It’s holiday time. This week is Thanksgiving for Americans (really jumped the gun there, Canada) and soon, ok, already, it will be time to start prepping for winter solstice celebrations. For many, this means time, perhaps too much of it, spent with family. And if you’re like me, your family ain’t about the comics. So how can we survive outside our nerd-havens? I have some ideas based on years of experience.
If you’re travelling, you will be leaving your in-person comics friends behind. Additionally, odds are things will be quieter than usual around the internet, so you won’t necessarily be able to just fall back on the digital world for companionship. And as annoying as family can be, you don’t want to be the person ignoring others by hiding in another room or staring at your phone/tablet/laptop the entire time you’re together. I actually think it’s important for me to go out into the world and remind myself that other people are into other things. The internet makes it very easy to only interact with those who share your interests, hanging out with people in real life where the most you may have in common is some DNA is a whole new ball game.
The hardest thing for me when I’m around family is finding a balance. I don’t want to be the one-note person at the family gathering who’s “the cousin who reads comics.” At the same time, I’m not ashamed of reading comics so I’m not going to try and hide it. I don’t come from a family of nerds, especially nerds of pop-culture, so I really on my own when I’m with them. I have enough shared interests with my immediate family that we usually have something to talk about, but for my extended family it can be a bit trickier. Mostly because of sports.
One of my biggest issues during the holidays is football. I know there are plenty of comics fans that also like football. You can go ahead and skip this section, I got nothing for you. But for me, watching football can be excruciatingly boring. If it’s a good enough game, I’ll get engaged for the length of the game, but the announcers aggravate me and the commercials make me hate humanity.
Here are some things I’ve tried to avoid getting stuck on the couch. 1) Go hang out in the kitchen, that’s probably where everyone else is. I’m a food nerd so this one works for me, your results may vary. 2) Ask if the TV can be put on mute. I’ve already mentioned my distaste for announcers, and if it’s on mute it’s easier to have conversations about other things. 3) See if anyone wants to go on a walk. This is tradition in my family, but it gets you some distance from people who may be starting to grate on you, and you’ll feel slightly less guilty about that upcoming slice of pie. And 4) See if anyone wants to go outside and actually throw around a football. This may be my favorite because even though I’ve said I don’t really like watching sports I really playing sports. Plus, throwing a ball back and forth is a way of positively interacting with someone without actually having to speak.
If you wanted to you could always read comics on the couch where the others are watching football. I think that’s a good middle ground where you’re not avoiding anybody but you’re not making yourself miserable. I just have a hard time reading in a group, especially if the TV isn’t on mute, so that one doesn’t really work for me. Plus I don’t travel with that many comics, which I’ve covered in a column before, and unless you’re really comfortable with your hobby reading certain comics might cause family members to cast an askew glance your way.
I realize I’m writing this column from the perspective of the younger generation at any gathering. I get to roll into Thanksgiving dinner with basically no responsibility. I offer to help out with the meal however I can, but no one is expecting too much from me, and I am years away from the potential horror of hosting in my own home. So I certainly don’t mean to imply that people with things to do are worried about comics, but for those in my position as mere guest not being bored to tears is a problem worth considering.
The best case scenario is that you have a family who shares your interests, this being the real world; I just hope for people that thought the Avengers was a reasonably enjoyable movie. We may get a pick of the week here, but we can’t pick our family, so good luck out there to everyone just looking to eat some turkey, get some time away from the grindstone, and maybe crack open a comic or two.