The SAS recruitment process is considered one of the most challenging things a human being can undertake. You have to be highly driven, ridiculously fit and incredibly stupid to even attempt it.
There’s no doubt, however, that if you can survive SAS training, you can survive anything. Even a family dinner. Just watching the series made me feel more prepared the next time I have to show up for my obligatory flagellation (aka a semi-regular gathering of relos and assorted hangers-on).
Here are five family dinner survival tactics SAS: Who Dares Wins has taught me.
Research. Know your friends. Know your enemies.
The SAS always know who they’re coming up against and whether they’re friend or foe. If you have to mentally remind yourself of which cousin is which on the way to dinner because it’s been so long since you’ve seen them, you might want to embark on a bit of pre-dinner research.
Don’t be the guy who offers cousin Jess’s boyfriend, Phil, a VB when he’s just gotten out of detox. And know that any casual run-in with Uncle Max on the way to the loo is going to result in a graphic discussion about how successful his recent prostate surgery was. Gather all the info you can in advance. Be alert, not alarmed.
How to handle an interrogation
Unlike in SAS training, you don’t usually arrive at family dinners blindfolded and shoved through the front door by a surly gentleman in fatigues. But sitting across the table from two ex-commandos being grilled you about your personal life isn’t totally dissimilar to the feeling of waiting for that Sunday roast to come out of the oven and knowing your nan is eyeing that new tattoo on your shoulder with only one question in her mind: what possessed you to desecrate your body in such a way?
How to handle it? Be polite. Summon all your willpower and shut up. Don’t go off your nut and storm off at the first personal question like SAS recruit Geoff. When in doubt, channel nice guy Efrem and win Nan over with a sob story. You got that Southern Cross tattoo not because you’re a redneck douchebag but because you wanted to honour your mate who lost his mum recently. She’s up there watching over him, just like the Southern Cross.
How to survive on weird food
Is your mum going through a paleo kick? Does your uncle not know how to BBQ a steak any way other than “charred til it resembles the bill of a platypus that perished in a bushfire”? Suck it up, princess. At least your meal doesn’t come freeze-dried and rationed.
The importance of reconnaissance
Whether it’s a midnight raid in ISIS territory or Christmas lunch at your Aunty Sue’s, you wanna do a recce. You gotta know your company and your exits. Get there early. You can always duck out for a while on the premise of “a quick trip to the bottle-o”. If you’re early, you can check out the table arrangement, the booze situ and the guest list.
Don’t get trapped at the end of a bench seat next to cousin Tony who spits when he talks. And don’t wind up as Switzerland in between your mum and her sister’s second husband who got a little drunk and handsy at Easter. Know your surroundings up front. Wherever you sit, you want easy access to the loo, the fridge (for a top-up or another cold one) and a range of people to engage in conversation if one turns out to be a dud. If it’s somewhere near the door so you can make a quick escape at the end of the night, even better.
Always look your best
The SAS isn’t exactly the place you’d expect people to care how you scrub up, but not so. When you’re not crawling through the mud, you’re expected to be neat, tidy and well put-together. If you leave your stuff lying around, you’re gonna get told off and, very likely, your fellow recruits are going to cop it, too.
It’s not so different to when you were a kid and all your relos were coming over and your mum was freaking out about getting the place spotless so Nan didn’t judge her housekeeping skills. You know at a family dinner everything is open slather - don’t give your judge-y relatives any more ammo. Iron your shirt and put away the collection of red-wine stained glasses you’ve been accumulating on the coffee table. Let your family focus on judging the truly important things - like what you’re actually doing with your life.
Watch season 2 of SAS: Who Dares Wins at SBS On Demand.
You can stream the first episode right here: