4 Common Thanksgiving Complaints (That Don't Have To Be)
Halloween is a chore. Christmas stopped being fun when Santa deemed it unfit for a grown-ass person to ask for action figures and Nerf guns. New Years is interesting for exactly 10 seconds. Thanksgiving is the only holiday with a little of its magic left. Gathering everyone around a table for a meal and just talking face-to-face is a simple pleasure that'll never lose its charm. It almost feels as good as kicking them out of my house as soon as they're done eating.
That's not to say that Thanksgiving doesn't have its downsides, but they only matter if you let its pitfalls ruin the chance to eat like your greatest enemies have been cooked into the meal. Push past the nasty giblets that the day has to offer, and find the savory turkey titty meat to sink your teeth into. What I'm saying is that our most common Turkey Day complaints can be boons if you let them. For instance ...
Gluttony Can Be A Good Thing ... Occasionally
I can best express my true feelings about Thanksgiving through a story a family friend told me as a kid. It's about a family she knew who would stuff themselves on Thanksgiving, as we all do. When they couldn't possibly eat another bite, they'd push their plates aside and fall asleep at the dinner table, like they were a royal family whose wine had been poisoned by a usurper. They'd sleep, digest, then wake up and keep eating.
Plate placement is crucial. How else will you catch your sleep-puke?
That family represents the one thing that separates Thanksgiving from every other major American holiday. All year round, this family probably shames themselves for overeating the same way we all do, but for this one meal, they've tossed out all their anxieties and built a nap time and a Round Two into their Thanksgiving tradition. Their dinner table was a no-shame zone. They were going to recuperate and wake up intent on not having any leftovers and being the living embodiment of the words "I don't give a shit."
That's the ideal I want my Thanksgivings to live up to. Not so much the part where everybody festively recreates the Jonestown Massacre as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving plays in the background, but the joy of family (however you define it) coming together and collectively deciding we're all going to be disgusting assholes for a bit. And then, because it's the first rule of Thanksgiving, we're never going to talk about the gluttonous atrocities we have committed this day. We're all aware that what we just did secured our spots in Hell. No need to bring it up.
Black Friday Is Awesome If You Wait Until The Evening
In sports, there's a thing called a scheduled loss. It's when you recognize all the games a team is certain to lose while looking at their schedule. If they end up winning any of these games, great -- but don't count on it, and always emotionally prepare to take the L.
I am not a professional sports team (I am, however, a mediocre recreational women's rugby team), yet I always have one scheduled loss built into my calendar: Black Friday. It's not that I come home empty-handed after the last heavily discounted 12-speed blender was snatched out of my hands by a geriatric. It's that I despise Black Friday's encroachment into the territory of Thanksgiving Day, yet always get roped into it. My wife feels the same way, or so she leads me to believe every day of the year until Thanksgiving morning, when she starts whispering in my ear that maybe we need to be one of the maniacs stampeding through a Best Buy with a sales flyer in one hand and a large club for bludgeoning in the other.
"Ugga Uh Guh Ba Ta Cho!" (Translation: "Excuse me. Where are the Beats by Dre?")
Don't mistake me for an anti-consumerist hippie. I define myself by the garbage I buy. The 55-inch OLED 4K TV in my living room is the only proof I offer when I tell people I'm better than them. They don't believe it until I fry their retinas with the glorious glow emanating partially from the television, but mostly from my shimmering aura of excellence. One day, I'm going to skip over thousands of years of evolution and become the first person to evolve into a gaseous orb of higher consciousness -- the pure manifestation of our species' superiority -- and it will be because I bought a Ferrari. I'm all for rabid, mouth-foaming consumerism -- just not when it interrupts my late-November food coma.
This is what you'll actually find in my living room.
That's why I wait. I know my staunch resistance to all things Black Friday will come crumbling down the second a friend tells me he legally obtained a PlayStation 4 by a means that on any other day would be called grand theft, but on this day is called a bargain. Rather than ruin this most precious of holidays, I hold off until late (Black) Friday to do my shopping. The mad rush is usually over, and contrary to what most would think, there are still plenty of deeply discounted products left that let me flip a loss to a win and further prove how much better I am.
