It’s that special time of year — when an acquaintance unexpectedly drops by with a lovely gift; when your crotchety, opinionated uncle comes to sup with the fam; and angst and sadness rear their unsightly heads at the office party! Ah, holiday cheer! But it is possible to navigate those tricky, awkward moments with grace — and a sense of humor! We have five locals with hilarious and uncomfortable personal experiences and fabulously clever ways to handle those moments this holiday season and beyond!
Awkward situation: People ask intrusive and inappropriate questions.
“There’s nothing more annoying than relatives asking, ‘When are you going to get married?’ or ‘When are you going to have a baby?’ I’ve experienced both, and somehow I did manage to get married and have a baby, but for many years I thought neither of those would be my path in life, and that’s exactly how I wanted it,” says Ivy Schuster, owner of Hatcher Schuster Interiors. “I always find the best response is one that made the inquirer equally uncomfortable. I tried everything from bursting into tears to just completely ignoring the person. Later on, I came up with the idea to say ‘Actually, I am pregnant, but don’t tell anyone,’ and then down a glass of wine!”
Awkward situation: Someone asks for the recipe to your store-bought dish.
“I love to cook and I have a restaurant. However, with two small children, I often run out of time, especially around the holidays,” says Jennifer Mims, owner of Real & Rosemary. “I have definitely purchased store-bought items, like pies, to serve when I don’t have time to make dessert. I put them on my on serving dishes with my fanciest pie servers and often get asked for the recipe. I usually reply with a wink that it is an old family secret. I learned this trick from my mother, whose favorite pie is lemon icebox. She makes a great one, but often serves Mrs. Smith’s variety from the grocery store instead. When she gets asked for the recipe, she says it is a recipe from the Smith side of the family. Works every time!”
Awkward situation: Someone brings you a gift, but you have no gift for them.
“One of the most embarrassing dilemmas to be caught in is to be graced with a gift from a completely unexpected neighbor or acquaintance and to have nothing to give them in return. I have been the victim of this many times,” says landscape designer and horticulturalist, Clarke Bohorfoush, owner of Boho Designs, LLC. “Here in the South, there is almost a compulsion to give something to everyone, from your mother to your waste management professionals, so you have to be prepared for the inevitable unexpected gifting. After moving back home to Birmingham, I was caught in this situation for two years in a row and resorted to frantically removing tags from family gifts and rummaging through my kitchen for anything worthy of the gift received. I finally came up with a fool-proof solution. I found some beautiful hand blown glass ornaments for a nice price that were intended to house air plants or bird seed. I bought 20 of them and stuffed them with different exotic air plants. I hung them all on the tree with blank tags that simply read ‘Merry Christmas from Clarke’ and kept a pen on the other side of the tree so I could quickly jot down their name. I was never caught by surprise or empty-handed that year, and I don’t think anyone saw me write their name on the tag. Everyone absolutely loved the air plants and glass ornaments, and to this day, years later, I still get pictures from friends and neighbors showing me how their air plant is blooming or flourishing, and that makes my heart warm.”
Awkward situation: Someone gets tanked at the holiday office party.
“Newly married in the late ’80s (we are old!), my husband and I set off for an office party at The Back Alley on Cobb Lane. I remember thinking I looked awesome in my black corduroy dress from Pappagallo,” says Ginny Hutchinson, owner of The Scribbler. “Everyone from a small firm was invited to the Christmas dinner, and most everyone had on church attire, trying to look decent and respectable. The lone exception was a young assistant who came in what looked to be a prom dress with a slit up to her mid-thigh. She had a corsage on her arm for some reason, and that did not stop her from consuming copious amounts of alcohol and eventually throwing a glass of champagne at the very staid company attorney. Even in my early 20s (and maybe I’d enjoyed some toddies myself), I decided I better just ignore the spectacle. I guess I am good at acting like nothing has happened when I really want to drop my jaw to the floor!”
Awkward situation: You are double-booked for holiday parties on one night.
“I always try to overdo it at the holidays and go to every party I get invited to,” says Ivy. “I learned the hard way not to commit to two parties in one night. It’s even more awkward to leave mid-party for another than to just not go at all!”
Awkward situation: When the script is flipped on the Dirty Santa game.
“Dirty Santa parties are always fraught with potential disaster. Is it really ‘dirty’ or just the good vs. bad gift? I always love the shock value of the clever, unexpected gift,” says Ginny. “My cousin Gerry is the best at this — one year my sister opened a box to find a live lobster, which was hilarious. On the awkward front, one particularly festive memory is from a party where I kept opening up great gifts, only to have them repeatedly stolen. Finally I open the box containing the Victoria’s Secret Christmas thong, and I think I’m going to be out of the spotlight and, lo and behold, the sweetest girl in the room unexpectedly steals the thong! While I was surprised, and everyone was making catcalls, I relinquished the thong and opened the next gift, a bottle of vodka that I was able to finally keep!”
One of our very own StyleBlueprint staffers, who requested to remain anonymous for this particularly embarrassing memory, was living in a remote area with no access to the Internet and was invited to her first Dirty Santa party. She and her husband assumed that “dirty” meant “X-rated.” So, being that they were essentially in the woods before heading home to Birmingham for the Christmas festivities, the duo decided to make like prairie people and get crafty! They found some unused bars of soap and headed to the porch for some old fashioned, down-home whittling — of naughty parts! Once they got to the party, they were surprised to see kids running around. They whispered to the host, “Are the kids going to be here for the Dirty Santa game?” The host looked puzzled, and when they learned what Dirty Santa really meant, they were red with embarrassment. The host was in stitches and insisted that the “dirty soap” remain in the game. Shielded from young eyes, it was the hit of the party!
Thank you to Ivy, Jennifer, Clarke, Ginny and our anonymous SB staffer for their hilarious and clever awkward holiday stories and advice!
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