“sitting down at the dinner table is like letting go of unexploded ammunition and just waiting for it to go off. It’s painful to hear your parents – the ones supposed to protect you – endorse and exacerbate the very prejudices and misinformation that caused the traumatic injustices that you and your friends have had to experience.”
Dear Past Me,
The Christmas holidays will not always be so hard.
I know that for you, sitting down at the dinner table is like letting go of unexploded ammunition and just waiting for it to go off. It’s painful to hear your parents – the ones supposed to protect you – endorse and exacerbate the very prejudices and misinformation that caused the traumatic injustices that you and your friends have had to experience.
I know you’re faced with a horrible choice. Argue back, stand up for your beliefs and your very right to exist as you do in this world, but leave the table crying. Or stay silent, protect your peace just a little bit, but have to bottle up the cocktail of outrage, fury, shame and hurt inside. Those times you will walk away from the table not crying, but fuming. At least you’re not putting a bandage on the shock of conflict and shouting, but instead, you’ll be nursing guilt – does your silence make you complicit?
You have never been the type to take injustice lying down. You are always the first to leave toxic friend groups, stand up to a bully or defend yourself from a lie – even if you’re left lonely, mocked, or hating yourself for whatever your opponents saw in you that made you an easy target for their hostility. In the end, you have always been rewarded for your courage, as healthier and more loving friendships take the spaces where you sliced off the decayed ones. But you speak up against your family, too, and you can’t escape them. You don’t want to. You need the support system. So you’re stuck in this environment of awkwardness and broken eggshells, and I know you can’t stand it. Everything in you wishes you could run away and find something better suited to you. That’s the original snub from life: you can’t choose your family.
As you’ve already begun to realise, certain arguments are not worth having.
Because there’s a difference between arguments to persuade and arguments to antagonise. Your family doesn’t care about your opinion. They want to assert their superiority over the groups or the movements they oppose, and you are the closest thing they can reach. They want the pathetic scraps of validation from beating the younger, gentler, more idealistic, more feminine person in a debate. They view you as a snowflake for opposing them, and they will treat you as such. So you have learned to stay quiet, suppress your anger, and not add fuel to the fire.
But you are not a snowflake.
Because here’s the thing:
Your wisdom is just as valid as theirs. Moreover, you are wise enough to realise that being from a different generation, with different experiences, should be a source of enrichment in a discussion, not competition and criticism. Despite the way you have been treated, you do not patronise those you disagree with. You hear them out and try to understand where they are coming from.
And the fact that they patronise you?
That only shows that they’re not worth taking seriously either. Don’t shy away from your opinions. State them. And when they raise their voice, condescend to you, try to provoke you? Laugh. I mean it. Laugh in their face. Laugh at the idiocy of the entire thing. Laugh in defiance of superciliousness.
You will laugh and they will be shocked that you are not the snowflake they took you for. You will call them out on their arrogance; they will admit to it. You will not change their minds, but they weren’t trying to change yours. There will come an impasse – not of agreement, but at least a bit more respect.
And in time, your Christmasses will be spent with a new, chosen family: your partner, your friends, their families, and maybe even some wee progenies of your own. There you will never be belittled at the dinner table.
I’m proud to say that you will, one day soon, stride into the dining room with confidence, and your family will begin to see you as you are: not a snowflake, but someone who can hold their own.
Graphic by the lovely Lucia Villegas.