Typically, we are encouraged to surround ourselves with only positive energy and the little things that make us happy. Because really, life is short, and the cosmos already seem to be working in favor of our misery, in every way possible without us even lending them a helping hand.
But all that goes out the window when your family’s concerned. Do they make you happy? Doesn’t matter. You’re stuck with them FOREVER.
Apparently, the unwritten social rulebook states that it is your duty as blood relatives to act overjoyed in each other’s presence for a few choice days out of the year, no matter how much they make you want to tear your hair out and/or swear you’ll never reproduce, solely to avoid damning another generation to this special brand of torture.
Surviving Thanksgiving with your family is no mean feat; here are some tips and tricks (defense mechanisms, rather?) to help you make it through one sit down meal with your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad family this Thanksgiving. And don’t even act all American Dream-y right now. I know you have those relatives.
(NOTE: To my family, this in no way applies to you, I LOVE you guys. HAHA…ha…ha.)
1. Any Political Arguments
CHANGE. THE. SUBJECT. The dinner table is no place for this kind of talk, and here’s why: If the best economist and policymakers in the world haven’t been able to agree on issues of monetery policy, then what chance do your numbskull aunts and uncles have of being able to sift though Supply Side vs. Keynesian economics? But you know they’ll try. So what you have to do, if you’re going to have any chance of surviving Thanksgiving with your family: nip that right in the bud. You have to be swift here, though, because the moment a hate-fueled Republican v. Democrat debate starts snowballing out of control, it’ll be harder to contain than a forest fire. Nip this thing in the bud at the mere mention of key words and phrases like Obama, climate change, abortion, women’s rights, the Middle East, Israel, Palestine, and Ebola by replacing them with rhyming topics like yo momma, Home on The Range, serving portion, poltergeist (did you hear that creak from the attic as well, Uncle Jack?!), delicious feast, is this food real?, fine wine, and Ricola. Hopefully, they won’t even notice.
“Are you sure this turkey was raised on organic feed?
I refuse to contribute to Monsanto’s monopolization of American agriculture.”
2. Your Racist/Non-PC Grandparents
This one is trickier than it is to rock a rhyme that’s right on time according to Run DMC. You absolutely have to respect these people, regardless of the blood thinning statements that occasionally make their way out of their mouths. Why? Because they’re old, and somehow, that means they’ve earned respect. As opposed to trying to change the subject, which may come across as defiant and rude, it’s probably better to just ignore it or let it go when it comes to your racist grandparents. A good rule of thumb: If grandma start’s grouping people of any particular race or sexual orientation together by referring to them as “the Xs” or “those Ys,” it’s time to mentally check out.
“Just because you say it in Yiddish doesn’t make it okay, grandma.”
3. Your Drunk Uncles
Is he funny drunk, or disconcertingly drunk? If he’s funny drunk, ask him what he was like when he was your age, and get ready for some colorful stories you may regret having heard. If he’s verging on scary drunk territory, offer to make him his next drink. You’d be surprised how easily sparkling cider can masquerade as champagne to an unrefined (re: drunken) palette.
4. Your Relationship Status Obsessed Aunts
Are you still single?” is never a stand alone question. For me, at least, it’s always followed up with a “Why?” automatically after I (inevitably) answer “Yes, I am” year after year. Your relatives are never content with simply knowing that you’re a whole ‘nother year closer to dying alone, they also need to know the reasoning behind it. I prefer to take a more humorous approach to answering this question, i.e. Oh, ya know, I’m just too awesome for anyone I’ve met. But there are other valid responses that, unlike mine, don’t involve blatant lies! Maybe you’re just too busy with your career or school to dedicate a huge chunk of your time to another person. Maybe you’re just too focused on improving yourself right now to focus on anyone else. All are perfectly acceptable answers.
“You can’t ask me if I have a boyfriend and also refer to my friends as my “girlfriends” in the same sentence.
That word means something different now, and you’re confusing everyone.”
5. Your Health Concerned Parents
“Have you gained/lost weight?” Same goes for “Are you eating enough?” and “What the hell have you been eating?!” Because really, who DOESN’T like their weight being the first thing you notice about them. Whatever, maybe you have gotten a little more or less fluffy, that’s just kind of how life goes. This won’t be the first or last time you’ll roll your eyes at your parents. They’re just asking because they care.
6. Your Career Inquisitive Cousins
In this economy?! Just tell ’em to FUHGEDDABOUTIT.
“We used your future tuition money to pay for this meal, hope you enjoy it!”
7. Any Weird Spouses or In-Laws
How weird are we talking, here? Like, axe murder weird, or kind of a quiet lurker weird? If he’s the latter, odds are he’s just feeling a little out of place (social anxiety, ya know?). Try to include him as much as possible in your family’s fun traditions. Do you play lawn games before you eat? Offer him the first toss in horseshoes or the first kick in kickball. Board games after you eat? Let him judge first in Apples to Apples. He may just turn out to be the funnest person at the party if you give him a chance to break out of his shell.
8. Screaming Children
That was you at some point, sunshine, and you’re still kickin’, so it looks like no one murdered you, no matter how badly I assure you they wanted to. Jus’ sayin’.
“Put a sock in it, you little…”
9. When EVERYONE Hates Each Other
For people fortunate enough to be a part of extremely happy and loving families, this may be hard to understand, but some families just straight up HATE each other. If your relatives are too preoccupied holding age old grudges against each other over money, money, or even MONEY to be able to enjoy one sit down meal with each other, it may be best to omit a few names from the guest list. Why let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch, amirite?
“Smile! We must fool them all.”
10. Someone is missing from the table
As we grow older, so do our relatives. Maybe this year, you’ll find yourself joining a party of 7 at a table typically set for 8. And there’s no way around how much that’s going to suck. Instead of engaging in venomous political debate, hating on your third cousin’s weird fiancee, bellyaching about your sister’s crying twin infants, and bemoaning your relationship status, take some time to appreciate the people you’re still fortunate enough to have in your life. Sure, they can be unbearable, make you want to tear your hair out, and give you stomach ulcers, but you probably only get to see these people once or twice a year, tops. And deep down in your shared DNA, you know you really love them.
However, if at any point you find that you “literally just can’t right now,” remember that alcohol exists for a reason. Slip into a wine coma and blame it on the tryptophan.
One last point before we let you go — it may be wise to spend some time during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving preparing for the sort of psychic warfare you might find yourself engaging in. First, relax and try to clear your mind. Then spend some time thinking about the positive attributes of these people — after all, they are your family, and though you may not have chosen them, you can’t get rid of them very easily either. If you’re going to be forced to survive Thanksgiving meal after Thanksgiving meal with them, year after year, you might as well try to find a way to enjoy it.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, from us to you.
And GOOD. LUCK.