Masks off. Hair down. Let’s just be real with each other: Thanksgiving sucks. Sure, the food is usually the best you’ll get all year, and sometimes it’s the first time you’ve seen Crazy Cousin Phil since his fourth wedding last February. But what about literally everything else? The traveling, the dysfunction, the food comas...the list goes on. Follow along with us as we walk you through the fiery hellscape that is Thankspocalype - but hang on tight, this turkey’s got bite.
Step One: The long way home
If you’re not fortunate enough to work in e-commerce during the busiest time of year for businesses, you may be obligated to go home for the holiday. In Los Angeles, that means bumper-to-bumper traffic for upwards of four hours. Even the most remote village in rural Nebraska will fall victim to the unnatural disaster that is Thanksgiving traffic. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to be behind the wheel. If you are, however, make sure you read up on the effects of carcolepsy so you’re prepared for the long journey home.
For those of us who prefer to live life in the backseat, or even in coach, traveling home can be an even bigger ordeal than the cooking and cleaning aspect of this godforsaken holiday. Our tip for getting through the transportation portion of your journey: pack with the worst case scenario in mind.
In the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, it’s not uncommon for Thanksgiving to arrive with several inches of snow in tow. As you pack up your car, always be sure to bring your gear: blankets, extra coats, bottled water, a generator, a spare tire, and a first-aid kit. If you’re traveling via plane, bring power cords and plenty of entertainment - you never know if you’ll be stuck at the airport - or worse, the tarmac - because your plane was grounded due to inclement weather. Don’t forget peppermint gum, some ginger supplements, and lots of Dramamine. And maybe a change of clothes. We’ve all been there, okay? No shame.
Even without snow, other dangers - mostly other travelers - present an issue as you make your way home. Despite any stares you may get, it’s always a good idea to wear surgical masks when walking through large crowds, especially during the colder months. Bring hand sanitizer as well, because you never know where everyone else’s hands have been. Don’t engage with aggressive drivers, and if you find yourself becoming stressed or frustrated on the road, try to listen to something soothing to help you relax. After all, you’ve got a long way to go.
Step Two: Reunited and it feels...weird.
Reconnecting with family is stressful, no matter how successful your year has been. Maybe you’ve changed your hair, gotten a tattoo (or two...or ten), met someone new, or voted outside of your political affiliation. No matter how small, families have a way of finding things to have an opinion about. Luckily, there are a few small but effective ways to prepare for the inevitable discussion over things you don’t want to talk about.
First, it’s important to note that you are under absolutely no obligation to see family over the holidays if that’s not a safe and comfortable place for you to be. Sure, everyone’s family is a little dysfunctional, but if that line is crossed into abusive territory, it becomes a completely different situation. You can celebrate at your own place, or better yet, spend the holiday volunteering with a local soup kitchen. There’s no law that says you have to go home for the holidays. With that in mind, here’s how to prepare if you do decide to brave the sheetstorm:
Set boundaries for discussion topics ahead of time. This can be accomplished as subtly as you like, and it may even be a good idea to ask Mom to take care of it for you. Simply remind any outspoken family members that certain topics are off the table. Some you might consider would be politics, relationships, and/or money. This goes for the fare as well - if you’re a staunch vegan or feel uncomfortable around alcohol, there’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family to go easy on the Turducken and Everclear this year. Remember that you’ve got as much a right to be at that table as anyone else, and if you’ve just traveled nine hours by car to get to that table, you deserve to have a say in what goes down on and around it.
Oh, and if you’re hiding tattoos, Dermablend from Ulta Beauty will save your skin. Literally.
Step Three: While you were in a food coma
You’ve made it through the awkward small talk and you’re finally sitting down around a table that someone meticulously decorated with an almost inappropriate amount of gold and orange confetti. The dishes are presented to you one by one, and each stained white piece of ceramic clunks down on the table with a hearty thump. Once Grandma’s gotten served, you’re allowed free reign of the feast.
Two hours later, you’re passed out on Aunt Susan’s lap. Why is it that Thanksgiving always seems to knock you out?
Contrary to popular belief, the turkey isn’t to blame. While it’s true that turkey contains tryptophan, which is one of the chemicals that makes you tired, the amount that you consume just from turkey wouldn’t be enough to put you to sleep. In reality, the massive amounts of carbs in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, biscuits, etc.) trigger a chemical reaction that results in large amounts of melatonin to be released in your brain. Don’t blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol - blame it on the bread. And, yeah, the alcohol.
Step Four: On a twin-sized mattress
If you do manage to make it past 7pm without falling asleep in the yams, you’re probably familiar with the quiet trudge upstairs after the house is cleared and the dishes are cleaned. You haul your suitcase down the hall, push open the door that you’d opened so many times in the past, and come face-to-face once again with your childhood bedroom.
Has it been turned into a craft room? Is it a guest room that rivals the comforts of a Monacan Hilton? Or maybe it’s frozen in time - a portrait of the person you were at age 18. Posters and pictures of friends still bespeckle the walls. A stack of CDs lays on your first real “big-girl” desk. You could swear your pillow still bears the impression of that undercut you got during your rebellious phase in high school. If you’re like me, your old family cat immediately runs into the room and takes shelter under your bed, probably to hunt for some years-old dust bunnies.
But this bed. Oh, this bed. You’ve slept in a comfortable queen every day for the past year, and now you’ve come face-to-face with a tiny twin bed still laden with jersey sheets that probably haven’t been touched in...you don’t even want to know how long. Our best trick for getting comfortable in a bed that feels foreign and uncomfortable is to start with those; change the linens to something neutral and minimalistic to make the bed feel bigger.
Clear off those pillows, too. Keep it at one or two to support your neck. You know all those tips and tricks about turning off your phone before bed? That’s especially important when you’re sleeping in a different room. Keeping the bedroom free from screens and distractions tricks your brain into thinking this place is a designated location for rest. If you must have your phone on, put on a meditation app like Calm or Insight Timer, and settle in right away instead of staying up to browse your usual apps. If you find you’re still unable to sleep, leave the room completely and do something calming like reading. Or, you know, helping with the dishes.
Step Five: Baby, it’s cold outside…
With Thanksgiving comes the penultimate consumer activity: Black Friday shopping. It’s a tradition to get up in the early hours of the morning, or even in the middle of the night, put on a football helmet and some knee-pads, and head to the nearest department store for some literally door-busting deals. And maybe become one of the 100+ people who get killed or injured due to Black Friday rushes.
Here’s our unbiased advice for surviving a holiday where survival tips may actually be about physical survival: do all your shopping online. Most companies release deals well ahead of the actual holiday, and most of those apply to their online shops. Sign up for the digital newsletters for the brands you know you’ll want to purchase from so that you’re ahead of the game when the coupon codes come through. You won’t even have to harass some shy, trembling high school student working the customer service counter.
You don’t wait until Thanksgiving night to buy your turkey and cranberries, why wait until the night-of to snag all your discounts? Make sure you plan ahead and make a list of the sites you want to visit and the products you want to purchase so that your wallet isn’t shell-shocked by the end of the weekend. In fact, we can help you with that.