Conversations that aren’t smooth like butter

Moira Weinstein, Contributing Writer

Thanksgiving, the holiday when we’re forced to see our long lost family members that we forgot existed, but somehow know everything about us. We long for the store-bought rolls and butter that end up on everyone’s dish, but fear the conversations that flow in between. 

Many of us have trauma from 2020 Thanksgiving, when we had to get four Covid-19 tests to see our cousins and the topics waiting to be discussed were scarier than ever considering the election had just ended weeks prior. 

I suppose 2019 could have been worse, in anticipation of the new year of debates and protests when everything was still up in the air. Needless to say, the holiday has been especially daunting for the last few years and has become something that we no longer love. 

Politics is probably the thing that comes to mind when we think about scary Thanksgiving conversations — skewed views, in particular. It’s rare that every part of your family has the same view on politics and how things work. 

Usually, the older members tend to lean towards a more conservative standpoint, whether that falls into the Democratic or Republican party (or even another). Younger members often have more progressive ideals, though this is not always the case. 

Whatever the case may be, there are always points where we butt heads. It’s hard not to do so in a setting with people who you have instinctual animosity for. Nevertheless, Thanksgiving can ignite the fire more than we think.

Adolescents get it the worst from relatives. The badgering questions about how you’re doing in classes, what you did to your hair and when you’re going to get a significant other. It can also be especially horrifying for teens and young adults that have used their freedom to find themselves, and maybe make discoveries that were too scary to discuss at home. Maybe kids who have found a new religion, or chose to let go of religion all together. 

Maybe someone who discovered the pre-med track is not for them, and music is. Maybe young people who have opened up and realized that their sexuality isn’t straight, or their gender identity isn’t one they were born with. Whatever it may be, college is a time when beautiful pieces of yourself become apparent and you find yourself in many ways, but returning home after such discoveries can be severely heart-breaking, especially when family members are stuck in old ideals. 

So, how do we navigate all of these conversations at Thanksgiving? There is no one right answer. Families all have different dynamics, some more open than others. The solution that many seem to stick to is changing the subject or avoiding certain topics all together. Yet, there’s always that one uncle who can’t help himself and starts it up just to feel something; we keep changing the subject until we find one interesting enough, and everyone is content. 

My favorite topic is whatever new true crime case came out on “Unsolved Mysteries,” and we all give our two cents on what we think actually happened. What I personally like to do at Thanksgiving, though, is find allies. Usually it’s my sister or my cousins that share the same beliefs as me, or ones close enough. 

When you get to the dinner, establish the bond. Then you have a team when your family tries to wage a political war, or even a personal one. You’re set. 

What happens when you actually feel uncomfortable or unsafe, though? Not everybody can shoot the breeze and leave at the end of the night with nothing having changed. Some don’t have this privilege. 

So, what if someone says something outing you, or exposes something about you that was only allowed to thrive in a campus far away? This sort of thing can have detrimental effects, especially when you aren’t ready to reveal every layer of your identity. What can we do? How can we survive this? 

Well, like I said, having people on your side doesn’t just count for political debates, it’s also vital when you feel cornered. Having a support system is the best thing you can do. It’s okay to not be able to balance on your own, it’s not about strength or courage. Sometimes, we just need help. We have to find people that can fight with us, whether that be over the phone or in person at the Thanksgiving table. 

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