Dear Noel, every year my well meaning and saintly sister invites a homeless person to our place for Christmas dinner. Happy to help but it always makes for an uncomfortable time as we try and make them feel at home. Any tips on how to make the day more bearable?
Signed, Help for Harry
Let me say up front you’ve got a great sister there and I take my hat off to her for the effort. Sounds like your sister’s guest really stands out at your place also. I say that with reference to my own experience with Christmas days past, as it was often difficult to pick the difference between someone who was actually sleeping rough and one of the many rough heads from my strange and very eccentric family.
But your place seems different to that Harry. In fact, it sounds like your place is a little too serene and comfortable on Christmas Day. And that makes me jealous.
Jealous that I’m forced to endure Christmas discomfort from my own family members’ odd behaviour, gross food offerings, poorly considered presents, drunkenness and inane bickering, when all you’re having to put up with is a little small talk with someone who may be enjoying their first cooked meal under a roof since last Christmas.
And after it’s all over and you’ve seen the back of the poor guy, I’m sure you’ll feel awash with satisfaction. You’ll pat yourself on the back as you bask in the afterglow of Christmas lunch with a couple of glasses of Penfolds Bin 95, poured from the bottle your boss gave you for being such a good boy all year.
But if the rest of us are miserable on Christmas Day Harry, you should be too.
Maintain the fine gesture of welcoming your homeless guest to Christmas lunch. But don’t stop there. I challenge you to extend your guest list to those people who will really drive you to drink by the end of Christmas Day.
Here are my suggestions:
- That smarmy, “one-upper” guy in your office who every time you casually mention something you’ve done he brags about how he’s done it way better, and always finishes his story by saying “So…..” in daring you to go one better
- The lady in your office who is also a “one-upper” but about the bad things in your life. You tell her any bad luck story and she’s had it much worse. You broke your ankle, she did too but her break was much worse and she did it working three jobs whilst raising her entire family. If you die, she will die as soon as possible after you but in a much more dramatic way befitting her tragic life
- The owner of your local convenience store who charges you 50 cents extra if you buy anything less than the minimum $10. They never tell you this, they just point to a messily handwritten sign taped onto the counter top
- That person you know who refuses to ever watch an episode of Seinfeld
- That friend who always uses quotes like “Dance like nobody is watching, love like you’ve never been hurt,” or, “It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.” Or even, “The very worst disadvantage of being too strong is that nobody cares even when you are hurt.” Enough said.
- That person you see at the supermarket who stands directly in front of the section you want to buy something from who appears to be in a trance. After what seems like an eternity, you politely whisper “excuse me” and they shoot you a death stare like you just shat in their shopping trolley
- Someone from your circle of friends who’s recently reformed and won’t shut up about it – smoking, drinking, meat, social media, scientology
- A close talker, loud talker, soft talker, long talker, high talker
- Justin Bieber
And if you can encourage this crew along on Christmas day (OK you may need to settle for a Justin Bieber look alike although I hear the guy is pretty lonely), you’ll need to develop a particular seating plan.
Sit the talkers on a table by themselves but sit the non-Seinfeld fan in the middle of them. Sit the “one-uppers” together. Pair the cheapskate convenience store owner with the supermarket aisle nuisance and put the tacky quote girl with the recently reformed user. Let Bieber stew on his own.
Best of luck Harry. I hope you take my advice and it helps to broaden your misery on Christmas Day. To do otherwise, you might be considered a bit annoying yourself and you might just end up on someone else’s guest list.