Your politeness reserves? Dangerously low. Your affection for your partner? Unlimited. So here's what you do. Join forces like the Bonnie and Clyde you are, and create your own "secret signals" for surviving Thanksgiving together.
First, do some reconnaissance. "Go to your partner's family gathering armed with information about his/her childhood scars. Know who hurt him/her and in what specific ways," says Dr. Jamie Turndorf, author of Kiss Your Fights Good-bye. "So, for example, if your partner's father always dished mean jokes, be on guard for those same putdowns. Knowing your partner's tender spots will help you be on guard when the fur flies, and will enable you to assist your partner if and when a relative comes in for the kill." (And vice versa for you, of course!)
Even if you can't protect each other from the initial sting of an insult, you can come to each other's rescue when you call for help. Huddle together before you make the drive to Grandma's house and agree on these humorous secret signals you can send across a crowded room.
1. "Talking to this person is torture. You must save me now, now, now."
You can only make polite conversation for so long. And if you have to hear one more of Uncle Jack's thoughts on Obamacare/immigrants/your haircut, you're going to go insane.
Secret signal: Try inserting the word "torture" into the conversation within earshot of your partner. Like, "You say you had to wait a whole 30 minutes on the phone with your internet service provider? That sounds like torture!" If your boyfriend doesn't swoop in and rescue you now — "Hey, Uncle Jack, why don't we catch the last quarter of the game on TV? Looks like it's tied." — he's not worth procreating with, just saying.
2. "I need another drink. Pronto."
Why is it so difficult to rustle up another drink when you need one most? Because awkward conversation with your mother-in-law is cock-blocking you, that's why. (Or would it be "vodka-blocking?")
Secret signal: Reference your favorite binge-drinking TV character loud enough for your partner to hear you. That is the cue to bring more booze. Here's where it gets brilliant: Match the kind of drink you want to the show you're talking about. If you want a whiskey neat, mention a character or plot line on Mad Men. "Aunt Carol, you're so right! The way your boss treats his wife is a total Don Draper move!"
Is red wine your poison? Mention Scandal. (Or Game of Thrones.)
Need another beer? Can't go wrong with clinking glasses and (loudly) saying, "Cheers!" (get it?) — or working "Norm" or "Woody" into the conversation.
Cocktail refill? Name-check "Carrie Bradshaw" or one of her Sex and the City gal pals.
3. "You. Me. Your childhood bedroom upstairs. Let's do it in your twin bed under the Michael Jordan poster…"
Sometimes you need a makeout break to remember why you're subjecting yourself to this social discomfort in the first place. And you know what sneaking away from everyone else means: that sweet, illicit feeling that makes a quick tryst even more exciting.
Secret signal: If you want to bone your BF ASAP — or at least engage in some heavy Frenching action — try stabbing repeatedly at the food item on your plate. Spear that turkey slice! Murder those mashed potatoes! Or jam your swizzle stick so far down into your cocktail's ice cubes you may never get it out again. Now give him the eye. It is so on.
4. "It's time to go home. Drop what you're doing, and let's beat it out of here like rabid dogs are chasing us down the sidewalk."
It's half past "I can't even"-thirty, and if you aren't able to wipe the fake smile off your face within the next 15 minutes, you're pretty sure your cheeks are going to freeze like that, and everyone will call you "The Joker" for the rest of your life. And that's totally not you being melodramatic, because it's true.
Secret signal: In movies, people who work in TV are always giving the "wrap it up" signal: either putting their pointer finger in the air and moving it in a flat circle, or rolling two fists around each other, like they're punching a speed bag. Do your version of that! Twirl a lock of your hair over and over again like the Valley Girl you always wished you could be, or while you're telling a story, gesticulate in a circle over and over again. Hey, if it worked for Occupy Wall Street, it can work for family gatherings. Now go have fun! And don't forget to grab another slice of pumpkin pie before Uncle Jack eats it all.
More on love during the holidays
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