This is for those of you laying on your living room floor in a puddle of tears, trying to figure out how you drag yourself across the room, pull yourself up, dress yourself, put on a smile and go to the most dreadful event ever, Thanksgiving 2016. Thanksgiving used to be a time when people worried about getting distracted and burning the turkey until it was scorched earth. Now the concern is doing that to relationships.
First, you need to know that you are not alone. Millions of Americans will be forced to endure a mixed-party Thanksgiving dinner. Others will be going through the exact same thing as you. Be strong. Be courageous. You can do this.
Thanksgiving Survival Guide – Updated Nov 2016
- A fresh start. If you start the day rushing and already frazzled, it’s likely to get worse. Before you face anyone, start the day with yoga, or deep breathing, or take a run, or simply take a moment to ground yourself with calmness and clarity. Or take one single shot of high-end tequila, it works just as well.
- Know your emergency exits. Know a few quick escape phrases you can say in the event of a heated topic coming up. If you hear “Donald Trump is a…” Quickly inject, “OMG, I FORGOT ICE-CREAM! Who can eat turkey and dressing without ice-cream! Quick, someone google to find a gas station open!”
- Sometimes your closest exit is behind you. Do not be afraid to play the diarrhea card. No one questions it. Ever. People will get in your grill to debate politics until they are blue in the face, but if you say you have a dodgy stomach, people back up and give you space.
- Establish Ground Rules. Maybe lay some ground rules like no talking politics. Or don’t gang up on the Democrat. Or don’t gang up on the Republican. Maybe there are severe consequences for breaking the rules. If you talk politics, you have to eat an entire plate of tomato aspic or ride home with the farting dog in your lap.
- Have a common phrase you can use to signal a like-minded family member to help you escape. It can be as simple as “happy turkey day” or “did anyone bring ice?” or “Who saw the super moon?”
- Have something to escape any conversation all by yourself, even if it only allows you to go outside or into the next room, like, “NOVEMBER 24th? I just remembered it’s my friend’s birthday, I’ve got to go call her before it’s too late.”
- If you feel you are going to be cornered and quizzed for facts. If there’s a chance that you are going to have to defend your beliefs, maybe jot down a few bullet points and have them in your pocket. But if you do this, make sure your facts are factual. Don’t spurt off something you heard secondhand from someone else who read Breitbart. Arm yourself with vetted factual information. Save it only as a last resort. Try to steer clear of politics.
- If there is an awkward moment where people realize that you’ve already unfriended everyone at the table, laugh it off, “it’s not you, it’s your message.”
- Don’t watch the news on Thanksgiving Day. Chances are, the news has completely pissed you off the past 365 days, this is not the day you’ll wake up and it will be only happy reports of stray ponies finding a home or a zoo gorilla raising a baby squirrel as it’s own. Don’t check social media. Yes, maybe everyone is spreading goodwill on this holiday. But there will probably still be someone blaming Obama because they can’t find their TV remote. Anything on the news or social media on Thanksgiving, will still be around for the reading/viewing the next day.
- Remember there are two sides to every story. If you are a conservative, you may be hurting because you feel like everyone thinks you are a racist, misogynistic, hate-infused anarchist that would rather see a white dictator in the oval office than a liberal woman. (If this is true, accept who you are.) And if you are a liberal, you may be hurting because change is hard and democracy was a fun ride, and now everyone thinks you are a whining, tender-hearted, overly-sensitive, thin-skinned pansy. (And if this is true, own it.)
- Passive-aggressive comments solve nothing. If you can’t bring yourself to make a direct and honest comment, say nothing.
- A kind word or a hug or a gesture of goodwill to a totally undeserving family member can go a long way.
- Try not to be boastful even if you are right about something. Someone once told me that their favorite phrase is “Being kind is more important than being right.” And he happens to be the happiest person I know.
- If the moment warrants it, take a classic Psychology Today approach and ask someone, “Are you okay, how are you feeling?” And genuinely listen to the answer, trying your best not to judge.
- If someone voted for Donald Trump they must’ve been in a dark place where they thought he was the best candidate. Consider that. And if someone voted for Hillary they did it because they thought it was for the best of the country. Think about it. And if someone voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, have a few extra pumpkin pies on hand to throw at them.
- Lastly (and I really saved the most important for last), if you think that Trump is all the terrible things that everyone says. If you are already reading books on how people survived concentration camps. If you really think that we are about 90 days out from a total dictatorship. (Not saying we are or aren’t.) If you feel this is your last free Thanksgiving, do you really want to spend it fighting? If this is your last holiday with people you have loved all your life up until 2016, then maybe blast them with love. I’m pretty sure both political parties regret everything that happened this past year. Both political parties need to start taking steps they don’t regret. Even if you feel you’ve only been receiving hate for a while, dig deep to find some kernel of love, of hope, and give it to someone else who needs it more than you.
After reading all of the above, if you are still not up to the task, politely telling family members that you not participating in Thanksgiving is really the nicest thing you can do. Tell them that you value them/their relationship, you don’t want to risk saying something you’ll regret. Take the day to surround yourself with people that can give you love and emotional support. If you have non-refundable flights and children too old to buy your phony excuses for canceling, then you have no idea how deeply I feel your pain. You, my friend, are not alone.
*Updated: Do not take any of the above as a substitute for actual therapy. If you need help, reach out to a pro. I’m not a professional, just a cranky, snarky mom trying to cope.