Usually this post would be about mouthwatering recipes or cute outfit ideas to wear for Thanksgiving, I know. We always host Thanksgiving at out house so I usually avoid the awkward family drama but staying busy in the kitchen and making sure everyone is looked after. Today, I want to talk about Thanksgiving from the flip side – as a guest and these are my 9 tricks to surviving Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the time of year when you think of all the things in your life that you’re thankful for. Often this list includes family though you may not realize it when you’re in the middle of the annual gathering of relatives from near and far. Fear not brave holiday celebrant, for there are ways to survive this festive occasion!
1 | Pass on the cocktails.
This may seem counter-intuitive since your primary urge is to knock back a few glasses of wine or dip into Uncle Henry’s vintage scotch collection. Think of it this way though: once you hit the point of intoxication, you’ll end up saying or doing something that will likely be embarrassing and that will become fodder for the next (and all future) family gatherings. Don’t do this to yourself. Have a cocktail when you arrive to calm your nerves and a glass of wine with dinner, but limit yourself to these two drinks.
2 | Prepare to deflect.
You likely already know several of the topics that will be discussed during your Thanksgiving event, and many of the questions that you’ll be asked by well-meaning relatives. Don’t go in blind – instead, arm yourself with a few responses and diversions before hand. For example:
- “No, I’m not currently dating anyone. I just haven’t found a man that measures up to Dad/Grandad/Uncle Henry yet.”
- “My job? Well, actually I… oh, you look like you could use a refill on your drink! Let me get that for you.”
- “Oh, you feel that way about the pandemic? How interesting. That’s a lovely watch – where did you get it?”
3 | Take a few shots.
Tell your family that you’re thankful for them and that you want to get some special Thanksgiving photos of them all. Offering to be the family event photographer slash videographer for the night will give you a few advantages.
- First, your relatives can’t grill you if they’re posing for a photograph.
- Second, it gives you an excuse to leave a conversation at any time, because hey look, Cousin Sarah is doing her Lady Gaga impression again and someone needs to get this on tape!
- Third, if you find that you really need a break, you can find a quiet corner to bust out the camera bag and pretend to clean your lenses.
- Finally, you can kill a lot of time by arranging for goofy shots arranged by family/marriage.
4| Spend quality time with the littles.
If there are children in attendance, you can give yourself a break from interacting with the adult members of your family by spending time with the younger generation. Have a conversation with the shy cousin who seems to be holding back, or jump in and play hide and seek in the basement. Of course, there will eventually be a temper tantrum or two and the kids will bicker over things that you likely think are inconsequential. Basically, it’ll be like spending time with the grown-ups, except that it’s socially acceptable to leave a group of squabbling kids without having to apologize and make excuses. We don’t have any littles around at our Thanksgiving but we do have plenty of 4 legged babies around which do the trick too.
5| Make yourself useful.
Whether it’s before or after the big Thanksgiving meal, there are plenty of jobs large and small that need to be done. Offering to help with these chores not only makes a good impression on your host, but it also keeps you busy and gives you something to focus on other than Aunt Margie’s weird new hairdo. Of course, many hostesses will decline your offer of assistance, so here’s a refusal-proof response: “Nonsense! There’s got to be something I can do, and this way I can spend some extra time with you.” And just like that, the next thing you know, you’re wiping crystal drinking glasses with a soft cloth and avoiding most of the crowd.
6| Give them something to talk about.
Most people enjoy talking about themselves and telling stories about their pasts. If you find yourself in a situation where you either don’t want to talk about your life or you’ve run out of safe subjects to discuss, then ask a question that requires a story as a response. It helps a great deal if your question has something to do with family history, since others can join in and add to the conversation. Be careful though – only ask questions that you’ll be comfortable hearing details about. Asking your grandparents how they met, for example, is much safer than asking them to tell you about their honeymoon. There are some things that you just can’t un-hear.
7| Dress for success.
Face it, no matter what you wear, someone will comment that you should have opted for something warmer, something more formal, something less baggy or something less revealing. You can’t please all of your relatives all of the time, so dress in an outfit that makes you happy.
- Go for something loose around the waist because…pie. Only the men of a certain age can get away with popping open the buttons on their pants to make room for more.
- Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident, so that when you find yourself explaining (again) why you haven’t yet made partner at your firm or why you haven’t settled down and got married or moved out of your small apartment, you can tell yourself, “At least I looked good!”
8| Share the joy.
If you’re married then this one’s a snap – you and your spouse will have plenty to talk about and rehash after the festivities. If you’re single, consider bringing along a sympathetic, well-behaved friend who doesn’t have other Thanksgiving plans. Preferably one who doesn’t mind fielding personal questions from strangers, doesn’t drink too much, and has promised not to share embarrassing stories about you. This ally will commiserate with you after the shindig, and during the gathering he or she’ll take some pressure off of you. That is until the relatives start to ask whether your friend is actually a casual acquaintance or if there’s something romantic going on – be prepared for this and respond accordingly. (See tip #2.)
9| Have an exit strategy,
While you certainly don’t want to be rude and offend your hosts, you’ll want to have a plan in place to extricate yourself from the festivities when you’ve had enough. You don’t want to be stuck without a few previously thought-out options, because you’ll end up saying something like, “I’d better get going, uh, because, um, I think I left my curling iron plugged in.” It’s tough to bounce back from that kind of lameness. Instead, employ one of these strategies:
- Make plans before the big day to drive one of your elderly relatives home after the meal. Just make sure that returning to the family celebration afterwards isn’t a stipulation.
- Volunteer somewhere that will benefit from your being in attendance late in the day. You’ll be doing good work, and your relatives can’t argue that you’re leaving too early without looking bad themselves.
- Apologize and say that you need to be up extra early the next morning. When asked why, explain that you’re picking a friend up from the airport, need to finish a paper for school/catch up on work, or that you’re planning an epic shopping excursion for Black Friday so that you can get great gifts for your family. The downside to that last one is that you then have to give your family some epic Christmas gifts this year, but the payoff might be worth it.
Refrain from using the “not feeling well” excuse. This can trigger all kinds of sympathy aches in your relatives and this is not the year to fake illnesses, and will eventually lead to them blaming the chef for under-cooking the turkey or the dreaded c-19 word. You don’t want that on your conscience.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize.
No matter how apprehensive you are about spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, remember at some point in the day to be thankful for them. As some of them might already be reminding you, they won’t always be around – and when that happens, you can strive to be the annoying relative that everyone else complains about!
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