This column originally ran for Thanksgiving 2013. We are struck by how sound the advice still seems and are reprinting it for those who missed it or may want to re-read it.
Thanksgiving is one of those loaded-for-bear holidays. We overeat, we over-drink, we overwatch football, and speaking anecdotally, we overbook appointments with our therapists for the Monday after. Families, they just do that to you sometimes, you know?
To help get you through the holiday, we have these suggestions of what not to bring to the Thanksgiving table:
1. Your eating habits.
Sure you can skip all the meat dishes, as well as anything with gluten, sugar or nuts, but how about just doing it quietly? Most Thanksgiving tables are laden with enough food to feed a small army, so pick your spots. Just don't make a big deal about it, OK?
Both you and your mom will feel better if you skip the eye roll when she offers you the turkey drumstick even though you have been a vegetarian since college. Did she just forget, or is she taking a happy walk down Memory Lane when you were a little kid and used to make her promise the drumstick was yours, all yours?
As for everyone else, your hosts have spent a lot of time, energy and money on this feast. In the spirit of the holiday and in recognition of their effort, how about just buttoning up the lecture on why you feel so much better now that you are gluten-free and let the rest of us enjoy the stuffing in peace?
2. A dish without asking.
I like to claim credit for inventing the pot luck, but I suppose sharing the burdens of meal preparation was something the cavewomen came up with. But before you just bring something, please check what your hostess needs. That or she will wind up with four green bean casseroles, as I once did. And damn my kids for liking the one our Alabama guest made better than mine. She opened cans of green beans, cream of mushroom soup and fried onions and just kind of tossed it all together. I've never been able to serve my kids the fresh organic bean dish since.
3. A bottle of wine.
Don't bring a bottle of wine; bring two. One is your contribution to the meal and the other is for your hosts to enjoy later. Bringing a hostess gift is a long-lost tradition that should be revived. Especially if I'm the hostess. Pinot Noir, please.
4. Your sense of entitlement.
Thanksgiving is when we remember what we are grateful for. Make sure that people are grateful for you and grateful you are there. You do that by genuinely being interested in what Uncle Bob has to say, showing real happiness that your cousin just got into a better college than the one you went to, and that your divorced sister just got engaged to a really great guy while the seat to your left remains empty. Adopt an attitude of gratitude for what you have and put all other feelings aside.
5. Your rotten childhood or any other baggage.
Most of our problems don't start at the Thanksgiving table. And we shouldn't bring them along. Thanksgiving isn't the time to ask for money, nor is it the time to point fingers of blame on things in your life that aren't going so swell. Seriously, save that for Christmas. And remember, you already have the therapist booked for Monday.
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