Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: The Holidays

It wouldn't, couldn't, be Thanksgiving week without the "how the eff do you split the holidays between your families" post, now could it?

(yes, it's too early for Christmas, but when a fellow APWer invites you over to make gingerbread houses, you do not say no)

This year, we are doing that thing that last year I said I wouldn't do: we are going to visit Mark's family for Thanksgiving.  Which means that not only do I have to go to New Jersey, I'm going to be spending Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law, who normally I like, but he roots for Dallas and apparently the Dallas game is required viewing on Thanksgiving.  I'm trying to not be petty about this, but seeing as I've already e-mailed my SIL to see if there is anything else planned during the Dallas game for the rest of us to do, that's clearly out the window.  

I find myself feeling incredibly anxious about not spending Thanksgiving with my family.  It turns out that also, not hosting Thanksgiving does not stop me from worrying that a) we won't have enough food or b) I'm not making enough food.  Which is why I've offered to bring 5 dishes to Thanksgiving dinner.  

I would be lying if I did not talk about one of the bigger issues here: I'm spending Thanksgiving with strangers.  My sister-in-law has invited both her family and her in-laws, and all are coming (is this what normal people do? My family is hard pressed to do anything normal.)  I have met, and like, her husband's family (they are pretty much the nicest, friendliest, most fun-having people I've ever met), but Thanksgiving should be the time of year in which you can wear elastic waist pants and not worry about sticking your elbow in the cranberry sauce, not a time of year to be on your best behavior so you don't humiliate your sister (perhaps by not writing a blog post about how afraid of her in laws you are...).  In addition, I don't know how they feel politically, which shouldn't be an issue at Thanksgiving, I'll agree, but I do enough political work that it sometimes comes out, and it's also REALLY hard to stay quiet when somebody else says something I don't agree with.  Also, will they follow the seemingly age-old rule that the womenfolk all get up after dinner and do the dishes together while the men sit around the table drinking brandy?  Because that rule sucks and I don't want to take part in it, but I don't want to seem unhelpful.  

I'm trying to focus on the fact that I get Christmas with my family and that this is what our families asked us to do this year - his sister asked to host Thanksgiving, mine wanted to host Christmas, and his mother kindly requested we come up with a way to stop eating and running at the holidays, which is probably fair but has left me without something to agonize and stress out over and I'm just not sure how to celebrate the holidays without that.  (Clearly I'm substituting my stranger-danger anxiety instead.) 

How are you managing this issue this year?  Does anyone have any advice on how to be nice to the Dallas fans at Thanksgiving?  Or to avoid telling somebody that you think that Herman Cain is maybe not such a great choice for President?  How do you get the men to get up and help with the dishes as well as the women?  


  1. As a lifelong viewer of the Dallas game on Thanksgiving, I can tell you that football is an integral part of my Thanksgiving celebration. I do not think it means you have to watch the game though. You can take a walk, read a book, or engage in some other activity while others are watching the game. You can tell them you are just not into the game and hopefully than are understanding. If they get snippy, do remind them that Texas is the friendly state and they are not doing a good job of representating the state! :-)

    I also understand about the food issue. Food and football. That was Thanksgiving in my house growing up. Apparently not everyone puts as much effort and love into Thanksgiving food that my family did! That has come as a shock and I have handled it the same way you are . . . I cook the things that are meangingful to me! That way I am assured of the food tranditions that are important to me and it appears that I am super helpful. :-) I also think of it as trying to blend holiday traditions.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Careful not to pour gravy onto someone you just met...

  3. See!!! It is a valid concern!!!! I don't think Thanksgiving will be the same with nobody to watch the Butterball Turkey Hotline Episode of the West Wing with though :(.

    Angela, I think I'm going to bring a puzzle for the non-football watchers to do, so we can have something fun that still allows us to be social in the same room as the football watchers.

  4. Plenty of people don't get to have ultra-relaxed Thanksgivings with only their "close" family... so you've just missed out on this "treat." But it'll be fine.
    But to allay your other concerns, since I have extensive experience in all three:
    Dallas: Ignore the Dallas fans and their antics, especially since you're a Redskins fan, so you have little to brag about.
    Cain, et al.: Ignore the political craziness, and don't get involved in these discussions. It's hard, I know, but you don't have to set everyone straight.
    Dishes/gender: Tell Mark to do his part and make it clear to everyone else that this is good that he is helping.

  5. You can always bring the West Wing and watch it with Mark (or anyone else who might not be as invested in the Dallas game as you.) I agree - that's a wonderful episode, well worth watching.

    The "game" whichever it is, is usually on in another room while there's cooking. But not everyone is required to watch, so I usually find a group of people doing other things (like drinking wine, or putting together interesting food.) Hopefully that will be the case at your SIL's house.
    I agree with Andy about the dishes - corral Mark and maybe his example will work with others (or maybe your SIL has already paved the way with her own husband.)

    Have a wonderful holiday, even if it isn't what you're used to. Make sure there's at least one dish that tastes like home - it makes it easier to eat elsewhere.

    PS - I found you through your APW grad post and i've been reading your archives. I've found them really helpful. Thanks!

  6. Don't worry, I'll bring potatoes and apple pie to Sat thanksgiving :-)

    I'd say for the Dallas up and only make intelligent anti Dallas comments...."Well your offensive line just hasn't been the same since blah blah blah", instead of, "dallas sucks."

    For Cain...I have no advice except to leave you with this quote:

    Butterball Hotline: Do you have an accurate thermometer?
    Bartlet: Oh, yeah. It was presented to me as a gift from the personal sous chef to the king of... auto sales in... Fargo. Phil Baharnd. The man can sell a car like, well, like anything.

  7. I'm a firm believer in holidays as a time to smile and "roll with it." It's just *not* the right time or place to stake out political ground or make an issue out of gender binaries. As long as everyone is generally behaving like a grown-up and being reasonably courteous and boundary-conscious, I feel like it's okay to spend one day not living out every single one of my values to the fullest extent. Holidays represent so many peoples' values and expectations colliding at one time, that the more restrained you can be about projecting your own values and expectations onto the situation, the less room for drama. Note I only say this in the context of splitting up holidays between family members - no one should have to smile and nod and forgo elastic waistbands for EVERY holiday:-) And as for the womenfolk tidying, agree with a poster above that the best thing to do is focus on the part you can control: you and Husband set the example of cheerfully egalitarian domestic labor and hope it catches on down the road.

  8. What's funny here is that in Mark's family, his Dad is an active tidier, as is my BIL, so I'm really not sure what I'm so worried about. Also, my in-laws in-laws are all lovely people, and I'm sure I'm needlessly concerned, and you all have been very reassuring. Thanks!