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Play this Awkward Game with Your Family When You’re Home for the Holidays

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Famous TV dining room

This year, while basking in the perennial womb that is your family, however that is defined for you, take some time near the end of your tenure at wherever you call home and play a little game.  It’s called “High, Low…Uh-Oh”. I’ll explain.

At my household, usually on the last night before my sister and I head back to our respective grown-up lives, my entire family lingers around the dinner table after the meal and someone announces that it’s time to play “a game”. To the outsider, this could easily be seen as a terrifying declaration, a death knell sounding over leftover pie. However, to me and my at once neurotic and gregarious family, this signifies that the party is just getting started.

The rules are simple. Each person at the table is required to announce what they felt to be the “High” point of their time spent at home, the “Low” point, and then, in an odd twist, they are asked to describe a time in which they thought:  “Uh-Oh!” Sounds easy right? Well, depending on how things went that year, let’s just say that the results can vary quite a bit.

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Sometimes, people take the easy road and give predictable, safe responses. This is usually done in the “High” category. To wit:

“My high point this year was the breakfast served on Christmas morning. That egg dish warms my heart every time.”

“When I first walked through the door and saw the tree and mom sitting by the fire. That was definitely my high point.”

Yawn! Not to worry though, next up is the low point, and that’s where things can get dicey.

“My low point was when dad yelled at us because we were late to the family movie engagement.”

“I would say my low point was when my sister had a panic attack on Christmas morning, took a Xanax, and was an affect-devoid zombie for the rest of the day. I wish that had panned out differently.”

As you can see, things can become contentious at the drop of a hat. After that last little comment, my sister shot right back at me during her turn.

“Well, my low point was when Stephen went out on Christmas night and got so drunk with his friends that he missed breakfast the next day due to the fact that he needed to get a Bloody Mary at some bar—because he couldn’t stop drinking.”

Thanks, sis! But wait, the fun’s not over yet. Now comes the “Uh Oh!” portion of the game. If you are confused by what this section entails, that’s ok. We are a strange breed at my household, so I understand it may take some explaining.  “Uh-Oh!” is reserved for times neither bad nor god but, well…unsettling. This part really affords the speaker a blank canvas on which he or she may artfully craft an incendiary, compassionate and accurate masterpiece.

“Hmm. I’d have to say my ‘uh-oh’ moment was when mom took a nap during the middle of the day on Christmas Eve. It pushed the dinner party back and quite frankly I was concerned for her well being.”

“My uh oh moment was when Uncle Ed decided he was going to make a stew last night but didn’t tell anybody about it and got personally offended when we mentioned other dinner plans. I didn’t think he had to sulk so much at the table afterward, since we all stayed and ate the stew. Then he snapped at mom for some reason. That was weird.”

All told, the game is a great way to sort of wrap things up after a heavy dose of holiday cheer. In fact, it’s not unlike a SportsCenter highlight reel of your trip back home.  But the truth is, the game—however odd and at times dangerous—really brings us together as a family. It helps us laugh at our idiosyncrasies and ultimately celebrate what we love about one another so much. The whole thing has this weird formal, boardroom feel to it and that in itself cracks me up since the game is being played in a poinsettia-clad dining room over the subtle croonings of Bing Crosby. All told, I love my family because we are so intertwined in each other’s lives that creepy games like this one are even possible. Indeed, people sometimes get upset (did she really have to bring up the morning trip to the bar?) but more often than not we leave the table laughing until we all pass out at our respective stations in the living room.

Happy Holidays!

Photo Credt: Shofer’s

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Stephen Jackson - In Therapy

Stephen Jackson - In Therapy

For the most part, Stephen wanders around looking for people to talk to. Born in Manhattan and raised in Santa Monica, he's been cultivating the skill of living large on a dime since he began hoarding his juice boxes in preschool. Currently, the majority of his time is spent raising a dog and feigning wealth.