How To Deal with That Family Member at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Thanksgiving dinner is intended to be a convivial affair. Much is made of the idea that we should stop and consider our blessings, note the good that others have done for us, count the times that we have feared but not lost, and the recognize than when we have lost the sadness felt was in proportion to the joy we were lucky enough to share in. I’ll not object to such exercizes. We should enumerate and recognize the things that make our lives better and give thanks for them each and separately. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but we should. To me, and I assume many others, the wonder of Thanksgiving comes from less the mental tabulations – again, worthy activities – than time set aside to spend in communion with those we love; the feelings of thanks flowing effortlessly from and through the fellowship and unbidden forming yet another entry on the grand ledger for which we give even further thanks. Properly set, the Thanksgiving dinner table is a familial perpetual emotion machine. At least, it should be. We do our best. That’s why I’m so loathe to bring this up.

We all have that relative who is going to disrupt the Thanksgiving dinner harmony this year. It’ll likely be a man. I don’t want to be sexist, but it will. Your brother, uncle, brother in-law, father, grandfather, or cousin is going to say something controversial. Ideally, I’d sit on my hands and hope his inane thoughts get ignored and he moves on to other subjects, but these days there are devoted cable stations, web sites, and all manner of social media clamour feeding the bubble he lives in and god knows how many circular bias reinforcing bar conversations he’s a veteran of. He’s been marinating in this fantasy and has enough ammunition to blather on from soup to nuts. In addition to annoyed eye rolling adults, there’s the matter of any children present at the table. Should you sit by while a supposed authority figure fills their minds with this? You have to weigh his intrusion on their formative mind against the risk of upsetting your host and having it out with the offending presence right then and there (in which case I believe your host and probably all of the other guests will be secretly relieved and thank you later.) I say have it out. If you are cutting and decisive you may have him vanquished and silent before anyone sits at the table because when he sees Detroit playing Buffalo on TV he won’t be able to help but smugly inject some variation on “Flip channels so we can watch some real football. Brazil and Serbia, man! World Cup!” Properly armed you can end this now.

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