Janie Charles has been emotionally exhausted ever since she returned to her family home outside Richmond, Virginia this holiday season. And while Charles’ interactions with family members have been without incident, she has managed to suffer from several terrible, imagined conversations with them.
“It started when we were making cookies with my mom,” says Charles. “I almost mentioned that a friend of mine has a weed brownie business but I didn’t because I knew she’d say something about the dangers of weed and that I should be careful who I hang out with and then I imagined myself screaming at her about her wine habit and huffing out of the room.”
Charles says the imagined arguments around tense political and cultural issues are almost as exhausting as the real thing.
“I decided to go out for a walk and then I heard my mom and grandmother in my head say something about how I might want to cool it on the cookies,” she added. “They didn’t really say any of that, but they easily could have and were probably thinking it. And that hurts.”
The imagined slights from her family cover an array of topics from the political to the personal.
“My family didn’t say anything racist this year, but they easily could’ve. The right topic just didn’t really come up,” says Charles. “I also feel like they would’ve had some horrible things to say if anyone had asked about my dating life. Like, yes, I am trying to get out there and no I’m not too picky. Jeez.”
When asked how the holiday break is going, Charles’ mother says: “We’ve been having a really good time this year. Thank God Janie didn’t bother us about the president. We think he’s doing his best.”