It’s okay to have boundaries with your family of origin

Hi, friends–

Andrea Grimes, journalist and columnist extraordinaire, just did a piece at Dame Magazine titled “This is How to Survive the Holidays.” Part of that is having boundaries and not buying into the “cancel culture” bullshit that right-wingers are now slinging around if you deign to avoid your family because you don’t want put up with their toxicity.

This is particularly palpable this time of year because of all the holiday stuff going on, and all the expectations that you’ll spend time with your family of origin.

Or not. What’s important here is not that you feel forced into or pressured into a crappy situation with a toxic family/toxic family members but that you feel like you have a choice to do either.

Here’s Grimes:

And yet now, those with complex feelings about their families—especially people who’ve set boundaries to mitigate those feelings and the behaviors that precipitate them—might just be members of the bloodthirsty “woke mob” trying to inflict “cancel culture” on their loved ones.

The idea that family estrangement is a new phenomenon caused by “cancel culture” is freshly popular among “cancel culture’s” critics—those who believe “cancel culture” has run amok. –Grimes, from her piece.

Give me a damn break. “Oh, families are now being cancelled by the left!” I am eyerolling so hard right now. People have been avoiding toxic families for CENTURIES. Ask any living LGBTQIA person, many of whom limit contact with or are estranged from their families of origin because said families refused to accept them and/or booted them out and/or continue to belittle them even if a queer person decides to maintain some contact. Those of us who are queer have threaded this needle for years. Decades, even. Especially if those families are conservative and/or religious.

Yeah, yeah, I know. “Not all religions.” But the fact remains that the vast majority of conservative families are also right-wing religious. And in those right-wing/theocratic religions is a whole lot of anti-LGBTQIA sentiment. I can’t count how many queer folx I know who barely have a speaking relationship with their families of origin, if they have a relationship at all. The common denominator? The families are conservative/religious. Others escaped toxicity that involved abuse (all kinds) and wasn’t necessarily tied to anti-LGBTQIA sentiment, but being queer sure didn’t make it easier.

Point being, it’s healthy to have boundaries around people who cause you pain and harm.

Grimes continues:

The gist seems to be that if you abandon your family the good old-fashioned way, that’s fine. But if you tell Grandpa not to crack racist jokes around your kids, or you’re not looking for another shouting match about vaccines, or you’re tired of answering nosy questions about when you’re having kids or why you’re still single, you’re a “cancel culture” snowflake looking for a safe space. Nobody has any hard data on whether family estrangements are actually on the rise, but hand-wringing articles blaming young adults for inventing the idea of cutting off their families certainly do seem to be proliferating. 

She rightly calls it a “boneheaded premise.”

Because it fucking is. People cracking racist jokes around you and your kids is toxic and harmful. People refusing to use your preferred pronouns and not calling you by your preferred name are actively harming you. People refusing to accept your same-sex partner at gatherings are harming you. People spouting Qnoise and other conspiracy craybuckets are toxic. Conspiracy theories are often antisemitic and racist; Qnoise has antisemitic roots. And people who refuse to be vaccinated could potentially cause you, your partner(s) and your kid(s) (if applicable) harm.

Here’s Grimes again:

Eliminating or reducing contact, or resetting the terms of engagement, are sometimes the only ways in which people can establish real consequences that spur healthy changes in how we relate to each other. And yet the defining characteristic of “cancel culture” critics is their dogged entitlement to other people’s time and attention even and especially when it’s hurtful and harmful; the same can be said for problematic relatives who won’t stop their bigoted screeds at the Thanksgiving table, or the abusive boss who demands emails be answered at 3 a.m.  

“Cancel culture” framing of trying to keep yourself away from family harm denies you agency and denies you the right to advocate for yourself. Grimes notes the entitlement toxic/cancel culture people claim when they demand your time at family gatherings while carrying on with whatever bigotry and then calling themselves victimized when you tell them to stop/limit contact.

Grimes also notes that the freak-out over “cancel culture” with regard to family relationships emanates largely from conservative parents toward their non-conservative kids and relatives and though not limited to strictly right-wing families, it is indicative of authoritarian values of conservatism writ large. These values seek to silence dissent and do not facilitate healthy conflict.

So the issue is not people who are tired of dealing with toxic relatives and those relatives’ inability to navigate relationships in healthy ways setting boundaries to protect themselves. It’s the toxic family members and the unhealthy structures they’ve created and that they refuse to deal with. It’s not “cancel culture” to avoid your family or set strict boundaries with your time and energy as to how you choose to interact with them or interact at all. It’s self-advocacy and self-care.