Annual Family Arguments = Annual Family Healing
My mom and I once got into a massive argument with my aunt's wife during Thanksgiving dinner. They arrived two hours late, without explanation or apology. Here's what really set us off: We all lived in the same apartment building. Their commute consisted of a minute-long walk and a 15-second elevator ride. And they were home all day. If they lived any closer, they'd have been sleeping in our utility closet like lesbian Harry Potters.
The argument blossomed as we served ourselves, and then exploded into full-on screaming just as we were all taking our first bites of our frigid meals. I'll never forget my mom's face. I got to see the machinations of someone trying to express utmost rage while trying not to choke on it. It's a delicate balance that requires precisely patterned chews to break down large chunks of food matter to make way for even larger chunks of vitriol. The tongue needs to be agile enough to spit fire-ass disses while strategically moving chewed food to the sides of the mouth to clear a path the disses can blaze. To this day, I'm still impressed my mom didn't end up with cranberry sauce in her lungs.
I don't like it when my Thanksgivings are sullied. I hated that, on this day of togetherness, my family decided to get into the biggest screaming match we'd ever been in. So of course I made it worse by screaming "SHUT UP!" as violently as I could. In the moment, I thought the only way to bring everyone down from peak ugliness was to show them something much uglier. And technically, it worked. The argument ended ... but not the way I intended it to. My aunt's wife threw her hands up in exasperation, walked out of the apartment, and didn't talk to us for an entire year.
A proportional response.
If our paths crossed in the parking lot, she would not make eye contact. Not a single word was exchanged. It was as if none of us existed to one another.
One year later, at our next Thanksgiving meal, she walked in through our door an hour before dinner with a huge loving smile on her face. Through her thick Cuban accent that could never quite work out the mechanics of the English language, she shouted, "AH-PPY SANKSGIBING!" We had no idea she was coming by. No one apologized. We still haven't talked about that fight. We didn't need to.
I told you all of that to illustrate an extremely corny point: Holidays have a weird power to rip your family to shreds, but they can just as easily bring you back together with little cause or reason or even action necessary on your part. Sometimes -- not always, but sometimes -- the allure of sitting around a table with loved ones is enough to heal wounds.
Ruining The Meal Isn't The End Of The World, Because It's Not About The Food
Since high school, I've been my family's designated chef for every major holiday meal. I take pride in my meals, which is why, like my subscription to Entertainment Weekly, ruining Thanksgiving dinner is a fear that automatically renews itself every year, even though I don't want it to. I overcome it by diving headfirst into it, hoping my years of experience will steer me in the right direction. On Thanksgiving 2013, my experience steered me into a brick wall.
I was having a bad Thanksgiving. I wound up punching a dent into a door. The door wasn't made of a wood heavy enough that denting it convinced me I needed to use my superhuman strength to fight crime. It was by every objective measure a shitty door. I had mistimed every dish, over-salted two side dishes so badly that their serving bowls should have had Surgeon General warnings on the side, and my turkey was so dark that I had to convince my relatives it wasn't my fault, that this turkey was going through a goth phase. But it was the damn cookies that set me off.
The chemistry that occurs during baking mystifies me the way a magic trick blows this monkey's mind:
I knew I sucked at desserts, yet I wanted to make my own this year. Pies are too advanced a pastry for my primate brain to comprehend, so I made turkey-shaped sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are the remedial math class of desserts. There was no way I could mess them up.
Guess what happened next.
Explaining what went wrong would sound like a trailer park resident telling a reporter about the tornado that just passed through. There'd be a "It all happened to fast" and a "Before I knew it, everything was gone." Within a minute, the dough sloughed off the rimless cookie sheet onto the oven coils below, instantly catching fire. Rather than put out the flames, I punched a door. It was a moment of weakness, but I've lied to myself enough about it that I'm convinced I was trying to punch the door so hard that it would create a vacuum that smothered the flames.
With no other options, we sat down and ate. Everything sucked and the apartment smelled like a Keebler elf exploded. We made the best of it. It was still food, and it was still family. And if anyone was stupid enough to complain, I'd just point to the dent in the door. They got my message.
For more holiday survival tips check out Surviving Your Family Thanksgiving and 5 Thanksgiving Disasters You're Probably Not Prepared For.
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