Joco Opinion

Denise Snodell — A handy pocket survival guide for Thanksgiving

Updated: 2013-11-27T01:05:33Z


Special to The Star

On this eve of Thanksgiving, you might have noticed your normal routine is already totally busted.

I don’t care what role the drama teacher has assigned you for 2013 — host, hostess, guest, traveler, retail employee who is suddenly not off, college student returning home, drunk uncle, shy friend, hipster attending dinner ironically — you are somehow affected by this holiday.

The worst part is that it’s difficult to escape the rich cornucopia of awkwardness. Thanksgiving is not a hazy, slow-motion eggnog commercial. It’s stuffed with stress. Who’s hosting and who’s packing suitcases? What wine goes with passive-aggressive? Where are the cloves? When will it end? Why am I doing this?

I suppose some of us will enjoy Norman Rockwell moments. A few lucky humans might actually drive along a windy road to a storybook stone cottage. Aunt Bea will be waiting at the door, all cheerful and giggly, even though she’s been baking, cooking and cleaning for weeks. She’ll dry her hands on her ruffled gingham apron, fix her beehive hairdo, then run up to every family member with loving hugs and whispered promises of the biggest slice of pecan pie. There will be nutmeg.

For the rest of us, the ones who don’t have jovial, recipe-rich beehive people in our lives, we’re winging it. Winging it like a turkey. And you know how THEY fly.

The truth is, old Norman had no idea what he was painting about. On this holiday, we’re all mashed up in unlikely personality combinations. We find ourselves squashed together in cars, airplanes, dining rooms, our own minds. And we have to TALK. To EACH OTHER. Goodbye normalcy.

Thanksgiving conversations can get tricky, so why not have a go-to plan? I might be the Anti-Bea, but I do have a multicultural background (Dad from France. Mom from Brooklyn). I have lifelong experience in finding common ground. There’s an art to nudging topics away from danger zones. Following is my holiday gift to you, a handy collection of safe stuff to talk about in mixed company.


1. Sports. Wait, scratch that. Too religious.

2. Weather. Nope. Too political.

3. Music. Eh. Could lead to award show chatter, which will get you in the Thicke of trouble by adding uncomfortable Mileyage to your conversational journey.

4. Books. Like maybe the popular ones now being shot as movies? Fifty Shades of NO.

5. Food. Really, tryptophan again? Stop it, just stop it with the sleepy tryptophan quips. Dig deeper. Bring up the urban food truck trend instead. This will inevitably lead to…

6. Trending in general. For instance, you can mention that the word “selfie” is the new starlet of the Oxford English Dictionary. Nothing impresses a crowd more than uttering “Oxford English Dictionary,” even if it’s linked to “selfie.” Plus, you can suggest the younger guests demonstrate selfie duo shots with the jitterbug crowd. Multigenerational portraits! Everybody wins.

7. LOL-ing. The above photo session will likely get to the point where all cameras are clicking and the whole gang is laughing out loud and yakking and capturing memories. You’ll feel like a hero, even if earlier you prepared instant stove top dressing. Your gathering will be considered an official success.

Unless Uncle Wally the Imbiber stumbles into too many scenes, both literally and conversationally. Remember. No matter how much you plan and prepare, there’s always a photo bomber.

And this is why Norman Rockwell defaulted to canvas and oil. He was a smart man.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Freelancer Denise Snodell writes every other week.

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