This is not your grandmother’s “How to Survive Thanksgiving” guide. It’s not even your spinster aunt’s. This is far more about you and the troubles a modern-day busy and productive person with a job and responsibilities and a life, for the love of God — even if that life is just DVRing TV shows you can’t even remember anymore and then being too busy to watch them — will face when the whole family gathers to celebrate one of the most festive-yet-deeply-fraught events of the season.
Let’s start with the good: Chances are, you have some days off this week. Maybe you’re taking an extra day, perhaps to travel so that you don’t have to contend with all the insane people traveling on Wednesday. Perhaps you are not so lucky. You still, we hope and pray, have Thursday through Sunday off. That’s four whole days! And, if not, and you have to work, you don’t really need this guide anyway because you have been excused from dealing with your family.
In any case: Deep breaths. It will all be O.K. You have us!
1. The first step in any family gathering is identifying the role you will play in the festivities. I’m not talking about whether you’re going to cook the mashed potatoes or put those fried onions on the green beans horizontally or vertically. I’m talking about: Who ARE you? Are you the bratty sister who refuses to help and will simply sulk in the corner sipping unoaked Chardonnay and talking about how fat everyone’s gotten? If so, OWN THAT. No one expects anything different, and if you show up all nicey-nice with a home-cooked pie, they’ll be afraid you’ve turned bi-polar.
Similarly, if you are the pervy uncle, the dog who humps everyone’s leg, the adorable baby and only bright spot in the whole damn family, the scary relative with the sharp knife who always insists on cutting the turkey, or the puberty-stricken teen, you have your role too, and we dare say, you know it well.
What is a family gathering but a modern-day Shakespearean dramedy? Life is but a walking shadow that will eat all the leftovers in the middle of the night so that mom throws a fit the next morning. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
2. Bring booze. Bring it. Be generous with the portions. It makes everything go so much more smoothly, and if not smooth, worst-case scenario is everyone passes out and leaves you in peace and quiet to watch some of those shows you haven’t seen in so long.
If you happen to be invited to a booze-free holiday celebration, tell them you have mono, stay home with the cats, and eat a bag of turkey-flavored chips.
If you happen to have a family where booze incites violence rather than mellowing everyone out, you are also allowed to bring Xanax, or possibly Klonopin. Don’t mix, however. No one likes a Thanksgiving trip to the ER.
3. Practice your witty repartee. The good thing about Thanksgiving is that no one is really going to judge, because they already have. So you’re free to experiment with conversational topics and styles that might, in other company, be frowned upon. As a rule of thumb: Don’t engage. Disengage.
Random neighbor person who somehow got invited, to you: “So, I guess you young folks just don’t care much about the traditions keeping society together anymore, huh?”
You: “You are absolutely correct sir. I speak for my generation: We don’t care at all. More turkey? I put some delicious Klonopin in it.”
Pushy sister-in-law: “You’re actually not unattractive, though you would look so much better if you weren’t so heavy, sweetie.”
You: “I’m so glad we’re sharing! You would look so much better if your head weren’t quite so enormous. It balances so strangely on your neck.”
Relative who is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company: “So, when are you going to buckle down and get a job?”
You: “Who says I don’t have a job?” [Knowing stare]
Everyone who is coupled: “Why are you still single?”
You: “I just haven’t been lucky enough to find someone as banal and easily capitulating as any of you. You guys are so fortunate, you know.”
Everyone who has a kid: “When are you having a baby?”
You: “April, actually. Thanks for asking! I’ll email you the registry.”
Your most conservative relative: “What is all this Occupy Wall Street nonsense?”
You: “Oh God, were there nuts in that pecan pie!? I’m a vegetarian!” [Rush off in tears]
When in doubt, pretend you didn’t hear, and change the subject.
4. Look on the bright side! Along with it being time to carb-load unabashedly, Thanksgiving is great fodder for your comedy routine/dark novella/trip to the bar to share harrowing holiday tales with all of your friends. Plan out your stories during that lovely quiet time while everyone’s holding hands and praying.
5. As a last resort, you can always hide out in someone’s closet checking your email/watching the game/weeping. Just don’t fall asleep in there after trying on all of their wigs from the ’70s. Trust us: You lose all credibility that way.
Remember: You only see these people twice a year, and Thanksgiving is just one day. Too bad the next time is in less than a month. Someone really should have planned out these holidays a little better.
Did we mention it’s a 3-day week?