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November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving When You’re Not So Thankful

Filed under: Be Super Fantastic — Twistie @ 8:30 am

Last week, I wrote about Thanksgiving and how I love it. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m the sort of cockeyed optimist and holiday hussey who was very nearly assaulted by her co-workers one fine December 24th for still being in a good mood while working full time in retail over the holidays. And so it saddens me when I see situations like Scarlett’s:

I am a notorious whiz with a pumpkin, apple, or mince pie. I can churn out perfect cranberry sauce without blinking an eye. And I am expected to produce these items for my family every Thanksgiving. But god forbid I actually EAT any of them. I start getting the “don’t you think you’ve had enough” whispers from my mother before I’ve finished my first helping of stuffing.

It’s a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless, that a lot of people have good reason for hating this time of year, and that way too many of those reasons revolve around two things: family and food.

So what’s a superfantastic big girl to do when family makes holiday feasts one more reminder of her ‘failure’ to be thin?

If you’re Scarlett, or if you share her situation of being the go-to cook cum whipping girl, I suggest you start by not cooking for your family anymore. Cook by all means, but for someone else. There’s no reason to cook for people who will punish you for eating what you’ve spent all that time and effort making. And believe me, if they miss your cooking enough, they can learn to hold their tongues long enough to stop nagging you for one day. Maybe even longer!

If they never learn, then take a page from Katie’s book and create youself a new family:

This year will be the first year I’ve not spent Thanksgiving at home, with my biological family, which is probably good for them and me. Instead, I’ll be spending it with my fabulous roommate, and his partners, both of whom are dear friends of mine. Somehow, the four of us managed to form a family, and the love between the three of them, and their shameless, boundless affection for me did give me renewed hope for the idea of “family”–and plenty to be thankful for.

And then there’s the sad plight of kayaitch:

Well thanksgiving HAD always been one of my favorite holidays until I had my DD. DD dislikes turkey. And stuffing. And gravy. And yams, no matter how they are cooked. And cranberry sauce. And pumpkin pie. And green beans, if you please.

I’m definitely a big fan of trying to make sure there’s something on the table to please everyone around it, but there’s accomodating known tastes, and then there’s denying the majority for the sake of one person. Growing up, I hated ham. The rest of the family loved it, and my mother usually made it for Christmas dinner. Since I was not usually a terribly picky eater and rarely made a fuss about what I didn’t like, my mother would make me a lamb chop or chicken breast for Christmas dinner, but the rest of the family ate ham and I was expected to deal with that. I did.

So kayaitch, don’t deny yourself and everyone else around you for the sake of one picky eater. It’s just not worth it. If she hates everything that much, she also has the option to follow the superfantastic example of Katie and do something gloriously non-traditional:

But this year, my friends and I are going to a fabulous Thai restaurant for Thanksgiving. Who needs turkey when you’ve got close friends and fabulous vegetarian-friendly food?

So whether your problem is that your family fails to respect you, you’re dealing with picky eaters, or you happen to be allergic to tradition, there’s still a way to have a good time for Thanksgiving. All too often we allow traditions and biological connections to tie us in knots when we don’t need to. When we stop looking at what we’re ‘expected’ to do and start paying more attention to the spirit at the heart of holidays, it’s easier to find ways to love them.

It’s worth it just to watch those still shackled by expectations blow their tiny minds trying to figure out how you do it.


  1. The Deja heartily seconds the notion of creating one’s own family when the family one was born into includes a few Cruella’s.

    Also, regarding picky eaters, the Deja hosts a couple of large bashes each year (July 4th and Thanksgiving) that include wee ones, and has found that in addition to the regular menu, a batch or two of boxed macaroni and cheese whipped up beforehand and heated in the microwave at mealtime is cause for delight among the wee ones and their parents.

