Hey, Geeks! Welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about all the worst parts of your favorite things. It’s Thanksgiving! Which is one of those things that everyone claims to love– until they’re actually at the table and realize that this is a variation of Hell that we subject ourselves to each year. On purpose. And it seems to be getting worse. Let’s talk about why.
Chances Are You Still Feel Like You’re at the Kid’s Table
Okay. So there might not actually be a kid’s table for your family at Thanksgiving this year. But you remember the one I’m talking about. The one you sat at when you were… you know. A kid. At your parent’s house. When they were obviously the adults and you were not. There was a hard-and-fast line, and you knew which side of it you stood on. Times were simple.
It’s different now, isn’t it? Because you’re supposed to be an adult by this point. And you are. You know you are. You earn paychecks and have your own place and read TGE articles on your fancy phone that you paid for all by yourself while your racist uncle rants about immigrants. There’s NO WAY you’re at the kids’ table anymore. Right?
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You don’t really feel like an adult when you walk through that door. Sure, you’re able to fake it most days in your day-to-day life. Your boss and coworkers think you have it together. Through the rest of the year, you’re awesome at this. But this isn’t the rest of the year. This is Thanksgiving. And you have to show up here, in your childhood home surrounded by people that have known you since you were a baby– and you can’t hide behind that “I’m totally a grown up and should be here” facade that’s kept you from being fired so far. Because these people know better. They had different expectations for you, and they’re ready to subtly point out each of those you failed to hit until one or all of them falls asleep in front of the football game after dinner.
“Even looking like this, I’m STILL going to find a way to make it sound like YOU’RE the laughingstock, Kid.
Let’s talk about your finances.”
Maybe you’re lucky and this isn’t you. But it does describe the situation for an increasing number of people stuck somewhere between the adulthood they dreamed of and the one they got. And it’s hard not to feel like a child. You thought you would have a house to host at by now. Or at least a table that could fit more than 4 people. You thought that by now you’d be able to afford a turkey and rent, (even if payday isn’t until tomorrow). You thought you’d be able to do all the things you watched your parents do for Thanksgiving every year growing up. But you can’t. And by showing up here with your only set of Tupperware and no significant other, everyone knows it.
Welcome to the personal Hell that you keep coming back to. That you have to keep showing up to. It’s not like you have a choice. You already feel like the Black Sheep of this family even without having ‘unsocial’ and ‘hates family’ added to the list of your apparent shortcomings. Plus, you really need some of that leftover turkey if you want to eat next week. So here you are.
You know the worst thing about this probably-metaphorical Kids’ Table? You know it’s not your fault. That the dreams you were set up with fell apart without your influence. But that’s not what they’ll say. Those ‘loving’ families that would be mad if you didn’t show up this year. Instead, your mashed potatoes will be coated with a healthy serving of “You obviously don’t have your priorities straight.” “When I was your age I had my own house and your older brother.” “I see that you still have that 90’s Taurus out front. Isn’t it time for an upgrade?”
And you have to sit there and smile and laugh like they’re just kidding. Because even though they didn’t watch the housing bubble burst right in their face or have to hold 3 jobs just to pay rent. Even though they could afford a year’s worth of college on a summer job when they were your age. Even though they could afford a meal for 16 like this instead of choosing between electricity or eating spaghetti next month… Despite knowing all of this, you can’t say any of it. Not unless you want to add “being the problem” to the list of your faults that they can point out next year.
Via Saturday Night Live
“You can move to the Kids Table, Dear. There’s room there since we’ve noticed that *someone* hasn’t given us any grandchildren yet.”
All Your Racist Family Members Will Be There
Everyone jokes about ‘that racist uncle’ that you dread seeing on Thanksgiving because you know you just have to smile and nod while he spews sewage and vitriol into the gravy boat. But you’re probably starting to figure out it’s not really a joke– either because you’re getting smarter as you age or because the weed is wearing off more quickly now.
Either way, everyone has that one family member who cuts into their turkey while raving about how “those illegals should be sent back where they came from” or how “the Irish are one of the most persecuted in history but do they make a big deal about it?” It’s prevalent and it’s exhausting and you’re already mentally listing all the things you wish you could say to that person, but know that you can’t. And of course, the irony of “all those illegals are coming over and taking our resources” is lost on them as they gather around this table for another year, celebrating when their ancestors came to a new country, needed help, asked for resources…
Painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
…and paid their benefactors back with plagues, genocide, and reservations.
But, yeah, Uncle Lou. We’re the ones that need to build a wall.
And Gods forbid this be the year you bring someone with you to meet your family without properly preparing them for that “racist uncle” in your house. Because you’ve grown accustomed to the faults of your family. You might not even notice it anymore, sometimes. And, while you hope that that doesn’t make you a tiny bit racist in itself, you know that your new friends will catch every single thing that is allowed to go unchallenged in your family. And they might not judge you specifically for the shortcoming of your brood, they will always know that this is what you came from.
But don’t worry. Your uncle can’t possibly be racist because “he has a black friend.”
It’s Really Only the Beginning
So, you’re sitting around a table with people you barely tolerate and wondering what excuse you could possibly give for needing to leave early. You don’t want to leave too soon, of course, because you need some of those leftovers. Because you know what’s coming. You might be able to expect some extra hours from at least one of your jobs, but is it going to be enough? Probably not. Because Thanksgiving is just the opening act for Seasonal Obligations: The Pain-filled Opera. Coming up is the main attraction: Christmas (or whichever day your family has that involves gift-giving).
Ah, the Season of Giving. You know you’re not going to get enough of a break before you have to meet with all of these same people and hear the same stories around the same table. Except this time you’re supposed to bring a gift for each of them, too. And the ‘festive’ sweater they’ll give you in exchange isn’t going to fill the hole in your bank account. You know. That hole that comes from buying even the most basic presents you can get away with. You can’t even ask for help in return. Because if someone asks you what you want and you say ‘my electricity bill paid,” or “a reason to live” people tend to frown at you. After all, “it’s not really in the spirit of the holiday.”
So what if you really need an oil change for your PoS car? It’s not like anyone believes it’s going to make it until next year, anyway. So take that sweater with gratitude, but don’t you dare consider getting any of them festive socks in return.
So what else can you do? You bundle up, search for a parking spot and stand in line like everyone else. Just for the chance to spend money that you don’t have on sale items your family doesn’t need. Thank God for Black Friday sales, right? Because now they start on Thanksgiving. So you can escape from that Hell and into a new one without the courtesy of a midnight passing by first. But hey. If you shove your way past hundreds of other people grabbing for the same exact crockpot and succeed in not getting trampled, you might be able to make at least one of the people that you just saw think you’re not a complete failure 4 weeks from now. And isn’t that really what this is all about?
Chances are you can’t tell if this is a scene from Black Friday or your family’s Thanksgiving table.
Either way, you’ll force yourself to do it again next year.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.