Melanie Morris: 'Tis the season... to be embarrassed by your relations
You know that expression about how you can choose your friends, but not your family? Well, it never rings truer than at this time of year.
Embarrassing relations are as much part of the holiday season as mulled wine, sequins and sleigh bells. Christmas Day wouldn't be the same without Granny getting a bit tipsy on the port, or Uncle Joe losing his teeth in the trifle.
But this year, spare a thought for Katie Waissel, the girl we all love to hate on The X Factor.
Not only does she have an new ugly brown hairdo, but this week, her grandmother Sheila Vogel was exposed as a hooker. And rather than deny it, granny co-opted the help of sleaze agent Max Clifford and did a follow-up interview explaining that not only was she proud to be a "vintage vamp", but that she LOVED sex. Gulp.
Bad and all as that may be, and would have most of us shamefully retreating to a dark cave in Bali for a year, worse was to come. She posed for pictures in... wait for it... leather trousers. Yes, an 81-year-old granny in leather trousers.
Oh, the shame. Poor Katie. Poor Katie's mum. I mean, what can you say?
I guess, the only appropriate comment, if faced with a member of the Waissel clan would be to say: "at least she isn't a depraved coke dealer in Ibiza, and related to the future Queen of England, like Kate Middleton's Uncle Gary". Remember him? Of the News of the World sting in 2009?
Like belly buttons, or a penchant to drool when asleep, embarrassing relations are one of those facts of life that we don't really want to dwell on, but many of us have them nonetheless. And they all come out of the woodwork to haunt us at special occasions.
There's auntie Tina Turner, who gets a little too interpretive on the dance floor, or the naughty cousin who defiantly wears his 'black sheep' credentials by flashing the contents of a head shop inappropriately in front of your folks.
There's the mum who insists on being 'one of the girls', and hangs out with her offspring so much that she dresses like them, and the unhinged uncle who just has to start a fight once he's had a few.
But in fairness, while all may rank somewhere on the cringe factor, none of them are a patch on Katie's granny.
I'm lucky, I've got off lightly -- touch wood. My only embarrassing relation is my one-and-a-half year-old grand-nephew Jake, who got a bit enthusiastic with a blow-up doll the best man produced during the speeches at Jake's mummy and daddy's wedding.
I'm not even sure Sheila Vogel could've mastered some of the positions this unlikely pair got stuck into, before both doll and toddler were temporarily removed from the marquee. It was terribly funny.
And when it comes to relations, it's all about perspective. You've just got to suck it up and don a sunny one this Christmas when the Munsters come a-calling.
Hook them up to the Wii whilst feeding them their favourite tipple; join in the Dad-dancing around the kitchen; steer clear of the fights and the mistletoe, and try not to stare at expanses of flesh that perhaps shouldn't be on show.
The time will pass a lot quicker, and a lot more pleasurably if you remember that resistance is futile.