#2. If You Mix the Wrong People, Somebody Will Fucking Die
Let's rewind, back to the stage when you were deciding who to invite. Sure, there are the people you love who you'll automatically invite. But then there are the people at the fringes, the friends or family of those people who don't have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving, and who you feel sorry for. And then you have the people who would perceive the lack of an invitation as a slight against them. So you could have a complicated mix of people is what I'm saying. And you need to make sure that none of those people want to stab any of the others.
For instance, I'm not attending my family's dinner this year. It's because I have a brother who is, uh, troubled, and this is one of the years in a lifelong cycle where he isn't behind bars. Things are pretty volatile between us, and it's beyond the point of "just gritting your teeth and sticking it out." Putting us together in the same room is guaranteed to start some shit*, and I don't need my kids around that -- as an adult I have that choice.
*Shit = knife fight.
This is me at Thanksgiving 2004.
But that's an extreme example. I have never attended a Thanksgiving dinner that didn't have at least one disastrous combination of people. Two mutual friends who used to date and had a messy breakup. An aunt and uncle who are secretly preparing a divorce. The friend who starts screaming about politics when he gets drunk. An ex-alcoholic who's being tortured around all of the merry beer drinking.
Two years ago, I skipped Thanksgiving with my family, and I was honest with them about why. I had just quit drinking and couldn't be around the booze. Christmas of that year, they all decided to have a dry get-together for my benefit, but the entire night, I could just feel their resentment. I was the reason they couldn't drink. My hangup was ruining their fun. So now when I look back on that party, I don't think about the gifts or the jokes or the family I hadn't seen in a year. What I remember is the weight of that negativity looming about. Them just waiting for me to leave so they could bust out the booze and start the real party.
"About fucking time! Who wants Ecstasy?"
Are you setting up a situation like that for someone else? It's important that you consider not only who you're inviting, but what sort of atmosphere you're setting up. Is it appropriate for every guest? There's no shame in talking to someone in private before the party and telling them straight up, "Hey, I know you've had problems with heroin in the past, so I wanted to give you a heads up before you accepted the invitation -- we're all going to be freebasing that night. I completely understand if you don't want to be around it." Or letting them know about another guest that they may not get along with. "Susan has already said she'll be there. Just wanted you to know because I remember she never really forgave you for fucking her grandma on her roof." And if there are going to be a lot of kids, it's probably best to just not invite her grandma at all, considering her inability to remain clothed after a few margaritas.
"Can someone please hide the tequila?"
Oh, and speaking of that ...
#1. The Children Will Destroy Everything You Love
Even if you don't have kids yourself, there's a good chance that someone you've invited does. And that means you're going to have to come up with shit for them to do. Depending on what part of the country you live, the weather, the size of your yard -- playing outside may not be an option. And even if it is, there's only so much you can do before they get bored and want to come in where all the other people are.
If you have multiple TVs, that's a quick fix. You can set up a video game system in another room. Or put on some cartoons or a movie. But even that can be tricky because at my house, I let my kids play games that contain more graphic violence and hardcore fucking than a porno written by Quentin Tarantino. They've got that John Cheese gene that won't let them have fun until somebody bleeds. Not every kid has that gene, though, and other parents tend to be more restrictive. I guess they don't care about hardening up their children for the post-apocalypse.
"OK, we're playin' cops and robbers. All you bitches get on the fucking floor!"
That means you'll need to talk to their parents before the holiday and tell them to bring along something to keep the kids occupied. The last thing kids want to do is sit around in a room full of old people and watch football or a documentary on World War II fighter planes. Do they even make any other TV shows on that day?
If everything is cleared through mom and dad, and you do go the video game route, make sure to set up a couple of guest accounts on your console. Or if you're letting them use a computer, back up your game's save files. A few years ago, I let a couple of kids get on my computer -- the one I used to play my 60+ hours of Fallout: New Vegas. When I brought up the game the next day, they had used my character to slaughter every person in every faction I was trying to gain favor with. Their bodies neatly placed in the desert to spell out, "YOU ARE AN ENTERTAINMENT ABORTION -- A MALIGNANT TUMOR FESTERING DEEP WITHIN THE LUNGS OF OUR COMPLACENT GENERATION!"
"Is there a way we can get him arrested for gang rape?"
If you have the ability, another thing to consider is putting your console or tower as close to the ceiling as humanly possible. Because kids = spills. It doesn't matter how old they are, something is getting spilled in your house, and the law of nature guarantees that it'll be directly onto your most expensive piece of electronics.
Barring electronics, your floor is next on their list of "things to fuck up in someone else's house." If you can avoid putting them in a room with light colored carpet, it would be a good idea. Actually, it would probably be easier to just remove all of the carpet in your house before they get there. And maybe lay down some plastic-
Know what? You got this. I'm probably just making a big deal out of nothing. It's just dinner, after all. What could possibly go wrong?
For more Cheese, check out 5 Things I Can't Believe Websites Are Still Doing and 5 Questions You Need to Ask (To Avoid Ruining Your Life).