And no, you don’t need to “prove” you were abused or assaulted in your family to “justify” your boundaries. And no, you don’t owe anybody your time or energy. Nobody is entitled to you or your time.

So ignore all the wackadoodle screeching about “cancel culture” with regard to your family boundaries and do what makes you feel safe and loved, not just during the holidays, but all days. You get to determine how much or how little contact you have with your family of origin.

And I also understand that for some people, not spending time with families of origin is not an option. In those situations, survive as best you can and have a lifeline available if possible. For young queer folx, for example, the Trevor Project offers chat/call/text capability 24/7. Make sure you have a contact via social media that looks fairly innocuous so you can get a dose of validation and love. DM’ing through the Tumblr app, for example, might be a good option. And if you don’t have a device available for that, try stepping outside for a few moments/petting a household pet/taking a quick walk and reaching out when you can. I know shit sucks in the moment, and families of origin can be intensely cruel, but you are resilient and you’re loved and needed beyond the boundaries of your household. And hopefully, you’ll soon be able to set the boundaries you need to.

The holidays can be really hard for some. Made harder by the pandemic. Try to offer a helping hand as you can, and if you know of someone who won’t be spending time with a family of origin for whatever reasons, give them a call and spread some cheer. We’re all in this together, so let’s do what we can.

Cookin’ for charity with Dirt Road Books!

Hi, Friends —

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up on a cool charity project my fellow founder and colleague at Dirt Road Books put together.

It’s a small book of recipes based on the DRB first year’s newsletter, which included a new recipe every month. My colleague, author and chef R.G. Emanuelle, is in fact a trained chef and she developed several recipes for the newsletter based on seasonal events but also short stories by fellow DRB authors.

So you’ll get a couple of sexy drinkie recipes, a few main dishes, and some sides. There’s a rib recipe and a pickle recipe, for example, and for those of you who are BBQ aficionados, you know BBQ and pickles ARE A THING.

So here’s the thing. Every year, DRB tries to put a project together in time for the holidays that benefits a charity. A Year in the Kitchen with R.G. Emanuelle is this year’s project, and ALL PROCEEDS benefit the Oregon Food Bank. It’s $3.99 to pick up your ecopy, and hot damn, you’re doing awesome-ness in addition to a little bit of cooking.

A Year in the Kitchen with R.G. Emanuelle is a collection of recipes from the first year of newsletters fromDirt Road Books. It offers twelve delectable dishes, from hearty family fare to party take-alongs and fabulous cocktails. Some are seasonal fare while others are inspired by stories written by DRB authors. DRB is proud to donate all proceeds to Oregon Food Bank, which has partnered with agencies that provide spaces that make it easy for the LGBTQ community to access food.

Find it on Kindle, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and other platforms.

Not only will you get some cool original recipes, but you’re helping a great charity out. Thanks and happy Monday!

HOOTENANNY 2017!

Hey, all–

I’ve been chasing merry elves around and thus haven’t had a chance to swing by and remind y’all that my other site, Women and Words, is having its giant, massive, crazy, blow-out book giveaway event!

WOOOOOO!

It’s Day 6, and we give away around 20-30 books EACH DAY, primarily lesfic/books with strong women protagonists. So swing by and get in on the fun. Go over to Women and Words and all you have to do is leave a comment.

Here’s the main link — that’s good for the next 6 days!

Hope to see you there!

HOOTENANNY TIME

You guys, I have been really freakin’ busy over at Women and Words with Jove and the blogger crew and all the merry elves and reindeer getting things ready for our annual Hootenanny over there.

What is this Hootenanny, you ask.

It’s a giant, massive, outta control WTF no they di’n’t omg they’re serious how did that even happen where did all these prizes come from BOOK GIVEAWAY.

TWELVE DAYS, friends. TWELVE DAYS OF BOOK GIVEAWAYS. New lists of authors every day, and publishers also get into it. There are books flinging hither and yon.

And this year, we’ve got super swag on Rafflecopter, which might just include a couple of Kindle Fires. Guess you’ll have to check it out to see.

When does all this merriment start, you ask.

THIS SATURDAY! DECEMBER 12! TWELVE DAYS!!!!!!!!!

So we run this crazy from December 12-December 23. SO COME ON DOWN!

Here’s the link to Women and Words.

And here’s an example from last year of the crazy we got up to.
Day 5
Day 11

So head on over to Women and Words Saturday the 12th to join the fun. Hope to see you there!

