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Blood is Thicker Than…

My husband and I have been married for 25 years. Every year, from the beginning, we’ve had Thanksgiving with his family. Back then, everybody — sometimes 50 of us — gathered at his grandmother’s house. She passed away a couple of years back, so now, everybody gets together at his aunt and uncle’s place. Quite honestly, neither my husband nor I really enjoy this experience. Some of them are people we barely know. Although the headcount this year will be about 40, we know there will be lots of differing political opinions. Both of us are leery about going this year, since we know there will be people there not wearing masks, and the meal will be a potluck. We really need a strategy. Help us, please. — Anonymous, Woodmont Boulevard

This gathering can get along perfectly well without your sweet potato casserole. Habits are hard to break, but this may be your year to break free. You’re less than fond of the family for a number of reasonable reasons, but this clan may get together once a year because they scarcely ever see one another, whether they like it or not. I’m wondering: How does the crowd deal with their differences? By having yelling matches over the buffet or by retreating to politically restricted corners? (Just how many corners are there in the aunt and uncle’s house?) It sounds like a threatening and tedious way to spend Thanksgiving, but you’ve been putting yourselves through it for a quarter of a century. This year, even with the crowd down to only 40, you may choose to keep your distance for your safety and your sanity. At least 10 others have already made that choice, but it’s your decision to make. It’s been coming for years. Time’s a-wasting. You must let the hosts know. They won’t have to hold places for you at the table — maybe ever again.

Outside the Box

I want to exchange presents with my friends this Christmas, just like usual. But one of my closest friends has just told me not to give her anything this year. She’s not planning to give gifts to any of our friends, the way we’ve always done. In fact, she’s already told them what she wants them to do — or not to do. I’m not sure as to her reasons. It may be finances. I haven’t asked. I want to have just a few people over for drinks and to exchange presents, and I don’t want to leave her out. I’ve ordered her gift, and it arrived last week. What do I do? — Anonymous, Brentwood

There’s no reason to ask a question to which you don’t want to hear the answer. At least she’s been straightforward. There’s no reason to probe deeper. Go ahead and tell her you’re having your party as usual. It’s a tradition. She may choose to arrive after the wrapping paper and ribbons have been cleared away. If she’s informed the rest of your guest list, nobody will be surprised if she shows up late or doesn’t show up at all. Save the gift. She’s got a birthday coming.