    Comment by deja pseu — November 18, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  2. I spent my entire adult life living absolutely nowhere near my family (including a few years in an entirely different hemisphere, thank you US Navy). When my husband decided that his upcoming retirement at the age of 42 also meant being single, I packed up and left Very Expensive Duty Station and headed home to Very Inexpensive City and the comfort of family – for the first time ever as an adult. So here I was, a radically different person, differently-educated, vastly more-travelled, pretty much a stranger, walking into the land mines of parent-child tension between my folks and the remaining child who resented my parents for being loving parents but not Ozzie and Harriet perfection (me, I thought they did pretty good, but what do I know). So I am now the default holiday kid, always expected to be the one to dine with parents on holidays so they don’t have to eat alone anymore. It’s quite a bit easier now that I’ve re-married, as my husband makes a wonderful buffer between my alien self and the Bible Belt Folks Back Home. We duel a bit on food, as my tastes have obviously expanded even as my father has grown ever more insistent in his specific menu (can’t forget that can o’ cranberry jello). But we’re slowly learning to compromise, and I’m learning at the age of 40 what it means to be part of a family again.

    And for that I give thanks.

    Comment by Whitney — November 18, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  3. I have vivid memories of Thanksgivings-gone-into-the-shitter and I have to say that absolutely, if you have a family that is a bunch of unappreciative, critical wombats (sorry, wombats), then find another family to spend Thanksgiving with…or create a new one…or find an organization that can use your superior skills (hey, you can come to my house – I am known as the “apple crisp queen” because my pie crusts come out like paper towels – and my family lusts after pie in any way, shape or form). The whole point of the holiday is to “give thanks” – and it is damnedly difficult to do that if one is under threat of ‘the look” over how many servings of x, y. or zed one has had over the course of the meal. Especially when you have contributed so much of x, y and zed.
    This year, my recently married daughter and son-in-law will be doing all the heavy lifting for the meal – my contribution is bread and a salad. And I for one am looking forward to trying everyone else’s x, y and zed and giving a whole lot of thanks that I don’t have to do all the cooking myself.
    Here’s to Thanskgivings where one can truly give thanks.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — November 18, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  4. kayaitch, don’t despair.

    I grew up hating turkey, and in fact, I still dislike it. I’m also still not crazy about potatoes. Etc.

    I also grew up knowing that my mom wasn’t going to make a special meal just for me, so I could eat vegies and bread and butter and whatever other odds and ends were on the table, and that was all there was to it.

    And I survived. No one ever died from NOT gorging on a turkey feast. If the rest of your family and friends want a traditional turkey meal, don’t let a picky-eating daughter stop you.

    And hugs to all of you have lousy family gatherings for whatever reason…

    Comment by Canaadian Chick — November 18, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  5. Oh, my, I remember the first time I went, my chubby little self, to my husband’s grandmother, who is a lovely person, but who unfortunately has attached to her an irritating, fat-phobic daughter (husband’s aunt.)

    So one day, while passing out drinks for dinner, she asked me if I wanted some milk. I said “sure, thanks” She stopped and announced, in a voice of disgust, “But you already HAD milk at LUNCH.”

    And I looked up and said, “Then why did you offer it, moron?”**

    It made for a few awkward minutes, but it shut the rest of them up for years. I won’t go to his family anymore. Fat-phobic daughter is attached to “creepy uncle” who tries to explain to me that his “wife doesn’t understand him” and there are just limits to what one person can stand. Groped in one room, humiliated in the other, and all the while just wishing I could be at home watching Sci-Fi.

    **I think, in general, it is very bad to be disrespectful to one’s elders, but it is also very bad to be so dumb. If you are freaked about somebody who is fat eating a cookie in front of you, 1) get a life and 2) don’t offer them one. It’s really not their obligation to meet your expectations in this social context.

    Comment by Chaser — November 18, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

  6. I have always admired my best friend who does not feel the need to spend lots of time with her family that she simply does not feel that close to. She spends as much time as SHE wants to feel she has honored her commitments, but she often spends holidays with my family (how lucky are we?) or other friends that she enjoys more. She has done this since she was quite young and I think it is very wise of her.

