The Romance Lover’s Guide to Escaping Terrible Convos by Esme Brett

Not actually a guide. More of a romp with lols.

The romance lover’s guide* to escaping terrible convos

[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have writer Esme Brett guest post on the site today. Take it away, Esme!]

The holidays are a magical time: Michael Bublé, pine scented candles and Netflix specials with made up principalities, what could be better!?

But let’s call it, the holidays are also … a bit shit. 

Everyone’s stressed, everyone’s feeling light in the pocket, and everyone’s enduring the company of someone they would rather pie in the face. 

^ Facts.

My family is great. Really great. But like most families, sometimes they veer, without warning, into terrible waters; ostensibly by accident, (although with some fringe family members I have my suspicions as to intent). 

I’ve never had to estrange myself from my family on grounds of sexuality, race, or any other such significant thing. If this article could be triggering for you on these grounds, please skip it with my complete love and support.

Happily, my parents are not giant malicious bigots, so I’m not staring down the cavernous abyss of familial alienation — unless they find this article, in which case I am a dead woman.

No, any tension with my wider family stems from the fact that I’m plus sized and I’m feminist, and those two things have proven issue enough.

Because allllll the scum rises to the surface at holiday time, doesn’t it!?

I won’t bore you with tales of getting my Christmas day outfit savaged, unsolicited musings about how I was ‘so pretty before’; or me and my mum crying at each other because I can’t understand why she doesn’t consider herself a feminist, and she can’t understand my obsession with ‘labelling things’. Frankly, I don’t feel like getting into that and it’s not a very joyful read. I wanted to write some light lols, not bleed my soul all over your screen.

Instead, I’m going to share with you my brilliant new idea for escaping heinous holiday conversations.

Whenever I find myself alone at a family holiday gathering, cradling a rapidly evaporating beverage like it’s my first born (“which she ‘STILL HASN’T HAD, can you believe!? Tick tock!”) that’s usually when I get pounced on.

I weather these terrible convos as long as I can, but if the back of my neck starts to prickle, it’s a physiological warning that the conversation is about to take a turn for the worst and I’m going to want to rip my ears off in t minus three seconds. 

That’s when I run myself through this handy little flow chart:

  1. On a scale of Tim-Allen-in-a-Christmas-Movie to the Grinch (and the Grinch is the good end); how much do I like this person? They must score above between a 5 and a Grinch for me to continue.
  2. Does anything have the potential to change for the better if I endure this conversation? I.e: if I argue with a drunk uncle about protesters at the clinic (you know which one,) do I have a chance of getting him to go away and read something? And could this save someone else a painful conversation?
  3. Do I have the mental stamina and security at this particular second to withstand this conversation if it all goes pear shaped?
  4. Is someone who agrees with me nearby for backup or bail out if needed.


5. Do I have an empty glass? Arguing is thirsty work.

If the answer to any of the above is no (other than number five, that one is 40% a joke), then I don’t bother. I just exit the conversation.

I’ve tested a lot of exit strategies over the years. “Is that mum calling me? *crickets* it is! Sorry, got to go!” and “oh shit I left the oven on!” are classics. Usually though, I just down my drink and excuse myself to get another and never return. 

But this year, I’m revolutionising the art of the hasty exit. 

This year, I have the greatest idea for an exit strategy anyone has ever had.

This year, Uncle Ron can get in the fucking sea, I’m not buying his bullshit.

This year I have a plan.

It came to me at 3am last night, as I was staring at the ceiling, listening to the alternating snores of my Boyfriend and my cat (fun fact, the cat is louder,) stressing about all the terrible conversations I might be subjected to this Christmas. That’s when the perfect idea came to me.

I could borrow plots from romance novels to use as exit lines!

This tactic is unforgettable, punchy and compelling. It’s going to be a game changer. 

The seeds of this idea sowed themselves in my mind last year. It was Christmas day, and I’d been targeted because I was alone by the BBQ (it’s summer for me in December).

I was seized by someone’s Gran (she wasn’t even my Gran! I don’t know where the strange Gran came from, or why she was adamant I call her Gran. I have a Gran of my own, thank you very much, and she was lovely, nothing like this random hell bat). Anyway. Unclaimed Gran’s itch in her knickers was a New Zealand Christmas parade with a Māori Santa. I’m for that, obviously, ‘that’s not what Santa looks like!’ arguments hold no weight with me.

But Unclaimed Gran wasn’t having it. Out of nowhere, these words came out of my mouth: “I’ve got to go, Margot has fallen in the well!”

I don’t know a Margot. And we don’t have a well. 

But Unclaimed Gran was too surprised to get a claw around my arm and halt my bolt. 


So this year, if Ned from next door (fingers crossed no one invites that guy again, he sucks; a level 10 Tim Allen) arrives and wants to talk about ‘uppity feminists’, I’m just going to say:

“Sorry, an impoverished solicitor has just oft to Gretna Green with dear Kitty, I must go!”

Or if the Christmas buffet is out on the table, and I’m angling for another plate of potatoes but my Aunt wants to tell me that I might be running out of time to have children, I’ll just say something like:

“Hang on Aunty Elaine, I must don breeches and do sword fights, be back never!”

(Then I’ll probably go and read the chapter with the sweating and the poking — sword variety — to calm down). 

If Brexit or impeachment or immigration are raised by anyone who is angry, wrong, and more than three drinks into their evening?

I’ll say: “It’s the Year of Hattie and I don’t have time for this, I have a shipping empire to reclaim!”

If someone (probably Neighbour Ned, because you know he’ll be one of the last to leave) starts in about why he knows more about my job than I do, I’ll say:

“Not now Ned, I have stashed a tatted redhead artist in my room, and it’d be rude to keep him waiting!”

Or maybe even: 

“I can’t keep talking to you sorry, I have to be up at 5am for my phone sex side hustle!”

Or maybe I could bring out the big guns:


That’s all I can think of right now, but I still have a few days up my sleeve until Christmas. That’s plenty of time to work up a few more of these. 

And if none work, I’m just going to drink, which is the tried and true holiday survival tactic.

Good luck this holiday season, my friends. We can do it.

PS: I changed all of my family members’ names because I’m pretty sure mum has a Google alert set up on all of us. That’s normal, right?

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About the Author:

Esme Brett is a romance enthusiast, reviewer and writer. She reviews on Instagram as @Feminist_Romance and specialises in finding feminist-friendly content and spreading the word. She’s a devoted cat mother to Franklin and imaginary wife of Jesse de Silva. Her areas of expertise involve Buffy the Vampire Slayer, winged eyeliner, and red wine that’s less than 9 dollars. She lives in New Zealand.

Find Her Here: 

Eyes On by Esme Brett, out now!

Ever pretended to be a stripper to save someone from an awkward situation? Taylor Francis hadn’t. Until he had.

Francis (‘don’t call me Taylor’) runs a successful event company and lounge bar. Greta Winters is an old-money socialite. Their paths would never usually cross: Francis avoids women in Greta’s tax bracket like a New Yorker avoids Times Square. But in the face of unexpected public embarrassment, he won’t leave her to the society wolves.

The impulse rescue sparks an attraction Francis can’t get out of his head. But Greta is wary of this too slick, too smooth, too gorgeous Lothario. Which would be much easier if his voice didn’t make her think of sweaty limbs and twisted sheets. Mostly his limbs. And her sheets. And his–

Damn it.

She’s in trouble.


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