Thursday, November 16, 2006

Family fun

It's been a while since I wrote this post about meeting my dad's new woman, and this follow-up. In the meantime, my mum, too, has moved on and has now shacked up with her new man. I've not met him yet. I was due to meet him sometime around now, but work commitments have forced a change of plan.

What I want to know is: What do all these new family members mean for my pocket at Christmas? My dad has effectively added three people to the family, while my mum has added one with a couple of grown-up sons.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the tight-fisted type. Indeed, I enjoy spending money on people who are close to me and who I like. The fact that I have only one person close to me and who I like is neither here nor there, all right?

But bugger me if not only do I really not have the time to buy gifts for people I've never met, I also don't really have the inclination. I've tried to bring the subject up with my mum, saying stuff like, "Y'know, what with one thing and another, why don't we just not bother with buying stuff for one another?" But she just won't wear it. It was suggested by one of my siblings that she may feel this way because, what with the family being splintered so much already this year, cancelling Christmas may be like another slap in the face.

Anyways, I'm going to meet one more member of my extended family on Sunday. My dad is coming to London with his missus and her daughter. And the grandma. Who can't walk very far. Oh, how do I get myself into these things?! I sound like a cunt, don't I? I know I do, but I don't mean to. I like to meet new family members one at a time, given the choice. It makes it less stressful all round. The girl will probably be okay and everything, as much as I hate kids. And the gran will probably okay, too. I don't have anything against old people. My own grandparents are great, as are many older people I've met over the years, such as parents of friends and stuff. It's just... well, I like to be free with my language, and I can't help but feel I might be a little compromised with an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old in tow.

Is that the only reason? Well, no, probably not. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my own feelings of insecurity faced with the possibility of usurpers coming in and depriving me of my father's attention. But fuck that shit, it's the cunting cussing that counts, right?


Blogger Gardenia said...

I'm fine, Asterisk. Just have to take a day at a time.

So, sounds like you are facing incredible holiday stress. Well, cussing would be one way of putting everyone off. (Maybe)

How open would your parents be to you telling them that it would be better for you to just meet the new extensions slowly rather than try to do the Christmas thing all at once? Then maybe next year you all will know each other enough to feel comfortable enough for a huge "family" get together.

I really appreciate my kids being open like that with me...just cuz I'm their parent, doesn't guarantee me the right to make them miserable, but sometimes they don't speak up so I can't adjust MY expectations.

Geez, this scenario sounds like something out of the movies that would make a very funny show, but not so fun in real life!

16 November, 2006 15:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stick to the golden rule when buying presents; parents and kids. That's it. Get cheap toys for under 15'ers, and get something for your parents. (of course get something nice for your significant other!!)

Then for all the rest make cookies/candy/food of some sort and give cards.

That way, in the end you'll spend money on the closest to you, but not ignore the others...

My parents both have huge families, I have 23? cousins, maybe a couple more, and 5 second cousins alone. Decorated cookies go far in our household!!

16 November, 2006 15:29  
Blogger Tanya said...

oy. Sounds like it's going to be quite a bit of change in your family.

I would forego all Christmas shopping if I wasn't married to Santa's Little Helper Kate.

16 November, 2006 15:48  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Dollface: That all sounds very sensible, actually. But my family is already gypped that I won't be there for Christmas proper, and now our pre-Christmas plans have also come unstuck. We'll get there somehow, sometime...

LDBug: Good plan, girl, but who the hell has time to bake?!

Tanya: Oh, I just can't bear it all right now. Forgoing Christmas shopping (except for Red's gifts) sounds ideal.

16 November, 2006 17:11  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

wow. i wish you the best of luck with that (surviving the meeting without offensive cussing ;) and staying strong in the face of your father's divided attention)

and maybe you could suggest a "secret santa" type of Christmas giving thing... like everyone draw names and then you only have to buy a present (or presents) for that one person... just a thought :)

16 November, 2006 18:57  
Blogger Radmila said...

I say....a bottle of wine for everyone.
I don't see why you have to provide a gift for people who are essentially strangers to you.
I mean, what would you even buy them?

The Mister and me have told our mums not to buy us anything, as they're both retired and on fixed incomes. With inlaws we've agreed to only buy gifts for the children.
...and that's the end.
With my family, gift giving was never part of the Orthodox Christmas tradition. Flowers, wine, chocolates when visiting and that's about all.
It was always about fasting, food and Church and not about "what am I getting/giving"
Christmas greed has made me fed up over the years.
When the kids were little, it was a greedfest...especially magnified for someone who wasn't raised with it.
WOwwie, I sound like a proper Scrooge.

16 November, 2006 21:59  
Blogger apositivepessimist said...

can you hand over the money to both parents for them to buy something for them? I mean they know a bit more about their likes etc aye.

or maybe a hamper for each family...otherwise I dunno, I hate trying to think of a gift for people I don’t know well enough.

