organizing fun gatherings

Anonymous said to :

Ever since my depression got better, I been doing more leading in get-togethers. Like inviting people over to my house and suggesting what we’re going to do. But I feel like people don’t have as much fun at my activities as those led by my other friends. I take a lot of input on what we do, and I tell funny jokes.

Is there anything else I can do when leading a group, formally or informally, to help people relax and have fun?

realsocialskills said:

I think you might be pushing yourself too hard.

If people are having fun and liking your get-togethers, that’s success. You don’t have to be the best or the most fun for what you’re doing to be good enough. It’s not a contest, and it’s ok if you’re not as skilled at throwing parties as some of your friends. It’s a skill set that you can develop over time.

That said, from the way you’ve described things, it sounds like your gatherings might be happening this way:

  • You invite people over
  • They come over
  • You spend time deciding together what to do
  • Then you do the thing together

If you’re doing it that way, it might be making your gatherings less fun than they could be. Negotiating with a group about what to do isn’t very much fun, and it can set the tone for the gathering being less fun.

Also, if you don’t pick the activity in advance, there will usually be someone who wanted to hang out who doesn’t want to do the activity that the group decides on. That person usually won’t be very happy, and that can make things less fun for everyone.

If that’s how you’re doing it, your gatherings are likely to become more fun if you decide on an activity in advance, like this:

  • Pick something that you and some friends like
  • Invite them to come do that thing with you
  • People who want to hang out and want to do that thing will come
  • People who don’t want to, won’t come
  • There won’t be any tiresome negotiation phase of the gathering
  • No one will be stuck in an unanticipated activity that they don’t enjoy

Some examples of activities you can decide on in advance:

  • A game night (either a specific game, or whatever games people decide to bring)
  • Going to the new Exciting Movie in a series you like
  • Going out to dinner together
  • A dinner party at your place
  • Getting together for movies and popcorn at your place (better if you pick the type of movie in advance, or maybe even the actual movie)
  • (Here’s a post about things some people like to do at Halloween parties)

In any case, organizing fun gatherings is a skill, and you’ll get better at it as you get more experience. You don’t have to be perfect or the best for your gatherings to count as successful. If you like them and most of the people who come like them, that’s success.

tl;dr Picking an activity in advance and inviting people to do it is likely to be more fun than gathering a group of people and deciding together what to do.

Celebrating fake holidays

Sometimes families can’t get together on holidays or birthdays, even though they want to.

One way of dealing with this is celebrating a fake version of the holiday at a different time. 


  • Frances: I can’t get off work for Thanksgiving this year.
  • Jeremy: Me neither. I really miss you though.
  • Frances: The airfare is really expensive anyway that week; I couldn’t afford it even if I could get time off then. Want to celebrate fake Thanksgiving the week after instead?
  • Jeremy: Ok. Can you take care of ordering the turkey? I’ll make the stuffing and pies.


  • Susan: I’m sorry I’ll be out of the country all month. Let’s celebrate your fake birthday when I get back?
  • Heather: Yeah, let’s have a party when you get back. 
  • Susan: Cool, I’ll make you my chocolate cake, and I’ll bring you something awesome.

If you do all of the things you associate with the holiday or a birthday, it might not matter as much that you’re not able to do it, or not able to do it with family/friends on the day itself. Celebrating the fake holiday on a different day doesn’t work for everyone, but it works really well for some people.

Coming out at Christmas?



I’m planning to come out at christmas before dinner. How do I do it without it becoming awkward or making the holiday all about me? Also I’m very bad with spoken communication when I’m put on the spot or nervous so I don’t know how to deal with the string of Straight People Questions I might get.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure what kind of situation you’re in. I’m assuming that you’re gay or lesbian, that you’re probably not out to any family members, that you don’t currently live with family, and that you’re talking about a big family gathering. Some of this might not apply if I’m getting some of that wrong.

Coming out will probably be at least somewhat awkward, no matter how well it goes and no matter how you do it. Coming out to people who aren’t expecting it is inherently awkward. If you’re not sure whether or not they will react positively, it’s especially awkward. Akwardness isn’t something you are likely to be able to completely avoid. That’s not your fault. It’s a problem with our culture. 

