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Thinking About Thanksgiving #1 | Manolo for the Big Girl

Thinking About Thanksgiving #1

Hey all!

Since we’re here in November, I’m going to talk about Thanksgiving this month. I love Thanksgiving. I love good food, good friends, and a reminder to sit down and count my blessings.

See, this is how I see Thanksgiving:

via

It’s sort of an awesome blend of Norman Rockwell and a rock concert with delicious food.

There are others, however, who see Thanksgiving like this:

via

… only with turkey.

If your Thanksgiving resembles illustration #2 more than illustration #1, you’re doing it wrong. Stop it. Get help now.

Look, the point of Thanksgiving isn’t family drama. The point of Thanksgiving isn’t to make sure you work your hindquarters off delivering a feast that everyone then reminds you not to eat. The point of Thanksgiving isn’t even turkey. At its heart, Thanksgiving is about gathering with people who love you, and whom you love in return, to share the bounty of the season and appreciate what’s good in your life.

If you’re trying to avoid illustration #2 in your holiday life, here are some quick tips that will improve your life.

1: Never sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with people who are going to treat you badly. I don’t care whether the folks in question are your parents, your spouse, your grown kids, or your roommates. If they will treat you badly at the table, eat with someone else. I have a brother who will never, ever eat my cooking again. Why? Because every time I’ve ever fed him, he’s made sure I know he thinks my cooking sucks rancid  donkey tails. No point in putting either of us through that. He’s not coming over for Thanksgiving… or Christmas.

Whether the culprit is going to attack your: cooking, IQ, choice of friends, waistline, religious beliefs, food preferences, DVD collection, or sartorial style, you just don’t need that. One of you needs to eat somewhere else.

2: Family can be chosen by blood, but it can also be chosen by the heart. See, I know a lot of people say Thanksgiving is about family so you have to spend it with them. Thing is, some people get along with their blood families, and some don’t. If you don’t get along with the family blood chose, go be with the one your heart put together. Gather up the local orphans of the storm. Or, you know, you can even just spend the day alone if that’s what you truly prefer. There are times in life when knowing you can be on your own peacefully is the greatest achievement you can think of. If that’s the case this Thanksgiving, revel in it.

3: Just because it’s expected doesn’t mean it’s required. I can hear the chorus now ‘But I’m the one who cooks dinner!’ ‘My mom will throw fits if I don’t bake the pumpkin pie and then listen to her tell me I can’t have any!’ ‘My family won’t know what to do if I don’t come!’ Well, that’s their problem. Their expectations do not constitute an obligation on your part to meet them. Give them notice, certainly, that you’re making other plans, especially if you’re usually expected to make all or part of the feast. That’s only decent. How they react to your news is not  your responsibility. Let go of it.

4: If you don’t eat it, you don’t have to cook it. Just because other people say Thanksgiving requires turkey or cranberries or pumpkin or whatever doesn’t mean it has to be on the table. If you’re a vegetarian then people coming to your table can just learn to accept that there won’t be any meat. If everyone in your family eats turkey only on Thanksgiving because they don’t actually like turkey, it’s more than okay to substitute ham or salmon or your fabulous ziti and tofu sausage casserole or whatever you do like to eat. The point isn’t the specific dishes, but the expression of appreciating the bounty available.

5: It’s okay to opt out altogether. Think there’s too much hoopla around Thanksgiving? Uncomfortable with the political ramifications? Recovering from binge eating disorder? Just plain hate any sort of organized holiday set up to say thanks for stuff? Then just say no to Thanksgiving. Spend your day doing ordinary things and eat an ordinary meal.

In short, free yourself from the ‘shoulds’ of Thanksgiving. Concentrate on what really does make you happy, make you thankful.

20 Responses to “Thinking About Thanksgiving #1”

  1. klee November 6, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Great post, Twistie. I’m emotionally scarred from thanksgivings past, hopefully others can be spared this fate if they follow your words of wisdom.

