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Just Ask Peter Sagal: How to survive the holidays

This week, Need to Know brings you a very special holiday edition of “Just Ask” with Peter Sagal.

This time around, Peter has some helpful post-Thanksgiving tips:

Dear Need to Know,

As usual, Thanksgiving at home was a complete nightmare, and I’m seriously considering never going back. How can I avoid the usual anger, resentment and misery that occurs at this time every year?


Fear the Turkey

Dear Fear: You can’t. However, you can feel less bad about it.

Let me show you what ruined Thanksgiving. In fact, this may have ruined everything. It’s an illustration by Norman Rockwell called “Freedom From Want,” part of his famous Four Freedoms series of pictures, inspired by a speech made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s a wonderful work of inspirational art and if you’re anything like me, it’s made your life a living hell. Because never in the history of this universe has there even been a Thanksgiving dinner this perfect, this happy, with so many delighted relatives so delighted to take delight in their delightful delight. It’s like warp drive on Star Trek: a violation of the laws of nature created for the purposes of fiction.

Here in real life, our turkey is a dried-out husk, much like our sister-in-law, and instead of our sainted father presiding over the meal, he’s back in the kitchen desperately self-medicating with Botox so his trophy wife won’t look at the turkey and think of his neck. And you’re thinking, “Why is my family such a train wreck?” Compared to that amazing Rockwell family, yes it is. So the trick is: don’t change your family. Change your role model. For example: Your holiday is a lot less painful than an actual train wreck.

And certainly, your Thanksgiving was better than the one enjoyed by the turkey’s family. Or if you’d like to compare yourself to other, human families, well, you’re better off than this one …

So what if your brother drinks too much and keeps trying to punch you in the head? At least you’re not killing stranded teenagers and eating them. That’s the trick, folks. If you want to be above average, lower the average. Other people’s horrible shortcomings are like an excellent wardrobe: they can hide your flaws. Let’s change the message. Thanksgiving will no longer will be a time to give thanks for how
great we are. Thanksgiving, henceforth, will be a time to give thanks that we’re not even

As for Christmas — I got nothing, pal. Maybe wait for Santa, ask him if you can hitch a ride.