KN J Tales and Snippets

AWKWARD CHRISTMAS HUGS

For introverts, there is nothing worse than being forced into a situation where you have to meet strangers and execute small talk. Actually, there is… small talk with your partner’s family’s extended family. I’ve no doubt it would raise the hackles of any introvert.

It’s the worst situation for an introvert to be in because unlike with random strangers, you can’t remove yourself unless you run out of the house on the pretense of an emergency of some kind. For many of us, sitting through tortuous family gatherings, especially for special occasions like Christmas, is a must.


We travelled almost seven hours and stayed with my husband’s parents for Christmas 2020. On Boxing Day, some of his extended family came over for a visit. The in-law’s family room housed my husband’s two uncles, two aunts, cousin and her two children as well as the eight of us that were already there. Teas and sweets were passed around, and the small talk began.

True to form, as soon as the small talk began, I made excuses to leave to another room. I gathered the children and set up the Nintendo Switch to play video games. I stayed with them in the front room on the pretense of supervision. I was really avoiding the awkward small talk and uncomfortable feeling of having many sets of eyes on me while I tried mumbling my way through conversations. I didn’t need that stress in my life. Was it rude? Most definitely, but I’ve made no secret about my anxiety with small talk.

When the children had their fill of video games and decided to play a game called “Don’t Step In It”, I reluctantly returned to the family room where all the adults had gathered.

“Find a chair and stop looking like an outsider,” chastised one of my husband’s aunts upon seeing me lurk around the fringes of the room.

“I’m fine where I am,” I replied sheepishly. I hate being made a spectacle. I’d happily hide in the shadows if it meant no one asked me uncomfortable questions or expected me to converse like a grown adult. No thank you.

When the time came for people to leave, I stood around awkwardly, knowing that I had to say goodbye to them. I walked out with my husband and children, waved goodbye to one set of aunts and uncles then returned to bid farewell to the other set still inside the house. The aunt gave me a big hug and threw out my ‘I don’t really like to be touched’ rule. As the uncle made his rounds with his goodbyes, I stood there debating whether the uncle would expect a hug too because his wife just gave me one.

The aunt totally threw me with the hug. Now I was confused as to the appropriate social etiquette expected of me. So when the uncle turned to me, I gave him a hug and surprised the both of us. It was self-inflicted awkwardness and you know how I hate feeling awkward.

When everyone was gone, I threw myself on the couch near my brother-in-law and his partner and bemoaned how awkward the experience was for me. My brother-in-law’s partner, a fellow introvert, hadn’t enjoyed the small talk and mostly sat there listening to others converse instead.

Fellow introverts, what is the secret to small talk with extended family? Better yet, how do you avoid giving and receiving awkward hugs?

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Kathy - KN J Tales and Snippets

Creative writer and storytelling enthusiast, sharing snippets of my journey through life and parenting. Aiming to inspire, empower and ignite laughter with every word that I write.

15 thoughts on “AWKWARD CHRISTMAS HUGS”

  1. Hahahaha!!!! Okay I know I am not being a good friend by laughing at your misery but you are just the funniest storyteller. I am surprised that a pandemic didn’t deter a large family gathering though. Sending you virtual hugs 😜😜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to hear that things are going so well in Melbourne! I’d read that New Zealand had virtually no cases, but I didn’t realize that Australia was in that same league.So much of the rest of the western world, though…it’s frightening! 🙂 Mona

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your brother’s in-laws partner method of listening to others converse is better.
    Reach a hand out when you anticipate that a hug might arise from the next person.

    I’m not an introvert but I do respect their preferences.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Live across the country from them and let your husband be the one who chats with them on the phone, and then use the kids as an excuse for not sitting and chatting away. Having a language barrier helps, too. As for the hugs, my sister does an awkward pole thing with arms where she stands perfectly still, but bends her arms at the elbow to simulate a hug and then lets the hugger be so high and thrilled about talking until they’re hoarse all night so they don’t notice. I usually find a corner and use my monkey of a daughter as my shield. At 3 she still wants to be held all the time whenever we’re around any people, so she makes the perfect excuse for everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! I would have used the pandemic as an excuse not to have family Christmas! Oh, right, I did. As to touching anyone during this time? I would have said, “You know I love you, but COVID, so absolutely no touching!” I think it’s more rude to inadvertently give someone a disease that can have lingering effects or even death. The thing about family — they can love you, hate you, barely put up with you, etc., but the thing is, you’re a part of that tribe — so no one can do anything about it. If someone’s rude to you or tries to bully you, call them on it — “Wow. That hurt. I think I’m going over here!” or “Thank you for caring, but I don’t think so.” I can think of worse things than a family member who gets easily overwhelmed by too much. Other than that, just be kind. Also, you’re lucky if you only have to see them once in a blue moon. As to conversation, be curious. The best conversationalists are the ones who ask great questions and are even better listeners! Before you’re around family, come up with three or four subjects that you can ask each person questions about. Practice ahead of time. If you know Aunt Sally enjoys good gossip, ask, “Hey Aunt Sally, what’s been going on lately? I really haven’t had the chance to catch up with any of the family.” Then let Aunt Sally talk and actively listen. Just be honest and be yourself. Hope this helps for your next family get together. Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, in Melbourne AUS, we have managed to almost eliminate the virus. We are back to no cases so family gatherings are allowed and given that the grandparents hadn’t seen the children for most of 2020, there really wasn’t any excuse for us not to go.
      Your strategy of asking lots of questions to avoiding talking as much is a good one. Although, I would still rather hide than converse!

      Liked by 1 person

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