Thanksgiving with my family included no Thanksgiving dinner, but rather, a giant pig carcass spread out on the table, looking like it'd been run over by a steamroller. It was flattened, yet crispy. When the pig cadaver had been initially placed on the table, I noted the inch and a half of pig juice it was sitting in and privately considered the possibility that the submerged portion of the beast was rather soggy.
The eyes were still in the eye sockets, because, I don't know, why waste them? I moved around the table, in an attempt to avoid eye contact, but no matter where I went, the carrion's eyes followed. If this were a human, we'd be having a moment. But it wasn't a human (that's good), it was a pig, and it was dead and split in half and crispy and presenting itself for my family to consume.
I don't like pig, and I don't like pigs looking at me. But, pig: it's what's for dinner.
My brothers immediately began fighting over the pig cheeks, which evidently are the most desirable section of a pig head to devour. My father followed, accusing my brothers of being sissies for not instantaneously sawing the snout off and gobbling it down. Dad ate a corner of the snout, and spent the rest of the weekend eating the remainder in tiny portions, savoring it as one might with fois gras. "I'm going to get some snout," he'd announce, and then he'd disappear into the kitchen, emerging minutes later chewing vigorously and smiling. After the initial dinner, we'd stored the remnants of the pig's head in a Tupperware and placed it in the refrigerator next to the eggs. I accidentally opened this Tupperware in an effort to locate the leftover macaroni and cheese and found the pig's decapitated head, once again staring at me.
While we ate the original pig dinner, we discussed politics. We discussed judges, and the fact that they rarely show preference to granting custody of a young child to a father over a mother in the case of a divorce. Being a psychologist in training, I offered my learned knowledge on this subject.
"Many analysts believe that a man can love a child, but regardless of that love, he is incapable of providing nurturance," I said.
We talked about that, and then my father finished chewing whatever segment of pig he was eating.
"I found that out with you," he said. "I found that out when I tried with all my heart to breastfeed, but no milk ever came out."
Naturally, at this point, one of my brothers took the opportunity to add:
"But it worked well when you tried with your dick!"
Ha! Jokes about receiving fellatio from your infant daughter! Good family fun! Disney material!
We weren't always this way. We used to not say things like this out loud. Perhaps the "out loud" in that statement is telling. It was always there, though it is only recently considered nontoxic to verbalize these thoughts. Because we are all grown and no longer malleable children, perhaps? Because we were tearing pieces of flesh off of a pig carcass and eating them? The mere act might have soothed our defenses against such thoughts.
Thanksgiving dinner with my family is akin to eating with a group of circus clowns. Not circus clowns who juggle and make balloon animals, but circus clowns who kidnap little boys and slice them into tiny human filets, saving the ears and nose in a jar of formaldehyde.
But, still, I'd rather do that than whatever it is that normal people do. I once attended Thanksgiving dinner at a college friend's house and his mother continuously force-fed me meals I didn't want to eat, insisting that I "looked thin." I wanted to punch her in the face, but you can't just go around punching people's mothers when they feed you.
Unless it's my family. You could probably get away with it. As long as it's Thanksgiving.