Friday, December 23, 2011

Safely Navigating the Christmas Party

On your way out the door soon to a family gathering?
If so, you're probably experiencing a range of emotions.

We love our relatives, well, most of us love most of them.
They are genetically the most similar to us, but get them in a room together and you'll see both similarities and differences.
In many families there are recognizable common traits - whether appearance or personality based.
The shared physical traits don't cause any problems, but sometimes similar personalities don't get along...especially if people have had enough time together in the past to get sick of each other.
Welcome to the family gathering!

Why am I waxing on about family dynamics right now?
Because now, more than ever, you're likely to find yourself in a room full of relatives.
Between Christmas eve, Christmas day, Hannukah, and New Years, just about everyone ends up in a room, house, apartment or other place full of relatives and/or friends.

If you're like me, you're one of the "weird ones".
Yes, there will be people at these parties who have "real jobs"
(and probably don't like their jobs nearly as much as you do).
There will be drunk relatives who can't help but belt out a bad version of
"O Sole Mio" when they see you (and they will be certain that nobody else has ever come up with something so clever).
There will be folks who think that you push off the bottom with a pole,
jet skiers who think they can fully identify with your craft, and someone who wonders why your college degree isn't being put to better use (again with the whole "real job" mindset).

My hope for all of you is that in the coming days you'll enjoy these gatherings.
As a gondolier, you are an exceptional human being,
(no bias here, I swear)
and with great power comes great responsibility.
Let's look at some of the folks you'll encounter.  
These are caricatures but many of them do exist.
I've also thrown in a few "do's and don'ts" for your consideration.

The Singing Uncle
We have an unusual variety of skill sets.
Most of us can outsing just about everyone in the room.
Really, you'd be surprised how bad an out-of-practice relative can sound when compared to someone who sings for a living.

So when that drunk uncle greets you with his best "O Sole Mio",
just laugh.  Laugh like it really IS funny.
It may be hard to do, but no matter how much it might annoy you, remember that he's doing it because he likes you.

It would be considered bad form to then blow him away with YOUR best "O Sole Mio".  Instead, if you feel up to the challenge, teach him how to sing it right.
This may or may not be easy (or worth doing) depending on how drunk your uncle is.  In no time, you and your drunk uncle can be serenading the whole place, whether they like it or not.  Believe me, it's an obnoxious way.
Caution: if you do the job too well, your uncle might ask for a job.

The Tough-Guy Cousin
He's bigger than you, lifts weights, loves mixed martial arts,
and his favorite movie is Fight Club.

If you were to tell him that Venetian rowing was a "sport",
he'd probably laugh out loud at you.
(show him this post: "Crazy Americans - "Strap Cam" with a Soundtrack"
and maybe he'll realize that what we do is indeed a sport)

Watch football on the couch next to him and you'll learn almost everything you need to know about him. Almost.

There's one thing that you and your cousin may not be aware of:
there's a good chance that his smaller cousin
(the gondolier)
could beat him in arm wrestling!
Caution: before you allow things to go there, and before you whip the guy in arm wrestling, remember that,
He's bigger than you, lifts weights, loves mixed martial arts,
and his favorite movie is Fight Club.

The Parents Who Paid For Your Education
Insert your own pulp and clichés here. You know them better than I do.
Maybe they didn't actually pay your college tuition, but they raised you.
Impressive jobs and status symbol cars are nice, but at the end of the day,
a lot of parents really only want a few things for their children:
they want their sons and daughters to be happy, safe, and able to provide for themselves.  In short, a lot of parents want to make sure they prepared you for the world.

Love your parents.
Tell them how much you enjoy this funky job we do.
If you own your gondola operation, remind them of your job security.
Then, do what far too few of us do until someone is terminally ill:
Thank them - for a bunch of things - think about some of the sacrifices they made for you and thank accordingly.
Tell them that you love them.
Express in whatever way you deem appropriate, that they did a great job as parents.

Ok, enough of the mushy stuff, let's talk now about
The Women
There are aunts, grandmas, sisters, cousins, some are younger than you,
some are older, but they are all female.
Why is that important? because as a gondolier
you have a keen awareness of all things romantic.

Romance is a woman's true primary language.
Most guys think they know about romance, but in truth...
                                                                       most guys don't.
Most guys know about as much about romance,
                                              as most ladies know about football.
Sure there are exceptions, but you get my point.
Most guys need to take a "romance as a second language" class.