    Comment by Eilish — November 19, 2007 @ 12:34 am

  7. I do a huge orphan Thanksgiving every year- even though my own family lives just 2 miles from me. Growing up every major holiday meant a violent family argument, so a few years ago I stopped going.

    I have a bit of a conundrum trying to feed the vegans, gluten allergic, veggies and carnivores but I’ve become a pro at making things vegan that don’t taste vegan. There are a few glutinous treats for us meat eaters (sausage stuffing, turkey cooked in a liter of wine and deviled eggs) and everything else is made with non animal stuff.

    Because I’m down with cooking for the vegans- I have a big crowd every year. Last year there were 17 people in my little apartment.

    Comment by Red Queen — November 19, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  8. Oh my. Oh my my my. If I brought the delicious desserts to a party (regardless of attendees) and then was told to not eat them/very much, I’d pack my pies and head home, thank you very much.

    To use her phrase….don’t you think you’ve had enough OF BEING TREATED THAT WAY?

    The de always loads her plate with as much of what she wants to eat at every meal, including holidays. The de is a grown woman and even happily tells her own mother “you aren’t the boss of me’ :P….as an adult, The de gets to make her own fabulous food choices. Which also include the choice of taking pies elsewhere.

    That being said, The de does have a slight bit of dread about holiday meals – The de does not eat The Meat and therefore is often given “bless your heart” pity faces that drive her up the wall. Trust The de, she is not missing out because you are having her helping of ham/turkey/roast.

    Comment by de — November 19, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  9. Red Queen, I sincerely hope you meant gluttonous and not glutinous because that sounds…uh…well, you know. ;)

    My family sends mixed messages. The women show their love and affection by piling on the food and demanding that you eat more, but almost immediately after the meal, they’ll turn to you and ask if you’ve gained weight. Sigh. I love ’em anyway.

    Comment by me — November 19, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  10. Methinks that Scarlett needs to find a terrible-tasting recipe for fat-free pie crust with sugar-free filling, topped of course, with Cool Whip Free ™.

    That oughta teach ’em.

    Comment by Nicola — November 20, 2007 @ 2:09 am

  11. My mom and I have celebrated thanksgiving just her and I pretty much every year since my dad split. That first year was for lack of a better term not superfantastic. But now I do all the cooking which I love and she sings Thanksgiving carols and sets a fantabulous table with the good china, we do not invite anyone over and eat in our best pajama ensembles. I love our Thanksgivings and I can’t wait for this one!

    Comment by AngelleNoire — November 20, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  12. Great advice from Twistie. Although it saddens me that so many people have such negative associations with family get-togethers.

    My son is also a picky eater, and you know what, if he doesn’t want to eat what’s there on Thanksgiving, he can go one night without having protein, you know? It’s not going to kill him.

    Comment by Glinda — November 20, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

  13. My Husband and I are from New Mexico and we are now living in a North Eastern City. Every Year, since we have moved here we have invited everyone who needs a place to have Thanksgiving to our house for our dinner- its a lovely tradition and we have had a chance to get to know people from our Church and work in a different way. Thanksgiving is a loaded Holiday for some people and we have learned that a lot of people like the reprieve from the family situation.
    Anyhow, I make Tamales and use all different kids of Chiles in my Thanksgiving meal- I do traditional Southwestern flavors in all of the traditional dishes. Theres is a turkey, cranberries, stuffing and sweet potatoes, they are just presented a little differently then the North Eastern Version. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.
    We were talking about Thanksgiving traditions at work and a woman looked at me and said “How can you call it Thanksgiving if you don’t have Green Bean Caserole and Canned Cranberry Jelly.” She was very snooty about it, and I just let it go. Silently I was very grateful to be able to get joy out of Thanksgiving.
    Thanksgiving is a Loaded Holiday- Create your own traditions, ignore the bitter people and remember to count your blessing and eat your pie- Calories and fat Grams don’t count on Thanksgiving….

    Comment by Kimks — November 21, 2007 @ 11:54 pm

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