Nov. 21, 2012 08:23




Dish comparisons

Everyone has that special dish they can’t live without on Thanksgiving. That’s how the dinner table ends up with so many sides: cornbread stuffing, turkey liver stuffing, oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes with peas, whipped potatoes and so on. There’s no need to get into a pissing match about whose stuffing is better than whose or why potatoes au gratin go better with turkey than baked potatoes. This is the one night of the year where everyone is okay eating their body weight, so just pass by what you don’t want and load up on what makes you smile. Keep the negative comments for next weekend, when you talk with your friends about how crazy your family is.

Past arguments

Being confined in the same room with some of your closest relatives for multiple hours at a time does not mean it’s a good idea to hash out old arguments. You’re not going to resolve anything in this setting, and you’re just going to drag more family members in the middle of an uncomfortable situation, so best let bygones be bygones as they say and talk about things that won’t make you want to bake yourself in the oven with the turkey.

The president

Election night created a lot of tension among Republicans and Democrats throughout the country. It’s probably best to steer clear of striking up conversation about how excited you are that Barack Obama won a second term, or how lucky you are to have dodged the Mitt Romney bullet, just in case your cousin was the guy who started one of the petitions to secede on the White House website.


First of all, I’m not sure why this would be a topic of conversation at any dinner table, let alone the Thanksgiving table, but just keep your eye on the prize: a big turkey and a smorgasbord of sides. A discussion of race has no place in this space.


It’s probably not the best idea to discuss Sophie’s previous boyfriend in front of the new fiancé she’s introducing to the family. And there’s no need to talk about Aunt Ellen’s recent divorce, or what he might be up to these days. Exes are exes for a reason — leave them in the past to avoid tears, drama and suicide attempts.


You’d think this one would be okay to discuss, because it’s a big football weekend and it’s a pretty neutral topic, but what about Uncle Jack who yells so loudly at the TV that the neighbors call the cops thinking there’s a case of domestic violence they need to report. If you’re going to talk about sports, try to be general and don’t make statements like, “Muck Fichigan,” because remember, you want to eat the turkey, you don’t want it thrown at your face.


This is a touchy subject in any setting, not just a big family gathering. Try not to make any overarching religious generalizations, just in case your cousin is a newly found Buddhist, or your brother has turned agnostic. The decision to be religious or secular is made with a great deal of thought, but not everyone thinks before reacting to other people’s choices.

Sexual orientation

It’s great to be open about your sexuality and I’m a huge advocate of equality and acceptance. But I wouldn’t suggest talking about how your cousin just came out to you, or how you saw your sister with a “friend” at a party. If you are LGBT and want to come out to your family at Thanksgiving, and you feel they will be there for you and support you, congratulations and good luck. But don’t out someone without their approval and don’t discuss someone’s sexuality without their knowledge, especially to a group of family members who may not all be as openminded and accepting as they should be.


Talking about work puts people on the spot. You either have to brag about yourself and your accomplishments, or you have to admit that you have no accomplishments to brag about. You’re better off not going there. That way you won’t get annoyed at your uncle for being cocky and you won’t find yourself pitying your nephew.


Let’s face it: Aunt Edna drinks too much. She always has and she always will. But Thanksgiving is not the time to tell her to slow down or ask her what glass she’s on. Is she giving a speech at a wedding tonight? Is she driving home? Then leave her be. It’ll make her happy and keep everyone else entertained in the process. Unless she’s an angry drunk. Then you might have to assign a moderator to keep an eye on her so she doesn’t start talking about any of the things on this list when she’s had one too many.

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