Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Thanksgiving: Family Celebration or Family Feud?

I am spending Thanksgiving with my mother in Memphis, TN. I haven't been there in over two years. For one thing, it's very far away now and we have to fly and that costs a lot of money. But perhaps more importantly, I have a strained relationship with my mother. I know there are lots of strained mother-daughter relationships out there, but in addition to having to deal with my mother, I get her husband's whole family. And my mother's whole family. Now these people are all old-school Southerners. Most of them came of age in the 60s and basically saw their whole way of life fall apart during the Civil Rights movement. Here are some observations I've made about my family (which may or may not be true of any or all other Southerners):

1. Black people are to be tolerated because the law says so, but we will not be friends with them or, God forbid, let our children date or marry them. Many of society's ills are blamed on them (or Hispanics--new minority in the South).

2. Women's primary role is wife and mother. If she chooses to work, it's because there's some financial need for it.

3. Women should always look their best. Makeup and coiffed hair is de rigeur.

4. Women should be gracious even as they are being insulted.

5. Sports--especially college sports--is very important. We don't understand people who don't know what games are on on Saturdays.

6. The best jobs are the ones that require men to wear ties.

7. If you're religious, drinking is bad. If you're not religious, drinking is required--a lot of drinking. (My family is in the not religious camp for the most part.)

8. How much money you make is important, but what's more important is looking like you make more than you really do.

9. No white after Labor Day or before Easter is a rule. Break it at your own risk!

Let me just say that I have lived my life in a way that goes against all the above statements--except maybe the drinking one, but only in moderation. :) Not only do have these edicts to deal with, but the post election political discussion. My mom voted for Kerry, but she's really not all that upset about Bush winning. Her husband, his whole family, the rest of my mom's family all voted for Bush. I've already given her a little hint of the determination I feel to not let Bush rule with an iron fist. I'm thinking of secretly recording conversations over Thanksgiving dinner, just so I'll be sure to remember them.

I will probably not rock the boat as much as I feel I'm going to now, but I'm also steeling myself for the racist, sexist comments. I frankly will not tolerate them in front of my children. I promise not to talk about gay sex in front of them or be the first to throw out some political topic. But I refuse to stand by silently. I think they would do the same. Maybe. Another thing I forgot to mention above is "Be polite at all costs. If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all." But don't invite the rude person to the next cocktail party. I think I'll just be taking a lot of deep cleansing breaths the whole plane trip.