Is Your Family Dysfunctional? A Holiday Quiz

Do you dread holidays? Have to gird yourself to face the relatives? Most likely your anxiety relates to sharing a room with a dysfunctional family. To see where yours falls along the spectrum, take this insightful quiz.


Which of the following describes members of your family? Note: One person can qualify in multiple categories. Step-relatives count! And don’t forget to include yourself!

Give yourself one point each for family members who are:

1. Racists
2. Ageists
3. Prejudiced against a certain religion, ethnicity or sexual identity (extra point for each)
4. Weapon-loving “loners”
5. Woman haters or abusers
6. Man haters or abusers
7. Dog-haters
8. Extreme Dog- and/or Cat-lovers (caring for more than five animals)
9. Suspected pedophiles
10. Registered sex offenders
11. Drug addicts
12. Alcoholics
13. Gambling addicts
14. Selfie or social media addicts
15. Food addicts or those whose food issues mar the Thanksgiving experience
16. Other addicts (specify: __________________________________________)
17. Anyone who has appeared on Jerry Springer (including Judge Jerry) or a Housewives show
18. Anyone who describes himself unironically as a “confirmed bachelor”
19. Sadists, masochists and sado-masochists  (extra point if you know the difference through familial experience)
20. Religious fanatics
21. Prostitutes
22. Bigamists/the polyamorous
23. Sexually active couples comprised of two relatives (extra point if they actually get married)
24. Relatives dating or married to someone at least 18 years older or younger than themselves (i.e., old enough to be their parent or child)
25. Products of artificial insemination or surrogate mother resulting in lawsuit
26. Chronic name droppers
27. Chronically unemployed
28. Chronic money borrowers
29. High school dropouts
30. Narcissists (extra point if narcissism is completely without any basis in reality)
31. Conspiracy theorists
32. Professional psychics
33. Socio- and/or psychopaths (extra point if you know the difference through familial experience)
34. Obsessives (extra point for each person, place or thing obsessed about; extra point for stalking)
35. Will-changers (e.g., a grandmother who uses inheritance as a weapon)
36. Convicted felons (extra point if currently serving time; 2 extra points if the subject of a documentary or fictionalized show or movie)
37. Charged but not convicted felons (extra point for each charge; extra point for each restraining order)
38. Juvenile delinquents
39. Phobics—specify fear(s): (examples: homophobic, agoraphobic…)
40. Just plain nuts (be honest—annoying doesn’t count)

PART 1 Total _____


Which members of your family do you currently not speak to? Give yourself one point for each.

1. Mother
2. Father
3. Sister(s)
4. Brother(s)
5. Half-sibling(s)
6. Spouse
7. Ex-spouse(s)
8. Inlaw(s)
9. Ex-inlaw(s)
10. Grandparent(s)
11. Great-grandparent(s)
12. Aunt(s)
13. Uncle(s)
14. Cousin(s)
15. Son(s)
16. Daughter(s)
17. Grandchild(ren)
18. Great-grandchild(ren)
19. Any step-relative(s) (including ex-step-relatives)
20. Relative(s) from which you are at least once “removed”

Part 2 Total: _____


Now add in:

Number who were formerly on the list but have been reinstated _____
Number not included in above but only because they are hanging by a thread _____
Number of relatives who are not speaking to other relatives (example: your sister is not speaking to your mother, your cousin is not speaking to his ex-wife…) _____
Number of parents and step-parents your children have collectively (not including yourself and your current spouse, if applicable) _____ 
Number of your ex-spouses who owe you money _____

Part 3 Total: _____

Okay, time to add it all up:

Part 1 Total _____

Part 2 Total _____

Part 3 Total: _____



0-10 Why are you even taking this test? An Osmond could score higher! Are your relatives actually alive, or are they just not keeping you informed?

11-25 Politicians pray that their background search turns up a family like this. Not dysfunctional, just wacky enough to be interesting.

26-40 You come from the kind of family that the neighbors whisper about, as in “I don’t want you going over there!” Many of your relatives are considered a “bad influence,” and have probably caused you great embarrassment over the years.

41-60 Most likely no one in your family has killed anyone—yet. Besides intense competition at the family picnic for the “black sheep” award, your relatives (and possibly you!) suffer from myriad conflicting problems that keep shrinks, lawyers, diet doctors, reality TV and nurse practitioners in the money. Hey, at least someone loves you!

More than 60 As nutty as they come. Your relatives not only have made you crazy, but your family’s combined dysfunction is its own vortex, picking up speed and growing exponentially, ensuring that generations to come will suffer as you surely do. There is no good news here, only an inevitable farewell wave to reality as one by one you and those related to you surrender fully to the insanity that is your family. Tip: help raise money for treatment by writing a blog, book or movie, especially one focusing on holidays!

The Year of the Pop-Up Timer

My dad was not known as a cook. He must have made dinner for himself after my parents divorced, but that’s hard to believe based on the Thanksgivings he put together. He insisted on hosting, and he did his best, but let's just say we didn't go to his place for the food.

Finally, one year he agreed to let me cook. I'd been bragging about my culinary prowess, and he gave in and accepted my claim that I could whip up something more gourmet than what we'd been used to. Now I realize that my baking experience didn't translate into any real dinner-making ability, but at the time I thought I could do it all. How hard could it be?

I'd never made a turkey, so to be safe, I bought one of those with the pop-up timers. All I had to do was check occasionally and when it popped up, we would eat. I put the turkey in the oven while we played Scrabble. After an hour or so I looked into the oven. Nope, not ready. More looking, more not ready, more Scrabble.

After what seemed like twice the length of time it should have taken, I pulled the pan out and examined what was turning into withered jerky. No timer was popped up. It must be defective. What a rip-off! Those Butterball people would be hearing from me!

But wait. When I took the mummified bird out of the pan and flipped it onto a platter, it turned out that I’d had it in there upside down. That poor little timer never stood a chance: it had been pressed into the pan and couldn’t pop up. Who knows how long ago it started to try.

That year, we dined on rolls, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and plenty of pie to the soundtrack of bitching. "Why didn't you put marshmallows in the sweet potatoes?" "I really wanted some turkey." And you’d better believe that, like "The Fruitcake Story," that tale gets re-told more often than it should.

Originally published November 24, 2011

How to Avoid Turkey Disasters

Thanksgiving brings the potential for turkey disasters, not just dry breast meat but call-the-fire-department disasters.

We Gather Together - With Atheists

One week until Thanksgiving and I thought I would share this. It's from a new musical I'm working on. 

Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, but all the songs are essentially hymns. This one's for the atheists. And because I live in Los Angeles, it's about that too.

We All Arrived Here
(sung to the tune of "We Gather Together")

We all arrived here without any Hosannas
We basted, test-tasted our Thanksgiving fare
The wicked winds blowing, they’re called the Santa Anas
But we are all safe, and with nary a prayer.

Beside us to guide us, was Waze at our service
Through bad LA traffic it found the right way
The SIG alert gridlock, it sure made us nervous
Thanks to Google we are here drinking good chardonnay

Now all praise the potluck – it’s made without dairy
The gluten-free stuffing is sure to be grand.
A village it takes, not friends imaginary
We all deserve credit, cause nothing was canned.


© 2019 by Laura Foti Cohen