16
Nov
10

not so thankful

Reader T. B. writes:

Thanksgiving is next week and I’m supposed to go home and “celebrate” with my family. The catch is: I hate my family. What should I do?

Dear T.B.:

My first words to you will be words of comfort. Find solace in this fact:

Everyone hates their family during the holidays.

gourd family

I'm sure the pumpkins wish they weren't related to the acorn squash. Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh, sure, you’ve got your Goody-Two-Shoes friends who will deny that vehemently and say they love their family, all the time, but in all truth, there is nothing to love about a group of stressed out people who only visit each other once a year and are only loosely tied to each other through DNA and know exactly how to press each other’s buttons.

Of course, some people hate their families less than others. And some have reason to hate their family to a greater extent than others.

So on that note, I have two suggestions for you:

1. Don’t go. Cancel your plane or train tickets, regardless of how much they cost and who bought them. Call Mom right now and tell her you’re putting an end to the madness. If you hate your family that much, she’ll probably be relieved, even if she does get angry at you or try to guilt-trip you. Stand up for yourself. Refuse to come, no matter how much of your favorite dish Aunt Jane is  going to be making. Deny your grandmother’s right to see you one last time. Hold your own orphans’ Thanksgiving with people you DO like, or just stay home and watch whatever marathon of whatever TV or movie series appears on whatever cable channel you can get while sipping your favorite beverage of choice.

This would appear to be the cruel and callous way to go. It’s selfish. You’re hurting everyone’s feelings. But let’s take a step back. Sometimes it’s ok to be selfish. You can’t please all the people all the time, and sometimes you need to make sure you’re actually happy. I have forgone a Christmas or two myself because my mental health couldn’t handle it, and let me tell you, I am one of those Goody-Two-Shoes who says she doesn’t hate her family. Sometimes you just need a break. It can actually be better to remove your grumpy ass from the supposedly happy occasion to let everyone else breathe a little than to show up and be the terrible cousin who’s sulking. At those moments, for me, James Bond and Jack Daniels are all I need to make a worthwhile holiday.

But of course, there have been other seasons in my life, which brings me to option 2:

2. Get over yourself and go hang out with your family for two days. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unless they’re going to physically or emotionally or mentally abuse you (and I mean, really abuse you, not just tease you about that time you wet the bed when you were seven), toughen up and just go. I can almost promise that this Thanksgiving holiday won’t kill you. (There are always those people trying to fry their turkeys who burn down the house, so I won’t make any absolute promises.)

As Americans, we are so adverse to being around people we haven’t chosen to be around that we forget the world is populated by others. Smelly others. Annoying others. Others who voted for the wrong person or talk too closely or watch stupid TV shows. Sometimes those others also happen to be related to you. Being around people who annoy you builds character. It teaches you patience.

And furthermore, if these annoying people are biologically related to you, you can learn a thing or two about yourself that you’d be completely blind to if you’re only allowing yourself to hang around people you like (and who, hopefully, like you, too). You may have one of those surprising movie-script moments where you learn your dad sacrificed a lot to get your family through some giant, meaningful crisis you weren’t aware of when you were seven. Or you may get so mad at one of your siblings that the potatoes end up on the wall with the gravy following soon after. Either way, you’ve got a story to tell, at least.

Plus, why is it always someone else’s job to watch out for your feelings? Make Thanksgiving enjoyable for you, even if you do have to spend it with your crazy family. Just change your perspective and look for the positive side of things, and you’ll probably actually end up hating your family less by the end of the weekend.

I’m never going to advocate “blood is thicker than water” — I think sometimes our families can cause us more harm than good. If your family is truly abusive, I think it is your duty to take care of yourself and stay away. But for the rest of you, who are just annoyed that you have to spend a weekend away from that bar you go to every night anyway, I’d say give Thanksgiving another shot. Enjoy your crazy family. Get some stories to tell your chosen family of friends at that bar for when you all get back. I’m sure they’ll have a few good tales of their own.

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