16 November, 2006 22:48  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

I have to admit that I defer to Tuffy P on all matters of family etiquette. I would do the wrong thing, guaranteed.

17 November, 2006 04:03  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Martha: The Secret Santa is not a bad idea, actually, but trying to organize my family is a joke, so I don't think it'll fly, unforch. Shame, cos it could've worked...

Radmila: What can I buy them?! I just don't know... You don't sound like a scrooge, in part at least because you have the excuse of it not being part of your culture. I don't have that excuse, so I'm the real scrooge here. I've outscrooged you, baby!

APP: Yeah, but I hate giving money, or even vouchers for that matter. I just think, if you have the time, you can buy or make something so much better for the same value or less. Money means nothing these days, y'know?

Mr A: Tell me about, brother. Wife's family dealings are so much more straightforward, so she really doesn't understand the stuff I have to go through with mine!

17 November, 2006 10:00  
Anonymous cappy said...

you don't sound like a cunt to me, you sound like someone who has a ahandle on what he wants from this life, and although you may love your parents, you see the impending visit and "festive" season as a burden and an upset to your world which you could well do without at the moment.
what are you supposed to do with an 8 year old and an 80 year old that you have never met? let alone your dads new partner.
the wifes mother has been living with her new bloke for two years now, and although i can sit and have hours of conversations with him and really do like him, i still feel awkward about them living together! but don't tell the wife!

17 November, 2006 11:39  
Anonymous cappy said...

oh and if that isn't bad enough, the boys best freinds dad is now dating my sister.
his best mate could one day be his cousin, and his mates dad his uncle!
confusing. yes and more than a little disturbing.
niether him or her new it when they met, a hell of a quirk of fate, but i still feel uneasy about it.
is that wrong?? am I a cunt too?

17 November, 2006 11:42  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Cappy: Sounds like your family is as confusing as mine. Must be a generational thing!

Check this, though: My former boss married the daughter of his mum's second husband. So... he married his stepsister. So his stepdad is also his father-in-law. And I guess his kids are each other's step-uncles and step-aunties as well as siblings. Aaah! How fucking weird is that?! Not weird sick necessarily, but weird confusing weird.

17 November, 2006 11:52  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

off topic...

any good to you?

17 November, 2006 13:57  
Blogger Camie Vog said...

Is that a pic of sweet Katie Cruise from "Pieces of April"?

I'm all for handing out cards to the new additions to the family. Cheap? Perhaps... Geez, my sisters husband has been around for over 10 years and I have yet to every buy him anything. Then again, I don't like him.

17 November, 2006 14:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

* mate, I am doing a 'Cappy' and closing down rants from the dull. Work have found it, and I am getting shot of it.

Dont worry, I will get going again soon with another tedious rant.

17 November, 2006 14:34  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

WW: Thanks for the heads-up. I've got a few signed bits by Adam, thanks, so I shan't bother with this. Maybe if my name was Nicky I would...

Camie: It is indeed. I thought you might recognize it since it's on your profile page. I bought The Big Red One last week, too, the extended version. Looking forward to watching it.

RD: I've dropped you a line. Hopefully it won't be too long till you're up and about again.

17 November, 2006 15:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, well, that's why God invented bakeries;-)

17 November, 2006 16:07  
Blogger Cynnie said...

I hate christmas..hate it.
too much pressure ..

Why dont you and the wife make a donation to something important to you and give the family members a nice card saying you did it in their honor , name , whatever??
Sounds a bit off i know ..but isnt it better than buying some bullshit present they really dont even want ?

17 November, 2006 17:07  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

I feel for you *!
Being the UB, I give almost everyone food. Giant chocolate bars for kids, (that they eat later unless they agree on giving me at least half).
I have given risotto "kits" in the past: a bag of aborio, some dried mushrooms, and a scrawled note of a recipe. In your case a link to a recipe makes sense. And hey...this is starting to sound alot like, well, Reds posts.
Throw the kit in a brown paper bag, pointing out what an enviromentally responsible wrapper you are and shopping done while picking up a few groceries.
I have been known to do this on the 24th.
Or perhaps you could try another tried and true strategy, runaway.

17 November, 2006 19:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extended families at Christmas does indeed SUCK!

You know what? Screw Christmas. I'm done with it.

Screw Jesus too.

Just because I wanted to type screw jesus. ;)


17 November, 2006 20:44  
Blogger Kate said...

No, you don't sound like a cunt. Just someone who can't figure out what to buy a bunch of strangers for Christmas. I have no advice to offer, but I do know how you feel, I ended up in the same situation after my parents divorced. It is a strange situation to find yourself in. You have all these new people brought into your life, and feel you must make an effort to get long with them, even if they turn out to be complete nerks.

ps: Gift vouchers? Just a thought.

