Unofficial Guide to Family Holiday Personalities

Holidays: uniting people with common DNA, under the rented pavilion of blind hope, thick, creamy guilt, and pickled eggs.

Yet in every family gathering, there seem to be some common players--- personalities that somehow span generations and cultures, transforming each get-together into another keepsake reminder of just why we move 200 miles away from these people in the first place.

So let's pass the fried chicken and take a gander at our talented cast of characters. Perhaps you will even recognize some of these folks from your own holiday events!:

  • The Time Traveler- Due to some personal issues with the space-time continuum, this person always pops up at least an hour and a half later to any event than expected. They call and say they're headed out the door, yet still find themselves missing significant chunks of time between the duration it typically takes to make the journey and the time they actually set foot at the family event. A stopover in the Jurassic era? Layover in the Bermuda Triangle? Abduction by aliens? This phenomenon is so mysterious, relatives will automatically add hours onto any ETA data given, just to compensate for the flux. The Government is looking into this phenomena.
  • The Storyteller- This is the person who turns something as simple as an oil change into an elaborate tale for the masses. Depending on your storyteller, these tales can have the audience rolling off their chairs or running for the hills. My grandfather was the latter. His hunting journeys were like Last of the Mohicans II: Natty Bumppo's Nature Scrapbook, Now With Even Fewer Action Sequences. They were not memories as much as early 1800s topographic and botanical expeditions, where every leaf, tree and rock got equal attention, complete with sub-story and sub-sub-story offshoots. It could go on for several years. Or until everyone in the audience died.
  • The Drama Llama- Whatever the event-- wedding, funeral, annual picnic-- the family Drama Llama knows that the function is actually secretly about him or her. It becomes the perfect time to air decaying grievances, announce bitter divorces, and toss other cherry bombs of intimate angst into the festivities, just to see where the parts fly. Techniques include grand entrances, loud accusations, crying fits and lengthy non-communicative sulking.
  • The Negative Nelly- If it's a bright sunny day, the Negative Nelly lets you know it's probably going to rain soon. If you brought potato salad, the Negative Nelly makes a public service announcement that it has too much onion, and you probably shouldn't eat it anyway, because it will clog your arteries and kill you. If you have good news about a pending trip, a marriage or a job shift, the Negative Nelly will greet your enthusiasm with a "What do you want to do a fool thing like that for?"
  • The Rube Goldberg Worrier- For any activity, the Rube Goldberg Worrier will come up with elaborate ideas why this is incredibly dangerous and is likely to get everyone turned into charcoal briquettes. "Don't put that macaroni salad there-- it's so close to the edge. It could fall off the table and knock one of the smaller children unconscious with the sturdy Tupperware." "Oh, don't park your car there. One of the kids could throw a Frisbee and not look where he was going and run into the side of it and then burn his face on the hot engine, becoming disfigured for life." You might try to persuade the Rube Goldberg Worrier to just relax and have some fun. But remember, safety proofing the picnic area for a possible attack of locusts between the hours of noon and five is fun. We all have our hobbies.
  • Hydroponic Tot- This child has not eaten more than a teaspoonful of anything solid since last Christmas, and isn't going to start now. How the kid has survived to be age five seems to be due to some supernatural ability to draw nutrients directly from the air. No, he does not want a cookie. No, he does not want some of Great Aunt Edna's Jell-O salad. He will test that Jell-O's physics, though. The Hydroponic Tot loves physics.
  • Black Plague Betty. This relative chronicles family illness more thoroughly than the National Health Organization. Not only will you hear about her own lengthy battles with heartburn, nasal mucus, elevated blood pressure, diabetes and dandruff, you will hear about Aunt Myrtle's gout, Uncle Cedric's erectile dysfunction and the new pacemaker of her neighbor's nephew's sister's ex-husband's former boss. Black Plague Betty can recall all of this in an instant. She, however, will consistently call you by the name of your cousin, Todd.
  • The Flash. This person attends every family event-- but for about 4.9 seconds. Yes, this relative is in-and-out in a blur of baby seats and covered dishes. Once the 4.9 seconds elapse, crisis arises and The Flash has vanished into the ether, leaving nothing but a whiff of Gerber strained peas and an empty styrofoam plate.

