The Misanthrope at the Family Dinner
Contrary to common belief – especially the belief of all his acquaintances – the common misanthrope does not hate his relatives. Sometimes he even likes the old bastards. He merely prefers to avoid their actual, physical presence. If he has the means, he will probably move to another country, thus sparing himself much unnecessary headache. The average misanthrope, however, against both his will and common sense, will occasionally be forced to participate in a family gathering.
Thus comes the big clash between the family’s unexplained desire to meet the prodigal son as much as possible and the prodigal son’s desire to meet the family, and, come to think of it, anyone else, as little as possible, preferably not at all. The family has an unfair advantage here, it being the multitude of events that require a gathering: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Bar Mitzvahs, circumcision ceremonies, Friday night. The misanthrope, however, also has an unfair advantage, it being the fact that he doesn’t give a damn. He will gladly explain that holidays are anachronistic and barbaric manifestations of ancient and idiotic customs, birthdays are a sham, Bar Mitzvah and circumcision he’s already had once, which he considers way more than enough, and on Friday night he’s busy – he’s reading a book. The family, of course, will refuse to accept any of this, but to no avail, since the misanthrope will simply fail to arrive, and when asked or yelled about it later will merely say, “that’s the way it is, get used to it.”
This mode of behavior can work splendidly for many months, sometimes even years, until disaster strikes: a really-big-event-which-cannot-be-missed. Say, a parent celebrating half a century of life, most of which dedicated to nudging. This will cause the whole family to unite in dragging the poor misanthrope, the cute and gifted wandering lamb (says mother), that idiot (says father), to the family gathering. And thus, forced by the unfair laws of physics manifested in the fact that three uncles and one father have a combined mass of about twelve times his own, he will find himself bound to a long dinner table in front of many relatives that he has not met for years and never grieved their absence.
If you’ve had the misfortune of stumbling into a family dinner, you may identify the misanthrope quite easily by the following signs:
He’ll be late. He’ll arrive at the latest possible time, hoping in vain to reduce the amount of pain for everyone involved, that is, everyone who matters, that is, himself.
He’ll take a sit as far as possible from the most talkative, jolly or drunk relative. If there are babies anywhere, he’ll treat them in the same friendly and easygoing way in which Europe accepted the black plague.
He will show no affection towards his parents and siblings. In fact, the way he’ll stare at them would convince anyone of lesser knowledge than yourselves that he hates them more than anything in this world. Come to think about it, those people of lesser knowledge would be right in this case: at the moment there’s nothing in this world which the misanthrope hates more than the people who made him come here. This feeling will pass. Eventually. Maybe.
When some fool will try to start a conversation with him, the misanthrope’s reply will seem to be an outright insolence (if you’re the grandmother), a sheer vulgarity (if you’re one of the uncles) or some extraordinarily witty humor (if you’re a child under 7). With a bit of luck, the silly do-gooder will be offended enough to remain in a state of shocked silence for the rest of the evening.
If sentimental speeches are involved, take a good look at the misanthrope – it is very rare to see such an extreme amount of wrath emitted from a single person.
If one of the babies starts crying – same.
Finally the misanthrope will find a way, a reason or an excuse to evacuate himself from the premises as early as possible. Then, suddenly, everything will be alright with the world. His world.
Therefore, if you are the proud parents, siblings, uncles, aunts or other relatives of a misanthrope, here are a couple of tips which will help you survive a family dinner in his company:
Do not invite him.