Thanksgiving Dinner Decorum

"Social Q's" is Philip Galanes's advice column in the New York Times.  Every Monday in Anti-Social Q's, I will answer the same questions as "Social Q's," with considerably better and more debonaire advice.

This week someone worries about disorderly discourse during dinner, a sister-in-law likes to shop, one family is a bunch of slobs, and a young lady wonders what her future with a clueless young man is.

Political Leftovers

I am dreading our Thanksgiving table this year.  Even though the election is over, some of my closest friends and relatives, who will be joining us, are still carping about the candidates and political parties in really spiteful ways.  Do you have any tips for preventing political ugliness at the table, or smoothing it over once it’s erupted?

Anonymous, New York

Are you serious?  Are you also going to send in a letter asking me how not to give gifts on Christmas, how not to partake in some fireworks related activity on the Fourth of July, and how not to vote on Election Day?  My clueless friend, any attempt to rid Thanksgiving of bitterness is not only futile but wrong.  You need to be reminded why you only see these people once a year.  Leaving them in their natural environment, observing, taking notes of the different specimens and their different methods of interactions when confronted with an irate predator is what Thanksgiving is all about.  Also prayer to the gods, slaughtering birds, and remembering the Native Americans.  LOL.

Pilgrim at the Mall

My sister-in-law, who comes to our place for Thanksgiving, has asked if we can push our dinner from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m. to accommodate her desire to shop the Black Friday sales, which are starting on Thanksgiving evening in some of the big-box stores.  I am insulted by this request.  Can I let her know?

Cindy, Atlanta

Can you let her know?  You must let her know!  Tell that bitch, oh yeah, your sister-in-law is a bitch by the way, that if she cares more about some trinket than coming to your dinner, she can fuck off and never come to Thanksgiving dinner again.  Thanksgiving is all about drama, and you need to bring it, since the bitch ain't coming to dinner now that you disinvited her.

Welcome, Slobs

We attend Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house, and the table has grown to include some of my wife’s family over the years.  My wife’s people dress to the nines.  The men wear ties and the women wear dresses.  But my siblings’ families turn up like slobs, some in T-shirts and sweat pants.  The disparity makes me uncomfortable.  I know I am not in charge, but may I say something to my family or my wife’s?

Jim, Los Angeles

Jim, you live in Los Angeles.  Seriously, you should be lucky everyone is showing up with their real body parts.  Is nobody getting the concept of Thanksgiving.  This is your chance to tell your relatives that you do not want to see them again until this stupid holiday rolls around again.  What better way to do that than to say something like, "Oh look, its the homeless half of the family."  Make sure to drive the point across by offering the best bits of the meal to the people that are best dressed.

It’s Just Dinner

I just started hanging out with a guy I like.  His family is in California, and he doesn’t have a plan for Thanksgiving.  My family lives nearby.  Would it be O.K. to invite him for the holiday, or will it freak him out — like I think we’re more serious than we are?

Anonymous, Brooklyn

You really do not know what to do here?  Just tell the guy to come to Thanksgiving if he wants to eat this year.  Tell him he has no choice in the matter as you already told everyone that you are bringing an extra body.  Although, once he meets your family, it is likely that he may want nothing to do with you.  Most families do not bring out their best behavior on this holiday.  If yours is the exception, this boy may just wind up proposing right after the meal and the two of you will live happily ever after.  A tear runs down my face.



Profile photo of FlossyFlossy
November 19th, 2012  4:14 PM


“Oh look, its the homeless half of the family.”
I would totally say this.

Profile photo of FlossyFlossy
November 19th, 2012  4:15 PM

“Would it be O.K. to invite him for the holiday, or will it freak him out — like I think we’re more serious than we are?”

Seriously? Who are these people?

Profile photo of sarahbsarahb
November 19th, 2012  6:30 PM

No crotch references? How is this anti-social?