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Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: How To Avoid Holiday Obligations, The Pajiban Way!

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | November 14, 2017 | Comments ()

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | November 14, 2017 |


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As I write this, it’s actually snowing outside my window. Snow! From the sky! Which is a pretty good indication that it’s time to start contemplating the holidays. Yes, those food-stuffed celebrations with loved ones are almost upon us. It’s time to haul in those jack-‘o-lanterns and turn them into pies (or just smash them for fun and use the canned shit, it’s easier).

Most of us are looking forward to gorging on Grandma’s apple pie and covering the rest of the offerings in a liberal coating of gravy. And of course spending quality time with friends and family (but seriously — GRAVY TIME). Or, if you’re like the readers who wrote in to us this week, you’re specifically looking for ways to get OUT of awkward Thanksgiving festivities. I wonder why, though?

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Oh right, because shit gets WEIRD. Or worse!

(Remember: You can send all your gravy-coated questions to advice@pajiba.com and we’ll rally to provide dubious solutions. All we ask is that you trust us. Or, realistically, that you ask us stuff anyway because we love talking amongst ourselves about your problems!)

Our first “get me outta Thanksgiving” quandry is… complicated. Take a look:

I have been a pajiba reader for about 2 years now, have devoted most of my time keeping up with new posts on your website and devouring them fully. I have been struggling with a dilemma for quiet some time and I think it is time that I ask random online strangers.

But a history lesson first; My family and I moved here 20 odd years ago and went into business partnership with our family here in USA. Now this US based family is all white (hello marrying outside one’s cultural background). Now in public we do not tell that we are related but privately it has now become a joke like ooh hahaha so & so did not know that we are related and look how they said blah blah blah. Most of the jokes are pointed towards us (brown people here). Now this was pretty harmless psychotic trauma for us kids until the fateful event of last year.

I knew that the senior members of that family are staunch republicans, but now my cousin’s kids were running the junior republican campaigns in our city. It hurt even more when I would confront them saying that what the “he who will never be named by me” has acted in ways that directly and indirectly hurt their brown side of the family these kids would simply shrug and walk away. I stopped meeting them purposely after 11/7/16. But then Thanksgiving 2016 happened, we pretended nothing has happened.

Now here is my question, Thanksgiving is happening soon and again. I have literally volunteered to work that night, but the issue is that the senior member (biz partner remember) has the sway of making sure that I will be off that night and thus attend the family dinner. I do not have it in me anymore to simply “ignore” their thoughts and views without going up in flames. Help me give them a solid reason to avoid this meal.

Thank you

Brown and waiting

Ho. Ly. Shit. Well, first off: this is a great reason why one should never go into business with family. How tied to your job are you, Brown? Because here’s the thing: You shouldn’t have to ignore or choke down this behavior from your supposed loved ones. And your reasons for not wanting to endure another family meal with them are “solid” all on their own — you don’t need us to concoct anything else! Just say, “Look, I can no longer tolerate a group of people who don’t have my best interests at heart, have never acknowledged me as family in public, and who campaign for politicians whose policies are harmful to me and mine. Frankly, the thought of pretending that your views are anything other than disrespectful spoils my appetite.”

But since your job IS tied up in this, and since they ARE family, we understand that the nuclear option may not be feasible. Because of that, we’ve come up with a list of alternative options that don’t involve brutal honesty, because if there’s one thing the Overlords agreed on, it’s that you absolutely should NOT endure another Thanksgiving with these people.

So, here’s what we came up with:

1) Say you’ll go, then suddenly “catch” the Norovirus RIGHT before Thanksgiving. It’s a relatively short-lived, disgusting, and highly contagious bug. They won’t want you there, they won’t want to check in with you, and you can turn up right as rain come Monday without it being suspicious.

2) Use the holiday distraction to seize control of the company from the inside, then show up to dinner and announce your new ownership. To be fair, I’m not a businessperson, so can’t give you any specifics on how to accomplish this one.

3) Do you have a partner? Go to their family celebration, or at least say that’s where you’re going.

4) Claim you have friends who have invited you to visit them for the holiday this year. Those friends are out of town, and have some compelling reason why you really need to see them more than your family this year. Like pregnancy, or terminal illness, or… I dunno, babies or sickness cover most of the bases I think. Then it can suddenly become a “tradition” and you can continue to “visit” these “friends” for years to come (though in that case, go with the baby excuse rather than terminal illness, obviously — and start photoshopping pictures of the “baby” growing up).

