Written by Howi Bakunawa
No matter what the occasion — whether during the holidays, on vacation, at reunions or trips — spending an extended amount of time with our families can be difficult. When it comes to our family members, we should (hopefully) love each and every single one of them unconditionally but that still doesn’t mean that our patience isn’t tested when we’re with them for longer than a day.
Being present at any family gathering means having to prepare yourself to endure an endless onslaught of comments which, although well-meaning in theory, are enough to make us crazy in practice. Comments like: “May girlfriend/boyfriend ka na ba?” [Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?] or the ever-present “Tumaba ka na ha” [You’ve gotten fatter since the last time I saw you] or the excessive photos that our aunts and uncles can’t seem to stop themselves from taking.
Let me tell you a secret. As a result of decades of personal experience, I have discovered that the best response to these comments is to respond to them with humor. It is a subtle yet effective means to say that: “Even though your comments come at the expense of my self-esteem, I’m not going to let it affect me detrimentally“.
Our families will always be there to challenge us to be better in order to live up to our potential, but the greatest challenge will always be learning how to love yourself. And part of loving yourself means being able to laugh at yourself and in doing so, take all their comments in stride.
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So let’s say one of your titos walks up to you and says in a gruff voice gone hoarse with too much whiskey and karaoke: “May girlfriend/boyfriend ka na?” In a situation like that my reply would be: “May asawa na nga din, Tito! Hindi mo na siguro maalala kasi ang lakas mong uminom sa reception.” [Not just a girlfriend, but a wife, Uncle! You probably just don’t remember on account of how much you drank during the wedding reception].
Similarly, when it comes to comments like “Tumaba ka na” said right before you and your family sit down to a meal together for maximum effect, there are a few options you might what to explore. If you’re more daring and direct, you could opt for the basic route and say: “Ikaw din, Tita, tumaba!” [You’ve also gotten fatter, Auntie!] or if you’re like me, you could go for the incongruous and say: “I’m eating for two now, Tita. Me and the baby. I’m the baby.”
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Another thing that our families do that bothers me supremely more than anything else mentioned so far is the sheer amount of photos they take. Or, to be more specific, the way they choose to take photos is what bothers me. It’s completely obnoxious to expect me to drop everything I’m doing for the sake of a photo. I personally might have enough patience for the first few times, but over an amount of time as long as the holidays or vacation and at the mercy of so many aunts and uncles each with their own camera, it all starts to become too much.
I’ve talked this over with my cousins and said that the best way to spare our future children, should we ever decide to have children, is to use one camera and just airdrop all the photos after. Until that day comes, the way I try to keep myself afloat in an endless sea of camera flashes is to make the photos as far opposed to the standard looking-forward-and-smiling type of poses. I try to make it interesting! I don’t look directly at the camera, make a funny face, pick my nose, and generally just make myself look as unflattering as possible.
GIF from GIPHY
In a world that says you have to look or act a certain way or have certain things, be a rebel. Dare to accept who you are, dare to be funny! With an outlook inclined to humor such as that, you become able to accept that what people say you should be is different from who you are. Through acceptance that comes with laughing at yourself, you turn the source your insecurities into a strength (or into less debilitating weaknesses at least; things like this, of course, take time).
All-in-all, never forget that if the comments of someone older, though they may be disguised as concern, yet cause you to lose confidence in yourself then maybe take a step back and think about it critically. Decide whether these comments are your problems or theirs, and ultimately use this knowledge to grow toward the intelligent, emotionally-secure, and well-adjusted individual you know you can be.
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