The women in the room won't want to hear about the rowing, the wind,
the drunk idiots hanging from bridges, no.
They want to hear about the romantic stuff.
Proposals, anniversaries, surprises, and 9 out of 10 will make some kind of swooning noise when you tell them about how some guy last week proposed to his girlfriend by floating a message in a bottle.
Heck, a gondolier can almost "hold court" with the women at a family gathering.
caution: do too good a job and someone might want to date you...and they're related to you!

The Guy Who's Better Than You
He's got a "real job".  Maybe he's got more degrees.
He may have a Rolex, and he's probably arrived in a car that's worth more than you make in a year.
He's better than you - just ask him - he'll tell you.

He's determined to be the one to die with the most toys...and he'll probably succeed in dying before you do.
The stress of his pursuits will help speed that along.
Be his friend to the best of your ability, not because someday you might need him, but because whether he knows it or not...someday he'll need you, 
along with everyone else in the room.
He just doesn't realize it right now.

Oh, and this guy is a classic example of some guys in the romance department.
his idea of romance involves buying a woman's heart.

The Screaming Kids
Well, they might not be screaming when you get there,
but at some point they will surely make a lot of noise. 
If presents are to be opened,
there WILL be screaming.
As a gondolier, you're probably more energetic than most of the adults there.  And if you regularly pilot a small boat in challenging conditions,
you're surely able to handle the stress of screaming kids.

If it's Christmas - play Santa.
No, you don't need to wear the suit (but that can be really fun),
just be the one who distributes the presents.
Make a big deal out of every gift. Inspire the screaming.
Heck, join in and do some screaming of your own.
I'm in my forties and I still love it!

The Geezers
These are the really old folks.
To the kids they are about as exciting as the furniture that they are sitting on, but to them - everything going on in the room is fantastic!
Every person in the room is somehow connected with them,
and in one way or another,
every person there because of them.

I use the word "Geezer" for comedic reasons,
but also because I look forward to being one some day.
And I'm sure my great grandkids will find me about as exciting then as I found my great grandma when I was one of those "Screaming Kids".

The Apostle Paul said "be all things to all people".
I believe his message in that was to communicate in different ways for different kinds of people.
Speak to each person in a way they will best receive the message.
If you talk to the "screaming Kids" the way you would talk to your Great Grandma Ruth, they'll tune you out almost immediately.
More importantly, if you talk to your Great Grandma Ruth like you would to the "Screaming Kids", things will not go well.

The old folks would love to visit with you, to hear all about this unique job you have, and maybe impart some wisdom from their many years of experience.
Remember that they prefer things to move at a little slower pace, and may not hear as well as you do.
Take a breath, shift gears, and soak it up.
Remember that you are more than just your job - especially to the Geezers.
They've known you your whole life and have been proud of you since before you could ever realize it.
they see potential in you that you don't yet know about.
The time you spend with these folks is more valuable to you than you may realize...and it's more valuable to them than you can possibly imagine right now.

The Leading Ladies
There may be some women there who would like to get all the attention,
and then there are those who you should be sure to give credit and attention to.

Unless you came alone, the lady you came with should be at the top of your list.
There's an old saying in Texas:
"Dance with the one that brung you".
Wife, fiancee, girlfriend - if you arrived with her, you're gonna leave with her.
If she meant enough to you to bring her, tell her so, with your words and your actions.
This might sound elementary or silly, but it's an easy one to overlook.
If you're at a gathering of your family, you might want to disappear with the cousins you grew up playig with, or "occupy" the couch with the other guys to watch the game.
If this is your family, try not to abandon your lady - she might not know anyone else there.

The lady doing the cooking is often an unsung hero - sing to her.
She may be your mom, or another relative, but whoever she is, she's probably the only one working, and she deserves more credit than she'll probably get.
If you were going to sing for someone - sing to her.
And if you end up singing for everybody - sing in her honor.
If singing is not on your list of things to do, then raise a toast to the person or people who did the cooking.
Along the same lines, if your grandma baked a pie - tell her how much you loved it.  She will beam.

Now, take a look around the room.
Is there someone who doesn't look like they want attention?
Maybe they're not having a good time?
Seek out the ones who are quietly hiding and at least ask them how they are doing, and if there's anything you can do for them.
Sure, loud carousing is what this time of year is known for,
but selfless caring is what it's really all about.

Blessings to you and your families from the Gondola Blog.

1 comment:

Il Paradosso said...

Lots of wisdom there, Greg. My favorite part is always the Geezers. May everyone cherish their family, you never know when they will be taken from you. Be safe.