5) Extreme, dangerous, and unlikely, but: Can you give THEM the Norovirus, so the whole event gets cancelled?

6) Volunteer! It’s a great way of turning them down while also securing the moral high ground… and, you know, helping people.

7) Ok, this is antithetical to the “get out of Thanksgiving” premise but hear me out: Go to the dinner, be super duper fucking nice, take a LOT of selfies/group photos, and then post them on social media in the most faux-loving way and make it very clear that you’re all one big culturally-mixed family. Tag them if you can. And start speaking openly about these relatives from now on. Break the rules, burn it down, and do it with a smile so they can’t tell if you’re being vindictive or not.

The thing about this situation is that you’ll need to get out of the family dinner this year, AND in future years — because I’m assuming they’re not going to suddenly become less reprehensible. So either you need one hell of a good excuse that can last, or a lot of excuses you can string out over time… or you need to find a new job and then be honest with these assholes, and see what happens. Because here’s the thing — they have spent over 2 decades with your family. Hell, you’ve even confronted some of them! So deep down, we’re willing to bet that they know you’re uncomfortable, and why. The question is how hard would they really push you if you told them that you didn’t want to attend Thanksgiving. How would they respond if you just said “Honestly I don’t feel comfortable” or “I don’t feel welcome” or “I don’t want to listen to political talk because your views hurt me”?

So maybe this year you go with the Norovirus, because time is getting short. But next year? Start expressing your feelings early so they’ll see it coming when you suddenly have places you’d rather be than with them. Or better yet, they’ll just stop inviting you. The best way to get out of a social obligation is to engineer it so that invitation is never extended in the first place! It’s basically the Pajiba way.

And seriously, try and find a new job if you can.

Ok, what’s next? Oh, another person wants to get out of a Thanksgiving meal! Jeez, everybody’s turning down free food this week:

I’m getting invited to holiday meals. I am a single man who does not have family around here so people are inviting me to Theo family gatherings. I’m pretty okay with just declining. I dread several things involved in going to these events: being the outsider, chitchat, knowing what to bring, being around booze (first year sober here), meeting new people, knowing when to arrive/leave, can I bring an iPad to entertain myself, children, saying the wrong thing, are there presents invoked, I don’t eat beef or pork there’s bacon in everything, I can’t cook. So I guess I need advice and perspectives on avoiding feeling obligated to go to one of these. And maybe advice on how to gently turn down offers.

The Overlords had a few questions of our own after reading this particularly inquiry. It sounds like you have some nice, welcoming friends who have invited you to their gatherings. So is the problem that they are twisting your arm about attending, or is the issue that you feel awkward in these sorts of situations and don’t want to participate?

Look, we get it — sometimes people can be pushy when they care about you and worry that you might be *GASP* alone for the holiday. Mostly because THEY hate being alone on holidays and they’re projecting. But that’s on them — you don’t need to feel obligated. Just say you have plans! You don’t need to be specific — “plans” can consist of staying home and binging Netflix for this free National holiday rather than dealing with someone else’s family full of strangers. Or say you’re taking some time for yourself over the holiday, which is true! Also, depending on how open about your sobriety you are with your friends, I think that explaining that it’s still hard to be around alcohol is a genuine and honest way of letting them down without getting into issues of food, iPads, etc.

But if the issue is that you feel uncomfortable at other people’s family gatherings… well, you can still just say “No, thank you.” Because no matter how much someone cares about your wellbeing, if they are hosting a big to-do they will probably be secretly thankful to have one less place to set at the table. Hell, I’m delighted whenever anyone cancels plans with me, and that’s without me having to prepare a big family-style meal for them. They are probably more worried about Grandpa saying something racist in front of the kids than about you turning down their invitation. In fact, they may have invited to you to make themselves feel better… KNOWING THAT YOU’D PROBABLY DECLINE. It’s their way of showing that they give a shit without really having to give a shit. So don’t worry about it too much — there won’t be hard feelings if you decline. Just tell them how much it means to you to be invited, but that you’re looking forward to taking some “me time” this year.

And then TK… well, he had some detailed thoughts. And I quote:

“It’s Thanksgiving, so just eat turkey instead of pork or beef. If you can’t cook, bring something to drink. If you don’t drink, buy a nice dessert. Or bring nothing, they’re not REALLY going to care because there’s going to be more than enough food anyway. Children typically don’t interact with strangers so whatever with that. THEY WILL TELL YOU WHEN TO ARRIVE and you leave whenever the hell you want. If your friends are there, then just stick by them and don’t sweat chitchat or “saying the wrong thing”.

