I come from two cultures that are very good at two things: fighting and eating. Coming from an Italian-Jewish background basically makes me a dysfunctional family etiquette expert. My family is tight knit, loud, and all up in each other’s grill. We all know each other’s business and we all talk about it in front of each other. Then we get mad about it and yell, but keep on sharing what we know will eventually become family gossip fodder.
I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to have all of my shit together in front of my family, and prove that I am not at all like them. I’ve always thought that instead of embracing my culture, I needed to be the opposite of it. Instead of joining in on the loud, fiery, inappropriate, fun, culture clashing, I chose to go the fake-mousy-college-educated-above everyone else route. Generally at family gatherings, this attitude makes me miserable and kind of a jerk. Families definitely know how to push your buttons. Maybe you have a passive-aggressive family and you approach it by trying to be direct and railroad the situation, or maybe your family comes from a rural area and you’ve been living in a city so you feel a little out of place. Maybe you’ve chosen a different career route than everyone else and they like to poke holes in it. Whatever your beef is with your family, likely the reasons why you want to kill them are also the reasons why you love them.
This year I’ve vowed to stop being self-righteous and yell right along with my family, and I think you should too. I thrive on dysfunction and chaos. I’m just as big of a drama addict as my whole family is. I mean, how can you have Thanksgiving without yelling? It’s time to embrace the crazy, no matter what it may be. Maybe you yell about politics, maybe it’s about bread, maybe you forgot to brush your hair—whatever you choose to yell about this holiday season, yell together.
If this sounds anything at all close to something you’ve experienced with your family, here is a friendly survival guide to Thanksgiving next week:
1. Be nice.
It’s not that hard. Speaking from experience, I would say don’t act like you’re better than everyone else. You might think you are, but you’re actually not. You came from your family. You can’t escape that.
Maybe they offer harsh advice sometimes, but they have years of life experience on you, and while that doesn’t mean they know everything, show some respect and argue with them (or shut up) when they want you to. Whether you have found yourself in Asia, started doing yoga, or feel more open minded than them because you just graduated from University and know everything (cause you know, people in their twenties know everything), don’t be a dick about it. All that’s going to happen is that you’re going to feel left out. No turkey for you. Or lasagna. Or matzah ball soup. Or wine. You know, whatever you guys eat for Thanksgiving.
2. Respect the Rules of The Kitchen
If you come from a culture where people are really good at cooking, stay the f**k out of the kitchen and help clean up. One day, when you’re in charge, you can make the rules, but for right now, respect whoever is in charge of the stove, and bow down to them.
Make sure you eat all the food. No… I mean ALL of it. No matter what. Eat seconds and thirds. Don’t want any food because you just started a new health regime, are vegan, vegetarian, allergic to nuts, or gluten free? Look, that’s fine, but it’s not going to help you get through the night. It is very possible that you will get disowned in an elaborate public ceremony where you get called a bunch of names in a language you may or may not understand and pelted with pasta.
Worst case, just pretend you’re eating pie, and feed it to the dog, the cat, or a plant. Maybe have a drink.
3. Don’t Drink and Yell
Oh shit, you had so many drinks. Well, that’s cool, probably they’ve all had lots of drinks too. Is your dad telling that story to someone about his prostate exam for the ninth time? You know what would be a great idea right now? Like a REALLY good idea? If you stood on a table or a chair and yelled some stuff. Usually if you’re dealing with crazy people, the trick is to out crazy them. Then they leave you alone. “HEY YOU GUYS! HOW MANY DRINKS HAVE YOU ALL HAD? I’VE HAD SEVEN. HEY—YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE FUN RIGHT NOW? LET’S TALK ABOUT BLOW JOBS!”
4. Damage Control
Great—now you talked about blow jobs with everyone. Sorry Grandma. You’ve officially out-crazied them and they will leave you alone for another eight months. Go hide somewhere for 15 minutes. Big ethnic families have an approximate memory of 15-20 minutes for embarrassing events.
5. Hiding and Taking a Breather is A-Okay
Text your sister or brother from your hiding spot. They’ll come and get you and warn you when it’s OK for you to emerge from your safe space. If you’re an only child, wait until someone is yelling about Donald Trump, Liberace, gun control, abortion, or potatoes, and then make your way back to the party. Everyone will have already forgotten your previous faux pas. Trust me, they’re like goldfish.
6. Yeah, you shovel that pie.
Alright, we are on dessert. You’re almost in the clear. Just eat the five pieces of pie. Just do it. Don’t talk about starving people in Africa. You’ll thank yourself later.
Come from a family like this? Tweet one of your favorite holiday moments @RachelResnik and @litdarling so we can compare notes and yell at eachother.
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