How to do the least for the annual feast

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day to watch football, share in the company of family, enjoy a magnificent feast, and just generally relax — unless, of course, you happen to be a female, in which case you’re expected to spend the next 28 consecutive hours in a nonstop frenzy of cleaning and dealing with various disgusting turkey organs.

Sure it’s sexist, but it’s also tradition. While it may be 2009, women are still responsible for things like preparing turkeys and giving birth to children, or (in that rare case when a lab technician makes a mistake during artificial insemination), giving birth to turkeys.

Growing up, I’ve always been spoiled on Thanksgiving. My brother and I have been blessed with a mom who is a wonderful cook, and who always prepared the most incredible feasts. She, in turn, was blessed with two ungrateful snot-nosed brats who spent the entire evening fighting over the wishbone and trying to avoid cleaning duty.

That’s the tradition I bring to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner: getting out of helping do dishes. So, in the spirit of giving, I’ll share with you some tips on how you, too, can avoid making any meaningful contribution to the day’s festivities.

It’s not as easy as you think. After dinner, you’ll be sitting there semi-comatose in the La-Z-Boy, digesting 8 pounds of stuffing and yams while watching Detroit get crushed by 42 points, when some aunt or distant cousin will start hassling you about helping out in the kitchen. “Would you like to help with the clean-up?” they’ll ask in an annoying high-pitched tone. “If we all work together, it’ll get done super fast!” Your response here is critical. Because while an obscene finger gesture will accurately convey your true feelings on the matter, it will also get you removed from one or more wills.

To avoid getting yelled at, you’re going to have get up and do your part.

Stop being lazy, “man-up” and take action. I recommend hiding out in the bathroom while feigning an intestinal sickness.

If your host has a basement or office with a TV in it, that always works, too. Sometimes to escape the chores, you’ll have to suck it up and hang out outside in the freezing cold for an hour, but frostbite beats an hour of scraping dried cranberries off of Grandma Bertha’s nice china.

Speaking of which, here’s a special bonus hint:

Volunteer to help clean, then start off by “accidentally” breaking a piece of Grandma Bertha’s fine china. Trust me, from then on out, you won’t be allowed near anything that doesn’t have the word “Dixie” on it.

But perhaps your determination is weak and you have some moral qualms about destroying an ancient family heirloom just to get back to watching the Lions punt again. If worse comes to worse, you may have to take a sudden interest in one of your young nieces or nephews. The theory is that you won’t be interrupted and asked to help if it appears you’re bonding with family members. So get down on the floor and play with the little brats. To really sell it, you should act like you actually like them. Throw a ball or toy at them. Pinch them, whatever.

After awhile you’ll hear the unmistakable sound of the dishwasher being started. This is your cue to pounce. Grab a towel and announce loudly: “What can I do to help?” Your cousin Susan will say they just finished, but that it’s very nice of you to offer, considering your intestinal illness and all. Your Aunt Karen will commend you for taking interest in the children, even if they are all bleeding. And Grandma Bertha will tell you to not stand so close to her china.

The point is, you’ll be there in the kitchen, occupying prime real estate when it’s time to pass out leftovers and the wishbone. Unfortunately, your great aunt asked if she could possibly have the wishbone – your wishbone — so that she could make soup to take over to her elderly shut-in neighbor. You roll your eyes and sigh.

Some people totally don’t get the spirit of Thanksgiving.


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