So tell me, folks-- do you have your own personal Negative Nelly? Or perhaps you're the family Time Traveler? Or maybe you have another personality to add to the list. Go ahead and share with Cabbages readers!..

The therapy is free.



C.B. Jones said...

My mom is a RGW. If not for somebody always picking my pocket to steal my keys, I'd be The Flash.

Jenn Thorson said...

C.B.- I've known a couple of RGW's in my day. They are also often a roadblock for being the Flash. Safety takes time. :)

nonamedufus said...

When I first met many of my wife's family members it was at a brunch at one of her aunt's. These little old ladies love their alcohol and were going at it at 10 in the morning. I started referring to her aunt as Tante Bud Light until it got back to her. She loved it and now her whole family calls her that!

Deray said...

I have at least 2 or more of each of these in my family (big Mexican family). I'm somewhat a flash. I can take an afternoon with my whole family but, after that my tolerance level diminishes to less than an hour.

Jenn Thorson said...

Dufus- That's incredibly funny-- I love that she found the fun in it. Points to her for that. Although, it might have been the Bud Light talking. :)

Deray- Ah, so it spans into Mexico, eh? All right!! I can imagine the bigger the family, the more... er... potential for drama.

TJ Lubrano said...

How cool! Really Jenn, I love how you write and how you compare stuff out of the daily life with general stereotypes and so on!

Have to say I'm a storyteller. Usually with kids at family events, we create giant adventures, I scribble some of it down to use it in my own stories ^_^. And the personalities you described, well you can find it in my family haha. Oh I live in the Netherlands, but the cultures in my family are really divers.
I can't wait to read the next post! Ciao!

Jenn Thorson said...

Hiya, TJ!-- Oh, the kids are lucky to have a GOOD storyteller in their midst! We would have LOVED that, growing up. So now we've got Mexico, the U.S. and the Netherlands with some of these folks... Too funny. I imagine the thing that shifts is the food items.

Skye said...

Now you also have a Canuck Jenn :D

By the way, are you sure that you haven't been to one of the gatherings of my family? You've only missed
The Wall Flower: She keeps out of trouble, stays away from any serious conversation and really prefers to be around the kids (the younger the better). She doesn't like to be around other adults as she's constantly being criticized by them.

And The Criticizer: he loves to find the mistakes that everyone makes, be it in grammar, type of food brought, or what is being worn. Doesn't matter what's going on, he'll find something to criticize about.

All the people you've mentioned as well as the ones I have are the reason I stay away from family gatherings of any type. What does that make me?

Drowsey Monkey said...

haha - I could give names to all of those. I think I fit a few of them, actually...depending on my mood ;)

But I'm sometimes a time travller, but that's definitely my sis. Storyteller suits me ... haven't had anyone run for the hill ... yet. Wait til I get older and start repeating my stories ;)

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Negative Nellies suck.

Jenn Thorson said...

Skye- Given the situation you describe, I can see why the Wall Flower stays in the security of the shadows! And as for what does it make you, that you have all these people in your family--?... Long-Suffering. :)

Drowsey- I do believe you're a storyteller, because you know how to really relay a great tale. I am absolutely NO GOOD at telling stories in person. I can just see any sort of storytelling authority I might have erode in the stretch of a yawn. :)

MegaMan The Madman said...

At work we have a Negative Ned, storyteller and a Drama Llama all in one person..People see this guy coming and head for the hills...It's the absolute worst person to get caught in a room alone with...

I also laugh when I visit your site..This one in particular..Thanks

Jenn Thorson said...

MegaMan- Wow, sounds like you NEED to be a superhero to work with that guy. My condolences, MegaMan.