You gotta love the abundance of Thanksgiving. The food! The togetherness! The family! Oh, the family. Immediate, extended, chosen, or rather-be-forgotten family. Everyone gathered around the same table, passing the same dishes, and tiptoeing around any topic or drama that would go over about as well as dry turkey. It’s not always easy to navigate all the different personalities you’ll come face to face with around the holiday table, but a Thanksgiving gathering without tears, yelling, or reawakened family feuds is worth it. So in the interest of avoiding as much drama as possible this Thanksgiving, here is a not-at-all comprehensive but still pretty accurate list of five folks you might be breaking bread with at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Plan your behavior accordingly.
1. The Aunt Who Still Thinks You’re 12
Do we love her? Yes, of course, she is lovely, doesn’t seem to mean any harm. Does it still irk you that she thinks of you as a literal child despite the fact that it’s your home she’s visiting for the holiday? Without a doubt. You probably don’t see this aunt often outside of the annual family holidays, although she does send you a very cute birthday card every year with a crisp $5 bill tucked inside like she did when you were 8. So it’s no wonder she hasn’t seemed to fully grasp the fact that you are, in fact, a fully grown and functioning adult with a whole ass house and partner and children of your own. She’s going to pinch your cheeks and tell you you’ve gotten so big and she’s going to ask if you’re still best friends with that one girl you haven’t seen since middle school. And you’ll just smile and shrug and explain (for the tenth time) that this stuff happens when you, you know, grow up.
2. The Contrarian
Right off the bat, it’s best if you just accept that nothing you do will make this person happy. They don’t have likes and dislikes of their own – their entire personality is based on not liking or liking yours. You made green beans? They hate green beans. Turkey Day football game on the TV in the background? Oh, it just happens to be their most hated team on the field. Thermostat set to 72 for everyone’s comfort? That is too hot or too cold, but before you ask, they will not take off their sweater and they did not bring a sweater just in case. They thrive on ‘marching to the beat of their own drum’, and coincidentally, that beat is always different from everyone else’s…and seems to change year to year.
3. The Adult Who Still Belongs at the Kids’ Table
We all have that one family friend/sibling/cousin who seemed to stop maturing after the age of 12. The one who won’t bring a hot dish but always brings the football. The one who spends the entire time telling fart jokes over video games with the rest of the juvenile crowd. They’d prefer to avoid all the adult small talk and questions about unpleasant grownup things, and instead use family holidays as a way to be a kid again and pretend that life is simple and fun. They may not be the best at deep convos over crudites, but this person keeps all the kids occupied and happy. For that alone, they can sit at whatever damn table they want.
4. The Serial Dater
Every time you see them they have a new paramore on their arm. The one love interest whose name you remember? They exited stage left about four Tinder cycles ago. Normally, you’d think it’d be weird to bring a casual date or hookup to a family function, right? But you learned long ago that rule does not apply to the Serial Dater, after the time they met someone at a bar the night before and brought them to Nana’s funeral. Everyone at the table knows not to mention past beaus over pumpkin pie, but you also don’t bother to commit today’s date’s name to memory because chances are, you will never see them again. After the Serial Dater and their date leave (early, of course), the rest of the family compares notes on the last handful of sweethearts they’ve had the pleasure of meeting over after-dinner cocktails. TBH it’s the best part of the evening.
5. The Food Critic
The Food Critic never hosts a holiday and rarely even contributes a dish or app, but they’ll be damned if they aren’t going to express every single opinion they have. All the food that others have prepared and supplied is subpar, at best. THEIR turkey is always moist and juicy. THEIR gravy never has lumps. THEIR rolls are so flavorful they don’t need butter. Apparently their food is Michelen star-worthy, but no one knows if that’s actually true because they’ve never cooked a GD thing for one of these events. The meal is never good enough, but does that stop them from having thirds and taking most of the leftovers home? Spoiler alert: it does not. Second spoiler alert: You will not get your Tupperware back. Maybe this year, swap out their place setting with a takeout menu and suggest they Doordash something more suited for their refined palate.
One thing is certain: it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without these people around the table. You may need frequent breaks and you may demand that your wine glass never be less than half full, but they’re family! For better or worse, they’re your people … at least once a year.