BRYCE ON FAMILY & TRAVEL
– Why we behave the way we do under close quarters.
Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas typically bring members of the family together, as does family vacations and anniversaries. Inevitably, family members open their homes and share quarters with loved ones traveling from out of town. Perhaps you’ll go home to see your parents and stay in your old room or stay with one of your siblings. Such close quarters are certainly appreciated, but they also have a tendency to drive people crazy, both the host and the guest, regardless how much we love our family.
As creatures of habit, we all have our own unique set of nuances we like to live by, particularly at home. Such habits may seem insignificant, but we begin to feel inhibited when we try to live in close quarters with someone else. In other words, we have to be on our best behavior and cannot truly relax as we normally would. To illustrate:
* Meal time can be awkward as people have different eating customs. For example, some people will eat a hearty breakfast, others something simple, and some not at all. Some like coffee, others want tea or just some juice of some kind. It all makes for some awkward moments for people in the kitchen. Some people like to eat strange snacks and consume beverages during off hours. What is normal to one person appears strange to others. The time at which we eat can also become an issue, as well as the types of food and restaurants we like. Trying to plan an evening dinner to accommodate everyone’s tastes and timetables can become as complicated as planning D-Day.
* In terms of bathroom decorum we have to observe different customs of using the shower, the “facilities,” towels and trash, and general cleanliness. Some people are slobs, others are neat freaks, neither of which are compatible.
* Even the act of washing clothes can become awkward. Some people like to wash small loads, others large. Then there is the matter of the water temperature and the amount of detergent to use. I realize it sounds rather petty, but such nuances drive some people crazy.
* Then there is the matter of what clothes to wear for certain occasions. Regardless of how old you are, your mother will inevitably comment, “You’re not going out dressed like that are you?” Even the comfortable clothes you want to wear around the house comes under scrutiny.
* Maintaining the bedroom can also become a problem. Some people like to live in pigpens, others are more tidy. Believe me, the differences between hosts and guests are considerable. Some hosts insist on sacrificing their own bedrooms to allow their guests maximum comfort. Inevitably, guests cannot relax in fear they may do something wrong in the inner sanctum, and hosts toss and turn uncomfortably on sleep sofas with metal bars sticking in their spines. It’s a no-win scenario no matter what you do.
* There are many other idiosyncrasies observed, such as talking too much or too little or at the wrong time, smoking, imbibing a drink, eating too much or too little, what you eat versus what you don’t, how you exercise (or not), how the coffee is made, what vitamins and medication you are taking, what you watch on television, what time you rise in the morning and retire at night, even how you drive your own car.
We all have unique peculiarities we like to live by and when we get together with family members we try to bite our tongues for the sake of harmony. However, I’ve observed some people are more accommodating than others. If you are the guest, you have to respect the wishes of your hosts, and; if you are the hosts, you have to tolerate the nuances of your guests. Compromise is the order of the day in such situations. You do not want to become an intruding pest regardless of the role you are playing.
In the end, we are all greatly relieved when the family disperses and everyone returns home. Guests are delighted to return to the routine of their own domain, and hosts are relieved to see their households return to normal.
We don’t really want to become pests to other people, but because of our peculiarities we cannot help it. Perhaps the worst thing though is to overstay your welcome and get under the skin of your family. If you are going to be in close quarters for an extended period of time, let me suggest you do it on neutral ground, such as in a hotel in another city, or on a cruise ship, where someone else will be charged with looking after your foibles. Otherwise, it is not uncommon for family members to start bickering amongst themselves, gossiping, and animosity inevitably grows into rage. This is why we should avoid “family” restaurants; there’s a fight at every table. Such is the price of our personal peccadilloes.
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.