I'm Dreading Thanksgiving with My Family. What Do I Do? – Kveller
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dear gefilte

I’m Dreading Thanksgiving with My Family. What Do I Do?

Dear Gefilte,

Turkey + eye contact with family = Aaaaaaaaaaagh!
Help please.


Holiday Wimp

READ: Waiting For an Apology That Will Never Come

 Dear Wimp,

Here are a few Thanksgiving memories I have just drudged up in your honor.

1. The Thanksgiving Day when I decided to try on my new Wonder Woman Underoos for my extended family and realized I couldn’t fly.

2. The Thanksgiving Day when I was still caught in a gravy boat of anorexic obsessions and vowed to text my 12-step sponsor if I felt shaky but instead got extremely drunk in front of my boyfriend’s mom.

3. The Thanksgiving Day when I was trying to reconcile too many demons while passing the stuffing and I blurted out, “I’m so full. I need an abortion!”

Yeah. I guess that’s my way of saying turkey and eye contact can be quite triggering for me, too. But I do think we can brainstorm some ideas for how to make this occasion a little easier on the heart and psyche. For inspiration, I decided to crack open my hagaddah and look at the archetypes of the Wise Gefilte, the Wicked Gefilte, the Simple Gefilte, and the Young Gefilte.

READ: Will I Ever Forgive My Ex-Husband?

The Wise Gefilte: I like to envision the wise gefilte as the one who just concentrates on the giving thanks part. Wise Gefilte makes this long weekend all about swimming up to people and saying, “Thanks.” From the lonely tollbooth operator on the highway to the shrieking baby on the plane to the turkey itself, basting for my sins. Every moment of every second of every day there are people and fishballs making kind, generous choices. And you can do it, too. It’s incredible to witness the power of these the two words, thank and you. If you’re in a rush, you can even try thanks. But I sincerely hope you can find space to say thank you and even name the kind thing you are thankful for.

For further reading on this idea, please read “Good People Everywhere,” by Lynea Gillen.

But Gefilte! you say. This is unrealistic and annoying advice. How can I possibly find this level of gratitude for the world when I’m surrounded by my clawing step-mom, a plate of giblets, and no access to fresh air or wifi? 

Well said. Which brings us to…

The Wicked Gefilte: The Wicked Gefilte likes to remind everyone that we’re gathered together to gorge ourselves on bread and flightless fowl to commemorate the violent pillaging perpetrated by our fore parents, and that we have zero in common except for this genocidal past. Which are some salient points. Wicked also has been known to quiz people about their break-ups and smashed dreams and force people to eat more pie.

READ: Back From Vacation & Stuck with the Kids 

Here’s a fun exercise to try at home. Imagine you are the wickedest wicked gefilte in the history of the sea. What is it you would say or scream or smash? Without any threat of repercussion, write down or shriek into your smartphone exactly what you want to yell from the rooftops. Some suggestions from a hypothetically wicked gefilte are:

“I’m so scared of everyone in this room puking and dying!”

“I feel like the only one who understands me is my Zumba teacher!”

“Why are we talking about your allergies when France is exploding?!”

(Extra credit for doing this naked while eating cream cheese with your fingers.)

The Simple Gefilte: I love the word simple. People misconstrue and redefine it every year.

Leo Babauta and Jonathan Fields are two amazing gurus on how to simplify your life. Tara Brach talks about tough emotions and awakening so simply, I sob hearing her.

So go ahead, Wimp.

Be as simple as you can. Answer needling questions with simple yesses or nos. See how simple it is when you resist the angst of the past or the confusion of the future. Say something new and don’t justify it. Just let it live in the air, plainly.

The Young Gefilte: Ah, the young gefilte. The young gefilte will get coddled and critiqued and instructed on how to chew and breathe until s/he is lowered into the ground. “Young” is also often translated as “does not know how to ask.” But I don’t agree with that translation. I think we are all asking questions, just in different languages. And usually there’s so much going on at once, and we’re so headstrong in making our case, that it’s hard to hear any answers being given.

READ: Dear Gefilte: How Can I Survive Living With My Parents for a Week?

So youngster, I hope after your mashed potatoes you get to witness a full-blown tantrum from a small person. It’s pretty spectacular and enlightening. This is a microcosm of the world wrapped up in a diaper. Trying to communicate and seeking solace when the Legos just don’t fit together.

And chew on this—every “adult” around a tantruming child is just jealous that we’re not the one flailing and wailing until our tears run out.

Guess what, Wimp? There’s a new equation in town.

Wise + Wicked + Simple + Young = You.

Yes, you are all these different gefiltes, rolled into one. This Thanksgiving, it is your job to honor each part of you.

So you have to:

1. Thank a stranger
2. Scream something naughty
3. Say yes, no, or nothing
4. Grab some toys

And most importantly, give thanks to yourself for trying.

With love and schmaltz,


Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to deargefilte@kveller.com, and you might just get an answer. 

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