Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exactly How Dysfunctional IS Your Thanksgiving Dinner?

For several years I’ve been writing and posting snarky Dysfunctional Family Bingo cards every November where I have filled the boxes with potentially horrific scenarios that could occur during your Thanksgiving dinner, though you wouldn’t want them to. Unless you’re a sadist. Or post-divorce Don Draper . . . before he hooked up with Megan the secretary.

I decided to go another way this year. Out with the Bingo cards. In with a silly, snarky quiz in which you look at a potentially ominous Thanksgiving dinner scenario – including one inspired by Mad Men’s Betty Draper Francis -- and decide which one, in your opinion, represents the best reaction in the face of insanity. At the end, you can see whether you’ve picked mostly minor dysfunctional responses or seriously dysfunctional ones (which can sometimes be the most entertaining options):

1) The turkey, which was proudly presented to the assembled guests at the Thanksgiving table, is dreadfully dry. We’re talkin’ sawdust. The people with whom you’re eating dinner respond this way:

a) By pouring a bit more gravy onto the turkey and saying nothing so as not to hurt the hosts’ feelings.

b) By pulling the host and hostess aside while they’re doing dishes and offering future turkey roasting tips.

c) By someone announcing, “Damn! This sucker’s dry! How long d’ja cook it for Chrisssake?”

2) The hostess of the dinner, who made all the food, loudly observes, for all the diners to hear, that your 8-year-old nephew doesn’t have any yams on his plate. “What, you don’t like my yams?” she asks from the other side of the table. “Why don’t you try some? They’re really good.”

a) Your sister-in-law frowns, then says, “Sure he likes them, don’t you Tommy?” Then she shovels some into his mouth as he protests and gags.

b) Your sister-in-law says, “Thanks for asking, but he’s not a fan of yams. He loves your cranberry sauce though.”

c) “That’s right!” your brother bellows, “smart boy! Just like his dad. NO ONE likes yams.”

3) Your cousin’s 12-month-old is toddling around your mother-in-law’s glass-topped coffee table, checking out all the items that have been carefully arranged there: A crystal candy dish filled with M&Ms, a stack of hardcover books and a pair of ceramic candle sticks your mother-in-law made in a pottery class. Before you can reach over little Susie’s head and grab the candy dish, she’s knocked it off the coffee table, sending the M&Ms flying and knocking over one of the candlesticks, breaking it. What happens next?

a) The baby’s mother rushes over, grabs her daughter under one arm and then starts one-handedly trying to pick everything up as she profusely apologizes.

b) The baby’s parents do nothing while everyone else looks around waiting for someone to pick up the debris.

c) The baby’s mother shouts to your mother-in-law, “You knew we were coming here. This is what you get when you don’t child-proof!”

4) Your uncle intentionally starts a political discussion designed to instigate you, someone he knows vigorously disagrees with everything he’s saying. You:

a) Decide to toy with him by responding to everything he says with, “Really? How do you know that? What are your sources?” You’re prepared to do this until the uncle stops or passes out after his many glasses of scotch, whichever comes first.

b) Pour yourself another glass of wine and go join another conversation.

c) Announce, “That’s it! Uncle Charlie’s drunk again everybody! He’s shut off.”

5) You're going to your in-laws' house for dessert after Thanksgiving dinner at your parents' home. You offer to bring an apple pie because your spouse has a dairy allergy and you know how to make it so he can have some. However your mother-in-law absolutely INSISTS that she’ll accommodate him so there’s no need to bring an apple pie since she’ll make one. However after eating a big piece of pie, your spouse gives you that look and excuses himself to the bathroom where he gets sick loudly enough for everyone to hear:

a) Your mother-in-law says, “Honestly, I don’t know why he’s sick. I only put cream on the crust to give it that golden color. It wasn’t INSIDE the pie. You people and your allergies . . .”

b) You and your spouse say nothing about it and later plan to never trust that woman’s cooking again.

c) Your mother-in-law apologizes when your spouse comes out of the bathroom. Later, she asks him if he’d like some Baileys Irish Cream to settle his stomach.

6) The teenagers gathered around the table are so engrossed in their texting that they don’t hear when people ask them to please pass the mashed potatoes, the gravy, etc. In fact, all day long, they’ve been non-responsive to questions and attempts to make conversation. The adults:

a) Start wagering on how many texts each teen has sent. By the end of meal, the pot for the person with the winning guess has grown to $200.

b) One of the middle-aged uncles takes his own cell phone and sends all the teens an expletive-laden text telling them to, in essence, “cut the crap and put the damn phones down and talk to the people sitting right next to you.”

c) One of the senior citizens at the gathering, fueled by copious amounts of liquid courage, grabs the cell phones out of two of the teens’ hands, opens the front door and chucks them outside into the snow.

7) An NFL football game is dominating the family room. The volume is up high. It’s impossible to not pay attention to what’s happening on the flat-screen TV. Unfortunately that means the ads are also impossible to ignore, including the erectile dysfunction ones. Which, of course, get the little kids in the room talking and asking all kinds of detailed questions, including what “ED” medicine does. The reaction from the adults in the room:

a) “It’s when a man has problems having sex,” an uncle says. “You all know what sex is, right?”

b) One of the grandmothers grabs the hands of as many children as she can while saying loudly, “Who wants some pie? Grandma’s got pie and ice cream in the kitchen. Come on kids, follow me.”

c) An embarrassed dad tells the kids to lean over toward him and then whispers, “Go ask your mommies.”

Now, add up the values of your answers:

1) a-1, b-2, c-3

2) a-3, b-1, c-2

3.) a-1, b-2, c-3

4) a-2, b-1, c-3

5) a-3, b-1, c-2

6) a-1, b-2, c-3

7) a-3, b-1, c-2

7-11 points: You’re willing to put up with a completely garden variety, oddball American Thanksgiving dinner and hope that things don’t get too wacky.

12-16 points: You likely already know that you’ve got a rather high tolerance for dealing with moderately messed up gatherings, in fact you get a slight kick out them.

17-21: Grab another bottle of wine. You’re gonna need it.

Image credit: Clip Art and Crafts.

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