Not everyone is repulsed by their immediate family. Some of us love, even like, our family very much. But the process of going to see our family could be an insurmountable chore: the distance, the expense, the nightmare of traveling at any time, let alone holiday air travel during a pandemic. If you find yourself on the other side of the country or across the world, away from your immediate family, you may reach out to your extended family, and they may invite you over to their neighbor’s for Thanksgiving dinner. This may prove a fraught endeavor.
You may witness generic homophobia. Not particularly harsh or cruel on the homophobic scale, but directed at your extended family member, who certainly can hold their own and retort more intelligently to most jabs, but still, uncomfortable and tiresome as fuck.
You may be reminded repeatedly that a person you’re sharing the meal with doesn’t share the same perception of reality. They may tell you that the Democrats are trying to take away everyone’s money and give it to the needy, that Biden is working to turn the United States into a communist country, that your hometown seems like a terrible place because of all the “drug people,” or that Kyle Rittenhouse is a good kid who was just defending himself. You may want to respond that, you wish the Democrats were halfway as altruistic as that, that Biden is a conservative and an old school Republican in all but name, who you’d like more if he actually was a communist, that your hometown may be a shithole, but that drug addicts are hardly the worst of it, and there are good parts of it too, like cheesesteaks and autumn leaves, and that Rittenhouse is a murderer who created a situation in which he’d have the excuse of defending himself to kill people. Or you may decide it’s not worth the time and energy and that you’re not about to deprogram a maga drone in the course of one meal.
You may hear expressions of casual racism. Not overt slurs and hateful rants, but prejudiced comments and “jokes” that may make you grimace with distaste and look around for anything else to say or do. You may, in this scenario, be the type to openly confront the racist on their idiot utterances, but not everyone is completely comfortable with that, particularly when you don’t know them that well and you’re in their house eating their food.
It’s situations like these where a holiday emotional support animal is invaluable. Though Thanksgiving is over, the premature decorations, tree sales, and god awful music playing in grocery stores tell me that Christmas is just under a month away. Many of us will soon find ourselves at uncomfortable dinners again, and I urge everyone not to go into those dinners unprepared. You must have an emotional support animal present, especially when the alcohol and sugar have kicked in for the other folks at the table.
In my case, my emotional support animal this Thanksgiving was a sweet little dog with an underbite and possible ewok parentage named Ike. I did not know Ike before attending this Thanksgiving dinner. I knew the hosts, the previously alluded to rightwing types, would have a dog, and I pinned all my hopes on that mystery pup. I got lucky. Ike was very sweet, playful, and hungry for attention. Petting and playing with him saved the evening. Ike saved me.
However, I don’t recommend you go into these situations with as little preparation as I did. Better you know the animal who’ll be socially protecting you beforehand. Ideally, you’ll be able to bring a familiar and well vetted animal with you. You’ve got time before Christmas hits to get ready. But, by all means, whether you’re seeing your immediate family and you hate them, or you’re doing the extended family and their friends sort of thing like I did, do not go in alone. You must have an Ike by your side.
If you’re celebrating Hannakuh and are only reading this now, I’m sorry but you’re fucked.
Happy holidays, and good luck.