  2. Anna November 6, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Truer words were never spoken. I had an awful mother-in-law, looking back I can see that she was a very unhappy, troubled woman, but at the time she just made me miserable and treated her son like crap (which was unacceptable to me). All my own family was too far away so after a couple years of suffering at her table – I declared Thanksgiving to be MY holiday – meaning I didn’t go anywhere, do anything or be with anyone I didn’t want to. And it was the best thing I ever did.

  3. The gold digger November 6, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    My husband and I are taking his FF miles and hotel points and going to Paris this Thanksgiving, which helps him with telling his parents that we will not be going to their house. (I want him to tell them that we are never spending another holiday with them again as long as they live, but he doesn’t want to deal with that drama.)

    The only good thing about Thanksgiving at their house two years ago was I got a good story out of it. Christmas the year before had seen the “how dare you let those children get all white meat” blowup, accompanied with the “when I was a kid, my mother would never have let me blah blah blah.” That was here: http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/2010/01/in-which-sly-gets-mad-about-white-meat.html

    The followup was the “I never have liked white meat,” which left my sister in law, the recipient of the Christmas blowup, and me drop-jawed and speechless. http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/2010/01/in-which-sly-comments-on-dark-meat.html

    Why yes alcohol was involved! Why do you ask?

  4. Twistie November 6, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    @klee: Yeah, I got a couple scars myself on the way to superfantastic. Several of them were inflicted on Thanksgiving by people I know love me dearly, too. That’s why I’ll talk to them the rest of the year and have Thanksgiving with someone else.

    @Anna: Good move! You can’t spend your entire life watching someone else’s train wreck.

    @The Gold Digger: Say hi to Paris for me! I’m betting it’s tough for your husband to listen to #3 on my list when it’s his own parents, but at least you won’t have to deal with more drama around white meat this year! Have a delightful trip.

  5. Toby Wollin November 6, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Oh, this is so great; I want to print it on cards and send it out! We used to spend all of our Thanksgivings with my father’s sister, who was not only nasty to us but also the food was so larded up with butter that I used to have (though I did not know what it was until later) gall bladder attacks. We’d eat dinner and within a half hour, I’d be out in the cold and the dark with my uncle, walking their dog and feeling utterly miserable. Eventually, my aunt did something over the line (which actually involved telling us at the last minute that we were NOT spending Thanksgiving night with them, which threw my folks into panic phone calls to hotels to try to get us beds for the night), and we never had Thanksgiving with them ever again. Definitely: Never spend holidays with people who make you feel like running away. A tuna sandwich with a friend is soooo much better.

  6. Fabrisse November 6, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    A couple of decades ago — and wow, that’s a way to short stop the conversation — my parents and I were invited to the home of some people whom they loved and I didn’t for Thanksgiving. I worked a double shift on a suicide hotline — freeing the other people who usually had the Thursday shifts — and still felt I got the better end of the deal. So. If you’re trying to find a reason not to be around toxic people, volunteering is a good way to do it.

    More recently, my friends and/or housemates and I would cook a turkey and invite anyone who wanted to come to bring a dish (and an ingredient list — no anaphylactic shock at our dinner table). If someone asked what to cook, we might have a suggestion based on what we knew others were or were not bringing, but it was pretty much up to the person. They were good Thanksgivings. Sometimes we had ten people and sometimes it was far more, but there was always enough to feed everyone present.

  7. Twistie November 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    @Toby Wollin: (raises a tuna sandwich to you and your Aunt-less Thanksgivings) Well said, m’dear.

    @Fabrisse: There’s nothing like saving a life to make you truly thankful. And there’s nothing like a good Thanksgiving with friends to remind you how joyful this holiday can really be.

  8. EV November 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    “Their expectations do not constitute an obligation on your part to meet them.” Hell. Yes. And I would add “nor do they constitute an obligation to concoct an elaborate and iron-clad reason as to why you *can’t* meet them.”

