fought tooth and nail to come to England to give their families a better life. We are forced to become wary of how easy we have it now, and the troubles our ancestors had to take to give us this life of peace.
My family history teachers were both my grandfathers who took it upon themselves to give me a timeline of my heritage and an in-depth lesson on where I come from. I will hear of how villages were built from scratch to shelter thousands of poor and homeless people in Bangladesh and how my forefathers found sources of food, electricity, water, and heat to keep the people of the village alive.
May they rest in peace.
Defence: Soak it all in.
Politics and religion are topics that are often avoided in public settings, but when one is with the family there are no rules, there are no filters, and there is most definitely no holding back. The king of all three of these is the families politician! The first one to bring up controversial topics, and whether there are willing participants or not, politics isn’t for the light-hearted, the politician will force their controversial political stance down everyone throats because of course God forbid they’re ever wrong!
In the privacy of our homes, during family get together, people with opposing views are put together for many hours with no rules of engagement and nothing invites a debate quite like politics. If it was a debate like the ones we were taught to have in school then I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind partaking in the conversation. When it comes to the family however, people often feel more comfortable and less controlled, making them more likely to be offensive or vulnerable.
I’ve realized overtime that political philosophy is not such a simple thing and your opinions reflect who you are as a person and not simply what you think. Politics is no longer an academic subject, but a more personal one; where the older we get and the more we learn about the nature of politics overtime, the more hardened we become in our views and when you feel so strongly about your views its hard not to pipe up when they’re being challenged.
With the family however, its hard to follow the rules of a good discussion which involves as much listening as it does talking. Everyone wants to be right and each person will talk over one another to get that point across. When with our families, we know who they are and who know the traditions. The right thing to do when being sucked into the dark hole of political conversations is to simply keep the peace by respecting those with whom your speaking with.
I find this an easy task as I view myself primarily as an ambassador for my views, not a gladiator.
Defence: Don’t contribute to the discussion
Attack: To lower your confidence
The bane of my existence, the reason I want to scratch my own eyeballs out and soak them in a glass filled with boiling oil.
The kind of relative who will not hold back from letting the entire party know of her daughter’s achievements and how her grades are so much higher than the hosts daughters, and the brand spanking new car her son has just bought which is so much newer than the 1 liter green Volkswagen that your daughter drives, and how her husband has just bought her a mansion in Beverley Hills that is so much bigger than your house, and how she is wearing the same Sari Priyanka Chopra wore in her last movie, and how her brother has just bagged an amazing new job giving him an earning potential of a billion pounds which is so much better than the receptionist job your daughter has.
The hardest thing anyone can hear is that they’re not enough and that there is someone better than them because as humans we are born wanting to be loved, to be the best, to enhance the chances of living better lives. When we are told by the people who are supposed to love you with no conditions that they are not good enough, it leaves a scar. A scar one carries with them for the remainder of their lives.
Here is a story to help you cope with this better.
A young girl was travelling to London in the car with her parents. Her father was a driving instructor so he drove his car carefully and with care. The young girl had just been told off for not doing as well at school as her cousin in London and that she needs to work as hard as her if she ever wants to be a success. The young girl sat sulking in her seat until she got distracted by several cars speeding past them and overtaking her father’s most loved possession. She sat and counted 5 whole cars overtake her father’s until she could no longer take it.
“Aboo! Why are you letting the other cars go ahead of you, drive faster so you can keep up!” She told her father.
“Daughter, our car is smaller which means it has a smaller engine. It is not capable of driving as fast as the others.” He replied now smiling at his reply.
She sat back in her seat to get back to her sulking until she starting getting annoyed by the cars that were overtaking her dads. Her father noticed her sour face through the rear view mirror and could see her counting the number of cars that passed them on her fingers.
“Daughter, you are only seeing the cars which are driving ahead of us. There are hundreds of cars behind us, if we try to catch up to the cars ahead of us, I will damage the car!” He told her with the hopes that this will stop her tantrum.
His daughter met his stare in the rear view mirror. She smiled at him and said
“Aboo, you compare me to my cousins in London and tell me off for not being more like them. If I try to be too much like them, I might end up damaging myself! You only notice the children smarter than me, but you never see the children who are still behind me”
Defence: Listen but NEVER digest.
Attack: Shutdown the party
These relatives hold degrees in finding faults with everything they manage to make note of in their mental How To Critique Your Family The Right Way book.
“Thank you for coming Uncle! How was everything? You comfortable, have you eaten? Do you need anything?!” The hosts ask, hesitantly.
“Yes, yes everything was fine beti!” he replies.
The hosts release their breaths…..
“We’re soooo haaap…..”
“…Only the food was a little bit spicy this me beti, you know the doctor said that spicy food is most injurious to health! Oh, and the lights were just a little too bright for me. You know,
I’m lucky to still have my eyesight! My head is exploding because there was just too much
music and it was just too
loud for me. You know, the doctor said loud music is most injurious
to health! What kind of people have you hired to serve here!
So rude! You know, at my nephews wedding the waiters were so polite and giving! I didn’t even have to ask for me chicken. What kind of weather do you have here in England?
One minute its hot, next minutesi ts cold! I don’t understand whether I should wear my sweater or leave it at home! It’s just terrible you know. “
Blah blah blah blah blahh
Blah blah blah blah
Nobody should take this uncle’s criticism seriously or give it any credence at all. You’ll kill yourself trying to please everyone! Stand by your guns, take it on the chin and smile. The Critics of the family are this way with all the people in their lives, not just you! You’re not the problem, your organisation skills, your cooking, your hosting, none of is at fault. The problem lies with the critic and the more you reward a critic by trying to please them, they’ll never stop targeting you.
Defence: Keep the party moving
Always a joy meeting with the mirrors of the family especially now that I’ve shed off all my puppy fat and my face no longer looks like an overblown balloon. It was a different story when I was little Miss. Chubbs and I liked to be in out in the sun at all times which made me darker than the rest of family. Little old me would take as long as I possibly could doing my hair and squeezing my tubby body into the Indian clothes I begged my mum to get sewn so it fits my body nicely and while the mirror at home will tell me I look good, the mirrors in my family like to think otherwise.
When I say mirrors in my family I’m talking of those insensitive relatives who will point out all of your flaws, will pull you in closer to whisper it to you, but is loud enough for your whole generation to hear!
“Nazrin, come here!”
“You’ve gained some weight since the last time I saw you”
“Tut Tut whose going to marry you?!!”
“Nazrin! You’re getting darker!”
“You should stop playing in the sun!”
“Your mum has such lovely fair skin, you have gone on your dads side!”
“Nazrin what are these clothes you are wearing?”
“It’s too tight”
“It doesn’t suit your body type”
“Lose some weight first!
These were the comments I used to get until I lost all my chubby chubs, my double chin was no longer visible, and clothes fit me like a normal human being. Being the fiarest in the family stopped playing as a big of a role it did when I was a teenager and I was growing into a swan. You would think the mirrors would stop taunting me at this point.. If only you knew!
“You’re losing too much weight, you look ill now”
“Do you not eat regularly, I can see all your bones”
“Your clothes are hanging off you, eat some food!”
“You don’t look healthy anymore, you should eat more”
“You’ve lost the glow on your face”
“EAT EAT EAT”
You’ll never win and that’s why I’ve stopped trying to please the mirrors in my world and have learnt to please myself alone. I love myself so much that when someone treats me any less than what I deserve I am able to recognise it. My relatives used to hold that power over me, until I took it back off them and stopped questioning my worth.
Defence: Love yourself.
Let me know in the comments the types of relatives you have in your family!
P.s – show some love to my Instagram!