Dear Virgie,

I really hate Thanksgiving. I usually go home and visit. I go through all the same things just like the year before, like I am stuck in a bad movie. There is non-stop conversation about calories and weight gain and weight loss before, during and after dinner. Then there is always a fight because my dad is a man-baby and my mom enables him. Just writing this is giving me palpitations. 

Dear friend:

OMG. So much compassion for you and your little heart right now! Ugh. Take a deep breath and know that you can manage this.

I want to tell you a little story about my favorite Thanksgiving ever.

Even though meals are notoriously awkward and my family talks nonstop about death at, like, every meal ever, I still do T-day with them every year because I have this total sense of guilt that convinces me that if I don’t go to this holiday meal that my entire family is going to die and I will be at fault and I will never forgive myself, forever and ever amen. I know it sounds totally nutso, and it is, but that’s what I am dealing with here. It’s important to be honest about these things, girl. Anyway.

So one year (I think it was 2011 or 2012), my grandma wants to go have Thanksgiving with her extended family at some venue none of us had ever been to. Well, my grandfather HATED her family. Like, life-long vendetta. Further, he hated driving to new places. A lot. He was also, coincidentally, a lovely man, but also a total man-baby.

I kinda knew this was going to be a total disaster, and so I asked if I could drive with my mom rather than my grandparents. She agreed, but since my mom is also an adult child, she of course was running very, very late for literally no reason, and instead of being accountable, decided to offset her broken promise by guilting me into “spending some quality time” with my g-parents on the drive over.

Related: 9 Ways to Navigate the Holidays With Your Conservative Family

We get into the car. I have a print-out of the directions (this was pre-Google Maps), and I am preemptively panicking because things are already tense. We get lost. He flips the fuck out and starts having a terrifying shaking screaming tanty, like, while we are trapped in a fucking moving car. We finally found the place, but by then I was so horrified and upset, I told them to go ahead so I could replenish my face powder or whatever (but actually have an uncontrollable meltdown in the parking lot).

Instead I called my boyfriend, crying and sobbing, and he told me the one word I needed to hear: leave.

What?

Leave.

He walked me through it. “Is there a bus or taxi you can catch? Where does it go? Do you have a way to get home?” I left that poopy Thanksgiving dinner debacle and had chicken tikka masala alone at a Naan & Curry, and it was fucking amazeballs. My mom came and picked me up a couple hours later.

I want to pass on the sentiment that my boyfriend gave me on that day: don’t go. You deserve to have a nice day. And if they can’t get their shit together, then they don’t get to drag you into it. Of course, I totally get that spending Thanksgiving alone might sound awful. Maybe you plan before-care and after-care and cap your visit to 90 minutes or whatever feels right. Make sure to plan beforehand. Do not free-ball it, because you will freeze up in the midst of distress. Make sure you have a dependable mode of transit (rent a car or download the uber app) so you can leave when you want. Trust me, it is worth the investment. Keep the permission to leave in your back pocket.

Hope this helps!

Xox,
Virgie

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Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp. Follow her on Instagram @virgietovar

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