Christmas isn’t Christmas without a ton of socially awkward situations.

Through the years I’ve met and become friends with a pretty good number of nerds, geeks, and the like. Like a magnet, they are drawn to me as I am drawn to them mostly because of fandoms and the sharing of crazy fan theories. We tend to have more in common than not and two things that have stood out to me in these years and years of meeting and getting to know them is an abundance of social anxiety issues and a lack of religious views. Neither of these are a bad thing in my mind and I can completely understand both, I mean hell, they describe me too!

The problem with having both of these traits is they aren’t exactly the most conducive to a relaxed and easy going Christmas family gathering. This can be something many of us nerds face every year and we’re not just talking about one day of uncomfortable situations, we’re talking over a month of very real dread. The minute the 4’ Santa’s invade the aisles at our local store and the speakers start blasting words like snow, frosty, and cold, we start to panic. For someone who doesn’t go through this they may look forward to the antics of Uncle Bobby, who likes to remind people that no one knows what you’re job really is and you should go out and get a real job. They may even be able to avoid the confrontations of Uncle Suzy who likes to announce the continuing saga of singleness that is your love life while passing the plate of Christmas cookies to Grandma. We are, whether perceived or real, the social outcasts of many, many families.

I lucked out a little there, my parents are considered a bit of the weird ones in my family, so we pretty much just do our own things. But even with that reprieve we still face it on other levels. Growing up we had several of the awkward family gatherings, and we basically learned that the fewer people involved the better, but that in itself can be a pain in the ass logistically. You also never really avoid the uncomfortable situations no matter how hard you try, for instance there’s a newer part of our family, we’ll call him Demory, and he in no way understands nerds, or hell anyone different at all. He’s rude, brash, and a creeper, but for some unknown reason my grandmother took a shine to the old bastard after my grandfather passed away years ago. Thankfully we just all ignore the hell out of him and shower him in snide remarks and higher intellect, no, not the nicest thing to do, but we don’t have time to fix 80 years of misogynist behavior and stupidity over a handful of family holidays.

This year is going to be especially awkward to a far too many people who are not only going home to visit family that doesn’t really understand them, but family who voted into our highest office a man who hates science, facts, and any and all lifestyle that doesn’t involve giving him money or fame. The social outcast’s ranks grew once again this past November, some of them had thought they escaped this level of hurtful bullshit only to find themselves right back in the middle of it. The awkwardness that is the family gathering casts a wide net, snaring a good many wonderful people. Doing Christmas when you don’t actually DO Christmas is going to be a more difficult task than normal this year. So like every other year, we are now deep in preparation for that awkward hug with Uncle Bobby. Good luck, all of you, and may the force be with you… here are some ideas to make it through the uncomfortable inevitabilities and to have fun doing it.

  • Remind yourself that it doesn’t actually have to be a wonderful made for TV movie, everything doesn’t have to be just right. We like to think it does, and those of us nerds who are also control freaks tend to take this time of year WAY too seriously. Breath.
  • Don’t let things you should expect catch you off guard. If Aunt Suzy is going to discuss your social life at the dinner table, smile and try changing the subject… and no, discussing her third divorce and pregnant pre-teen daughter is not going to keep the peace.
  • Bring a friend. Not necessarily a boyfriend/girlfriend, but a good friend to help get through the day. Just remember, you now owe it to them to head off to their family dinner after you’re done. Can’t find an available friend, make sure you have a text buddy then.
  • Create a new tradition. Are you an avid boardgamer? Maybe you could make up a game or two to play? Avid reader? Bring a basket of blind date style books as a fun activity. Whatever you are, bring a piece of that with you and try to share it with others.
  • Try to keep part of your daily routine in tact, it will help keep you grounded and remind you that this will all be over soon. Do you wake up every day and spend twenty minutes drinking coffee and playing a few rounds of Angry Birds Pop to get yourself going? Cool, then do that! Do you like to spend 30 minutes meditating or doing planner prep? Don’t skip it just because it’s the holidays.
  • Really take a long look at your family, your past holiday events, and your life. If it’s causing you too much anxiety, maybe it’s time to rethink your plans. Sometimes what’s tradition isn’t for everyone, I mean just look at your life, as nerds/geeks/social outcasts we tend to shun the norms of society, why should family be any different. Instead, maybe it’s better to facetime with the folks, send a nice card to Grandma, and just spend the day with friends or snuggling with your dog. Yes, this is going to be a hassle, but maybe it’s better mentally for you to skip out and start making your own traditions.

For those of us with more accepting family units, take a look at your friends and make sure they’re taken care of. Some people feel like they can’t go home for the holidays and some people truly can’t. Try to make time for them, invite them to your family’s dinner or make a special Friends Are Family gathering. Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year, but we can all get through it.

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