There’s something magical, and warm, and fuzzy, and also slightly unbearable about coming home for the holidays. It’s amazing to spend hours chatting away with friends and family, but then there’s that other scary breed of holiday encounter we could totally do without . . . the awkward hometown run-ins. Here are some of the classic awkward holiday run-ins to prepare for, and how to navigate them if you end up stumbling down any of these rabbit holes. We got your back.
Where did you leave things? If it was a friendly break-up and your relationship was more high school hand holding than hot ‘n heavy, be a good sport, reminisce for a second, ask about the family, and maybe even introduce your new bae. If it was a messy break-up, tousle that hair, raise your glass, and DEFINITELY introduce your new bae. Don’t have one? Sure you do — they’re in the bathroom. They’ll be right back.
Your old high school classmates:
Quick mental check: were you ever friends in the first place? If so, ask about what’s happening now, if they keep up with any of the old crew, and what they’ve got planned for New Year’s Eve. If not, repeat after me: How ARE you!? It’s been forever! So, where are you living now? Cool, cool. And where are you working? Oh, awesome. GOOD TO SEE YOU! Part ways, then repeat 10 to 15 times throughout the night to other ghosts of Christmas past.
Your super-successful cousin everyone brags about:
She’s living in a developing country weaving shoes for Ebola patients and you’re binge watching The Black List, shopping Amazon, and eating turkey sandwiches all day. When the time comes to tell everyone what you’ve been up to, remember: you aren’t unemployed, you’re “a freelancer.”
Your creepy neighbor:
You’re moseying down the driveway to pick up the morning paper in your bunny slippers and snowman pajamas when who calls out your name? That’s right, it’s your creepy old neighbor! Still walking his cat around the driveway at 8:00 a.m. every morning, still shamelessly drinking beer from a lawn chair throughout the day. Offer a polite nod and maybe even a cheery hello, then get your booty back inside that house.
Your chatty aunt:
Aunt Marge wants to hear all about what you’ve been up to — and she means ALL about what you’ve been up to. Maybe she’s just super chatty and you won’t have time to catch up with anyone else. Maybe she’s a little too gossipy for you and has her nose in everyone else’s business. Either way, she’s family! So give her a run-down of what you’ve been up to, and try to shift the convo back to her. Is she still dating Frank? Has she conquered the jujitsu black belt yet? When that doesn’t work, excuse yourself to grab a cider refill and sneak off to catch up with Grandma.
The kids you used to babysit:
Rack your brain for their names, try to do the math quickly and figure out how old they are now. Impossible? Go with 16. It’s a safe guess, and even if you’re way off, they’ll feel so cool hearing you thought they were old enough to drive.
Your arch nemesis:
Maybe they put your bra in the freezer at a sleepover. Maybe you were always competing for the top spot in school. Maybe you worked together and they ratted you out that one time (OK, every time) you called in sick. Whatever it is, you’ve got three options here: 1. Be civil, wave hello, then steer your grocery cart in the opposite direction. 2. Dart into the toilet paper aisle and hide behind the stacks. 3. Knock the shelf over, trip them, steal their cart, and sail away to the check out line with all their goods. I’d go with 1 or 2.
Your ex bestie:
This one might be the trickiest of all, because, let’s be real — it can sting a little. Are you on good terms? Have you seen each other in the last few years? Draw your own conclusions here, but don’t subject yourself to too much of a potentially teary trip down memory lane just for the sake of saving face. There’s probably a reason you all don’t keep in touch anymore. Swap stories about fun things you used to do around the holidays, then go home and give your current BFF a call to compare awkward reunion stories.
It’ll take a Christmas miracle to avoid some of these, but at least you’ll be prepared when they sneak up on you!