Pop Culture
Nov 26, 2013, 07:07AM

How to Survive a Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving

Avoiding spontaneous interventions and other helpful tips.

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Whether you are stressing out about the turnout of the overly fancy sweet potato casserole recipe you were stupid enough to try, counting folding chairs or losing your mind over how you’re going to spend up to eight hours in the same building with drunk Uncle Ted, nothing can stop Thanksgiving from coming this week.

Dysfunctional families everywhere, mine included, should all agree on some basic ground rules for making the holiday the least traumatic for everyone. Booze sales and shrink appointments are up at the holidays, so if everyone could collectively adopt some strategies in order to minimize potential harm to others and reduce our own levels of self-loathing, it seems like we should absolutely try, don’t you agree?

Do Not Throw Food: This seems obvious. But the temptation to hurl a gravy-dipped biscuit across the room at your bitch ass cousin who just made another condescending comment about the better education her kids are receiving in private school can be overwhelming. Practice mental (versus actual) biscuit throwing.

Avoid Eye Contact:  I know. It’s ridiculous you’d have to avoid eye contact with your own family members. But one misunderstood glance can say 1000 words and launch a three-year battle between family members, so the best thing to do is keep your gaze on your turkey, the centerpiece, or another neutral object that will not potentially initiate interfamilial violence.

Find the Booze Balance: You don’t want to be drunk, because then you’ll tell each other how you really feel, plus someone in the room is probably in recovery and they’ll go around talking about your inevitable drunken outburst for years to come. Also, a spontaneous intervention is always a possibility when everyone’s gathered at the train station of dysfunction junction. The best thing you can hope for is to spike your cranberry drink and hope to get away with a comfortable, sustainable buzz.

Don’t Pick a Fight: You don’t even know you’re doing it, because you have been pissing each other off since you played Pong years ago, but for the love of Butterball, keep your goddamned mouth shut. Even a compliment can start a fight, so avoid this common dysfunctional family trap. Do not tell your sister she “looks really good” because that just tells her she “looked really fat last time you saw her.” Don’t comment on the behavior of any child in the room, good or bad. Don’t talk about politics or religion. Really? Say as little as possible. Smile a lot as though you are pleasantly mildly mentally challenged, like Forrest Gump.

Remember, this is the only dysfunctional family you have, like it or not, so try to make the best out of it and keep the Jerry Springer behavior to a minimum.


Mary McCarthy (@marymac) also collected a batch of Funniest Dysfunctional Thanksgiving E-cards.


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