For the first time in my life, I celebrated Friendsgiving exclusively this year. My Spanish friends had never celebrated el Día de Acción de Gracias before, and we eagerly spent all week planning the menu, going shopping, and cooking the closest thing to “traditional American food” that comes to mind. Even after we were well past full, we stayed up until past 1 a.m. talking and attempting to watch American football before everyone else realized how boring it is and generally enjoying each other’s company. I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, and I’m so grateful that my friends helped me put together such a wonderful celebration.
I had an absolutely perfect time with my friends, but it was still strange not being at home and only seeing my family on FaceTime rather than gathered around the table. It was something I’d been thinking about for weeks before the big day: I’m not going to be with my family on Thanksgiving this year.
As Turkey Day got closer and closer, I started noticing a trend online among my fellow millennials bemoaning the fact that people had to spend the holiday with their “obnoxious relatives.” Article after article after article offered advice on how to deal with your “annoying family.” Someone on my Twitter feed retweeted this tweet below onto my timeline, contributing to the massive amount of engagement it had already received:
And the more I saw of content like this, the less patience I had for it.
Is it really so terrible to be in the presence of family members who want to know what’s going on in your life? Are we really so jaded that we can’t humor the relatives who we only see a few times a year and who just want to know how school (or work, or both) is going? What makes us think that we’re somehow above having these discussions with people who care about us? Why do we think we have the right to tell well-meaning people “don’t talk to me?”
To a point, I get it. It can be exhausting to talk about how college is going, especially when you’re so worn out from classes that you’d rather discuss anything but. And as someone who is in a new relationship after three years of living the single life, I understand better than anyone how crummy it can feel when someone chimes in with the dreaded, “Got a boyfriend?” (Still no, but thanks for the reminder!).
But this is life, and we’re adults, and sometimes we have to talk about things we’d rather not discuss. There’s no reason to act like an entitled brat because some well-intentioned relative wants to know how you’re doing. This kind of attitude is rude, plain and simple, not to mention completely unnecessary.
“But I don’t want to talk to my relatives!” the millennial cries. “They’re racist!”
Suddenly everyone’s family is not only annoying, but also racist. It’s another observation I’ve made from across the pond through my expat-tinted glasses. People take to social media to rant at length about how they hope a discussion of the Syrian refugees doesn’t come up at the dinner table, lest Uncle Bob interject that he thinks the US shouldn’t let them in.
First of all, we need to stop with the belief that Republican = racist. It’s true that many young people tend to lean left, myself included, and that’s okay. On the flip side, older adults tend to lean right, and that’s also okay. We need to keep this in mind if we want to have any kind of productive discussion, which is more important than ever in this day and age. But just because someone’s political views are different than ours doesn’t automatically make them a terrible person, or a “racist.” Maybe Uncle Bob would love for the US to be able to welcome the refugees, but is concerned about the impact it could have on our economy as it shakily rises from the ashes of the recession. We’ll never know unless we hear him out.
Now, I don’t doubt that some people really do have relatives who make incredibly rude and offensive comments, which understandably makes the dinnertime conversation uncomfortable at best and hostile at worst. Racism and other forms of discrimination unfortunately still exist in modern American society, and it’s a given that the perpetrators of these prejudices will inevitably be related to someone and at that person’s house for Thanksgiving. But there’s no reason to make our relatives out to be Donald Trump in a Klansman outfit just because they voted for Bush.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Our relatives are bound to drive us crazy at times – it comes with the territory of being related, whether by blood or marriage or adoption or anything else. As much as they might annoy us sometimes, it’s so important to realize that in most cases, they really do mean well and have our best interests in mind. Be thankful that you have family in your life to annoy you, because there are people in this world who don’t have anybody – people who would give anything to have Aunt Patty ask how school is going.
The holidays – Thanksgiving in particular – are about being grateful for what we have, and we all could stand to give a little more thanks for the people we consider family, whatever that means to us.