Debbie loved the holiday season but dreaded those family gatherings. Some people look forward all year to getting together with relatives. But Debbie’s stomach knotted up whenever the thought came to mind—mainly because of Dwayne, her creepy cousin. Most of her relatives were tolerable, not the people you’d spend time with if you weren’t related to them but bearable in small doses. But Dwayne was in his own special category—despicable under any and all circumstances. In conversations, he’d always step inside that unspoken but understood personal zone that creates discomfort when violated. He had other benignly irritating traits like talking too loud, laughing too long, picking his nose, and dressing like he was playing the part of a nerd in high school skit. But other traits seemed more malignant—like telling Debbie filthy jokes and continually making sexually inappropriate remarks. And it always seemed to happen away from other family members. Debbie’s “creep meter” screeched like a Geiger counter next to a nuclear meltdown.
Over the years, Debbie had learned that the only way to deal effectively with Dwayne was to spend some time planning ahead. Based on previous experience, she knew there were certain ways she could sidestep Dwayne’s revolting infringements. For instance, to counteract his way-too-long hugs upon first arrival, she would offer handshake instead. She stayed vigilant and never let herself be in a room alone with him. She never sat down on a couch with an open space beside her, figuring he would occupy it if available. And to cover herself in unanticipated awkward moments with Dwayne, she would excuse herself by saying, “Oh, sorry, my phone is vibrating so I need to take this call,” and then leave the room.
Her use of some pre-planned creep-avoidance strategies enabled her to minimize the dreadfulness of her holiday family gatherings.