    My mother-in-law is absolutely obsessed with claiming everything and anything as a “family event,” “family holiday,” “family trip,” etc., and guilt-tripping anyone who gets in her way. I’ve been trying for years now to get my husband to understand that just because someone slaps the “family” label on something doesn’t mean it’s mandatory.

  9. Twistie November 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    @EV: Situations like that are precisely the reason Miss Manners is in favor of a vague but ongoing “I’m so sorry, but we just can’t” in reply to unwelcome invitations.

  10. La Petite Acadienne November 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    It also never hurts to limit the amount of wine served. My family gets along great during the holidays…as long as we don’t drink too much. My husband and I have solved this problem by sticking to beer, strangely enough. The rest of my family is less likely to “just open one more bottle” if there are fewer people drinking it. It’s weird, but it seems to work well for us.

  11. wildflower November 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    Is that turkey wrapped in BACON? That’s freakin’ brilliant! I think I’m going to do that!

  12. Thea November 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    My husband does the turkey wrapped in bacon every year. It’s brilliant! The bacon bastes the turkey ensuring it’s not dry. When it comes out of the oven there is usually a fight for the bacon as the bird comes out of the oven.

    My original family Thanksgivings got so dreary that I started my own tradition with people I love. We all bring things we love and the nobody whines because they don’t like something – they just don’t eat it. And cranberry margaritas rock!

    BTW, did anyone else grow up with the notion that Thanksgiving is a ‘Yankee holiday?”

  13. wildflower November 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Wow, Thea! I’m totally going to do that this year! Do you mean “Yankee” as in American or “Yankee” as in New Englander? Well, the first Thanksgiving was in Massachusetts, was it not? I just love that all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods–turkey, corn, winter squash, potatoes, cranberries, etc–are truly American. We seem to preserve so little nowadays, but we’ve preserved that. :)

  14. Joani November 7, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Darnit, where is that ‘like’ button… Wait, this isn’t Facebook.

    Though I don’t specifically remember being in the shoes of any situation listed above, I wholeheartedly agree with your list.

    I have had Thanksgivings (Canadian-style) two days late because the turkey wasn’t ready, I have had the unique-but-entirely-delicious dish at my table (bannock), and I have spent it with friends or by myself as situation and comfort level demanded. What I gleaned from this is that Thanksgivings is all about being comfortable and feeling loved.

    I look forward to creating new traditions with my boyfriend. This year, we had ham and stuffing (I love Stove-top). I was just thankful that I was with him, as he lives three provinces away.

  15. The Accidental Tangoiste November 8, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    Thank you, Ms. Twistie, for sharing your good heart and kindly reminders. :)

  16. Thea November 8, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    Wildflower – Yankee as in people on the other side of the “War of Northern Aggression” :-) We always celebrated Thanksgiving down here but growing up it was 1. to test recipes to see if they were worthy of serving at Christmas dinner and 2. eaten between football games (see Blindside).

    It wasn’t until I lived elsewhere that I realized that in New England Thanksgiving was treated with absolute reverence…not that that’s a bad thing, just different from my experience.

    Recipe for Bacon wrapped turkey
    -2lbs of apples cored and quartered and stuffed inside the bird (they steam inside the bird and keep it moist
    -2lbs fatty bacon (thick cut is best and we prefer maple flavored) layed in strips covering the outside of the bird
    -cook as normal but add a little time for the weight of the bacon
    -bacon will be dark brown/brick red when done
    – it won’t look like a Martha Stewart turkey but it’s delicious!

  17. wildflower November 8, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Thea! Oh my! Apples, too! I must try that for sure! Thanks for taking the time to type it out for me!

    I love Thanksgiving for reasons that are best described in this column by my favorite local columnist:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1996/11/28/DD72545.DTL

    Thanks!

  18. Bobbi November 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Remarkably similar to the family practice shrink I interviewed for an article for surviving stress at Christmas. The only type of person/relationship you didn’t cover was the recently bereaved and if that is your sorrow right now, then give yourself permission to grieve.

  19. dcsurfergirl November 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you!