Growing up, I didn't realize just how different my family was from everyone else's
I thought every family drank gallons of champagne on holidays and spoke openly about their sexual encounters at the dinner table.
I thought everyone had an outspoken, glamourous mother, who tended to dance on table tops.
Wait, you guys don't get into heated debates about your incarcerated family member? Your sister doesn't loudly proclaim that her sex life sucks? Your father doesn't rank his children in order of favorites at every family event?
You see, I didn't realize that I come from a crazy, wild, fabulous, champagne-guzzling, outrageous family until I was about 16 years old, when I spent Thanksgiving at my high school boyfriend's house.
At the time, I was shocked because everyone wore JEANS to dinner, and I couldn't believe no one even got buzzed, let alone drunk and rowdy.
I was only a teen, but I had been getting drunk and rowdy with my family for at least the past two Thanksgivings.
Where was the salacious sex talk? Where were the political arguments? Why weren't they hysterically laughing one moment and hysterically crying the next? Where were the fabulous family friends and gay boys in skirts?
Was this how most of America spent their Thanksgiving holidays?
That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks: My family isn't normal, baby. They're nuts, in the most fabulous way possible.
With this realization still fresh in my mind, when I was in my early 20s, I was embarrassed about introducing my significant other, Sadie*, to my family.
I had already met Sadie's family, and they were beyond conservative. They played fucking board games (gag), they were all sober (double gag) and they sat in complete silence at the dinner table (triple gag).
"Mum, do you think you could, like, tone it down a bit when Sadie comes for Thanksgiving?" I made the mistake of asking my mother on the phone.
Do not try to paint your family as something they're not.
"How DARE you ask me not to be myself, Zara! I am who I am!" my mother shouted in her posh English accent.
"Just don't talk about the time I accidentally took too much Xanax, and you had Jaymie [my sister] throw me in the shower because I was so out of it," I pleaded.
"Of course not, darling," she purred back, as if it was ridiculous for me to even request such a thing.
Immediately, I knew I was screwed. There is no holding anyone back in my family, and there is literally no way to control what comes out of my mother's — or any member of family's — mouth.
Whatever cover I had attempted to throw over my crazy life was about to be blown right off.
Of course, the whole thing was a mess, and everything I feared would happen did indeed happen. Sadie was sort of freaked out, but Sadie ended up being a total dud I would dump a few months later.
But through that experience, I learned exactly how to navigate bringing your new bae to meet your crazy family.
The bottom line is, do not try to paint your family as something they're not. It's imperative that you're super clear with bae.
In my case, I always tell my SO, "I love my family. They're super fabulous, but they're unconventional. They will embarrass me for sure, and they might shock you with their candid sex talk, but they're really amazing people."
You need to prepare bae for the storm they're about to enter. However, you don't want to talk shit about your family either.
Even though your family is bonkers, I know you love them with every fiber of your being. And you should never undermine your love for your family just to make bae feel more comfortable.
My other piece of advice would be to not try to control your family. They don't like restrictions.
And if you ask your crazy family not to bring something up, odds are, they'll do the opposite. Then, you'll be stressed AF the entire night, freaking out that your family is going to reveal something you asked them not to reveal.
At the end of the day, you should never apologize for your crazy family, and you should never be ashamed of where you come from.
If bae is the one, bae will be super into your crazy family, too.
If bae loves you, then bae better love where you come from, because you are where you come from. I am Zara Barrie because I'm the daughter of the fierce, untamable Lynn Barrie.
And chances are, if bae is the one, bae will be super into your crazy family, too. So if you're freaking out, take a deep breath, girl. Imagine yourself on a mountain top in Northern California, meditating with your hair in a perfect ponytail.
You got this, babes. We both got this. No one died from being embarrassed by Crazy Aunt Mary.
Take comfort in knowing that if bae is scared off by your cray-cray family, it's probably time to let bae go. If he or she can't handle your family, then they can't handle you.
Remember, kittens, I'm your lesbian big sister, and I'm here for you this holiday season. If you need some extra words of encouragement, message me.
(Oh, and don't drink too much, but feel free to give bae a heavy pour of wine. The more buzzed bae is, the less freaked out they'll be.)