Welcome to the holidays!  Get out the tissue paper and the bows. While you're at it, get out the tissues and the waterproof mascara. It's the season, sweetie. Just face the fact that somebody in your family will make you cry before the month is out.

I don't care whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto or a practicing atheist; if you're female and you have relatives, you'll be making weepy, baby-seal eyes at somebody's casual question while "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" plays endlessly in the background. 

The remark doesn't even have to be one of those deliberately loaded ones, such as "Three months pregnant, Jeannie, or just going heavy on the gravy?" to hurt. It's enough for a random cousin to ask, "Any interesting vacation plans?" for you to hear an undercurrent that whispers "Or are you still stuck with the mound of bills, those three unplanned children and a house near the sinkhole?"

To prepare in advance for assaults both real and imagined, I asked my friends Sam and Antoinette to compile a series of replies to help the most fragile egos survive the rest of 2012 with the fewest tears — while having the most fun possible.

Why don't you text like everybody else?

a) This probably never happened to you, but my friends and I talk face to face.

b) Why don't you have manners?

c) Because I'm not so insecure that I have to bury myself in a 3 by 4 inch piece of plastic when interacting with others.

What do you mean, your parents won't let you date?

a)More important, why are YOU allowed to?

b)Because I don't want to end up taking a blood test on "Maury".

c)I never thought to ask. But, how are things between you and what's-his-face? It is what's-his-face, right?

Are you still working at that same old job?

a) I tried to quit but my mortgage didn't magically disappear as I had hoped.

b) I'm sorry — I can't understand you with that silver spoon in your mouth.

c) Only when I get hungry.

Still looking for Mr. Right?

a) Found him. But when I discovered his first name was "Always," I broke it off.

b) No, but if I see him, I'll give him your number.

c) I'm actually looking for several. I want to star in my own series. You know any guys interested in being brother-husbands?

Did you remember to bring your bathing suit so we can all go into the hot tub?

a) Hit the hot tub? Sure, but I think a hammer would be more effective.

b) You want me to enter a body of water in mid-winter? I think I'd rather hit you.

c) We can be close only if you keep your clothes on. And I bet I'm not the first person ever to say that to you, am I?

How's that diet working out?

a) Hasn't anyone explained to you that "diet" and "working out" are not words nice people use in public?

b) Are you actually asking me that astonishingly embarrassing and incredibly intimate question? That would be like my asking your IQ!

c) What diet? I got lipo. But I could only afford to get my earlobes done. That's working fabulously, as you can tell.

Don't you love all those emails I've seen sending you? 

a) Sure! With all the thinking I've been doing, I need something intellectually appalling, sexually coy yet depraved and wildly time-consuming to give my brain a rest.

b) Yes, and have you been enjoying my threats?

c) Love them. Could you do me a favor and stand in front of that bull's eye?

If you're faced with inquiries falling outside these categories, you can always rely on the two standard responses: "Wherever did you get this uncanny knack for always saying the wrong thing?" or "I'm sorry, I can't take my eyes off what appears to be an entire head of lettuce between your teeth."

Finally, dear readers, as my gift to you, feel free to use my all-time favorite line: "I'll forgive you for asking me that question if you forgive me for not answering."

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