Mastering Thanksgiving With Family



Ann Luce, back row, second from left, begins the dinner with prayer on Jan. 26, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minn. Two families, their children and occasionally their friends have been dining together weekly for about 30 years. (David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Peter Schlachte

Hayden G asks, “How do I deal with my relatives during Thanksgiving?”

Dear Hayden,

This is likely the most important and challenging question that I will ever answer. Allow me to begin with an anecdote: at age seven, I attended Thanksgiving with my cousins from Florida. I was stuffing myself with a second helping of sweet potatoes and canned cranberry sauce when Grandpa Benjamin posited that my peewee football team had been obliterated every game this season because a well-trained chimpanzee would have been a more accurate quarterback than me. In response, I threw the turkey at Grandpa Benjamin’s head and screamed, “How’s that for accuracy, you old fart.” I haven’t been invited to Thanksgiving since. You may doubt my qualifications to answer this question, but I assure you, for the past 29 years, I’ve pondered nothing more seriously than the question of how to redeem my Thanksgiving faux pas.

The truthful answer: I’ve accepted that there’s only one solution to breaking bread with relatives at Thanksgiving: sabotage. Carefully planned, exquisitely staged sabotage. The good news? Sabotage is shockingly simple.

Step one: procure unholy amounts of alcohol. I suggest that you provide alcoholic eggnog during dinner for a variety of reasons: it fits the holiday spirit; the combination of dairy and liquor is unparalleled for causing vomit-inducing stomach aches; and lactose-intolerance is one of the world’s most common food allergies, so one of your relatives is certain to suffer.

Step two: hire a small child to be your “daughter” for the evening. Explain to your shocked relatives that, synonymous to Drake, you’ve been hiding a secret child born out of wedlock. This works even better if you’re a college student. Tell your “daughter” to whisper compliments in your ear, but loudly enough that the whole table can hear. Examples include: “Uncle Todd’s hairpiece matches his eyebrows perfectly,” or “Cousin Jimmy’s face tattoo really accentuates his cheekbones.” Just as a good gardener nourishes her plants to produce a bountiful harvest, you must nourish your relatives’ egos to reap the rewards of sweet sabotage.

Step three: suggest that everyone plays “the secret game” — a game where each participant anonymously places their deepest secret in a hat and the group guesses who the secret belongs to. The game was invented for the sole purpose of ruining friendships and skyrocketing social anxiety, but because your relatives are drunk and feeling good-natured about your “daughter’s” compliments, they’ll agree immediately. During the game, Aunt Janice will inevitably admit that her twenty-four year old son is adopted and cousin Logan will proclaim that he made out with cousin Aimee twice because “she’s kinda cute.” Trust me when I say every relative, even your sweet old granny, will have shocking secrets.

If your sabotage goes well enough, your relatives will never speak to you (or each other) again and you can willfully ignore that they even exist for the rest of their short and insignificant lives. I hope this advice helps, and if Touching Tips discontinues abruptly after Thanksgiving, you’ll know it’s because my relatives have actually murdered me. Enjoy Turkey Day!