Enjoy the Holidays Like My Grandma Would: Talk Shit About Strangers

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On Thanksgiving I think of my grandmother—a loud, kind, pugnacious woman who dyed her hair fiery red almost until the end. When she finally let her hair go white, I knew we were approaching a cliff. She died in early 2019.

Her absence makes the general loneliness of this pandemic Thanksgiving a bit easier. I think this year’s holiday would have always felt empty without her, as my family adjusts. On my dad’s side, she was our locus. The turkey dinner was less important than her ersatz Jewish brunch; Panera bagels were deemed good enough, lox was average at best, pimento cheese was added (which, I thought, until visiting New York City, was Jewish, not Southern, because we always had it as an optional schmear). It is not really because of food though or because of her warm embrace that I will miss her this season.

It is because my grandma, like me, basically enjoyed, above all, one activity: talking shit.

I will really miss talking shit with my grandma this year.

She was so ruthless, and funny, and biting. I loved it. She was an older Jewish woman glued to her chair or creeping along slowly in her walker around her home, constantly yelling insults about strangers—absolutely eviscerating people she’d heard about on TV.

She talked shit about everyone and everything. She watched CNN with the glee of gossip and without moral qualms. The point was entertainment. I don’t think she ever pretended to be some “citizen” interested in democracy or the nation. She liked Anderson Cooper because he was attractive, not a good journalist. And she liked cable news because it tore away the pretense of “policy” and got right into the bullshit. My father joked that if a horror was ongoing in the world somewhere, she’d wake up early and diligently turn on cable news like it was a job. The Trump era, obviously, treated her well.

Thanksgiving brought her prowess at this to a peak. Each year, we played a simple game: Who will be the Time Person of the Year? None of us really read the news deeply, except my dad, but mainly to write jokes; I don’t think anyone in my family subscribed to a print newspaper. This was all us just recklessly talking out of our asses. We’d yell and fight and laugh. This was a great way to be, and still is my preferred method of communication. I learned love is haranguing a family member for a slip of the tongue and a slightly bad take.

So, in her honor, and perhaps this will be of help to you too, I highly recommend doing as she would do. Talk some shit. If you’re doing pandemic Thanksgiving, no uptight family will grouse or condemn about your meanness. Lean in and talk some shit about someone. Just pile on for no reason! It’s fun.

And, yes, you can be thankful for all the good people in your life too, I guess.

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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