It's that time of year again. Time for you to pack your bags, load up the car (or hop on a plane, train, or bus) and head on out to mom's/grandma's/Aunt Brenda's/etc. house for Thanksgiving dinner. Now, you love your family... or at least you tolerate them - no one is saying otherwise. But unless your last name is Munster, you - as a heavily tattooed person - probably dread these large family get-togethers a bit.
First off, you have to look your mom (or mom-equivalent) in the eye and answer her inevitable question: "You didn't get any more of those awful tattoos, did you?" The appropriate response? "Yes mom, as a matter of fact I did get some more of those awfully cool tattoos, thanks for asking!" Hopefully your mom has a sense of humor and will appreciate your clever word play. If not, then brace yourself for a long holiday meal potentially filled with judgement, eyeball rolling, heavy sighing, and pointed questions like, "Are you a drug addict?" But don't lose hope and reach for that long sleeve turtle neck quite yet. Try some of these clever tactics to help you navigate Thanksgiving like a ninja - a tattooed ninja.
1. Hang out with the oldies.
Now you might think your great Uncle Joe or great grandma will hate on your tattoos - and you are probably right. But you know what they will probably really like? A long conversatiojn with you. Be awesome and ask them all about their health and what they eat for breakfast. Ask Great Uncle Joe if he served in the war and if so, does he have a service tattoo. Build. A. Bridge. Once you have softened them up a bit, break the ice by saying, "I bet you are wondering why I got all these tattoos - people 'like me' didn't do that in your day, did they?" Then blow their minds by telling them about the historical background of tattoos in this country and the various American presidents and European royalty that have sported ink (Google it).
Then when you sit down to dinner and if any one gives you shit about your tattoos, your new bestie oldie will most likely defend you - which will shut everyone else right up. Respect your elders ya'll.
2. Out your relatives.
If you are dining in a group of more than 15 people, chances are at least two of them have a tattoo. Sure it might be a little heart or infinity symbol, but I bet you dollars for doughnuts someone at your dinner table has a little bit of ink that no one knows about. Work the crowd and find them. Then if anyone starts in on you and your new neck tattoo, segway to cousin Michelle and her dreamcatcher tattoo on her lower back. Don't make fun because two wrongs don't make a right. Ask your relative if it hurt, what it means, and will they get another one. People with tattoos LOVE talking about their tattoos - even if they only have one little one. For them, it is like their secret bad-ass sign. Welcome them to the tattoo tribe and make them feel great about it; they will be way less likely to judge you.
3. Do all the dishes.
If your relatives are unforgiving in the tattoo department and unwilling to open their minds, then your best bet might be "world's best helper" default setting. Set the table. Clear the table. Do the dishes. All of them. You will be a moving target and it is pretty hard to shit on someone who is doing a bunch of helping out. Keep a coffee mug filled with booze handy and you might even enjoy yourself. Plus the "Sisterhood of Dish Washing" is a chatty, friendly place and you might even win over a few relatives while you are drying and stacking.
If none of these tactics work, don't despair. You can always hang outside with Drunk Uncle and his forbidden cigar. He may be an opinionated a-hole, but he probably has whiskey. Related to a bunch of teetotalers or don't drink yourself? Flip the script and bring an embroidery project to sit on the couch with. Seriously. If you are a dude, this tip is especially for you. Get someone you know to start a simple needlepoint project for you and show you the basics. Bring your cross-stitch sampler to dinner and sit quietly on the couch struggling with your french knots. The juxtaposition alone will fry your families circuitry and you can bet great grandma will overlook your tattooed knucles and neck so she can sit next to you and show how a real woman needlepoints.
Thanksgiving is for family and you only get one. Make the best of them by being your best self. And keep a flask in your jacket pocket just in case.
Good luck! (and tell me how it goes over at www.thetattootourist.com)