Dec 042009
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

With fall break just a few days away, student anticipation of this week without school is at an all-time low. The thought of not attending classes, while briefly elating, is quickly subsumed by the much more pressing terror: time with your family.

Sometimes family can seem important, like right after a sappy holiday special, or if you need to borrow money or if the gaping void where your heart used to be gets an ache for human contact. To maximize this pleasant time and avoid being embarrassed or inconvenienced, you should prepare by focusing exclusively on the bad things. As always, I’m here to help.

If this is your first time returning home since you left for college, you may have changed somewhat, and you can expect to hear your family’s opinion on the matter. Let’s say you didn’t used to like girls, and now you do, or you’ve given up meat and you won’t be sharing in the roast beast, or you think that communism is peachy keen.

Your parents are likely from an era where such things were punishable by forty lashes with a stout birch rod. They may try to be understanding, but coping with change is hard. Thankfully, things are done changing and this won’t happen to you. Try to help your parents ease into change by demanding their instant and unconditional acceptance.

Now that this awkward re-introduction phase is out of the way, they may start asking how school is going. If you’re doing well, go ahead and be honest, but keep in mind that if you define well as “attending most classes” and they define well as “passing most classes”, you may be in for another culture clash.

An amateur move would be to attempt to dodge the question, which their close proximity over the course of the week will make impossible. The trick here is to not spend time with your family outside meals, and always have your mouth full of food. Given the strong mooching instincts of the migratory college student, this shouldn’t be hard.

They might try to ask about you getting a job, if you’re not already employed, or getting more hours if you are. This is a blatant attempt to encroach on your right to a responsibility-free four-year college experience, just as homework and exams are a violation of your right to sleep in until noon.

Try to explain the situation to them, using simple, honest words. Work is not fun, and your life is hard and complicated. Also if you got a job, you would not be able to get drunk on weekday nights if you had to work the following day. Try to wait until your parents are off work to discuss this, as they may not be able to listen as much as you deserve if you’ve stayed up to talk to them before their morning commute.

Toward the end of break, a very special day occurs: Black Friday. Your family may want to go shopping on this day, but don’t be confused. They don’t want to go shopping the right, normal way. They want to physically enter a store and examine products in real life instead of on the Internet.

This can be confusing to someone of our generation, but there are some people who don’t feel comfortable entrusting a credit card to faceless strangers and waiting six to eight weeks for delivery. This is perhaps the easiest hurdle to overcome. Your parents just don’t know shopping can be done online, and what could be simpler than sitting them down and explaining it to them?

With all of this focus on the ways your holiday break could become unpleasant, you’ll be certain to experience family as nature always has intended — behind a strained wall of carefully constructed lies. And isn’t that what the holidays should always be about?

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

 Posted by at 3:30 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.