For some, family gatherings (e.g. Thanksgiving dinner) can be very stressful. Dysfunctional siblings, overly conservative grandparents, and failed casserole recipes are among the few things that could go wrong tomorrow evening. However, like the potential zombie apocalypse, there are survival skills in place for even the craziest of families.
1.) Neutral Dinner Topics – Avoid talking about controversial subjects like Obama, religion, gentrification, tattoos, conspiracy theories, American Horror Story, marijuana legalization, and climate change (despite Winter Storm Cato). If someone else voices an opinion with which you strongly disagree, grimace, and quickly change the tone by asking if they need another helping of cranberry sauce, and perhaps a fresh glass of wine. Dinner should be a pleasant meal and is not the time to proclaim your carefully prepared counter-arguments.
2.) Babysitting – Children are often more entertaining than adults. If you’re trying to avoid someone, pretending to help your kid cousins is a great way to get out of an awkward conversation. “I’m stuck in this intense Pretty, Pretty Princess game, so unfortunately, I can’t discuss your untimely divorce right now,” or “I’d love to help clean up the spilled gravy, but Gina really wants me to listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat with her.” Your family will not second-guess your excuses if they revolve around making the kids happy.
3.) Discrete Headphones – If you know for sure that you are going to get cornered by a family member and be forced to endure their war stories, then invest in some inconspicuous headphones. You can listen to a favorite podcast or the football game instead, whilst nodding periodically to make it seem like you’re paying attention. This works especially well if you have long hair that covers your ears.
4.) Exit Plan – There will come a point in the evening when everyone is outstaying their welcome. Kids are crying. Uncles are singing karaoke. The dog needs to go out. Grandad is asleep in the recliner. And your hosts are desperately trying to clean up, entertain, put their children to bed, map out their Black Friday route, have a cocktail, and watch the NFL highlights. Know when to say when. Offer to drive someone home (within reason). Chug a glass of water if you’ve been drinking. Say quick goodbyes, leave, don’t look back. If Thanksgiving is being held in your own home, package the pumpkin pie in Tupperware and kindly tell your guests that you have work in the morning (whether or not you actually do is irrelevant). Always have an excuse at the ready.