Sometimes worrying doesn't change anything - The Musical!
December 12, 2010 4:04 AM   Subscribe

Help me make a playlist for a stressful Christmas!

Sorry human-relations-question haters. You can skip to the bottom if you don't want to read the gory details and just want to give music recommendations.


I am heading home to visit my parents for Christmas, partner in tow, in about a week (we are staying in their basement per their request.) I have been dating my partner for about 2.5 years, and this will be our second Christmas spent with them.

I love my parents very much, but they, particularly my mother, are very anxious people. I live across the country from them, and this is difficult for them, especially since I finished college and am living on my own (partner is part-time long distance.) My partner they have met on three or four trips.

Special and new for this year, they want to sit down with the two of us immediately after our arrival to have a Serious Talk with us, because they are Concerned. This conversation will be about several things (they have declined to list them for us), but mostly having to do with my partner and our relationship. The issues are not about his behavior or dynamics in our relationship, but about facts in our life that cannot be changed, such as family health conditions (sidenote, both of my parents are medical professionals.) They are concerned that I do not understand the gravity of these situations. They are also concerned that my partner does not understand their gravity, despite having lived with them his entire life.

This understandable upsets my partner, and me. Separately they are concerned about a host of other things that cast doubt on our ability to be a successful couple, such as all the terrible disasters that might happen if we open a joint checking account (we will be getting financial advice and writing a contract together, so it's not as if we're bumbling around here.)

I am all prepared to support/defend my partner and be the buffer between him and my family per usual Mefi advice in these situations. But this is going to be an incredibly stressful and painful conversation for us. And then we'll be around them for a week (unless we give up and go to a hotel.) I have asked them on multiple occasions to define the goals of the conversation (Can you help us identify solutions to problems that you see? Are there behaviors you want us to change? Neither of these got a firm answer.) The goal that my mother has articulated is for us to "hear our concerns, and appreciate how difficult these problems really are" - though these concerns have been voiced in a more scattered way on multiple occasions. She says that she is very worried and that she "can't not say something about these things."

We will be attempting to help calm their worries and talk with them about what is already being done to manage situations, and also to set some boundaries about how they talk to my partner and the level of control they can expect to have over me/us. I am prone to anxiety myself and do NOT want to allow them to make me anxious and upset about situations that I currently feel serious and sometimes sad, but capable about.


My parents are going to drop a heap of worries on us and probably be offensive and unwelcoming toward my partner. After that we will live in their house for seven days! Fun times!

I would like some music to listen to about all of this, both for psyching myself up and for recuperating afterward. Cheesiness is okay, especially if we can use it to laugh at ourselves/the situation. Cathartic and serious is also great. Topics might include:

- Christmas sucks
- Being an adult and making your own decisions
- Not succumbing to anxiety
- Defending your partner from people who are being mean
- Defending yourself from people who are being mean/ Standing up for yourself
- Parents are human
- People cannot give you what you need sometimes
- Songs about getting through stressful and angry-making times generally are good too
- Anything else that springs to mind from that novel I just wrote up there.

The only thing I have been able to think of so far is You're not the boss of me now but some selections with a little more depth would be nice too :)
posted by heyforfour to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Blink 182: I Won't Be Home For Christmas.

Ridiculous but oh-so-stress-relieving at this time of year. It has made me laugh through a few Christmas's when I just wanted to sob.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:18 AM on December 12, 2010

Eeew, I'm sorry, that link has Mr Wikipedia himself gazing adoringly at you. How about we try this one, so at least you get the idea of the lyrics?

(My kids start to laugh when I sing the first couple of lines, when our family is causing us grief and stress during Christmas.)

Have a good Christmas!
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:23 AM on December 12, 2010

It Sure Don't Feel Like Christmas - by the Mighty Boss Tones
Santa Don't Cop Out On Dope - By Sonic Youth
Father Christmas - by The Kinks
Fuck You Santa - A voicedude mash-up (it can be downloaded free on that site)
posted by Flood at 4:42 AM on December 12, 2010

As a child of anxious parents (although ones that keep their mouths shut and just quietly judge), I ask - why the hell are you going?
posted by k8t at 4:42 AM on December 12, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Family
posted by Erasmouse at 4:58 AM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: k8t - *sigh*

Mostly because I'm 24 and only have about a year under my belt of working out how much "my" anxiety is actually not mine or my problem. The level of freakout they are exhibiting this year is also new. And I'm still figuring out what kind of relationship I'm going to have with my parents as an adult, and determining if boundaries can be set in a way that lets me visit them in relative peace.

So for now, cathartic tunes and probably some strategic long absences from the house.
posted by heyforfour at 5:10 AM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: In Spite of Ourselves by John Prine (and Iris Dement) is not so much of a Christmas tune as a silly "love song", but always puts a smile on my face. But it falls loosely in your "being and adult and making your own decisions" category. And it is cheesy too! I love it.

I'm still figuring out what kind of relationship I'm going to have with my parents as an adult, and determining if boundaries can be set in a way that lets me visit them in relative peace.