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And then all of a sudden I had holiday spirit…

Hi, peeps!

Y’know, I’m not much of an end-of-the-year holiday type. I don’t generally decorate (I have red chile pepper lights up year-round), and I tend to focus on not getting caught up in the rampant consumerism of this time of year.

And I’m generally uneasy this time of year, because it’s a tough time for a lot of people, and it does push a lot of my buttons in that regard. So I’ve made some conscious choices about how I engage with this time of year.

To that end I spend a lot of time focusing on community and family ties and on donating time and energy (sometimes money) to try to spread holiday cheer, like through the Hootenanny at Women and Words, which is a 12-day book giveaway extravaganza that we hold over there every December (in case you’re interested, here’s info on last year’s)

Dozens of books and authors, lots of publishers…we get crazy over there giving books away and hanging out with the merry elves. I love that, because it’s totally festive and everybody gets involved to give books away and it spreads the luv all over the place. Buckets of awesome.

So that always gives me holiday cheer, and I guess I’m finding extra special meaning in the season this time, after a year of terrible, tragic events, some of which hit closer to home than others.

And I guess I’m digging deeper this year to nurture myself, my family and friends, and my communities, because it brings me comfort and joy, and y’know what? I like those feelings.

But also this year, I did something I’ve never done.

I wrote a holiday novel. A whole freakin’ novel that’s all about this time of year. It’s a reboot of a classic Christmas tale, with romance and snark and fun and serious stuff and, hopefully, redemption. And you know what?

It made me feel better about this time of year. And all of a sudden I’ve been watching holiday movies on the Hallmark channel. And I went to the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and OMG it was awesome. I’ve even been singing traditional and nontraditional holiday songs. OUT LOUD. For reals!

So, yeah. I found a little bit of magic this year. And I love it.

Hope you, too, are able to find a bit and if you need some cheering up or just want some happy fun times, come on down to the Women and Words Hootenanny. We’re cranking up December 12th. Hope to see you there.

Happy Saturday. Or whatever day it is for you!

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Holly-Daze: some tips to help you deal

Happy December!

Things I’ve learned about surviving the holidays/this time of year:

1. Eggnog has at least 9 million calories per glass, and other holiday goodies have at least 7 million per bite. So I try not to eat or drink very many of them.

2. The office party can be fun and might even provide alcohol. Careful with that. Do you really want these people to watch you pole dance — sans pole — next to the dessert table? Somebody no doubt will post it on Facebook or Pinterest. Or, worse, upload it to YouTube. Save your sexy-time for the homefront, Flashdance.

3. If you work out regularly, keep doing that. Especially if you have an impending visit with holiday regulars that has the potential to end up like Die Hard 2.

4. You don’t need to eat ten pieces of Christmas fudge at a time, no matter how small they are. See number 1, above.

5. Is buying crap really what this holiday is about? How about starting a new tradition, like having get-togethers with your friends and/or family and all of you selecting a charitable organization to donate to? Share the love rather than the shopping. Might be a good tradition to start with kids, too, if you have them.

6. Caroling can seriously be fun, especially if you do it at a place like a nursing home or maybe a veterans’ or children’s hospital (check with the officials at said places first, before you show up with your Lady Gaga-infused rendition of “Silent Night”).

7. Rather than do a gift exchange with work colleagues, why not find a local organization that’s collecting things for families in need and do a drive for it?

8. Get some rest. You can’t be present for anybody during this time if you’re exhausted and cranky. Plus, not taking care of yourself means you might run yourself down, which puts you at greater risk for catching cooties. And it sucks to be sick, whether it’s the holidays or not.

9. You don’t have to decorate to feel like it’s the holidays. If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t, unless you have kids and they really look forward to it. Otherwise, it doesn’t make you a grinch or scrooge-y if you would rather look appreciatively at displays that are not your own. Get together with friends for a festive “other-people’s lights” tour. And be glad you don’t live next door to this guy. Though I’m sure he won’t mind a little horse-step dance in his driveway.

10. This time of year can be really stressful and depressing for some people. If you know people like that, check in with them. A “hey, how are you?” goes a long way.

And one of my other tips: I’m a year-round donor to various organizations, and I try to give extra this time of year. Suggestions: no-kill animal shelters; local organizations that help local families; larger organizations like the Red Cross and Heifer International. So check around. There are lots of people in your local community that could use some help, especially this time of year, imbued with all the symbolism and baggage we’ve loaded onto it.

Share your tips below, if you’ve got ’em. Happy Saturday!