Thanksgiving is just around the river bend, my friends. Now, what does this mean? Time to brace yourself for a familial reunion with your second cousin twice removed named Benny. You know, the one you haven’t seen since you were eight. Time to get pestered with uncomfortably personal questions from people you’re only distantly related to and barely know. Yes, Thanksgiving can sometimes be awkward, especially if you’re an introvert like me. If you also boast a large family it can be downright overwhelming. Allow me, a socially awkward human being, to grant you the tools necessary for surviving Family Thanksgiving 2017.

Now, first thing’s first: take notes. You’ll want to prepare yourself before you march onward into the noisy, turkey-encrusted fray. Oh, and you’ll need supplies. But we’ll get to that later.

DISCLAIMER: This is purely satire. Please don’t take these tips to heart. Always be honest about how you’re feeling, even in uncomfortable social situations. 

1. Always find the pets.

Who wouldn’t want to spend all the time in the world with this little fella?

This one, I find, is a standard rule when attempting to navigate large parties. I myself tend to freeze when stranded amid masses of people. But, this tried and true rule has aided me in many a large party. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, always look for the animals. Dogs, cats, hamsters. Find a cute pet and cuddle your woes away. Family asking too many prying questions? Feign going to the bathroom and make a mad dash for the animals.

2. When being pestered about your love life, say you’re “married” to your job.

Who has time to date? What is dating anyway, but uncomfortable one-night connections with strangers over food? Quite frankly, the food is usually the highlight of any date. Anyway, when great aunt Gertrude begins her annual line of questioning regarding your love life, just kindly reply that you’re “married” to your job. Then, she’ll assume that you’re very ambitious and motivated. Or say you’re married to a man named Ben Jerry. She doesn’t have to know that “Ben Jerry” is actually code for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

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3. Bring your laptop with you. 

Have outside work to complete? Bring your laptop. Don’t have outside work to complete? Keep your laptop in tow regardless. Anyone who carries one must be important, right? So, the minute uncle Dan starts making uncomfortable, pseudo-sexist jokes you can pop that bad boy out and claim you have work to do. Very important work. A looming deadline, business meetings, executives, Excel spreadsheets. Crunch time! Just start throwing around business terms and people will take you seriously.

4. Pretend to write down everything they say. 

Make sure you get a spiral notebook. You know, for nostalgic purposes.

Claim you’re taking notes for a class. You’re dissecting their behavior for a behavioral studies course. It may act as a deterrent for anything outrageous your family may say. And honestly, the less outlandish things they say, the better. Or if they continue to chat away unfiltered, perhaps you can add the writings to your memoirs one day. Or turn it into an award winning play. Take that, Thanksgiving!

5. You’ve taken a vow of silence.

Now, this one is a bit out there. But, if answering those unwanted questions and interacting with strange individuals sounds tiresome, then perhaps this idea is for you. Plus, if you’re in a very rural part of the country, a “vow of silence” might garner respect. It has a religious ring to it, doesn’t it? Or, you can feign laryngitis. That one might be easier to pass off as true.

6. Sit at the kid’s table.

Seriously. Chances are kids won’t ask you personal questions regarding your marital status or how your career is going. You can talk about cartoons, school and the latest Marvel releases. How Jenny doesn’t actually have cooties, because cooties aren’t real. You can mold their young minds to be forward thinking, progressive individuals. You’ll essentially be their Yoda to their collective Luke Skywalker. You’ll be a hero. Honestly, kids are way cooler than adults anyway.

7. Leave early by claiming you have a work related issue unexpectedly pop up.
will and grace thanksgiving

Fact: I leave all gatherings early as a result of Will & Grace.

Pull out the phone, pretend to be reading an emergency email. Make sure your mouth is appropriately agape, for the intended effect of surprise. Put those acting skills you learned from that on-camera class you took in college to use. Apologize repeatedly and tearfully say your goodbyes as you stuff a slice (or four) of pumpkin pie into your too large bag. They don’t have to know that you’re hurrying home to watch the newest episode of Will & Grace.

8. Finally, only answer questions with simple one word responses.

Humans talk too much anyway. So, whenever you’re asked a question that’s out of your comfort zone, simply respond with a one word answer. Preferably “yes” or “no.” It might throw those nagging distant relatives off the scent. Plus, it’ll save you the oxygen and mental capacity needed to navigate that dangerous minefield of awkward questioning. One word responses require minimal effort. Who knows, maybe they’ll think you started your Thanksgiving pre-gaming early.

Alright, my introverted friends. Here’s hoping you survive the Thanksgiving season. Take these tips and apply them whenever necessary. Don’t be afraid to use the props – laptop, notebook, phone, etc. That’s what they’re there for. Think of yourself as an actor in a stage production of your family dinner. Use the props well, and they will not let you down. And, of course, always find the pets. Animals won’t ask you awkward questions or tell you distasteful jokes. Who says your Thanksgiving can’t be a furry one?

This article was originally published November 11, 2017.

Melody McCune

Before moving to Los Angeles after studying theater in college, I was born and raised in Amish country, Ohio. No, I am not Amish, even if I sometimes sport a modest bonnet. I also work publicity for WhedonCon, a convention celebrating the works of Joss Whedon. I love cheese. I love geek. I love lamp.