So far this year I've spent my vacation days on four family weddings, ten days in the Midwest caring for sick relatives, two family weekends in New York, and one long weekend sleeping on a deeply uncomfortable pull-out couch at the cabin. I'd say that of the total time spent with family this year, eighty percent of it was genuinely enjoyable and there was no place else I'd rather have been, fifteen percent of it has been fine in a "not at all what I'd choose but it sure is nice to see everyone happy" kind of way, four percent has been bad and one percent has been so teeth-gnashingly, hair-pulling-out hellish that I had to leave the house and drive to the parking lot of a Dairy Queen to call a friend and confirm that I was not crazy, but everyone else was.
I don't live close to any family, and there are days that I feel badly about this. A lack of geographical proximity, however, has hardly precluded the amount of time spent with them so far this year. I've spent more days with my parents than with several people I'd call close friends, a scenario that hasn't happened since I had a curfew and wore my dad's flannel shirts. And while certain members of my extended family drive me up the proverbial wall, I look at time spent with them as a necessary evil in order to spend time with the fun ones, the people I would voluntarily choose to be related to had I a real say in the matter.
As things have been piling up at work and school threatening to pull me under a sea of arcane academic snobbery, my parents started dropping hints that we would be doing Thanksgiving in the town they now live in. A place I've never been to, where I know no one, a place that is six hours from where I grew up, two hours from a major city, and where the greatest attraction is the big screen TV in my parents' basement. "Aaaaand," my mother crowed when telling me of such a cultural milestone "we have digital cable!" They way she said it made it sound like Lollapalooza would be taking place in the backyard.
This development did not excite me. Nor did further developments, chiefly the revelation that certain of those family members would be joining us. These are individuals who, admittedly, we don't see that often, but oh Lordy, when we do... it's not good. They're not nice people to begin with, but as I have acquired the reputation for being the Slut Singleton From The Big City Who Thinks She's Better Than Everyone Else (a tag, by the by, that is at most seventy percent accurate), some of these individuals take particular pride in ragging on me in a way that a casual observer might find affectionate but which everyone involved instantly recognizes as being mean-spirited and utterly without purpose, beyond trying make me feel bad about my choices. Which is basically just a bunch of big words that translate into "Aunt [Fillintheblank] is a total fucking bitch."
Last week I announced to my parents that I would not be coming home for Thanksgiving. They shocked me, in that they not only didn't yell and administer guilt trips, but that they endorsed the idea.
"Honestly, we understand," my dad said as I gawped in utter confusion on the other end of the line. "You work a lot, you're in school, you're out every night. You're a big kid; you can have a vacation where you relax and aren't always looking after other people."
But-- I had a list! I initiated that conversation only after making up a list of valid, polite reasons why instead of turkey with family, I wanted to go TO Turkey with friends. And the list of reasons didn't even include "because Aunt [Fillintheblank] is a total fucking bitch." Look at that maturity and restraint! Aren't you proud? You're not supposed to just agree to this wackadoodle plan! Don't you want to hear my reasons?!
"Honey, we said yes. Or rather, we say that you don't need our permission to not come home for Thanksgiving."
"Does that mean that you'll let me use Mom's frequent flyer miles to buy a ticket to Istanbul?"
"I suppose so."
Not to brag or anything, but whatever my extended family lacks in awesomeness, the immediate family completely makes up for it.