After my father died in 2004, I started skipping family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. With my father went a lot of the magic I remembered and sorely missed, and the atmosphere lacked the jubilation and joy that made me excited for them before. So I started volunteering for holiday shifts at work, then turning around and lying to family members about trying to get the time off and failing. No one made much fuss about it, which I took as further confirmation that the holidays were better spent earning that sweet time-and-a-half.
I’ve wandered away from my family, gently losing touch and supplanting them with in-laws. But this week, and again in around a month, millions of people everywhere will commit to a pilgrimmage back home to hostile, toxic, abusive, and unwelcoming families. LGBTQ children will wonder if it’s safe to have Thanksgiving dinner at home, or if they risk being asked by an uncle about their genitalia or prospects for getting into heaven (the answer, by the way, is better than that of the uncle). People will rearrange their schedules, spend obscene amounts of money on travel, on food, on drinks, on sightseeing, in the name of spending time with someone who voted for a fascist that wants them dead or at least silenced. But there’s a secret that will set you free:
You don’t have to spend the holidays with anyone you don’t want to.
Admittedly, this is more geared towards adults, rather than teens still living with parents or other family members. But it’s true. So many of us stress over Thanksgiving, over Christmas, over Hanukkah, because we don’t enjoy feeling obligated to shower with affection people we barely speak to the rest of the year. Let me tell you this: You’re not a bad person if you don’t love family members. You are not a problem if you don’t want to share that day with them. You are allowed to break up with toxic family members.
And furthermore, you’re allowed to respect your boundaries and limits. You don’t have to host Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t have to bring a dish. You don’t have to take a side in the Clemson-Carolina game. You don’t have to spend the day/weekend/week feeling like you’re behind enemy lines in a war you didn’t sign up for.
Maybe you want to stay home, and treat it like any other holiday you blow off. That’s okay. It’s okay to sit at home in your underwear eating pumpkin pie. Or maybe you want to organise a dinner with your friends. That’s okay, too. It’s even okay to spend Thanksgiving running a 5k.
What’s not okay, is spending your day(s) with people who tear you down, regardless of how much DNA you share with them. We share around 80% of our DNA with cows, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t full of shit and destroying the environment. So go make this the year you start some new traditions.