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damage@globeandmail.com

The question

My mother has hosted our extended-family Christmas get-together for as long as I can remember, but this year she's opted out as it's just too much work at her age. Now my cousin's eagerly taken over, planning a party that will require almost everyone - except her - to travel three hours and stay overnight if they want to drink, and she's asking us all to pitch in for a dive-y rental hall. It's more hassle than it's worth, so I made up an excuse to bail. My mom's furious at me, but why should I feel obligated to drag myself hours away to something so cheesy?

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THE ANSWER

I have to tread carefully here. I don't want to be guilty of the sin of hypocrisy, especially at this time of year. I've been known to "bail" on quite a few family functions myself. But it always has to do with work. To me, the only really acceptable excuse for sidestepping family functions is business. Inconvenience and a lousy venue ... not so much.

So you have to drive three hours. Get a book on tape. And if the hall your cousin's rented is a little cheesy, well, it's still family. You'll stand around, have a few laughs, nibble some canapés, swill some plonk, all in the name of solidarity and consanguinity.

Or, if that doesn't work for you, why don't you make a counter-offer to host the festivities in your own no doubt elegant, tastefully appointed home?

That way you'll have control over not only the decor and surroundings, but also the music and the food and drink. And you won't have to travel at all - well, except, of course, for the endless trips to the liquor store, the grocery store, the glass-rental place, etc.

Now, maybe your response to that suggestion is: "Ah, hell no, Dave, I don't want to take on that kind of mountain of work and the horrible hassle of inviting everyone to my place - not to mention the expense! I'm already stretched thin enough this time of year."

If that's the case, then I say unto you: Maybe you should have a little tête-à-tête with the man in the mirror and realize what a hypocrite you're being; and try to show a little more festive, holiday appreciation for what a big job your cousin has undertaken on behalf of you and everyone else in the family.

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Your job is a cinch compared with your cousin's, after all. It's a breeze! All you have to do is hop in your car, drive to the hall, cough up a couple of shekels, sip a little nog. ...

And have a little fun.

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