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Happiest Season Movie Review, and Setting Boundaries for the Holidays

By: Kristen Pinchbeck

Like many Americans this Thanksgiving, I opted out of the big family gathering and decided to stay home for a quiet day at home with my girlfriend. After a long morning of loud neighbors and emotions about not being with our families for Thanksgiving, we finally settled in to watch Happiest Season, which we had been looking forward to for weeks. We expected this to be Hulu’s equivalent to an LGBT Hallmark movie about our lesbian life, but we could not have been more wrong.

I expected the next 102 minutes to be hilarious, uplifting, and start the train of Christmas joy in our home. Instead, I was cringing as we were thrown right back into the closet we just came out of two months ago when my girlfriend came out to her family. It was hard to feel any holiday joy while I was having heart palpitations and flashbacks to visiting my girlfriend’s family before she had come out to them. For anyone who has spent any time in the closet, this movie will bring up all kinds of triggers.

One of the most triggering parts of the movie was the complete absence of any boundaries in the relationships of all of the characters. Families often send mixed messages when it comes to boundaries, but they can be very important to establish when you visit family as an adult.

Navigating the holiday season is challenging for a lot of people, whether you are fully out and proud or still in the closet. As someone who just took their first visit as an out couple to their partner’s family home (after almost two years of being together and making several trips to visit her family while still being in the closet), I have a few suggestions on how to set boundaries for you and your relationship.

Boundary Tips

  • Remember that you are your biggest supporter and get to choose what you do, who you do it with, and when you do these things.

    • For example, If your partner wants to go shopping with their mom, it is ok to say you want to stay home and read your book (even if you don’t actually read the book).

  • Know your triggers and prepare for them.

    • For example, if you know that extremely gendered religious language is triggering for you, remember to breathe and understand that this is the only language your family, or your partner’s family knows and not a personal attack on you.

  • Remember to use “I” statements when discussing your boundaries to make your family more receptive.

    • (Instead of “you guys are draining and I need some alone time” try “I am feeling a little tired and need to: go take a nap, shower, read a book, etc.)

  • If you are in a relationship, make sure you and your partner go into the trip to see the family as a united front. Have clear set expectations and some boundaries you want for your relationship.

    • This could look like telling your partner that you need to take a walk with them every day to get some alone time, or deciding what level of PDA you are comfortable with in front of the family.

  • Make sure to still practice self care both for yourself and as a couple, especially around family that can be draining

    • Go for a walk

    • Meditate

    • Read a book

    • Take a shower

    • Take a nap

    • Go for a drive if there are no other quiet options

    • Drink water in between glasses of wine or cups of coffee

    • Remember what you are thankful for, gratitude helps stop the spinning

Boundaries in the Time of Covid

It is also worth mentioning that boundaries may look a little different in this time of Covid. It is important to address what your holiday will look like with your family before getting together.

Some important things to discuss with your family and friends could be:

  • What have your activities over the last 7-10 days looked like including work, travel, personal engagements, shopping trips, etc?

  • Do you wear a mask correctly on a regular basis?

  • Will we be wearing masks and social distancing when we gather?

  • Will we be inside or outside? And if we are inside, will there be air ventilation?

  • What do meals look like? Will we all bring our own or have a sanitizing station before serving ourselves?

  • If I don’t feel comfortable gathering in person, can we do a zoom or facetime gathering?

Navigating family can be tricky, and navigating family during a pandemic can be even trickier. Hopefully, these few suggestions will help you stay safe, happy, and healthy this holiday season. I hope your holiday does not include the toxic family drama of Happiest Season, but if it does, know that you are not alone and that there are ways you can improve your situation by adding some boundaries.

Be kind to yourself, set your boundaries, respect other people’s boundaries, and have a happy Holiday season!


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