No matter how much you enjoy sitting curled up on the sofa with a beautiful woman, drinking tea, watching a cheesy Christmas film and sharing a Cadbury’s selection box because you’re both just big kids at heart, always be aware of what’s to come. It’s not nice when just as you’re about to lean in for a kiss, said beautiful woman, henceforth known as Martha Jones, declares that you need to start getting ready for Christmas dinner with her family. It can completely ruin the mood.
Decide what you’re going to wear a few days before.
Especially if you have inherited certain indecisive aspects from a certain redhead, and fuss and fret over very unmanly things such as clothes and hair. Plus, if you decide what you’re wearing when Martha isn’t there, she won’t laugh at you and tease you about being such a woman when you spend three hours trying on every shirt and every pair of jeans you own.
Remember that if you agreed to it, there’s no getting out of it.
Sometimes you say you’ll do something and then regret it later when the time comes. Always remember that women like Martha Jones don’t back down when you’ve already agreed to do something. No matter how many times you say “Do you think it’s wise for me to spend Christmas with your mother after what happened last time?” And for the record, I wasn’t actually stroking her breasts, I was mopping up my drink.
Understand what is appropriate.
When greeting parents, a friendly handshake and a ‘Merry Christmas’ are probably more appropriate than a full on hug. Martha may like being enveloped in a great big bear hug, but her mother doesn’t. Nor does her father, for that matter. Martha said it’s something to do with personal space.
Don’t get involved in arguments between siblings.
When Tish asks you for your opinion, she doesn’t want your opinion, she wants you to agree with her. Yes, it got you a matey slap on the back from Leo, but was it really worth the death glare Tish sent you? Probably not, behind the bubbly personality, Leticia Jones is just as fierce as her mother.
Remember that curiosity killed the cat.
When no one else seems to hear the shouting and crashes from the kitchen, that means you ignore it. Going to investigate is not a good idea, particularly when Francine and Clive Jones are in the heat of an argument and Francine is holding a saucepan. I have never run so fast in my life. To make matters worse Martha and her siblings were falling about laughing when I came back into the living room.
Use your brain.
Remember that mulled wine is hot. And stains when you drop it in surprise on cream settees. Also, pulling a cracker over the jug of gravy isn’t wise, particularly when the keyring/corkscrew/pen comes flying out, landing into the too-thick gravy.
Don’t mention that the gravy is too thick.
Speaks for itself really. Once you’ve finished fishing the keyring out, and the whole table is staring at you, it is then not wise to try and pour the gravy and complain that it’s not coming out of the jug. I also wouldn’t recommend shaking the jug, as that can have disastrous consequences.
Subtly check how happy the hostess looks.
If she is looking cheerful, and taking the rough with the smooth, it shows she is in good humour and your clumsiness is amusing her more than annoying her. If, however, she is closing her eyes and counting to ten, and knocking back the wine like there’s no tomorrow, that’s a cue for you to shut up and meekly eat your dinner, only commenting on how nice it was at the end of the meal. It’s a pity I don’t practice what I preach.
If you can’t hold your drink, avoid it.
At Tish’s party last month, where the mopping up the drink incident happened, I discovered that it doesn’t take much to get me intoxicated, and that one glass of champagne makes me unsteady on my feet and more than a little giggly. In fact very giggly. As in little girl giggly. Luckily, this time round, I had Martha to stop me accepting any more wine, even though I was sure I’d be able to handle it this time.
Know your limits.
Yes, there’s enough food to feed an army, yes, you don’t want to look rude, but if you eat too much, you’ll regret it. When Francine offers you some more roast potatoes, or Clive insists on topping up your plate with vegetables, or they ask if you want another bit of turkey, DON’T say “Oh go on then, just a bit.” The minute you say that you’ll find yourself faced with a plate more full than when you started. Politely decline and sip your fruit juice instead.
Leave room for dessert.
You may be proud that there’s not a scrap of food on your plate, but don’t declare that you “couldn’t eat another bite” just as Clive brings in the Christmas pudding.
Offer to help clear up.
Francine will thank you for it, and it earns you lots of brownie points. I want nothing more than to get in her good books, I’ve been slapped by Francine Jones before and it’s not something I want to happen again.
Find somewhere comfy to sit.
Or find yourself a nice soft Martha to lean against as you moan in agony because you’ve eaten too much. She’ll be nice to you because it’s Christmas and she feels sorry for you, and she’ll rub your belly to soothe the aching. Martha’s not a doctor for nothing. And maybe if you’re lucky she’ll stroke your hair as she natters away to Tish about a New Year’s party they’re planning.
Provide interesting anecdotes in the post-meal conversation.
People are interested in tales about sentient scarves on Vlek that tried to strangle you, and killer Christmas trees. They may look at you bemusedly, but at least Martha hugs you fondly when someone steers the conversation in a different direction to put an end to the awkward silence.
Don’t complain about the choice of film.
When you finally decide on one of the many and varied Christmas films shown on television, don’t complain because you didn’t get your choice. Even if you do prefer ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Watching a film is the opportune time to snuggle up to Martha, resting your chin on her head and pressing discreet kisses to her neck when the rest of her family aren’t looking. Although the knowing smile on Tish’s face is probably nothing to do with the film.
Be prepared for tears.
You go outside for a breath of fresh air, but instead find Tish shouting at someone on the phone, then dissolving into tears the minute she hangs up. It’s your job to comfort her, even if the situation is uncomfortable and you’d rather be singing Christmas carols with a Dalek.
When Leo challenges you to a game on his Xbox, try not to beat him every single time; it’ll wound his pride, and make him look less of a man, which, apparently, is always bad, even when only your sisters are watching. Particularly when your sisters are watching. According to Leo there’s nothing worse than being ridiculed by both of your sisters. I wouldn’t know, they called me a geek and a nerd but they seemed impressed.
Even when you hear Francine mentioning your name when talking to Martha. Even if they appear to be arguing about something. Hanging around, trying to be inconspicuous doesn’t work - they just move into another room.
Don’t make too much noise.
Because you may just return from the bathroom and find Martha curled up fast asleep on the sofa, tired out because she’s been working such long shifts recently. Enjoy the moment, watch her sleep for a few minutes before Francine brings a blanket down, and drapes it over her. Then, kiss Martha’s forehead gently before retiring into the kitchen with the rest of the Joneses.
Goodbyes are important.
You want to leave a good impression. As you support Martha as she sleepily leans against you, smile and say how much you’ve enjoyed yourself and what a wonderful meal it was. I was particularly surprised when Francine kissed me on the cheek. The lesson to be learnt is: even if you think you’ve ruined everything by acting like a total prat, people sometimes surprise you, and you realise that maybe you weren’t so bad after all. Or maybe you were and they’re just very forgiving.
Get a taxi home.
Firstly because of the practical reasons: you’ve both had a drink, and you’re both tired. But mainly because then you can sit in the back and hold Martha while she murmurs in her sleep, and looks so beautiful and peaceful that you can’t help but kiss her again. And when she wakes up and smiles drowsily at you, you can apologise for waking her but she’ll just snuggle up closer, and murmur something so quietly you can barely make it out, but then you realise it’s those three words that are so important to humans, and you smile, and whisper them back.
Don’t get distracted.
Don’t write guides about spending time with the Jones family and then get distracted by Martha Jones. Again, I can’t seem to practice what I preach.