Family Picnics: The Seventh Circle of Hell

***I tried to keep this post from being an angry rant… I really did…. However, this one still contains mild profanity and shameless whining***

Let’s start off with the full disclosure that I am by no means a person that enjoys family events or social gatherings. I prefer to sit at home in my basement with a jug of wine and a cat on my lap watching reruns of Law & Order. However, I understand that having a social life is regrettably a necessity, and so I can somewhat understand the theory underlying these gatherings.

I still hate them, though, and I can’t really see how anyone has much fun at them. They’re all the same with the same cast of characters, same melodrama, the same lofty judgmental attitudes, and the same cold burgers, lumpy, bacteria-infested potato salad, and dry chocolate cake.

My grandparents can’t drive themselves anymore, and so I had to drive them this year to my grandmother’s cousin’s family picnic yesterday. It’s an hour drive to the place, and so dropping them off and picking them back up at the end wasn’t really an option. I knew none of these relatives, but with free food in the mix, I figured I could just sit in the corner stuffing my face until it was time to leave.

To someone observing the happenings, they’re always the same, really.

Enter the cast of characters:

Social butterfly host. The person hosting the picnic was an older lady who towards the end of the evening revealed to me her gambling addiction. She constantly hops from table to table, jabbing people in the ribs with her elbows as she gives some one-liner that she finds hysterical. Every other line is often urging someone to eat more.

Obnoxious kids. There are always two or more kids at these ordeals that are over-stimulated with sugar or some sort of thing and decide to chase each other around the entire yard, screaming in their high-pitched, whiny voices and giggling like rabid hyenas.

Nervous dog. Without fail, someone always brings a dog that is not at all comfortable around large groups of people. The dog was traumatized at this event and ran around anxiously and barked and whined at everyone. She did not settle down until three hours in, when her owner took her to the edge of the yard, away from the people. I have no idea why people think that it is a good idea to put dogs through this sort of ideal if they obviously do not enjoy it. And no one else enjoys hearing the constant background chorus of “Dog! Here Dog! Quiet down, Dog! Dog come over here! Here, Dog, have some Cheetos! Dog, stop that! Dog! Dog! Dog!”

Person that thinks it’s funny to tease the nervous dog. There was a lady who kept teasing the dog with table food, as though the dog wasn’t worked up enough already.

Loud, old lady who thinks she’s the funniest person to walk the Earth. This is the lady that thinks this picnic is her moment to shine, and so she talks loudly, telling every funny story in her 90 years of existence, talking loud enough to be sure to drown out anyone else who might try to say something. This is also the lady that keeps telling the single, middle-aged gay man to marry her as she puts her hand on his body every time he’s within reach and cackles to her circle of friends.

Racist, old man. This is the old man that likes to randomly insert himself into a conversation by connecting whatever the crowd is complaining about to some ethnic minority as Dorito crumbs fly from his lips and his sweaty hands hold a bottle of Bud Lite like he’s the classiest shit stain in all the land.

Middle-aged man with some semblance of a hot career. He’s the one that shows up late in some flashy sports car, wearing a salmon-colored polo and sunglasses that he never takes off, even after sunset. He’s got a new phone that he always finds a reason to pull out and show everyone, and he directs every conversation around to how fucking rad he is. He also tries to connect with the twenty-somethings to show that he’s still hip or whatever. At this picnic, I was the only person above seven and below fifty, so he tried to talk to make contact with me.

“So, where’d you stay in Vegas?”

“Plafffmph…” I’m stuffing lemon cake in my face.

After describing how rad the hotel was that he stayed at and how much fun he had with his buddies while he was there when he was twenty-five: “What’s your name, again?”


“Cool, cool.”

End of conversation.

Quirky old man who might be a little out of touch. At this event, this character carried a large, stuffed frog around with him. I can’t remember the name of the frog, but he was wearing a motorcycle jacket because “he [the frog] was hoping to go motorcycle riding earlier that day, but it rained.”

The thing I hate most about these people is how goddamn judgmental they all are, and how commonplace and okay it is for them to just start attacking someone not present for their life decisions or for criticizing groups of people that aren’t like them. There was a long conversation about how awful it is to ride the bus in the city because of all dirty people that sit close to you and talk on their cell phones. There was a conversation about how disgusting it is that young girls wear spaghetti-strap shirts in the summer. There was the classic conversation about how they couldn’t believe so-and-so was pregnant at such a young age out of wedlock and that she was so pretty surely she could’ve found a nice man to marry first.

I usually make disgusted faces at these people for as long as I can stand it, then make an additional trip to the dessert table and sit in the back with the 90-year-old man nodding off in the rocking chair. One day, I’ll summon the nerve to speak up at these things. At least, I hope I will. But for now, I’ll continue to silently shovel in lemon cake as I count all the assholes in the room.

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2 Responses to Family Picnics: The Seventh Circle of Hell

  1. It sounds like people are there because they have to be and not necessarily because they want to be. I didn’t grow up near extended family, and from my few experiences with them I am happy I never knew most of them. Still, I have some extended family I really like, and I feel sad that I haven’t been able to see them much.

    Personally in situations like that I do tend to be very quiet at first. However, my irritation gets the better of me, and it manifests itself with my sense of humor. What I mean is that I start finding ways to laugh at people without letting them know I’m laughing at them and not with them. It’s not a very healthy habit of mine, and it reinforces my cynicism and misanthropy.

    Still, I’m happy you got through it alright. What you did for your grandparents was a good thing, and it’s something they might not ever fully appreciate. It means that you’re good people, Iris. You don’t have to speak up if you don’t want to; they might not be ready to listen to your wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Iris says:

      Thank you so much, Sirius! I do realize that I’m lucky that most of my family never moved out of this area for generations, and so I have a ton of extended family. However, you are right that most of them only associate with each other because they’re obligated to, and most of them feel the need to prove themselves to the others, too. I’m glad you’re able to laugh at them because I get angry instead (and internalize all that anger), which might do worse harm on my psyche.

      Liked by 1 person

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