Here's A Short Story For Every Type of Holiday Relative
Christmas may be over, but as New Years has yet to arrive, we’re still in the thick of the holiday season. There’s no way of avoiding the onslaught of red-lipped grandma kisses, feigned appreciation for terrible gifts, and overeating to the point of feeling like you might vomit onto the dining room table. Although you can’t avoid all the baggage that comes with coming home for the holidays, there are coping mechanisms for interacting with your relatives. You can always sneak into the kitchen to down the dinner wine, but alcoholism is frowned upon, and this year we’ve got better options. As a new way to subdue all your caricature relatives, at least temporarily, here’s a form fitting short story for their particular breed of relative. Enjoy, you literary types!
The aunt that always has a gin martini in hand and skewered olive in mouth. We all have one, and we all love her because she says lewd things and gives no fucks. The traditional prescription would be some Hemingway or Raymond Carver, authors renowned for writing with and about booze. But, I would opt for “Going for a Beer” by Robert Coover. Drunk Aunt may have to swap her hard-A for beer, but the story’s premise of a drunk man slipping through life will compensate for the shift in alcohol proof.
Equally cool feminist aunt
For the activist aunt who is always sending you news links and posting in all-caps on Facebook, we recommend “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins. Along with Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton, Perkins underwent treatment for depression, which, back when feminism was still an unformed concept, entailed isolation, bed rest, and relief from all physical labor. The complete opposite male treatment–writing, discussing, and male companionship–shows a deep historical rift in the way we look at the psychology of men and women. The short story capitalizes on the cruel discrimination in treatment. It follows the narrative of a women who is “hysteric,” who literally begins to see women suffocating behind the wallpaper as she reaches the brink of insanity. Cool feminist aunt will loose her shit.
Sweet old granny
Veering away from social semantics and protesting, sweet old granny will instead tell you stories about her childhood while you lick the uncooked cookie dough straight from the bowl. Give her something equally nostalgic to gnaw on. Alice Munro‘s “How I Met My Husband” is a sweet and tidy story that takes you through a women’s encounter with lust, marriage, and self-reflection. A good story for grannies of all sorts.
Cool uncle who did too many drugs
Cool uncle tells just as many nostalgic stories as grandma. But it’s not dinner table talk, as his stories usually involve shrooms and backseat blazing. For him, and his career of good and bad trips, we prescribe the dream-like, trip lit queen, Mary Gaitskill. All her stories use lustrous prose and psychedelic sensory descriptions, but “Mirror Ball,” a story about soul snatching and a one-night stand, is definitely the best for cool uncle.
Although Roald Dalh is mostly known for his endearing–albeit odd–children’s novels, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits, the kid’s lit author also writes extremely adult content. Ranging from spousal battering to cannibalism to tattoos, Dahl’s collected adult stories have a similar offbeat feel to his children’s stories. Different context, same weird Dahl. The odd set of interests is perfect for any creepy uncle.
George Saunders’ “The Denth of Decemeber” is full of action and little boy gimmicks, a solid pick for a jock brother. Under the surface plot–a boy running through imaginative worlds, combating fake nemeses, and all kinds of magical play–there’s a story of an unhappy older man. Maybe the more latent content will pull jock bro through his obsession with sports and peck jiggling.
We didn’t forget about the remaining family members. For a wise old grandpa, give him “My father addresses me on the facts of old age” by Grace Paley.
For goth cousin, the bleak “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. For the cynic apocalypse-obsessed relative, “The Big Space Fuck,” or anything by Kurt Vonnegut will surely do. Hopefully these stories will hold each relative off, at least until dinner. If all else fails, there’s still that bottle of red wine in the kitchen.
Stay tuned to Milk for more ways to avoid your family.
Photo via Awkward Family Photos.