Thanksgiving is a high school reunion for relatives. Everyone gathers together to reflect on where they’ve been, how far they’ve come, and how much better or worse they’re doing than before.
It’s a Butterball of nerves, particularly when you factor in Thanksgiving other high-stakes ingredients: the doomsday traffic, the one crazy relative who shows up and does his/her crazy thing, the underlying family feuds, the love, the all-day drinking, the hunger–the extreme hunger!–for the perpetually “almost-ready” turkey, and those ghosts of holidays past. The result is a minefield of emotions and the reason family baggage has become such a cliché.
We’ve all got it, and we bring it to the table on Thanksgiving. All it takes is a seemingly innocuous question to snap that luggage right open and turn dinner into a Eugene O’Neill play. To bypass such family drama, avoid asking the following questions, or answering them.
1. Don’t ask: “What happened with that guy you brought last year?”
Unless you want to hear: “We were both in different places in our lives, and he’s ‘doing him’ right now…but I guess I do feel like it’s weird (voice-cracking) being back this year without him…I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying, I’m actually totally fine with things.” Please, distant relatives, do not interpret this reaction to mean she’s been wanting to share this news with you. It’s just that you’ve ripped the wound open again. Nice.
2. Along those lines, don’t ask: “So… when is the baby/ring coming?”
Unless you want to hear: “Ha! Who knows?” (And then, in a whisper directed at someone else] “Can we switch seats?”
3. If you made the turkey, don’t ask: “How is the turkey?”
Unless you want to hear: “Great. Can you pass the gravy?” which will sound to you like “It’s dry! Everyone thinks it’s dry! This turkey’s too dry!” There, there now. After 2 sleepless nights, 3 hours with your hands up a bird’s butt, 30 trips to the grocery store and all eyes on you, those unpleasant auditory hallucinations are kicking in.
4. And please, whoever brings the candied yams, don’t ask: “How come you didn’t try any?”
Unless you want to hear: “Because it’s orange and has miniature marshmallows in it. I have not seen miniature marshmallows in stores since 1989, so you can understand my concerns.”
5. Don’t ask: “Why don’t we go help mom cleanup?”
Unless you want to hear (and you don’t): “Why because we’re women? Mom may still embrace a hegemonic gender construct, but now that I’m out on my own in college I’m making my own choices.
6. Don’t ask: “Who did you vote for?”
Unless you want to hear the crazy relative say uncomfortably racist things until the table is cleared.