If there’s one thing I’m not sweating this year, it’s inviting a bunch of grifters to my Thanksgiving table. Sure, they’re family, but they had their chance and now they’re dead to me. Not in a COVID way. In an “Uh, no, I will not pass this creamy bowl of mac and cheese because you, sir, are a manipulative nuclear reactor and this table is not an emotional bomb shelter.”
I do not want to make light of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost during this pandemic or the suffering so many have felt and are currently feeling. The culture, at large, takes great pains to emphasize “coming together” during the holidays. If you are a person who genuinely enjoys your family, you should stop reading right here. (Also: are you accepting applications for new members??)
If you’re still with me: This one goes out to all of the folks who turned Thanksgiving into a day for giving thanks to cutting these bitches off.
Feeding the poor and the hungry, the friends without a place to go—I support these altruistic endeavors with the kind of enthusiasm you’d expect from the internet about Harry Styles in a dress. But feeding the emotionally needy? Count me out. My family expects the most while doing the absolute least. In years past, the weeks leading up to the fourth Thursday in November were like a hostage negotiation with an orange ghoul for the safe return of democracy—I was eyeballs deep in demands for gluten-free gravy and vegetable sides with folks who show up with a pack of turkey-themed paper napkins demanding “gimme sportsball or give me death!” and then segueing into “we need to get back to common sense.”
And each time I would be like, “give me death then.” Which is why I cut them off.
Listen. This life, especially right now, is too short to mess around with family who do not deserve your time. I am under no obligation to continue these relationships and neither are you—this is the year, if you’ve been wavering to hit the block, to throw up the NO VACANCY sign, and roll into your Thanksgiving with a thankful heart full of gratitude that you do not have to put up with fragile nonsense. We’ve all been through way too much this year to mess with a turkey brine full of crazy. Especially when the stakes are so high. I mean I wouldn’t risk a paper cut for this shared DNA let alone my life; c’mon now. Get in losers, we’re setting boundaries!
Coming together, for a lot of us, is aspirational at best and a fairy tale full of lies, at worst. Does it sometimes suck to not have a full house on Thanksgiving? Sure, if you catch me when I’m spiraling in estrogen but otherwise I’m floating down the lazy river of leftovers. This mashed potato wave pool is about to get nuts once the gravy starts flowing.
Protecting myself has meant Thanksgiving is now a day I enjoy because it is mine to share with my husband and daughter. Gone are the universal and cultural traditions of watching football and eating pie. Instead, I turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as I prepare the turkey, then I switch over to the Pauly Shore movie Son In Law—a ’90s deep cut from the formerly curly-haired bohemian MTV VJ also known as “The Wiez”—and end with cheesecake.
The Thanksgiving I sit down to is filled with lighthearted fun with people who love and like one another. I don’t need a day in November to be thankful for that, I appreciate it every day.
But if you’re wavering on the merits of a scaled-down Thanksgiving, let me offer you the confirmation that even the slightest, the pettiest, half thought out reasons, can rock with you to limit your guest list. Let your Thanksgiving feast operate behind a velvet rope like Studio 54 (you know, before it was shut down for tax evasion or whatever. I am not googling it).
Season your distance with the resentments you still harbor, and thank yourself for the good taste to know you have standards. Be the algorithm you need in your life and curate your Thanksgiving away from the kind of people you wish were strangers. Here are just some of the “lemme stop you right there…” things I’ve considered this Thanksgiving (ok, and the last one too):
- Brought me into this world without asking my opinion first
- Had the caucacity to consider Mrs. Dash spicy
- Filled the fridge with Pepsi like it’s not the Rudy Giuliani of cola beverages
- Married some guy with a long history of DUIs and three or four ex-wives who I guess is my “step-dad” now
- Banged on my door like it was the DEA demanding a search for an unreturned vacuum
- Sent me some kind of emotional blackmail happy birthday message on Facebook
- Still uses Facebook
- One time said, “some people like cheese and some like squirrel” like this is something well adjusted, not at all a serial killer thing to say
- Not only owns but nests an American flag bandana on their rearview mirror for all to see
- Duct tape but make it decor
Family can be exhausting, so take a nap this year and let your shared DNA hunt and gather on their own. And give thanks to cutting these bitches off.
Liz Henry writes good stories and makes bad choices. Sign up for her emotionally slutty newsletter, Best Indoor Life.
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