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Brian Miller on Family

"Holiday Film" in The Seattle Weekly (December 14, 2000)

Today, with hectic, work-centered lives, busy social calendars, and precious little free time, people feel obligated yet resentful while gathering with kin during the holidays. Granted, a nice seder or Christmas dinner isn’t in itself so unpleasant. If one could just arrive, shovel down the food as quickly as possible, then bolt for the door, such occasions would be tolerable. The problem is that for all denominations these feasts have been institutionalized in American culture; they’re compulsory, a sign of good citizenship and family values. This enforced proximity with blood relations naturally builds to a breaking point. There’s only so much you can hear about your batty aunt’s goiter. There are only so many times you can coo over the new baby or suffer small children poking action figures into your eyes. And don’t let’s start with your mother about when you’re finally going to get married! As breakfast drags on to brunch drags on to dinner, surrounded by family members, there’s this mounting revulsion that you share their same receding hairlines, their same tendency toward cellulite, their same horsy, nasal laughs, their very same DNA. That’s usually the trigger that sets you fleeing in fear and disgust.