How to have a happy Thanksgiving despite the lizard people

Look out! Like a freight train, bearing down on us with gathering speed and menace, I mean twinkling and jollity and goodwill toward mankind in general, here come The Holidays.

Or maybe that goodwill, try as it might, doesn’t quite extend all the way toward those specific people who are going to turn up at your house at 3 PM for the family get-together you’ve been dreading, I mean looking forward to with glee. 

Many of us were lucky enough to find allies and support among family members, and we all more or less banded together and did what we needed to do to get through the pandemic and an extreme silly season in politics safely and sensibly.

But many . . . didn’t. Many discovered, over the past couple of years, that they’re related to a passel of absolute nut jobs who never met an inflammatory slogan to dumb to reject, a conspiracy theory too ridiculous to believe, or a tentacled creature too sentient to struggle up on the side of the petri dish, wave hello, and squeak out in a miniscule voice that only they can hear, “You really need to lay off the sauce, Janet!” 

If the past year or so has left you feeling somewhat bruised and battered in the psyche, and the thought of playing host to a crowd of people who perpetrated that battering just makes you want to scoot out the back door and not stop until you hit salt water, then don’t despair. There are actually strategies you can follow to make the day work well for you. It doesn’t have to be your favorite day of the year, but there are things you can do to survive when the loony tunes you’re related to come to call.

Be respectful. Maybe you’ve spent the last several months reading, with increasing horror, the blithering insanity that streams forth on your family’s social media feed. Maybe you’ve gone from wondering if you should check in on cousin Ted, to wondering if someone should check in on you, because anyone displaying such high levels of non compos mentisemente has got to be some kind of genetic carrier, and it’s only a matter of time before the wack-a-ding-hoy starts to manifest itself closer to home.

But still, family is family, and it’s important to show respect. Practice in front of the mirror if you have to. Make yourself immune, so you can come out with phrases like, “No, indeed, I haven’t yet met any transhuman babies born with pitch black eyes because of the vaccine; how very interesting! Would you please pass the yams?” or “And you heard this directly from the Chair of the Finance Committee; I see! It’s been very humid lately, it seems to me.” It’s a matter of muscle memory, same as learning to ride a bike or manipulate a yo yo. You can do this. 

Dazzle them with compliments.  Even someone who turns up in your living room spoiling for a fight will not be immune to the wiles of a honeyed tongue. The trick is to be sincere, and make sure it’s something you really mean, so it hits home.

For instance, let’s say you’re hosting your cousin Cameron, who drives around town with a flag so huge, it patriotically drags on the ground at red lights, and whose favorite party trick is licking doorknobs to own the libs. Cameron has rune tattoos, his three daughters and his four dogs are all named Dixie, and last Thanksgiving, he rated all the dishes according to how “soy” they were, even though you’re actually a pretty good cook and bought a nice but rather expensive turkey from your farmer neighbor, whereas Cameron lives largely off gas station chicken nuggets which are, in fact, about 68% soy. Cameron is also most definitely going to bring up how thousands of people mysteriously dropped dead after receiving the covid vaccine (which didn’t happen, but then again, neither did important parts of Cameron’s cerebral development, so what can one do).

So what you can say to Cameron is: “Cameron, I know there are lots of people in the world who agreed to get the vaccine, because they think it’s just a little prick. But you’re helping me see that the world is full of much bigger pricks to worry about.”

This is not especially clever, but it’s okay, because Cameron is an absolute moron and has been drinking heavily since breakfast, and it will not even occur to him that you don’t think he’s rad. 

Overfeed. Don’t spurn the age-old holiday tradition of simply stuffing people until they’re comatose. There’s a reason people eat too much over the holidays, and it’s only partially because they’re having such a wonderful time and you’re such a stupendously generous host. The other reason is because, when someone is carrying an extra 23 pounds of partially-digested fats and carbs, they’re way easier to knock down, if that’s how the party goes.
 

You can test out recipes by cooking up a batch ahead of time, loading several portions into a sack, labelling the sack “Cousin Richie Who Believes in Lizard People,” and kicking it. If it falls over easily, you probably have a winning dish. If it resists, add butter.

Don’t despair. Sometimes rifts happen in families, and it feels like things will never be right again, but that may not be so. Sometimes all it takes is for the merest little shift to happen, and people can really gain a new perspective on each other. For instance, you believe that the pandemic was real, but we can learn to live with its aftermath; whereas your cousin Lennie believes the pandemic was fake, and we should learn zero lessons, make nurses cry, and possibly shoot up a hospital. Then one day, the earth opens up and swallows up Lennie. Then the rift in the earth closes again, and that’s the end of your Lennie problem.
You see? The rift is healed. Happy holidays to us all. 
 
 
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A version of this essay was first published in The Catholic Weekly in December of 2021. 
 