That said, making an annoucement at a family gathering is one of the most awkward and risky ways to come out. If you make an annoucement, then you become the center of attention in a group of people whose reactions it might be hard to gauge. Also, at big family gatherings, it’s fairly likely that people will be drinking, and alchohol can greatly magnify bad reactions. For most people, coming out by making an annoucement on a holiday is a very bad idea.

There are other options that might go better:

Coming out casually in conversations with relatives who you think are likely to react well. This allows you to talk like you’re already out, rather than making an annoucement:

  • If you’ve been closested from family for a long time, you’ve probably been using linguistic tricks (like avoiding pronouns) to avoid outing yourself
  • One way to casually come out is to stop doing this, and see what happens
  • Some people will react badly, others will ask questions, others will treat it as no big deal
  • When this works, it’s the least awkward way to come out


  • Aunt Jane: Sarah, are you seeing anyone these days?
  • Sarah: No, I don’t have a girlfriend right now.


  • Aunt Jane: Bill, are you still seeing Susan?
  • Bill: No, we broke up. I’m with Jason these days.

This doesn’t always work, but it can work really well.

Another option: Coming out via email ahead of time:

  • If you want to let everyone know that you’re gay without having to have a lot of awkward conversations, email has several advantages
  • If you send an email, you don’t have to be the center of everyone’s attention all at once
  • People see it when they see it, and react individually if they want to react
  • Relatives who might have a knee jerk negative reaction will have time to process. Some of them might be less inclined to be mean and more inclined to put family relationships ahead of homophobia if they have time to processes.
  • Once the actual Christmas gathering arrives, your coming out will be somewhat old news
  • If anyone has a really horrendous reaction, you will know ahead of time and will be able to take that into account when making your Christmas plans.

Consider coming out to a family member who you trust first:

  • It will be a lot easier and more comfortable if you know that someone is on your side
  • The most reliable way to be sure of this is to come out to someone you trust ahead of time
  • In particular, if you have a gay relative, it’s worth telling them that you’re gay too and asking for perspective on how to handle things.
  • But even if you don’t. If you’re relatively sure that one of your relatives will treat you well when you come out, it’s worth coming out to them first so that you won’t be alone at the gathering.

If you think you need to come out in person by making an annoucement rather than some other way, consider doing it closer to the end of the gathering.

  • If you make an annoucement early in the gathering and it goes badly, then you still have the rest of the gathering to get through
  • If you come out later in the event, the stakes are lower
  • (Eg: after dinner is likely better than before dinner)

If you can, have somewhere to go: 

  • If you’re staying with family at a big family gathering, that can get really overwhelming really quickly
  • Especially if they’re homophobic
  • Especially if things get awkward after you come out
  • If you have friends who live nearby, it could be a really good idea to make plans to spend time with them. (Or, to have that as a backup plan for if things go badly).
  • If you don’t, spending time with friends online is likely to be important. So, if you can, make sure you have reliable access to an internet-connected device while you’re at the gathering.

tl;dr Coming out is likely to be awkward no matter how you do it. This is not your fault. Coming out by making an annoucement at a family holiday gathering is probably a bad idea. Coming out more casually or emailing ahead of time might be a better idea. It helps if you identify supportive people ahead of time.

Anyone else want to weigh in? What ways of coming out to family members have worked well for you? Which ways have worked poorly?

hobbiten said:

I came out to (most of) my family via a letter a couple of years ago.

I had been out to my parents, brother and a couple of others (2 cousins and one uncle) before, but wanted to come out to the rest of them as well.

So I wrote letters to everyone / every “small family”. (I.e. one to my grandparents, one to my other grandma, one to the one aunt and her family, one to the other aunt and her family…)

The letters all had a lot of stuff in common, and then some personal things to the people addressed at the end, so they knew that it was also about them and my relationship with them.