17 November, 2006 21:43  
Blogger Gardenia said...

True - who ever heard of families being sensible? They sort of seem to want to specialize in making us crazy, huh?

18 November, 2006 00:34  
Blogger Crankster said...

How about this: buy something for everybody, but buy things that are bizarre, random, and totally non-functional. Visit goodwill stores, antique shops, etc. Get things like Edison records ($5 on ebay), weird pins, old glasses, etc. They can't reject the gifts, because they're insecure about Christmas, too.

18 November, 2006 04:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bjrThanks for the comment. =)

Since you do movie reviews and all, why not give your inlaws some good films? You could also try some books or something.

Haha, just a suggestion.

Anyways, I think by reaching out to your new relatives, your dad will actually give you more attention. It'll seem like you're trying to give at least a little effort in accepting what he has now.

It'll show that you care for what he cares for..

18 November, 2006 04:28  
Blogger Shep said...

Christmas in Westville:

- "So we're not going to get each other anything. Just stuff for the kids. What point is there having presents at our age, eh?"

- *holding back tears* "Okay. Yeah. *pause* That's a good idea."

(I have already bought her a few things. I wonder if I still have the receipts...)

18 November, 2006 06:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I feel for you...I avoid family and holidays at all costs. I think I mighta turned into a curmudgeon.

18 November, 2006 16:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah Humbug. >:(

18 November, 2006 21:59  
Blogger Karen said...

I have a similar situation (although not exactly the same). My father remarried and his wife came equipped with three much younger children than either myself or my brother. I too had feelings of my place being usurped (I was daddy's little girl my whole life). However, that soon passed as my father began to constantly compare her three unruly children to his two angelic, well behaved kids. :)

They are the only members of our "immediate" family who don't live in the same city. As a result we buy a "couple" present for dad and his wife but nothing for her kids as they don't have anything to do with us (they are now in their late teens/early twenties). As for the rest of the family which now includes my brother and his wife/kids, and her family, plus close friends, we've decided that it's unfair to expect everyone to buy presents for everyone else. We started drawing names and only buying presents for that one person and of course the kids.

My suggestion would be to buy presents for anyone under the age of 15 (provided you've met them before) or just get a "family gift". Perhaps a game or a gift certificate to a restaurant/cinema/etc. Cheaper than individual presents and its something that they can all use "together".

19 November, 2006 14:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been sucked into the odd extended "step family" scenario a few years back. I buy presents for my dad and something generic for the wife. The rest don't rank high enough on the list and I doubt I rank on thiers either.
I feel the same way about spending time with them too, ick.

19 November, 2006 18:22  
Blogger Aidan said...

Buy a pack of those small, white flick-sheet calendar thingummies, glue each one to the bottom of a sheet of coloured paper onto which you've also pasted a suitably arty/emotive/generally-pleasant photo or picture - and, hey presto, home-made and handy both...

You'll never have to worry about buying presents for family again - for whatever reason...

20 November, 2006 00:07  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

LDBug: Yeah, I guess so!

Cynnie: That's a good idea, the donation, but we just made a charitable donation in our own name: damn!

Underground Baker: My family's not that way inclined unfortunately, so stuff to make a meal just ain't gonna cut it.

Steve: You're a bad bad man.

Kate: Thanks pet. You know, I've decided to go the gift-voucher route. I wasn't going to, but now I am.

20 November, 2006 08:47  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Dollface: Families have cornered the market in making people crazy, damn right!

Crankster: That's a good idea, actually. Thanks. But for now I've just decided on the path of least resistance and less stress for me.

~erika: Hey girl! Good thinking... Unfortunately, some of them aren't film lovers. Ridiculous, I know!

Shep: Bro, that is harsh!

Lee: I'm a curmudgeon too. Welcome to the family!

20 November, 2006 08:52  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Tideliar: Yeah, yeah, what of it?!

Karen: Your situation is pretty similar, and your solution pretty much the course of action I'd decided on now. Bizarre!

Angel: While undoubtedly I won't rank high of the lists of some (and that's fine), that will of course be reciprocal. But it's finding that balance, isn't it, without looking like your snubbing certain people? And how far are we expected to go with our benevolence? That's the big question...

Aidan: Yes, I'm thinking we'll be struck off everyone Christmas lists if I pull that stunt. Which maybe makes it a great and cunning plan...

20 November, 2006 08:56  
Blogger Suze said...

Asterisk, I hope everything went well with the family meeting. I usually find that alcohol takes the edge of these situations but it is difficult when you have an 8 and an 80 year old in tow.

May this week bring you good things. :)

20 November, 2006 10:32  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Thank you, Suze. I've posted an update, and everything went very well. I didn't drink at all, actually, nor the evening before, since I had to get up pretty early! You have a good week, too, pet.

20 November, 2006 12:27  

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