Image via openclipart license 

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9 thoughts on “How to have a happy Thanksgiving despite the lizard people”

  1. I’m unsure if this essay was intended to be funny or just mean. For every dopey conspiracy theorist who cavalierly denied COVID’s existence (I’ve only ever met one in real life), there was at least one who foolishly trusted and cold heartedly complied with every utterance from the powers that be (several of my in-laws). I think most of us are somewhere in the vast middle, leaning more toward one side or the other.

    And so, I offer some actual topics we’ll likely be discussing around our philosophically diverse dinner table this Thanksgiving: the World Cup and all its corruption, intrigue, and upsets; The Vow II – and wowzers! what a subject that’ll be; butter and egg shortages; inflation; the European energy crisis with winter looming; oops, that might get the conversation started in a political direction and so we’ll move onto Indian Matchmaker; the Muslims, Indians, and Jews we’ve known in real life who met their spouses through matchmakers; Fiddler on the Roof; Hello Dolly; at some point a few of us will surely start singing; etc, etc, etc

    Let’s focus on things that unite us. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

  2. Simcha, I really love your writing style and especially your fun thoughts on family life. I also appreciate your hilarious takes on most situations. Your pool deck had me laughing for days. But in light of all that has transpired in the last few years and misinformation on all sides it would be better if like those thanksgiving day guests, you too would leave your political views at the door. Whatever happened to freedom of thought? And asking legit questions?

    1. For you, what is the benchmark for a “valid” question? For me, it’s one that’s backed up by evidence, science and good reasoning. I don’t entertain questions that don’t meet these benchmarks, especially in my own home. I don’t respond to conspiracy theories or opinions not backed up with facts.

      1. I personally don’t question the existence of the pandemic – that is, I don’t believe it was ‘fake’. I do think, however, that the evidence for the value of measures like lockdown, masks, and the vaccinations used to treat the virus was ambiguous, murky and showed signs of being politically manipulated by both camps in the culture wars. That isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s a fact of modern life.

        Many people appear to think that no one is not able to conduct original research using large-scale studies and control groups has any business having an opinion about any social, political or scientific controversy at all, but should follow the experts in these fields without questioning them. Yet not all these experts are as knowledgeable as they claim; they too can have hidden agendas; and their views are seldom held unanimously even by other experts in the same field.

  3. This made me laugh so much!

    I love my mother, but she’s about to be 85 and reverting to the attitudes of her 1940’s East Texas childhood. So here’s my advice for When Your Close Relative Reminds You Just How Racist They Are:

    When Grandma starts wistfully recounting how their black neighbors used to really appreciate the extra ham sent sometime between November 21 and the first day of winter, start reminding her of all the excellent recipes she has for leftover ham. How useful ham shards are in, say, bean casserole, and does she remember that black-eyed pea dish her mother used to make every year for new years? If the racism tends more toward the ‘why do so many people speak Spanish now?’ Have one of the grandkids sing “Riu Riu Chiu.” Or “Feliz Navidad.” Best if you can get everyone doing a conga line past the turkey carcass. Granted, the conga line isn’t as much fun if everyone else has a food coma or is on their 5th glass of wine and can’t really stand up straight.

    When it’s Racist Uncle who wants to rant about Those People (can be any group of people, the only requirement is that Uncle will rant about them and at least one cousin is dating a member of said group) try introducing something soothing to the conversation, like mentioning how you’ve discovered you really like the sports team he hates the most. He’s still yell, just about something less like to inspire anyone to repurpose the carving tools from the turkey. If that doesn’t work, find a glass object you dislike and shatter it. If you can fake a major wound, all the better. Tell everyone you have to go to the ER. Explain later that you didn’t need stitches but hope no one asks.

    1. Agreed. I mean, I’ve got relatives who have a tally of exactly how many bodies the Governor of Florida has personally buried in the Everglades, haven’t seen the inside of a grocery store in 3 years, and accused me of lying about my own (positive) Covid test (I was apparently making it up so everyone would *think* I had antibodies, but probably I didn’t even get tested.) But hey – “I have some very real concerns about the way we’ve treated every human on the planet like they’re not actually a human being made in the image of God, but really just a vector for disease” makes ME the “lizard person.” Sure.

      1. Fellow Lizard Person here,

        I’m a red lizard person, but there are also blue lizard people. Some are green, and I know one lizard person with a red anarchist symbol on his back.

        None of the lizard people get along unless they shed their skin for a bit. I have a close relative who’s a blue lizard. We both want a relationship with the other, but for that to happen there’s certain things we don’t talk about, or that we don’t talk about in certain venues. I think letting lizard venom roll off your back while refusing to return fire is a life skill.

        That said…yeah, I don’t think Simcha and I belong to the same lizard tribe (which is part of the reason I read her, gotta get out of the ol’ echo chamber now and again). As Stuart Smilie says,” that’s OK”, but it’s still no fun to see this painted as a one sided problem. Yes, we got our crazies, but so does every tribe.

  4. I really enjoy reading your ‘blog. So many not-commonly-related images juxtaposed plus lots of unexpected word choices… The experience cruncher in your brain translates your knowledge of the world into some very creative prose.

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