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KatawaGrey's avatar

Would you please offer a young flutherite some advice on how to deal with a severely dysfunctional graduation?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) April 28th, 2009

In May, my cousin is graduating college. At least, we all hope he is. He was supposed to graduate last year but instead spent his time drinking, partying and popping any prescription pill he can get his hands on. Needless to say, we are all a little skeptical about whether or not he will actually graduate. Since it appears that he will, a large number of my family members and his godparents will be there.

This raises a huge number of problems. My grandmother will be there, and I am the only person who likes her. I daresay I’m the only person in my family who loves her. My mother complains about her constantly, even though she knows how much I hate it. It is fair to say that if I am damaged (and who among us isn’t?) it is chiefly because my mother says so much awful stuff about my grandmother. In addition, my cousin’s godparents will be there. These are two awful people who wouldn’t look twice at me or my mother if my grandmother wasn’t in numerous wealthy and influential circles. Their son might be there as well, a nasty, manipulative, sociopathic young man who delights in nothing more than visiting psychological torture upon anyone he doesn’t like.

If I go to this graduation, I will spend an entire weekend listening to my mother talk about how awful my grandmother and my cousin’s godparents are being. When I am not listening to her, I will most likely be subjected to stories from my cousin about how drunk and high he is and how drunk and high he’s going to get.

I am going because my aunt would be broken-hearted if I didn’t attend. I love her very very much and am very close to her. I am also going because my mother would never forgive me if I let her walk into that crowd alone.

My question is this: what would you do/what have you done to cope in a situation like this? I do not mean to sound so melodramatic but any family gathering usually goes like this and I usually end up in tears more than once. How would you handle this?

Thank you for reading this whole thing. I realize it is as much rant as question, but I cannot express how grateful I will be for any advice.

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29 Answers

RedPowerLady's avatar

My family gatherings are similarly stressful but of course with its own set of reasons.

What I found exorbitantly helpful, when I was able to do it, is to find it all hilarious. Whenever someone acts typically I laugh about it. I think, geez this is so funny I just knew he’d do that. And I laugh out loud too. I don’t hide it. People don’t know you are laughing at them (however rude that sounds) and tend to respond better to you because of the smile and the laugh. It is so odd. Also to make it more fun you could always post facebook or twitter (etc..) updates about your interesting family shenanigans during the event. You could also get some lavender oil if you can and use that to de-stress you. I put it on my wrists and sniff when I need de-stressed, lol. It works for me. And don’t forget to take breaks. Get some chocolate and take mini chocolate breaks or even just fresh air breaks. LOL.

Afterwards definitely treat yourself well in some special way. It’ll help so you don’t carry around all the “she said” “he did this” stuff around in your mind.

I think it is fantastic you are going despite the drama. You are obviously a good person.

SeventhSense's avatar

Keep your focus on just showing up and try not to engage anyone who might press your buttons. When at all possible be in the presence of your aunt. Make small talk with any other strangers that are friendly. Above all, bite your tongue untill it bleeds if necessary. :) and realize that you can do anything for 24–48 hours that you would find reprehensible to do for a lifetime.
And like Red mentions above, just be as cheerful as possible and plaster that smile on. Good Luck!

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m wondering if you could do what Charles Dickens used to do. When he met up with family like you have described, he would assign them names for his next book, and note their behavior and conversations carefully. He got rich that way.

If you don’t write a novel based on it later, than you will at least see them as characters in a novel or better yet, a TV situation comedy, and not take the whole experience so seriously.

In 10 years, absolutely zero people are going to remember any of this anyway.

cak's avatar

Oh yeah, been there, done that…more than once.

What I try to do, I focus on why I am there, who is the focus of that day? That is what is important. One time, I had enough. I heard the constant yammering, nothing anyone wanted to hear, and finally said, “You know, I really just don’t care what she borrowed and never returned. For the love of all that is holy, get over it! Now, if you don’t mind, I’m here to see ******* get confirmed. Now, shush it and have this little tear down session another time, ok? GREAT.” I wouldn’t suggest it, but if it happens, expect the stink eye. I got it the rest of the day – it was so worth it, though!

Take breaks, like @RedPowerLady suggested, don’t engage like @SeventhSense, suggested. Just focus on the reason why you all gathered for the graduation, to support your cousin.

I do hope that she pulls it off, this year. For her sake, I’m sure it will be a wonderful boost for her and hopefully be the start of a better path in life!

When it’s all over….think hot bath, and nice music. OH….if you really think you can’t tune them out, earplugs are awesome! ;~)

chyna's avatar

Pray your cousin doesn’t actually get to graduate again.

KatawaGrey's avatar

This is all wonderful advice. thank you so much everybody. I am feeling much more confident and less skittish now. :)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@chyna: I am missing a very big card tournament to see him graduate. If he doesn’t, I already told my mother that I would not make plans to attend the next one and she did not argue.

chyna's avatar

@KatawaGrey I think you are showing great character to do this. I do hope he graduates and the affair is not as terrible as you are thinking it might be.

cak's avatar

@KatawaGrey – I apologize for the gender error (I called your cousin a she) in your comment.

gailcalled's avatar

How long a trip for you? Will you have a car for making mini-escapes from time to time?