I didn’t jump right in with the coming out, but prefaced with some general “so the holidays are coming up and this is what I’ve been up to” stuff, then the coming out, then the personal stuff to the addressees and a bit more about my plans for the next weeks, just general things that I would have told them over the phone as well if we had had a casual conversation.

It went really well. I was so nervous about sending them, but I only got neutral and positive reactions. Some of them called, some emailed me, others didn’t react directly, but came up to me during the holiday celebrations, gave me a big hug and a “we love you”.

I think, as realsocialskills pointed out, coming out via a letter or email ahead of time can give everyone some time to process. I think most people can then react more calmly. Some people might feel put on the spot if you announce it in a big way during the holidays and react badly because they feel put under pressure. I think if I had come out during the celebrations, a lot of them would not have known what to say and there would have been at least a long awkward silence, as well as having the rest of the evening be slightly awkward.

It also helped me to talk about this with my friends before I did it. That way they knew what was up and would check in with me. If things had gone badly, I would have been able to call any of my friends who knew and tell them. Having someone know things might go bad and you might need some support over the telephone or email or chat is a good thing, because then they can make sure to be reachable on the occasion.

About defining abuse

Hi, I saw your post about abuse. How can you tell if your partner is abusing you? I’ve been told by a few of my friends that what my boyfriend is doing is “abuse”, but I don’t think it’s that severe. I don’t know how to feel about the situation.
realsocialskills said:
I don’t know your situation, so I can’t tell you much about your relationship. What I can say is that friends can often see things going wrong from outside a relationship that are really hard to see from inside it. Whether or not you agree that what is going on is abuse, I think it’s important to listen to your friends, take their perspective seriously, and consider carefully whether they have a point.
If your friends whose judgement you respect think that you’re being treated poorly, it’s important to make sure that you understand why:
  • Your friends might be wrong, but I think you should hear them out
  • Let them completely explain what they mean
  • In the course of that conversation, don’t argue or defend your boyfriend
  • Listen, and make sure you completely understand what they are saying
  • Take some time to process and consider whether they have a point
  • What do they think is abusive about your relationship?
  • Do you think the things they’re talking about are actually happening?
  • If so (whether or not you’re comfortable using the word abuse) do you agree that those things are hurting you?
  • If so, do you think there is a way to get your boyfriend to stop doing those things? Is this something you and he can work out?
  • If he doesn’t stop, are you willing to tolerate those things long term, or are they dealbreaking?
  • If you’re having mixed feelings about this, it’s probably a good idea to go back and talk to your friends some more about what they’re seeing and what you’re seeing

If you consider what your friends are seeing and whether you think you’re being hurt, you’ll get a better answer than you’ll get by considering in the abstract which things are bad enough to count as abuse.

Hiya, I often don’t like being touched or having people get very close or breathe on me, I also can’t handle too many people talking at once etc. (I have actually suspected that I have autism for a while now) But one of my close friends always gets really offended when I ask her to stop touching me or to leave me alone. It’s gotten to the point where she stresses me out so much I try to avoid her all day. What can I do? I enjoy her company sometimes but she really pushes my boundaries…

realsocialskills said:

I think it might help to identify when you enjoy her company. What kind of circumstances is it in, and can you make more of your interaction with her happen in that kind of setting?

Some people are nice to spend time with in some contexts, but don’t treat you well in others.

One way this can play out is that some people respect physical boundaries in environments that suggest them, but not in more open-ended space.

For instance, some people who will touch you if you meet up in their house or yours won’t if you meet in a restaurant and sit on opposite sides of the table.

Some people will respect your physical boundaries if other people are present, but not if you are alone. Or vice versa. 

Similarly, if the boundaries she pushes are all or mostly physical, it might be that spending time with her online works better than hanging out with her in person. 

It’s also ok if you decide that you’d really rather not spend time with her. Even if you like spending time with her sometimes, it might not be worth it. Most people who do deal-breaking things are also pleasant to be around some of the time. I don’t know what you should do, because I don’t know you or your situation - it’s up to you and how you feel and what you decide.

Do any of y'all have suggestions about how to manage this?