How to Survive Your Family This Thanksgiving
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Turkey Tantrums1 of 11
By Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, real-life married couple and authors of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story
Here are our suggestions for surviving your family this Thanksgiving.
Don't Be Yourself2 of 11
He says: When we have Thanksgiving dinner with Annabelle’s family, “Real Jeff” takes a backseat to “Jeff-in-Law,” the kinder, fictional version of me. He doesn’t get upset when his mother-in-law peppers him with volley after volley of questions about the kind of minutiae that would drive Real Jeff to the brink of his sanity, and he knows not to engage his Floridian father-in-law in a discussion of politics.
Serve the Unexpected3 of 11
She says: To distract your family from the usual interpersonal dynamics, try out an ethnic-themed dinner. Why serve a traditional bird when you can try out a Korean turkey neck soup with shitake mushrooms and lotus root? Regular mashed potatoes regularly don’t inspire discussion, but your guests will have plenty of tart talk about your Serbian vinegar-based potato salad.
Try Tryptophan4 of 11
He says: Avoid confrontation with your loves ones by sleeping. Initial drowsiness can be achieved by sitting around and watching football for hours, drinking too much red wine and eating way too much tryptophan-laced turkey. The combination leads straight to passing out in bed and thereby blissfully bypassing family interaction.
Celebrate Small Stuff5 of 11
She says: This year we’re having Thanksgiving at the house of family members who are in the middle of a divorce. Due to the downturn of the housing market, they can’t sell or afford to live elsewhere, and they mostly communicate by texting, even when they’re in the same room. If food appears and everyone leaves without 911 being called, we will have something to celebrate.
Less Is Best6 of 11
He says: By choosing to stay for the entirety of the extra-long Thanksgiving weekend, you only heighten the circumstances that could lead to a familial meltdown. Instead, go for one or two nights at most, and leave your family and yourself wanting more, as opposed to never wanting to see them again.
Play "As If"7 of 11
She says: This common acting exercise employs the hypothetical: Treat your family “as if” they were strangers. One year while en route to my house with our preordered meal, my father wanted to stop for lunch. Instead of giving a pointed lecture (OK, hysterical rant) on why this was a bad idea, I could have acted “as if” I was a hired driver, chauffeuring him to an eatery, or “as if” I didn’t hear him and driven home.
Go It Alone8 of 11
He says: Your spouse will not be your ally in the face of the familial onslaught. If you’re with your parents, she’ll witness your regression. So when you look to her for support, she will only see some 12-year-old brat and want nothing to do with you. Conversely, when she’s freaking out about her parents and turns to you for help, you’ll run from your childishly angry spouse. Accept that we’re all little Thanksgiving islands unto ourselves.
More Is Merrier9 of 11
She says: Everyone knows someone who just moved to town, doesn’t have family or just needs a place to talk turkey. Last year I invited a dear friend who, unbeknownst to me, had recently acquired a comfort animal. She showed up with her little dog in tow, dressed in matching outfits. Family squabbles quickly fall away when you’re face-to-face with a puppy in a Pucci. It was the most stress-free holiday ever.
Take a Hike10 of 11
He says: Or take a walk, or a bike ride, anything. Just get out of the house and go someplace or no place, but be sure that you do it alone. It’ll clear your head, give you a chance to get some exercise, a little well-deserved perspective, plus the time and space to fart to your heart’s content after holding it in during the ritual Thanksgiving overindulgences.
Bribe the Kids11 of 11
She says: I’ve been known to pay small sums to increase the time I can reasonably expect our son to tear himself away from his Game Boy. Hugs for Grandpa and Grandma range from $1 to $5, depending upon length and sincerity. Clearing dishes may mean I have to pony up a new video game. It’s not pretty but, just like how things you eat on airplanes don’t really count, I don’t factor this into my overall parenting philosophy.