This fourth Thursday in November people all over the country will sit down to the big dinner that should bring everyone together. While you want and hope for that idyllic Norman Rockwell kind of celebration, there are always issues simmering under the surface – ranging from political to personal – and the last thing you want is for your hopes for a wonderful time by all dashed due to verbal disagreements that get out of control.
There is so much work in preparing for Thanksgiving Day dinner, but it is always worth the effort because the prospect of seeing some people you love and have not seen in almost a year is exciting. Once the big bird is cooked, the side dishes are all prepared, and the pies are in the oven, there is one last thing you should have ready – a list of topics that should not be on the table along with the bountiful feast.
You know how it goes after everyone sits down at the table; someone leads the party in saying “Grace,” and then as Dad will lift the utensils to cut into the succulent steaming bird, Aunt Martha (on her third glass of wine) inevitably will ask, “How about that Trump?”
Liberal cousin Leah drops her fork and starts going on about how Donald Trump is a disgrace to the presidency and that she met Elizabeth Warren and worked for Hillary’s campaign, and then Uncle Jack puts down his can of beer and begins his defense of Trump. Oh yeah, just what you wanted – the Thanksgiving Day free for all.
Every year brings with it the hot topics of the moment but, even if the kids are sitting at the card tables in the corner, they can hear everything being said, so these are items that are not meant for a general group discussion. You don’t need Grandpa starting to talk about “this Harvey Weinstein fella” any more than you need Aunt Tessie beginning to tell everyone the “hundred and one ways” she hates Trump.
The Don’t Go There List
That is why this year you have to begin working on a list – to either be distributed as people enter the house or posted prominently near the dining area – the Don’t Go There List. It will be a work in progress (consider using a whiteboard and dry erase markers to add items as needed), but you have to remember the personalities of the people who are coming and know their allegiances. Unfortunately, you may have a fairly even split of Republican red and Democrat blue among the adults, which makes the creation of this list even more crucial.
Some topics that you may want to put on the list (subject to change up until right before the doorbell rings) are as follows:
- The Clintons
- Saturday Night Live skits
- North Korea
- The Border Wall
- Uranium One
- Harvey Weinstein (and all others accused of sexual misconduct)
- The Middle East
- The Republican Tax Bill
- Recent shootings/gun control
- Keystone Pipeline
- Climate change
- Russian collusion
- Personal issues or disagreements
Number 15 must be included on the list because personal matters can sometimes be the most contentious part of a holiday get together. Unresolved issues like grandpa’s estate or who inherited the car or boat can lead to emotional and heated discussions or even worse. It is best to put this on the list and let everyone know that old family feuds are expected to be left outside the front door.
That is a working list for now, but you can almost be certain that either something will happen in the news or you will remember something and need to add it to the list before it is done.
Some of your guests will be either insulted or annoyed that you have taken this preventative measure, but you can say that you have witnessed enough heated holiday screaming matches where even a turkey leg in the wrong hands could become a lethal weapon, so that there was no other option but creating the list.
You should be confident in your list and ask your guests to stick to complimenting the chef, talking about jobs or school, and mentioning the accomplishments of their children throughout the year. These are safe conversational topics. Usually someone will bring up those loved ones no longer with you, and there will be tears shed as well as laughter as memories are evoked, but that is infinitely better than the dinner table becoming a war zone.
With a few cocktails imbibed over appetizers in the living room before moving to the festive table, chances are some loose lips will attempt to sink your ship, but with the list you have this covered. There can always be the loose cannon who gets a shot in when you least expect it, but you know the usual suspects and will try to have a word or two with them before everyone sits down to eat.
You want the perfect Thanksgiving – one where all your guests are not only thankful for what they have but also for being together. You wish it could be simpler as it was in the past when grandma used to cook for 50 people and everyone got along, but these days it is more than likely that you will have to keep the peace, and the Don’t Go There List can help facilitate that.
Whether you choose to create your own list or plan on just winging it (had to get a turkey reference in there), wishing you a controversy free and Happy Thanksgiving!