Friendsgiving Still Reigns as Half of People Surveyed Find Family Conversations 'Awkward'

"Pass the toxicity, please." Forget your family this Thanksgiving and spend it with friends.
"Pass the toxicity, please." Forget your family this Thanksgiving and spend it with friends. Kelsey Chance/Unsplash
We're so close to Thanksgiving we can almost smell the turkey roasting, honey-glazed ham simmering and pumpkin pies baking. We can also feel our teeth clenching and shoulders tensing up as we agonize over how we're going to dodge those passive-aggressive family questions.

Ahh, you thought it was just you? Nope. Tension is a marker that Turkey Day is right around the corner. For many, Thanksgiving is served with a piping hot side of judgment and ridicule.

Richardson resident Crystal Rojas is with you.

“Instead of it being a time that we enjoy each other and are together, Thanksgiving becomes lectures, nagging and just being treated as a child,” Rojas says.

As usual, social media users are posting about these struggles, allowing us to bond over our Thanksgiving apprehensions. In a recent video, Tik Tok user TheFinanceTherapist highlighted the top 10 questions family Thanksgiving attendees are almost guaranteed to encounter, such as “Are you gaining weight?” “Why are you single?” or the classic, “When are you having children?”

If you're lucky, you’ll get out of dinner without encountering the terrifyingly awkward, “Can I borrow some money?”

If none of these questions hit home for you, count your blessings. For everyone else, we have a suggestion: Don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

The pressure of feeling you have to get your life together just in time for one meal can be debilitating. Questions about children, marriage, homes, weight gain or loss and careers can be extremely off-putting especially when taking into account that the simple act of showing up is a huge accomplishment amid a pandemic.

In addition to interrogations about our reproductive or career milestones, family Thanksgivings come doused in awkward conversations that can be inappropropriate, unnecessarily political or just plain weird.

According to a 2014 Skout survey, 46% of those surveyed said “awkward conversations” were most likely to ruin Thanksgiving. Agreed, although this sentiment is not isolated to holiday gatherings.

Rojas is opting out of Thanksgiving this year. She is planning a peaceful night with her children over an intimate dinner and a trip to the theater afterwards. This will be a new tradition which includes rejecting the pressures of Thanksgiving and being around people she is not keen on spending time with the other 364 days of the year.

Like Rojas, others have begun traditions of their own. One that's been mainstreamed in recent years is a tradition known as Friendsgiving.

According to Urban Dictionary, Friendsgiving is the celebration of Thanksgiving with friends, and typically occurs the day before Thanksgiving or the day after. If we're being honest, this is the Thanksgiving we actually prefer.

In the mid-'90s, the TV show Friends aired Thanksgiving episodes featuring gatherings with the six main characters, rarely including other family members, and popularized the concept of holidays spent outside of our familial circles — also imprinting the image of a turkey-headed Joey Tribbiani into our heads. The origin of Friendsgiving can't be fully attributed to the show, but it did portray a different version of the holiday which has since become fully embraced.

“With friends, we get glammed up, look nice and fancy and enjoy ourselves,” Rojas says. “We can let our hair down and there isn’t pressure or expectations.”

Rojas has participated in many Friendsgiving festivities and it's become a tradition that she looks forward to yearly. For family Thanksgivings, we often get glammed-up just to go to the living room and get bombarded with unsolicited opinions on every perceived shortcoming imaginable. Friendsgiving comes with all the glitz and glamour of Thanksgiving without the added pressures.

“There is always this pressure to have perfect family holidays and take pictures, then post them on Facebook,” University of North Texas student Ilse Martinez says. “Sometimes it just feels super fake.”

Like Rojas, Martinez is also a big Friendsgiving proponent. For the last three years, her best friend has hosted Friendsgiving, where Martinez says the atmosphere differs from her family's Thanksgiving. For Martinez, Friendsgiving is jovial, relaxed and provides a free environment where she can be herself.

The allure of Friendsgiving sparkles when contrasted to the extensive planning, tablescaping and rigid ritual that precedes Thanksgiving dinner for many families. As one of the few paid holidays off for many workers, Thanksgiving can leave us yearning for the laid-back atmosphere of a night spent with friends. Sadly, family gatherings can often feel like work, especially when we have to spend a full day on tasks such as biting our tongues and swallowing more pride than food.

As the words "trauma," (and more specifically, the religious trauma perpetuated by many families) "toxicity" and "dysfunction" become more prevalent in our daily discourse, the concept of family is ever-shifting. Just as friends are choosing platonic marriages and adopting children together they're forgoing obligatory family gatherings in favor of spending time with their chosen families.

After all, that Martha Stewart-worthy layout is not as alluring without love, warmth and peace. Friends are the ones in whom we confide our ugliest secrets, they're privy to the events on nights we probably would rather not remember and are intimately familiar with our Taylor Swift song-worthy romantic fiascos. This vulnerability allows us to form bonds much thicker than blood, and the last thing we want on our day off (a day of celebration, no less) is to feel pressure and dread and to hear arguments about the rightful winner of the last presidential election. We get enough of that online.

Call us crazy, but we don't want our "thanks" on Thanksgiving to be sarcastic.

If Thanksgiving leaves you with a broken ego and a fabricated Facebook post, advocate for your boundaries or normalize spending your time wisely and healthily by making your own traditions. Celebrate with an intimate gathering or choose Friendsgiving to pregame or chase down that Hallmark-movie-seeming-but-actual-horror-movie of a Thanksgiving dinner. You deserve a toxic-free meal.
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Desiree Gutierrez is a music and culture intern at the Dallas Observer. Equipped with her education from Dallas College Brookhaven Campus and the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism, Desiree has transformed the ability to overthink just about anything into a budding career in journalism.