A tiny dog in a red sweater sits next to a Christmas tree

How to Go Home for the Holidays: A Definitive Guide

So you have to go home for a big, carb-laden meal, possibly bookended by a series of family and/or religious traditions that require uncomfortable shoes. We’ve all been there! Luckily, you have me, an expert in surviving a Hometown Holiday, to tell you how best to do it.

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Step One: Have a Sassy Best Friend in your back pocket.

This step assumes that you are the Main Character (and, let’s be real, who isn’t?) and that you have at least one BFF you can send surreptitious photos of your mom’s creepy nutcracker lineup. Seriously, those things are haunted. The eyes follow you. Make sure you get permission to use your Sassy Best Friend (or sassy group chat) as a lifeline during this difficult time. In a snap, you can be each others’ SBF. Giving a play-by-play of your uncle’s political meltdown while eating overcooked turkey is the correct move. Resist the urge to share these special moments publicly on whatever social media still exists by the holidays. Keep it between yourself, baby Jesus, and that SBF. Besides, a running commentary of your woes will give your sassy best friend a chance to unload some choice one-liners.

Step Two: All aboard the nostalgia train.

You’re already back in what is possibly the abode you grew up in, surrounded by family photos and your dad’s inability to use his new smartphone. You may as well lean into the nostalgic vibe. Take some side trips to your old hang-outs, like the empty lot that used to be the skating rink. Let your dad drive you around and point out all the new Starbucks; he loves pointing out the new Starbucks. Turn it into a little game and award yourself a point every time he remarks on how long it’s been since your last visit. If you run out of safe conversational topics, start a harmless argument about exactly who was at a certain event in a certain year. Families love fighting about misremembered details. If you’ve brought a hapless love interest with you, this is a great time for them to get involved by asking questions about all the family minutiae and inside jokes they’re not privy to. Love interests love listening to an incoherent backstory pieced together by aunts and cousins!

Step Three: Have your second location in mind before the big blowout.

If Hallmark movies have taught us anything, it’s that you’re going to experience some kind of horrible fight in Act 3 of your visit home. Maybe you’ve been keeping a secret from your friends, family, and/or love interest and it’s been discovered. No, it’s definitely that. No matter how innocuous your secret or how easy it would be to hash it all out in a three-minute conversation, you’ve ruined your relationships. And at the most wonderful time of the year! That’s why it’s important to have that second location in mind—a place for you to brood, have a Come To Your-Deity-of-Choice Moment, and possibly get some sage advice from a shadowy yet benevolent figure who’s been lurking at the edges of the narrative up til now. For me, that location is the local Wal-Mart Supercenter (the nice one up by the county line, not the other one) but you can probably do better. That empty lot that used to be the skating rink is a good bet.

Keep these tips in mind and you, too, can survive your visit home for the holidays. Good luck and happy new year.

(featured image: Dominika Roseclay/Pexels)

TJ Alexander is the author of several acclaimed trans and nonbinary romance novels. Their next book, Second Chances in New Port Stephen (Dec. 5), is about a trans man reconnecting with his high school ex-boyfriend as they approach forty. It’s available now for preorder.

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