Thanksgiving is a high school reunion for relatives. Everyone gathers together to reflect on where they've been, how far they've come, and how much better or worse they're doing than before.
It's a Butterball of nerves, particularly when you factor in Thanksgiving other high-stakes ingredients: the doomsday traffic, the one crazy relative who shows up and does his/her crazy thing, the underlying family feuds, the love, the all-day drinking, the hunger--the extreme hunger!--for the perpetually "almost-ready" turkey, and those ghosts of holidays past. The result is a minefield of emotions and the reason family baggage has become such a cliché.
We've all got it, and we bring it to the table on Thanksgiving. All it takes is a seemingly innocuous question to snap that luggage right open and turn dinner into a Eugene O'Neill play. To bypass such family drama, avoid asking the following questions, or answering them.
Don't ask: "What happened with that guy you brought last year?"
Unless you want to hear: "We were both in different places in our lives, and he's 'doing him' right now…but I guess I do feel like it's weird (voice-cracking) being back this year without him...I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm crying, I'm actually totally fine with things." Please, distant relatives, do not interpret this reaction to mean she's been wanting to share this news with you. It's just that you've ripped the wound open again. Nice.
Along those lines don't ask: "So…when is the baby/ring coming?"
Unless you want to hear: "Ha! Who knows?" (And then, in a whisper directed at someone else] "Can we switch seats?"
If you made the turkey don't ask: "How is the turkey?"
Unless you want to hear: "Great. Can you pass the gravy?" which will sound to you like "It's dry! Everyone thinks it's dry! This turkey's too dry!" There, there now. After 2 sleepless nights, 3 hours with your hands up a bird's butt, 30 trips to the grocery store and all eyes on you, those unpleasant auditory hallucinations are kicking in.
And please, whoever brings the candied yams, don't ask: "How come you didn't try any?"
Unless you want to hear: "Because it's orange and has miniature marshmallows in it. I have not seen miniature marshmallows in stores since 1989, so you can understand my concerns."
Don't ask: "Why don't we go help mom cleanup?"
Unless you want to hear (and you don't): "Why because we're women? Mom may still embrace a hegemonic gender construct, but now that I'm out on my own I'm making my own choices.
Don't ask: "Who did you vote for?"
Unless you want to hear the crazy relative say uncomfortably racist things until the table is cleared.
Don't ask: "Did you ever finish that project/career change/ book/ life-altering decision from last year?"
Unless you want to hear: "I did not."
Don't ask: "Do you remember when you were a little girl and I used to take care of you when your mom was away?"
Unless you want to hear: "Oh my god. I suddenly do. I must have blocked that out."
Don't ask: "Do you have a vegetarian option?"
Unless you are celebrating Thanksgiving on an airplane. Face it, this is not your day. Just eat the candied yams and ride it out.
Don't ask: "Will you marry me?"
Unless you want to hear that crazy relative answer first and kill the mood. Contrary to what rom-coms will have you believe, Thanksgiving dinner is not ideal for super romantic moments. See the next question for more information...
Don't ask: "Bet ya [mumble, mumble, elbow jab] in the sack, eh?"
Unless you've embraced your role as the drunk uncle who creeps out the newly engaged couple by harping on their sex life.
Don't ask: "Where's the bathroom?"
Unless you want to go to the guest bathroom, which by the end of the night is a devastated war-zone with a vigil candle. (Pumpkin spice!) Instead, just slip away when nobody's paying attention and wander into the perfectly untarnished master bathroom oasis. There is your sanctuary of tinctures, furry toilet seating and trivia almanacs. You've got about 20 minutes until people start asking where you went.
And finally, don't ask: "Where did you go for so long?"
Unless you want to embarrass someone who just spent the past 20 minutes in a bathroom.