By PHILIP GALANES
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?
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.)
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?
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.?
I have three very close friends. We agreed to spend Thanksgiving together at the country house of one of their parents. (The parents won’t be there.) Last week, the sister of one friend had a bad health scare. So, that friend opted out of the trip. Then another canceled for bogus reasons, leaving me and the hostess. I canceled because Thanksgiving for two sounded weird. Now, the hostess has group-texted us to say that she wants to be reimbursed for $200 she spent on food. Does this seem right?
Let’s start with the truly impressive morsel. Your hostess racked up $200 in food bills before 90 percent of us have even started our shopping lists. (She’s probably lying, but still, hats off to fantasy organizational skills!) When the dominoes of group travel begin to fall, they fall fast. No surprise, then, that when your first pal opted out, the trip collapsed pretty quickly.
My hunch: Your hostess’s request for reimbursement stems from hurt feelings. Only one of you had a legitimate excuse; the rest of you just bailed. In your place, I would say: “Of course! I’m sorry we inconvenienced you.” You can ask about a jointly prepared feast with the jointly purchased food. But more important, include the hostess in your ultimate Thanksgiving plans. It would be a drag for her to end up solo after she’d opened her home to her three besties.
I am 28 and trying hard to watch what I eat. I am 25 pounds overweight, according to my doctor, and because of family history with obesity-related illnesses, I am taking her warning seriously. The problem: my grandmother. Unless we roll out of her house (literally) on Thanksgiving, she acts insulted, as if we’ve criticized her by eating normal portions. What can I do?
The first thing to recognize is that your grandmother may have a limited repertoire for showing you how much she loves you. Feeding you is a classic. (Shout out to my family!) So, flex some other loving muscles. Be openly affectionate with her. Tell her about your doctor’s advice. (But weirdly, don’t expect that to make a big difference at the table. Old habits die hard.) Sing praises to her cooking, while limiting yourself to reasonable portions. Eat slowly. And help out with the prepping, plating, serving and clearing. Busy bees have less time to chow down.