Posted November 21, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

Thanksgiving Hell(p)

A Poorly Thought Out Guide to Dealing With Your Family

By Chloe Marina Manchester

It’s the time of year for the great migration to wherever your base of operations is. It’s also the time of year for you to see all of your relatives at the same time. All of them. For some people, this can be pretty fun. For a lot of us, every relative at the same time is some version of hell where people tell you what you should do with your life while complaining that you’re not doing anything with your life while at the same time telling you to stop getting upset because they’re “just having a little fun.” So that’s fun. Here’s your guide on how to deal with it by someone who has no idea how to deal with it.

The obvious first solution is usually alcohol. Spike your coffee, cider, hell even spike your pumpkin pie. If you’re of age, this is your cue to bring nice wine to dinner, show it to the host, and keep a death grip on it all night. If you’re not of age and you’re parents aren’t of the Cool Parent variety, you have the option of sneaky-ness, or the alternative option of sobriety. For those not going the sober route, here’s a Thanksgiving drinking game:

  • 1 drink every time someone says something racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. (please note that depending on your family this could give you alcohol poisoning.)
  • 1 drink every time someone comments on your appearance changing (bonus points if they say you’ve grown and you literally haven’t grown since eighth grade.)
  • 1 drink if someone asks why you’re not going to a real college.
  • 2 drinks if the host forgot you are a vegetarian/vegan (bonus points if they remind you about the iceberg lettuce salad.)
  • 2 drinks if your grandmother asks you if you’re drinking.
  • 2 drinks if your sibling is also holding a flask.
  • 3 drinks if you go outside to play with your little cousins/siblings/neighbor’s kid and get hit in the face with any sort of sports ball.
  • 3 drinks if you have to pretend to be something you’re not (sexuality, gender, political party, etc.)
  • Finish your drink and get another if you walk back inside to an intervention on your life choices.

For those people who are not so jive with drinking for personal or family imposed reasons, do not talk politics. I cannot stress this enough. No matter how badly you want to poke the bear of politics at the dinner table do not ask your step grandmother who she’s voting for. It will probably not make you happy. Say nothing when you realize she has a school picture of you from years ago stuck to her fridge with a Sarah Palin magnet. Seriously. Just take a picture of it and send it to your friends.

Get a good night of sleep beforehand and come in with your wits about you. Prepare answers to the questions you know are coming. Yes, you are having fun at college. No, you’re just not looking for a relationship right now. You know you’re going to get asked what you want to do when you graduate. If you want to go to grad school, that’s always a good answer. Unless you want to get an MFA in Creative Writing. You will get laughed at or pitied and I cannot help you. Saying that you haven’t really thought about it is also a non starter. If you really don’t know say “I’m exploring my interests and keeping my future options open, that’s the thing about Evergreen, it really lets you-” they will have gotten bored by that point, especially if you get really excited.

Other deflection methods can also be put to good use. Helping make something always puts you in a good light while keeping busy. Watching the young ones at your Thanksgiving dinner works the same way, with the added benefit of being a talking point. Can you believe how much Sally has grown up? Isn’t your cousin’s new baby adorable?

Gossip. Gossip works wonders. Talk to everyone about everyone else and their life choices. It may not be fair to do that while you’re avoiding people saying the same about you but all’s fair in love and war. Family Thanksgiving falls into both categories. You’re going to have to fight dirty.

So you might have decided that you’re going to boycott Thanksgiving. I’m with you there. Thanksgiving celebrates genocide and makes it seem like the pilgrims were angels. They weren’t. I get it, your family probably won’t. Instead of giving your speech about it to every relative you have, which might be invigorating the first three times but quickly gets exhausting and depressing, type it up and put it on cards. Keep the cards in your wallet. Hand them to your relatives if they ask. Look how prepared you are. Your relatives will either read it or put it in their pocket, say “neat” and walk away.

If you’re queer and your parents or other relatives don’t know about this, Thanksgiving and family gatherings in general get to be a special kind of weirdness. Your relatives might ask if you have a partner of the gender they expect you to be attracted to and they might make offhanded comments that cut you to your core. It’s really fucking hard. As for coming out, there are two schools of thought. The first is come-out-in-the-middle-of-Thanksgiving-dinner, the second holds that the first idea is really stupid.

It worth noting at this point that no one should feel obligated to come out to their family like this, or ever. Coming out is such a personal thing that you should wait until you feel completely comfortable doing so, if you even want to at all. It really depends on you and your family for that one. If your family is on the conservative side and you don’t want to make a scene, perhaps waiting would be better. If you want it to be more special and serious when you come out, then I would also wait. If you just think it’ll be funny to see your conservative family members squirm, you like shock value, and you’re nearly positive your family will be welcoming, by all means do it during dinner. The best outcome is that there is one or two people who wouldn’t be chill with it and whose opinion you don’t really care about. That way you get the laugh factor without getting hurt by your family not accepting you. Also if you can come out in a pun bonus points. (If anyone says anything about going both ways please don’t let it go to waste.)

For the days leading up to Thanksgiving, mess with your sleep schedule, be asleep when everyone else is awake. This is not sustainable and will make you a zombie once classes start again, but short term solutions are solutions none the less. Or the tried and true, get up and get out. Run all the errands you can. Wander around your town. Either find or avoid the people you know “back home.” The important thing with the get up and get out strategy is that you are not where your family is. That you are elsewhere.

And remember, the spirit of Thanksgiving is about family, togetherness, and acceptance.