Basically, just be a fucking grownup and if you don’t want to go, then be a fucking grownup about that too. Jesus.”

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TK’s speaking from a very biased place, because he LOVES holidays that involve giant gatherings of friends and family (Friendsgiving is the best!), but he’s also onto something. Look, if you’re honestly considering bringing an iPad to someone else’s gathering as a distraction, then yeah — you shouldn’t be attending. But there are ways to cope with the other issues. Don’t know what to bring? Bring flowers. Those will always be welcome! If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, then take your time to consider what you’re saying before you say it. If you need an easy out, explain that you have to leave at a given time when you agree to attend — and that way your departure won’t offend anyone.

The issues you raised aren’t major roadblocks, but you said they cause you “dread” and THAT is what jumps out at me. Sadly it’s too large an issue to tackle in a random internet advice column, as we don’t know the causes, but one thing I can tell you from my own experience is that sometimes the things I dread the most are the things I most need to do. I gain confidence from conquering them, and usually walk away with a special experience, one that prepares me for the next time I’m in an uncomfortable situation.

So sure, you may not need to share Thanksgiving with someone else’s family. Nobody needs that. But perhaps it might open you up. Maybe you’d have a good time. Maybe those people you don’t know would be really cool if you met them. Maybe not being alone on Thanksgiving might be a good thing for you.

That’s for you to judge. But to get back to your questions — they will be fine if you say turn down the invite. They have plenty of other shit to be getting on with. And you shouldn’t feel obligated just because they tried to be nice. But if being honest about your reasons for not attending feels awkward, or if you don’t think they’ll buy that you have firm plans with your couch that day, you can always say you’re volunteering instead. Or, I dunno, you have the Norovirus?

Phew, holidays are HARD. Let’s see if we have any last questions stuffed up inside this big advice bird, shall we?

Oh yes, this is a good one!

So in bed the other night (IT’S NOT THAT KIND OF QUESTION. WAIT. DO YOU TAKE THAT KIND OF QUESTION?) my cat did that cat thing where she suddenly jumped up and stared at something in the corner. Then there came a scratching sound. She chased something around for a bit, but I never saw anything and she came up empty. So basically I’m wondering - should I just burn the place down and start over somewhere far, far away?

Sincerely,

Trying To Dream of Kate McKinnon But Can’t Cause Weird Shit is Happening (But Just the Once)

Dear Trying,

Yeah, I think we DO take that kind of question, actually! I mean, I assume we do. I check the email inbox, and nobody has really tried yet, but if they did I’d probably share it ‘round the ol’ Slack watercooler. But also the most extreme sexual experiences I’ve had are less kinky and more horribly embarrassing, so if anyone is planning on writing in with sex questions just know you’ll be relying on the other Pajibans for input. Unless your questions are all about receiving oral sex from dudes who get spontaneous nosebleeds, because THAT is a topic I can speak from experience on!

Annnnyway, maybe you should get a better cat? Because your cat sounds broken. Also I hear from the cat people on staff that sometimes cats are just assholes who troll their humans by going batshit at nothing. Like, it could have been a shadow, or dust, or a feather from your duvet, or the voice of Satan in their own vicious little cat brains. I wouldn’t know — I have a dog, who barks are traffic lights for no reason. But one Cat-jiban recommended investing in more cats, so they can troll each other and/or better protect you in the long, dark nights.

On the plus side, that scratching sound could have been from your cat, scratching at nothing. Or, you know, you might have to accept the fact that you have mice or cockroaches or chipmunks or something. In which case the reason it only happened once is because your cat ISN’T broken and did it’s job scaring the beasties away. Hooray for kitty! Or the critters just got smarter and are regrouping, quietly plotting a household coup.

There is a slight chance that you don’t have a normal infestation, and instead there’s a ghost-demon in your wall. In which case burning the place might work, if we take Supernatural as canon on all things ghostly (AND WE DO, WE REALLY DO). If you do nothing, you can rest assured that it will have to go through your cat to get to you, in which case your cat will have served a noble purpose, buying you time to make your escape. Be sure to memorialize it appropriately. Alternately, the wall-ghost-thing could possess the cat, in which case you’re extra screwed. Keep some fire handy.

You know what? Just burn everything. We’re in the death-throws of 2017. It’s time to burn it all anyway. And if anyone asks what happened, just blame your broken cat!

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