Or have your friendly dentist numb your gum line for the day. Then you only have to drool a little.

Arrive late and sit with someone else’s disfunctional family. Wave to your mother and your cousin’s godparents ostentatiously and shriek when (or if) your cousin makes it across the stage and down the stairs whilst clutching his diploma.

cak's avatar

@gailcalled“Or have your friendly dentist numb your gum line for the day. Then you only have to drool a little.”

Perfect! :)

SeventhSense's avatar

@chyna
People don’t know you are laughing at them (however rude that sounds) and tend to respond better to you because of the smile and the laugh. It is so odd.
Actually it’s not as odd as one might imagine since most people are really in a similarly stressed, tense place and it’s kind of a welcome relief to laugh and let off a little of the pressure. What I find personally helpful is when I can realize that everyone has a measure of anxiety about these gatherings and people just handle it in different ways.

cookieman's avatar

Don’t you have a flight to catch right after the graduation ceremony? Ya know, that last minute business trip.

Darwin's avatar

Since you like your grandmother and other family members do not, can’t you figure out how to be her companion for the day? Surely your mother doesn’t say nasty things to her face, and if she is a wealthy as you say then surely the godparents wouldn’t allow their son to upset her.

In between touch base with your aunt, and develop a sudden need to run to the restroom whenever objectionable people approach you when you are not with your grandmother.

Then go get on that last minute flight as soon as possible after the ceremony and all the related festivities draw to a close.

Whaddaya think?

gailcalled's avatar

With the recent scare about swine flu, wear a paper mask and mumble…except to your grandmother.

jlm11f's avatar

Like @Darwin said, I would suggest hanging out with the grandmother as much as possible. This way mom doesn’t get to insult her, others stay away since no one really likes her. Also, carry a camera and use picture taking as your excuse to get away from potentially heated scenarios. EVEN BETTER, take horrible pictures of all the people that are annoying when they have their worst expression on. You can make a fun family album later, where only you, your aunt, mom, and grandma look good. As for the godparent’s son, punch him in the dick. Sorry, but it just had to be said.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Personally, I avoid talking to nasty people, even if it means I have to busy myself or not talk to anyone at all. I’m polite and cordial, don’t get me wrong, but the nasty folks would get a cold politeness and I would find some excuse to remove myself from the conversation as soon as possible.

I don’t tolerate mistreatment of myself and others, nor do I believe in reinforcing poor behavior. People that persist in that sort of behavior get very little of my time and energy.

augustlan's avatar

I have nothing to add to the wonderful advice already given, I just want to say good luck! I hope you find a way through it that is not too painful. :)

gailcalled's avatar

@KatawaGrey; And, most importantly, remember to report back, in detail.

Perhaps print out all this terrific advice and pull it out of your purse from time to time to read (privately).

cwilbur's avatar

This sounds like a weekend of misery. I think I’d skip the whole thing.

I’d probably apologize to my (your) aunt for missing it, but if she’s part of the family, she probably understands. And as for my (your) mother, I’d explain that I didn’t want to go to a family gathering where all she was going to do is badmouth other family members, and leave it at that.

cookieman's avatar

hey, the airport just called. your flight has been pushed up.

gailcalled's avatar

@KatawaGrey; You are looking flushed; let me feel your forehead. Just as I suspected; a nasty cold is about to attack you. Let me know the timetable, and I will send a note from Dr.Momcalled. Gesundeit! Go wash your hands.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@gailcalled: I’ll tell my mother right away!

@cprevite: The graduation’s in Vermont and we’re just in Connecticut. With any luck, my other cousin will be there and I haven’t seen him since before he went to Iraq (he’s a marine). That would make this whole sordid affair worth it.

cookieman's avatar

Well there ya go. Something positive to focus on.

Plus look at it this way: This thread has lasted longer than the affair will and you’ve survived this. ’^)

gailcalled's avatar

And this will be in my Pantheon of “best questions that have generated only creative, funny and helpful answers and attracked not one single idiot.”

gailcalled's avatar

edit= “attracted”, speaking of idiocy.

Darwin's avatar

Tell ‘em you have swine flu and you want to protect them all.

KatawaGrey's avatar

All right, to all the wonderful people who answered my question and gave such good advice, the graduation was this weekend. We didn’t actually attend the graduation as we would not be able to see my cousin afterwards. We survived all right though. We had to have dinner with my grandmother, my aunt and my cousin the night before which was not too bad. Just as I predicted, my mother spent a good amount of the time complaining about my grandmother, but also said some deliciously nasty things about my cousin’s godmother. Apparently, the only person who still likes her is my grandmother. I am alive and well and spending tomorrow with my boyfriend, hopefully, so i think I’m going to be all right.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@KatawaGrey I am so glad you survived!! ;)

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