Thanksgiving, Solved! How to Deal With This Dreadful Holiday


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Christoph Niemann

My wife and I have been married for two years and dated for three before that. That’s five horrendous Thanksgivings with her extended family. (Mine is abroad.) Her father needles us about politics; her mother criticizes our clothes, apartment and friends. Last year, she told me my job wasn’t “masculine.” It’s total conflict. This year, my wife and I agreed to skip the long drive and celebrate with friends. But when she got off the phone with her mother, not only had she not canceled, she’d agreed to bring the stuffing. Any way to fix this?

GEORGE

I assume you’ve considered (and rejected, for your own good reasons) the obvious solution here: Make the stuffing with chestnuts and Xanax, and turn down the heat on your holiday. Try to be sympathetic with your wife, George. It’s not easy to slay parental dragons on your first try. (And in the interest of fair play, children can be dragons, too.)

Thanksgiving sounds like a certified bummer with your wife’s clan. But you don’t mention whether she or you has previously registered any complaints with her parents about the way they roll. Until you tell them they’re upsetting you, they may pride themselves on being straight shooters. Speak to them calmly — which can be herculean — and in person, when it’s just the four of you. (I’m thinking Wednesday night around the kitchen table.)

Now, if you’ve already tried this, or worse, tried it several times, here is a pearl gleaned from 20 years of loving partnership: Sometimes it’s easier for our spouses to throw us under the bus than it is to take on their own seriously recalcitrant parents. Your wife can say, “Sorry, George doesn’t want to come this year.” They may think worse of you. (Do you care?) But you and your wife skate away clean. (And when you can, drop a line about your “feminine” career. Inquiring minds will want to know.)

Curious Cousins

I am a college-age lesbian. I have been living with my girlfriend for two years. We’re out, and my family is supportive. But they don’t introduce us as girlfriends. So, my youngest cousins are very curious about who my girlfriend is and why she’s with us at holidays. Can we tell them if they ask?

ANONYMOUS

Why not? By 4 or 5, children have notions of romantic arrangements, however imperfect. My friend’s preschooler has taken to announcing that he intends to marry his mother. It’s just his imprecise way of saying he loves her, right? Still, talking about sex with other people’s children is better avoided. So, respond: “She’s my girlfriend” and leave it at that, O.K.?

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