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Walking into Christmas parties filled with titos and titas as an over 30, childless, and unwed woman is like walking into a minefield: there are safe zones, there are rocky parts, and then there are the questions.

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The line of questioning always starts out harmless like “Where do you work now?” or “What keeps you busy these days?” but then, gradually, the questions transform into a slow burn:

“Why aren’t you married yet?”
“Aren’t you worried about your biological clock?”
“Would you like to meet my kumare’s son?”

Suddenly, you are backed into a wall staring longingly at the queso de bola. How do you deal with this situation? Well, you know what? There are ways.

First of all, change your mindset. It is possible to go to these tito/tita parties, survive, and even have the time of your life. There’s better food than your average potluck dinner with friends, where, more often than not, people just bring pizza and donuts.

Tito/tita parties have actual meals covering all the basic food groups and in great quantities! The best part about it is that second helpings are never enough for your doting aunts. You’ll have to keep coming back for more. They probably have comments about your weight but they will force you to go back to the buffet line, anyway.

In any case, making a beeline for the buffet is your best chance at escaping the nagging questions. Try not to take the questions too personally because they are coming from a good place. The questions may feel invasive but if you think about it: How else are they going to ask these things?

Our worlds are different and it is these questions that bridge the gap but only if you accept the challenge and communicate. People are getting married and having kids later these days. Some women like to have their careers in place before venturing into having their own families, if at all. The concepts might be alien to some people but you’ll also be surprised at how enlightened and encouraging other people are. So don’t kill the fun by staying home and sulking. Go to the party.

Second, don’t be afraid to act your age around them. When you think about it, now is the best time to be attending these sorts of parties. You’re out of the children’s table but still young enough to be fussed over. You are at a point in your life where you can talk to absolutely anyone of any age and have something to say.

You can engage the titos in a conversation about music and the titas about their careers. You can talk about their children after having spoken to their children, and understand both sides. Because you understand too well the adolescents’ need for freedom, at this point in your life, you can also relate to their parents’ fears for their safety.

And when things go boring, you can go back to talking with the kids, engaging them about the latest bands, makeup, fashion, and places to hang out in. You may not know what “throwing shade” really means but, seriously, let it go.

You are getting the best of both worlds so have fun with it! Volunteer to be the DJ and play both Abba and Drake. Grab the mic and sing both Sinatra and Carly Rae. I draw the line at dancing but if you are any good, hit that makeshift dancefloor and, ehem, get lit.

Which brings me to my next point: Alcohol. Yes, at this point in your life, you can now drink at these parties without having to feel self-conscious. Alcohol is mostly a tricky thing around parents and you always feel like you should be hiding it from them but at this age and during the Christmas season? I say, “Cheers!”

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Nobody will draw attention to the fact that you’re holding a wineglass now. Needless to say, however, don’t push it. A few years ago, I was exhilarated at being able to drink around my parents and their friends, one of whom happened to be my boss. TOO exhilarated in fact, that I ended the night by throwing up on my boss’s antique table and passing out.

I was too weak to move but I felt my boss’s wife wiping my face with a towel saying “It’s alright, it happens” and I couldn’t have been more mortified. To make things even more interesting, I had to be carried out Disney princess style—this was according to my mother—and when I woke up the next morning, I swear to you, I never wanted to go to work again. How could I face my boss and how could he, my boss, get past it? He did, I didn’t. My parents gave me a mini-scolding but were otherwise amused.

After you’ve had a few drinks in you, you may now embark into the world of rocky questions. I feel that the best approach is to just to, guess what, answer them. Like I said earlier, believe that they are coming from a loving place. Or they’re just curious. In any case, there’s no harm in answering truthfully. Who knows why we still aren’t married? Who knows what we’re going to do about the tick-tocking biological clock? “I don’t know” seems pretty safe.

But the better approach? Have your own questions ready. When they ask about marriage, ask how they made their own marriage work (or why it didn’t). When they ask about your career, ask what advice they can give you. Trust me, they will have the answers. We have long since outgrown the sulky teenage phase wherein we thought that grown-ups were no fair and wanted nothing good to happen to us. Now that we are a little older and wiser, we know just how much help we need.

Finally (and the most important), enjoy being with your parents. We hardly get a chance to be around them and, believe me, being around our parents and their friends is double the fun and warmth. It is a lovely thing to witness your parents being young and jolly around people their age. You find out things about them that would never have come up at your usual dinner table. You get a glimpse of your mother when your father was still winning her over – the first date, the first year of marriage (always a good topic) and the support they got.

You also get to hear stories about their friends with their respective struggles and success stories and, as much as they are humorous and entertaining, there is just so much to be learned. I’ve had the experience of titos and titas actually congratulating my parents that they still got me to accompany them to events. Be that kid.

Give your parents something they can be proud of. You presence will trump any financial or career achievement you may have. Just be there. Be a little square. They will appreciate it and you will remember it as being one of the most fulfilling things you have ever done in your semi-adult life.

Illustration: Madel Crudo

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