How Should I Face My Holiday Anxiety?

Ask Demetria: Weaseling out of Thanksgiving dinner won't endear you to your man or his family.


(The Root) —

“I’m stressed about the holidays more than usual this year. I don’t get along very well with my own family, so for years I’ve avoided going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I usually spend Thanksgiving with friends or even alone, which I actually enjoy, to avoid the drama. This year a guy I’m dating has invited me to join his family for Thanksgiving, and I’m hesitant to meet his mother because he’s told me some unkind things about her. Is it wrong to cancel the trip? I haven’t avoided my family drama to deal with someone else’s. If I do go, any tips to help things go smoothly?” –F.O.

If it makes you feel any better, nearly everyone is stressed about the holidays, especially women, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. There’s undue pressure for everything to look as perfect as a Hallmark ad and for us to be on our best behavior, as if we’re all in a 1950s sitcom.

Inevitably, this image never plays out as planned and there’s a lot of disappointment. For many folks, it’s not really a complete Thanksgiving unless the turkey fails to get cooked on time, if an uncle doesn’t hold his liquor, if Mom isn’t offending her kids, if an aunt doesn’t bore the dinner table with her rambling, if Dad doesn’t tell an off-color joke or if all the kids aren’t on their best behavior, fussy babies included. Enduring a holiday like this with a smile and without cursing at anyone or getting cursed out is supposed to be an act of love, but for many it’s a bitter obligation. If that’s how you feel about Turkey Day, don’t worry; you’re operating well within the realm of “normal.”

Kudos to you for not getting sucked into the vortex of drama. Many people don’t realize that not “doing” the holidays is OK. A lot of them would enjoy the season more if they spent Thanksgiving and Christmas alone or with people they like and love (there’s a huge difference).

Unfortunately, you’ve committed to heading “home” with your date without fully thinking it through. Given that you’re inquiring about whether it’s OK to cancel your plans the week before Thanksgiving, you should know that no, it’s absolutely not all right to bail now — that is, if you have any intention of continuing to date this particular suitor. You’re going to have to go through with this one, and maybe even suffer with a smile. But hopefully not.