I think the best way to see if boundaries can be set is to actually set them. If it was me, I would start by politely telling them that you are not going to participate in the Big Sit Down or allow them to trash your partner at all during your trip. It is hard to do, but not allowing them to dump their anxieties on to you and your partner seems a pretty reasonable boundary to me.
posted by murrey at 5:38 AM on December 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think you'll find a good selection here, but I specifically recommend Merry Christmas, Baby (Please Don't Die).
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:20 AM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: Fairy Tale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty McColl. I know it doesn't relate to quite the same issues but I always found it pretty therapeutic to shout that great line during stressful family holidays!
posted by Mnky197 at 7:27 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you could play them Christmas Card From Hooker In Minneapolis to point out how totally together you are? Even if not, it's awfully good.
posted by dizziest at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Elf's Lament by Barenaked Ladies, while not a relationship song is a stick-it-to-the-man song with a large dash of Christmas and humor. It got me through a bad time, and I hope it helps you too.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:38 AM on December 12, 2010

Not a Xmas song, but I'm An Adult Now might fit the bill.
posted by fairmettle at 7:48 AM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: I don't have any suggestions for you; I just popped in to lend support.
I have a long term illness and have been married for nearly 20 years so those things are not mutually exclusive.
In relationships, illness and Life In General, what happens is NOT usually what you think will happen. Your parents need to understand that YOU understand this.
Merry Christmas!
posted by pentagoet at 8:05 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Upon consideration, perhaps something has changed in THEIR lives. Just throwin' it out.
posted by pentagoet at 8:06 AM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: I feel so sorry for you guys reading this.

I have to say though: getting a hotel room is probably going to be far more helpful to your psyches than a kewl neato playlist will be (even though I love the suggestions on this list). So by all means, keep that in mind. It sounds like you're going to need that escape if they're going to drop fifteen worry bombs on your head the second you arrive.

I wish you luck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:18 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuck you by Lily Allen.

As someone who is unfortunately in your partner's place I beg you to leave them out of your dysfunctional dynamics. You will NOT be able to protect him or have him unhear the unfair and horrible things your parents will say to both of you. Because of the power dynamics he will not be able to defend himself without making either you or his parents angry (look up triangulation, I would recommend the book Toxic In-laws for both of you).

You will not be a buffer for him and as an anxious person you are probably going to be leaning heavily on him for emotional support when HE will need it, isolated from his regular support system and in an incredibly stressful situation that you have created. This is planned by your parents to increase the odds of you breaking up. Part of being an adult is avoiding situations that you know will not end well. My heart breaks for your partner that you are willing to throw him under the bus like this.
posted by saucysault at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

he will not be able to defend himself without making either you or *your parents angry.
posted by saucysault at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2010

Oh, and I hate to be a nag but you said yourself that the prospect of this conversation is upsetting your partner. SOMEbody's feelings are going to get hurt - your parent's because you won't allow them to control you (and by extension him) and have this conversation; your partner because his health is being used as a justification for why he can't make adult decisions; or you because your parents will be mad you aren't acting like a two year old who will do exactly what her parent's tell her to do. That you have chosen to hurt your partner speaks volumes about your priorities.

You have already identified that your parents do not have new information to tell you, them telling you how to live your life is not support (I am sure they have tried to frame it as such to you). Support is doing something for you that you can't do for yourself. Trying to make decisions for you that you are capable of making yourself is infantising behaviour, designed to keep you in their control and eroding healthy boundries snf your own self-confidence.

I know it is hard to navigate being an adult with dysfunctional parents but you have to start setting appropriate boundaries now. If I were you, I'd head to your partner's parent's place until your own parents grow up.
posted by saucysault at 11:13 AM on December 12, 2010

And I'm still figuring out what kind of relationship I'm going to have with my parents as an adult, and determining if boundaries can be set in a way that lets me visit them in relative peace.

I implore you to do this now. I'm 37, and have spent many, many years trying to gently withdraw from my parents' "over-protectiveness" as to not hurt their feelings, while encouraging evolution into an adult parent-child relationship.

After some spectacularly irrational arguments over the last several years, I'm finally ready to classify my father's behavior as controlling. (Your playlist from this question is going to come in handy for me this Xmas as well.)

Don't stay with them. The dynamics of you demonstrating that you're an adult will be impossible with you "under their roof." Get a hotel room.
posted by desuetude at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: I think the best way to see if boundaries can be set is to actually set them.


After a string of extremely stressful Christmases, I took a break for a few years. I came to town around the 28th or so and stayed for New Year's. My terms. My visit. Period.

Now I can go home for Christmas and it's not nearly insane, because my family knows I will be doing what works for me. Sometimes it's still stressy, but I have the power to participate or not each year, and my family knows that I'll do what I want.
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2010

"Rusty Chevrolet" by Da Yoopers cracks me up.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:45 PM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the musical and extra-musical suggestions, everyone. The SO has been reading this thread with me and it's been very helpful for both of us. He very much wants to support me by coming on this trip, which I'm grateful for, and I'm feeling prepared to set boundaries on our visit and insulate him from unproductive parent behavior. pentagoet's point is also well taken - both of my parents have stressful academic commitments and milestones at the moment.

We are taking off the day after The Conversation for a two-day visit to a friend of SO's who lives in a nearby city, returning shortly before Xmas - and if things go badly with my parents the return will be to a hotel.
posted by heyforfour at 12:13 PM on December 15, 2010

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