Writer's note: This story is all in good fun. Also, Thanksgiving is an important time to honor, respect, and remember our vital Native American history. Don't be a jerk to your grandparents, and remember: Literally everyone is feeding the dog under the table, so let's not make Scruffy hurl.
Thanksgiving breaks all the rules. Dinner starts at 2 p.m. sharp (or earlier). Beer starts at 11:30 a.m. Conservatives and liberals hang out—even enjoy each other's company for a few moments (that's progress). Old and young share stories and wisecracks and maybe even some off-color jokes. No one gets out of this familial feast without at least contemplating a few ways that they are truly grateful—which is something we all should do, 365 days a year.
It is an exhausting and fulfilling time to be alive, this appetizer to "the holidays." You can attempt to resist the food/existential hangover that lie ahead, or you can get on the bandwagon and double up on thirds. Consider this your Thanksgiving survival guide to going off the deep end, not avoiding it.
Because when it comes to sins of the (turkey) flesh, it is tradition to do wrong right.
We all go overboard from time to time. (Where did that entire cheese plate go? That was for guests!) And no, you should not necessarily feel excellent after eating an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting, especially if that sitting is in front of some god-awful reality television. However, there is one day each year that you can proudly unbutton the top of your jeans and proclaim, "I'm gassy and proud!" Thanksgiving is your get-out-of-glut-free-card, people. Use it! What's worse than waking up in a pool of grandma's gravy with a massive food baby (it's twins) kicking around your gut? I'll tell you what: The horrifying, hollow realization that you only ate salad.
Unfortunately, holidays are peak times for social media use. If I had my way, I'd create a mandatory Instagram/Facebook/Twitter blackout for at least a day before, during, and after the ceremonial feast. Why? For one, your family came to visit you from all this way. Wake up and spend some quality time with your elders! Two: Comparison is the thief of joy. While you're lusting at someone's "perfect" Instagram turkey surrounded by gorgeous slices of pomegranate and pinecones (who cares if pinecones aren't edible, it looks so pretty), you will inevitably neglect your own imperfectly perfect occasion. Don't do that. Not everyone gets to have Thanksgiving. If you are enjoying any kind of meal (or, say, a snack) with people you remotely enjoy, you're golden.
Counting up the slices of pizza your friends have eaten when sharing a communal pie is one thing (it's called college). Now that you're an adult, you shouldn't be plopping half the mashed potatoes on your plate "just in case" there aren't any leftovers. Don't be greedy, lest you want to get downgraded to the kids table. What's leftover belongs to the meek, anyway.
So you think that your stuffing is literally bigger than the Beatles. Maybe your great-grandma (and grandma and mom and everyone else in your family) thinks that it's superior because you use sage/olives/corn/lobster tail in the top secret recipe, which is written on an ancient scroll guarded by ninjas. Guess what? Someone else will turn their nose up at it. If you're bringing a dish to Thanksgiving, you don't need to preface it as "world famous" or "The best ever." Your dish, although tasty, is probably only world famous to your particular clan. Isn't that good enough? If it's really universally beloved, you'll know. A sure fire way to confirm your pie/cranberry sauce/green beans reigns supreme? You find the host sneaking big spoonfuls while preparing the table. He/she will say, "I'm just testing the temperature" or whatever, but you'll know. Did someone ask you for the recipe? Don't get a big head. Did your cranky uncle Saul who never gives kudos to anyone ask for the recipe? You're on to something. Did the sullen and extremely picky pre-teen crack a smile while consuming it? Congrats, you may have a rock star dish. Go on, be proud, but stay humble. Think of the little people who helped you get to the top.
No one told you that your daughter's boyfriend (and now, suddenly, your daughter) is #veganlife and #glutenfree. The dog ate the three pies you spent literally seven hours making, from the gingersnap cookie crust to the elaborate latticework sprinkled with "fancy" nutmeg, which you imported from a specialty grocer two towns over. Do not succumb to sorrow. Listen to me. You need to get up, put on some lipstick, and go to the grocery store with the rest of les misérables. Secret truth: No one will care that it isn't homemade. Some may not even notice. Remember: Your guests just want to hang out and eat food with people they like and love. The biggest lie of of all: Thanksgiving really isn't all about the food. Not even a tiny bit.
"Don't talk politics!" your host cries. Maybe you're the host, and you've established this rule, hoping to ensure that all parties experience an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. Remember this: YOU CANNOT STOP THE WRATH. Do yourself a favor, and just let go. The world is far too messed up right now. Tensions will bubble to the surface; it's natural. You can't stop NPR vs. Fox and Friends feuding, but you can stuff your guests full of so much delicious food that they can barely breathe, let alone pontificate. And yes, you can totally turn the hose on anyone brazen enough to take the fight outside to the front lawn. You don't need your neighbors seeing that.
See: Lust. Don't take 10,000 pictures of your perfect table spread complete with artisanal cider pairings and share across all social media platforms. It's a crime against humanity. If you do, you're part of the problem. You will be unfriended and blocked.
Finally! Isn't this the best part? Once the real-life game of Hungry Hungry Hippos comes to an end (everyone wins), you'll be riding high on a tryptophan trip so strong you can't remember where you parked the car. Just go with it. Roll your body onto the floor, pet some dogs (if your Thanksgiving does not include an assortment of dogs, or even cats, I can't help you), and nap your way to bloated bliss. When you wake up, you'll probably feel like popping a roll of antacids and retiring to the couch for a few hours. Resist! Even a sloth like you can help out by doing a few dishes. Even a sloth can take a moment and donate their time at a local soup kitchen. That's called Thanksgiving karma (and getting invited back). Δ
Hayley Thomas Cain aims to get invited back every year (even after the "incident" with the ambrosia). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.