Because God and the state are cruel, every time we finish off a presidential election year, we immediately have to gird our loins and make nice with relatives at Thanksgiving, many of whom share extremely different political views. Odds are you’ve got at least one drunk uncle who is preparing to wax eloquently on the ascension of Trump while passing the sweet potatoes. Granted, Thanksgiving as a national holiday exists because it was hoped a family gathering would heal the rifts that occurred in the Civil War, but the phrase “naively optimistic” comes to mind when I consider peace at the dinner table in the ashes of this long-running dumpster fire.
Still, I’m a hopeful and helpful chap, and today I’m going to offer some advice on how to get through this holiday season. May the odds be ever in your favor, y’all.
5. Bring a Child or a Dog (Or Both)
During the election we passed this weird, grim line where coverage went from G to PG. The question of “should I let my kid watch this?” came up in a way that I’ve never seen in American politics. I was never a fan of George W. Bush, but at least I never thought he needed to be on a four-second delay in case he couldn’t control his potty mouth.
Kids are a great way to derail angry politics. Partly because we’re usually reluctant to yell in front of them, and partly because they have a tendency to dominate and interrupt conversations to tell you about character developments on Henry Danger. You can get a lot of censorship out of appeals to not poison the innocence of a child. If you don’t have a kid and can’t borrow one, I recommend a dog. Having a dog looking longingly up at the dinner table will ensure that at least 75 percent of the conversations will revolve around dogs in general, and so far even American politicians haven’t been able to politicize ideas like “who is a good boy?”
4. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs
It’s a common myth that the tryptophan in turkey is why we get sleepy after Thanksgiving. In reality, it’s the carb overload that gets you ready for a post-meal nap. Use this to your advantage to drug people into a listless, gluttonous stupor from which the only thought they can formulate is either “more food” or “that couch looks comfy.” Rolls, cornbread, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, more stuffing, ALL the stuffing. Become the Atkins Diet version of Hell, and reap the reward of blessed silence.
3. Don’t Drink
Trust me, I know this is hard. I made a vow to quit drinking shortly before the election and I have never been unhappier with a decision in my life. The prospect of getting through a simmering cauldron of political unrest over a meal without a glass of wine to take the edge off is somewhere between filing taxes and flying tree roach on my scale of terrors.
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Resist the temptation, though. Alcohol is less the grease that smooths the ride and more the portal to uninhibited opinions being tossed free like a guy in a car crash who didn’t wear a safety belt. Don’t provide, and don’t imbibe, and everyone will behave slightly better. Then, when the guests leave, fill free to look for comfort in the bottom of a bottle.
2. Find a Beloved Distraction for the Background
Some folks tell you that having a television on during dinner is ruining the concept of family time. Those people are wrongity wrong wrong. Plan on having something inoffensive and pleasantly distracting as background radiation. For my family, it’s home and garden shows like Fixer Upper, but a Friends marathon can do the job as well, and there’s always football to fall back on if nothing else. Even if you don’t want the television, consider music. I find big band and ’40s tunes do wonders for the temper of an evening, and most cable providers have excellent genre stations queued up in the high part of the lineup. Give people something to break the silence they’d otherwise be keen to fill with “so I bet Clinton will be in jail soon.”
1. Don’t Go
Look, I know this is going to sound kind of harsh, but you don’t have to go to every single family gathering. I have a great excuse this year in that my wife is working at the hospital on the holiday, but saying, “I’m going to have a personal Thanksgiving” is also a perfectly reasonable thing to say to relatives. Unless there’s tremendous distance involved, there’s no real need to get together on Thanksgiving. In fact, I’m betting that most of your relatives would love to have a less-stressed basic lunch sometime not on a holiday and without all the pressure.
There’s a line between self-care and selfishness, and it does us good to examine where that line is. Thanksgiving is not doing its job if we dread having to participate in it. If you need to skip a year, do it. Your relatives might be disappointed, but better a momentary disappointment over a missed connection on a holiday than a lingering resentment because that holiday was ruined over bloody politics.