Dear Aunty Pam: I have just returned from having the annual Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents’ house and I’m so angry I decided I was going to write to you as soon as I got home.
I know Thanksgiving can be a stressful time of year for many but, I kid you not, this is how the day unfolded:
1. I was accused of not being more organized because I arrived late after my flight was delayed due to weather (my mother).
2. I was rudely reminded that it was supposed to be pot luck and I showed up empty handed, despite barely making it from the airport (my sister).
3. No one, and I mean no one, made any attempt to strike up conversation with me the entire time (my other sibling and in-laws included).
4. My mother made only a passing mention of the $50 bouquet I had sent a few days earlier as a centerpiece (it ended up on the kitchen island).
I’ve just had it. I’m the only family member that lives out of state and has to fly (or drive 12 hours) to make it home for Thanksgiving. It’s never been an enjoyable day but this past one just worked my last nerve. I felt miserable the entire time, and without trying to sound like I’m having a pity party, I really felt unloved and under appreciated. Christmas is coming and I just can’t bear the thought of going back. I’d really rather hang out with my friends and my dog, or will that just give them more ammo to use against me in the future? — Had it
Dear Had it: Boy, does that household sound like Dysfunction Junction. And the resentment from everyone mentioned, including yourself, sounds as if it’s been simmering under the lid for the last several years.
Maybe it’s because Aunty Pam is now of the age where I am suddenly keenly aware that several acquaintances and friends of mine have, in an eye blink, developed serious health issues, and so I make no bones about advising that “You do you.”
(That’s what the cool kids are saying these days, by the way.)
What that means is what it sounds like: You do you — seek self care whether it be avoidance of your family in the future, or showing up with a taser, but life is too short to be spent with hostile people.
That doesn’t mean you have to cut them entirely out of your life without explanation or not try again in the future. You can, for example, send identical letters to your mother and siblings stating how hurt and targeted for abuse you felt. If it feels better to phone your mother instead, by all means do so, just have a glass of vino first, to calm yourself and count to 10 instead of replying in haste and anger should you feel your buttons being pushed. And please ask your mother how being more organized would have helped flights being delayed by the bomb cyclone that canceled hundreds of flights because Aunty Pam is dying to know. Now, if you got drunk at an airport bar, passed out and missed a connection, then I’ve got to say you might deserve a bit of backchat, but otherwise. …
As you may have gleaned, I’m not someone who advises that people jump through flaming hoops just to live peaceably with family members who are consistently obnoxious. I’m a firm believer in the oft-misunderstood adage “Blood is thicker than water.”
Because the actual adage is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” Meaning that the bonds you choose in life (your friends, for example) are stronger than the bonds you are bound to by shared DNA.
Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?
You go right ahead and spend Christmas with your pals and your dog. There’s not a thing wrong with beginning new traditions: volunteering at a shelter, visiting shut-ins or pigging out in front of a Hallmark Movie Marathon. You do you.
— Aunty Pam