It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. 

Holidays are always equal parts joyous and frightening, long-awaited and spirit-breaking. We all love our families. We also hate them a tiny bit, too — it’s OK to admit it, I said it first. But this Thanksgiving won’t be like the others. No, you’re going to go in prepared — defenses ready, arms locked and loaded. Enter upon America’s beloved day of justified gluttony steeled against the onslaught of “Are you dating anyone?” “What exactly are you going to use your English major for?” “I’ve never heard of the University of Michigan, is it any good?” And last, but by far the most painful: “Let’s gooooo Buckeyes!” 

Godspeed, if you’re returning home to a football rivalry family. 

Your secret weapon? Allow me to humbly offer this playlist. May your holiday be the movie montage we all wish we had. 

For the Pilgrimage:

You’re excited, everyone is optimistic and a good mood reigns free. But you know, deep, deep down that something wicked this way comes. To balance the pessimism and optimism of the pilgrimage back home, or the run up to the holiday if you’re staying put, listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Shame we couldn’t listen to their warming, “I see a bad moon rising / I see trouble on the way.”

For That One Question: 

Mistakenly, you believed you had made it through the holiday without someone asking the dreaded question of your single status. Or, if you are “cuffed,” that you need to find someone better. Ugh, right? I suggest Lana Del Rey’s “Norman Fucking Rockwell.” Maybe not the exact fiery, don’t-care attitude you might expect — but soft fall vibes, Lana’s dreamy voice, what more do you need to mourn single-dome? Plus, as Lana says in her song, no one needs a “man-child,” so you can celebrate your freedom from one. It’s the perfect song for an efficient mope-session in a borrowed bedroom. 

For When the Turkey Starts Burning: 

Tensions rise as the smoke of that crisp, brittle bird fills the air. You know what’s coming. Suddenly, everything starts to go wrong: Dinner isn’t ready yet! Mom’s nerves are on the fritz, the kitchen is 1000 degrees, it’s nearing 4 p.m. and people are getting antsy. Family member turns on family member — it’s survival of the fittest, every man for themselves. “Staying Alive” by The Funky Town will add some appreciated disco flair as well as motivate you to get out of the kitchen, and as far away as possible before the bomb goes off and Mom realizes someone has already stolen a slice of pie! 

For When Someone is Inevitably Injured:

Someone decides to clean the gutter, a knuckle is grated or a bout of good-natured wrestling among siblings or cousins go wrong — tears, cussing and “Another One Bites The Dust.” Whether you’re in the middle of the fray, or — like me — watching from the sidelines with a glass of wine and a snack, nothing will narrate Thanksgiving fumbles better than Queen. 

For When Things Get Melancholy: 

Post-dinner and everyone is lazing around the house, hoping that by laying, the nausea might go away. Grandma or Grandpa are holding court somewhere with a glass of something that screams The Great Depression. Without warning, suddenly you’re thrown violently down memory lane and the vibe check lands hard — things go melancholy fast. While Gramps waxes poetic on the greatest generation, play Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure.” It’s appropriately reminiscent and slow, good for when you’re too tired to fight the good fight. Plus, it’s an oldie-but-a-goodie and without fail will cue some (much needed) contemplative silence

For the “OK, Boomer” Moment: 

The family gets a second wind over pie, and niceties are dropped now that dinner is over. It’s like the indulgence in dessert is a green light for all the taboo dinner table topics you shuffled around before: politics, religion, family gossip. Someone accidentally lets a “Trump” or “Obama” slip, and bam! It’s a plummet of no-return. All bets are off, time to use the random handful of intro-level political science facts you’ve held onto from freshman year to wage a one-person battle. The Happy Fits’s “Dirty Imbecile” embraces our craziness while brushing off the buzzkill attitude of the rest of the world. They sing, “if I’m so smart and I’m so pretty / damn this town and damn this city / you never give me anything that I want,” like a break, or some respect, or a planet that isn’t trying to die on us.

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