Ten rules for a happy family Thanksgiving Day:
1) Just don’t bring it up.
2) Don’t get all tricky about it, trying to ooch into it sideways, like, “Well, I guess we’re in for some big changes, eh?” That’s IT. You know better than that. You might as well say, “Please pass the Benghazi sauce.”
3) Don’t talk about Benghazi.
4) You can talk about the weather, up to a point. But don’t start asking people if they think the weather is really changing, because, as you very well know, that will take you straight into climate change, and you know how quickly climate change can blow up a Thanksgiving Day dinner. Is that really what you want?
5) Here in Dallas, it’s fine to talk about the Dallas Cowboys as long as you don’t bring up anything to do with the recent change at quarterback or with changes at quarterback in general. In Dallas, all discussions of the Dallas Cowboys are universal life lessons of Biblical proportion, whether meant that way or not. The change at quarterback is not a Biblical life lesson you want to get into today.
6) Speaking of which, we need to discuss watching the football games on TV. It doesn’t matter whether you’re watching Vikings/Lions, Redskins/Cowboys or Steelers/Colts. All day long, you must maintain strict authoritarian Ministry of Telecommunications-style supervision over all television watching in your household.
Any television that is turned on must be tuned to football games only. No television may be switched to any other channel or network. If you are too busy to see to it yourself, you must deputize a family member whom you trust to be the TV monitor.
The TV monitor must circulate throughout the house, even into attics, basements and garages, in order to maintain constant surveillance over all television receivers or online streaming devices including telephones.
The monitor should listen for sudden outbreaks of shouting or other “noises off,” like thumping, falling or, God forbid, actual physical agony indicating torture. Those sounds can only indicate that a television has been switched from the game to a news channel.
7) Drinking. This is a very difficult issue this year for families who drink. Obviously you understand how drinking at a family gathering may increase the odds of a fracas or even serious mayhem. On the other hand, attempting to withhold alcohol from the gathering of a drinking family may cause the withholder to be identified, however unfairly, with one or the other of the two persons whose names must not be mentioned today.
Your best bet is to lock the hard stuff in the trunk of your car, keep the beer at room temperature or above and serve only the very worst grocery store wine you can find.
8) Health issues and recent operations. This really depends on which kind of family you have. The one kind of family believes that disease is caused by talking about it. Any open or frank discussion of a recent brush with death will cause everyone in earshot to contract the same malady. The other kind of family believes that all surgical operations that involve full anesthetic are heroic.
If your family is of the first category, afraid to talk about it, then you should rehearse and keep at the ready whatever is your own most grisly personal episode of illness, preferably something grotesquely infectious. If your idiot Uncle Julio keeps insisting on talking politics, just blurt loudly, “Did you know they had to take a section of my colon and attach it to my nose?” Don’t worry about making sense. Just say it.
If your family is of the second category – they regard all medical procedures as their own heroic adventures — just keep singing that same song, about the colon-bone attached to the nose-bone. That may get the competitive juices flowing, and, if you’re lucky, you may get away with spending the entire remainder of Thanksgiving Day talking competitively about who has survived the grossest surgical procedure.
9) Let’s deal with the worst case scenario. No matter what you do or say, Uncle Julio, who by game-time has already consumed two six-packs of hot beer, gets in the middle of the room, puts his hands on his hips, belches horrifically, makes a flatulence that sounds like a French horn, then bellows, “I want to know right now which ones of you voted for Trump.”
This is a situation that must be left to every family. Every family is different. Each family is unique. There can be no general rule.
In one family, it may be enough to stick a finger in Uncle Julio’s face and simply say, “Shut up.” In another, it may be necessary to say, “Shut the F up.” In some families, sadly, it would be necessary to say, “Shut the F up right now, Julio, or we will take this knife off the turkey tray, stretch you out on the carpet and de-man you.”
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The one thing true for all families is that Uncle Julio must be made to shut the F up, or you can just forget Thanksgiving and start heaving the food at each other as soon as your guests arrive.
10) At this point in time and under the current circumstances in this city, there is no such thing as a decent Thanksgiving Day where the whole family can talk about the election, the two possible exceptions being in the Park Cities area, where families might argue mildly over which of the Trump children wears the cutest shoes, and my own district, Old East Dallas, where at worst we might continue our debate about the size of Hillary’s victory.
Otherwise in normal America where people hold strong opposing views, you’re going to have to find a way not to hear about it on this day of all days. Think about the day. This is supposed to be Thanksgiving Day.
If by the end of this day you can drag yourself home or get them all out of your own home not having heard a single word of what anybody in our family thinks about this election, then you will have something for which to be truly and everlastingly thankful.