Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XXXIX: How to avoid Thanksgiving dinner family dysfunction, and a very special Ask Matt lightning round

Matt Labash Columnist
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Editors Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

Matt, do you have any tips to survive a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving?  – JS

To many, “Thanksgiving” is a stressful word. That’s why my family has started calling it a “Harvest Festival,” just to reduce holiday tensions. As the late Johnny Carson once said, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”

The best survival tip I have is to think of Thanksgiving as a procedural checklist you must get through, then to diligently plow through it before angst can set in. For instance, each Harvest Festival, my wife and I like to start the day at dawn’s crack by stuffing the turkey, forking the pie crusts, and candying the yams. After that, we usually get out of bed, then begin preparing dinner.

Equally important is bearing in mind the true reason for the season, and reveling in the richness and tradition of the day. We do so by gathering our children around, and relating to them the story of the first Harvest Festival feast, telling them how the Pilgrims and Indians came together to break bread. Unable to understand each other, they still communicated  through the universal language of friendship and brotherhood, so that down the line, we could swindle the Indians out of their land, thus paving the way  for the strip malls and fast-food establishments that have made our nation the best dadblum country in the world. Then my wife, an expert in early Native-American languages, teaches the kids how to say “suckers” in Wampanoag.

After busying ourselves all afternoon, the relatives usually come shuffling up the driveway, knocking on the door around 3 p.m.  After nearly a month of Harvest Festival drills with our kids – I suggest starting shortly after Halloween – the whole family  knows to wordlessly stop, drop and roll behind a family room sofa, waiting quietly until the knocks subside, and the exasperated relatives decide to take off instead for Thanksgiving dinner at the Cracker Barrel, where for completely reasonable prices, they can enjoy the cornbread stuffing and sweet potato casserole, perhaps even picking up an Alan Jackson CD in the gift shop along the way.

For more persistent relatives who can’t take a hint after 15 minutes or so of fruitless knocking, we throw open the door, apologize for being in the shower and not hearing them, then welcome them inside. We fill their plates, and to avoid any dysfunctional episodes, implement a strict no-talking rule. Instead, we turn on the television, and silently watch the Detroit Lions get slaughtered, much like the Indians were slaughtered shortly after the first Harvest Festival, thus bringing the day full circle, as pie is served.

Editor’s Note:  A very special Ask Matt lightning round, with all questions provided by Jennifer Waite:

1. Dear Matt Lamont, I’m a busy girl on the go. What are your 5 top beauty tips that take under five minutes?

Before ticking off a list, one thing to keep in mind is that if you’re ugly on the inside, you’ll be ugly on the outside, too. I mean, Angelina Jolie isn’t. But you probably will be. That said:

A. If it’s not hair you’ve seen before, wax it.

B. Unless you’re going to a dance at a senior center, never wear rouge.

C. No pantyhose allowed, especially flesh-colored. Bare legs in summer. Bare legs in winter. As the philosopher ZZ Top said, and I paraphrase: You’ve got legs. Know how to use them.

D. A woman in unbuttoned jeans and nothing else beats a woman in tricked-out lingerie. Every. Single. Time.

E. Underwear – redundant. When in doubt, go without.

2. You’ve been convicted of voter intimidation due to your stunt with that tiger and a Volkswagen. Your sentence is dinner with 4 reality “stars” –  you pick.

A. Puck from Real World. Nothing livens up a dinner party like a grown man blowing snot rockets.

B. Dr. Will Kirby from Big Brother. Not only was he diabolical, mercenary, and subversive, but it’s good to have a doctor in the house, in case of medical emergencies. Even if he’s just a dermatologist. Acne outbreaks are emergencies, too.

C. Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef, because nobody sets a table quite like her.

D. Piper Palin from Sarah Palin’s Alaska — I’m anti child-exploitation. So I figure three hours at dinner with me is three hours less she has to spend on her mom’s television show.

3. Salon – Cyber-epicenter of political enlightenment or worst health and beauty site ever?

Why put the straitjacket of labels on them? Why can’t they be both?  “How to Get 6-Pack Abs” by Joe Conason. Hell, I’d read it.

4. What do you think the Opah Winfrey Network will be like?

Oprahtastic. With a side of best-friend Gayle.

5. Do you think Thomas Jefferson will run in 2012?

If he comes back from the dead and does, he has a distinct advantage in that his name is already on the Jefferson Memorial. That’s like free advertising. And it’s highly unlikely that Tim Pawlenty is going to have a marble monument inscribed with his historic writings erected in his honor before the Iowa caucuses. On the other hand, Jefferson is a bit too cerebral, and isn’t quite angry enough to capture the spirit of our age. If he throws his hat in after talking to his family, I suggest he ramps up his rage a bit, laying waste to East Coast elites, inside-the-Beltway types, or at the very least, the lamestream media.

6. What does Fred Barnes do to unwind?

Commits acts of unsung heroism. Writes award-winning journalism. Gives me a raise.

7. Explain Wicca.

It’s kind of like Satanism. But with more lesbians.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.