I'm not that original....google "Thanksgiving Survival" and you'll come up with thousands of hits. I'm glad I did that (google) because I immediately got the sense that there are others out there like me.
First, my likes-I like being grateful, I like gatherings-just not at my house, not for days and not in big groups. Hmm, maybe I really don't like gatherings all that much. I like food.
Ok, I've sat here for five minutes and that pretty much covers the likes.
I don't like conversation closeness (aka subject you wouldn't discuss with casual friends) in big groups just because we are "family". If the only communication we have all year is via facebook updates, don't ask personal crap, and don't ask it at the dinner table. Survival tip 1: Say, "I'd rather not discuss" and then don't. Tip 2: If you start giving reasons why you'd rather not discuss it, you ARE discussing it, so just leave it at "I'd rather not discuss."
If tips 1 and 2 get someone's panties in wad, let THEM make the scene, and don't be drawn in or participate. Eventually that person will either get tired or someone else will jump in and say STFU. Experience has shown, if you say you don't want to discuss something and then keep quiet, you will not take the hit for any ensuing drama.
Tip 3-don't host anything at your house. You can't leave. When I'm ready to leave (I live near my folks) I make a point of saying "Well, I'm done for THE DAY, I will see you all TOMORROW." I try to take my leave while I still have the energy and the will to go home and watch TV or read. Waiting till I'm already in a fetal position in my head is too long.
Tip 4-have something in advance for people who want to come by later. No, not drinks. If someone ignores my clever tip 3 and says "we'll be down later" I say "Please don't, XXXXXX" Depending on my mood I can come up with a variety of XXXX's, the flaming shits is always a good one, upset stomach, SWINE FLU. This year, I myself am going with "I'd rather you didn't, I need my alone time."
The alone time only works if you've established yourself as an antisocial hermit beforehand. It will otherwise cause concern amongst those who care and a new bout of nosiness for those who are nosey. If you haven't done preliminary work, it's better to stand up and scream "OH GOD, I'm gonna SHIT", run to the bathroom and then leave shortly thereafter, pointedly saying "I'll see you all TOMORROW."
For years I just went to Mexico every year for Thanksgiving, and that is something to consider for future years.
Ok, truth is, I've always used the shit excuse up to now. I promise I will use the "I need my alone time" and I'll post and let you know how that went. Happy Surviving!
Oh, one other thing-if your family is not a close knit family-don't feel "strange" because you don't feel that closeness that we are "supposed to feel" on Thanksgiving Day. You are not strange-it's a strange custom. Just focus on what you are grateful for, eat a big slice of pie and do the best you can.