Friends Are the Family You Choose

Thanksgiving 2014 is more than two weeks past and I'm just now able to talk about it. Hellish, truly hellish.

Despite running a blog called Hellish Holidays, I'm not actually looking to have them myself. I figured I'd write about the holiday traumas of my youth and then post stuff about OTHER people's bad times today. I thought those nightmare Thanksgivings were over for me. Then I had dinner with friends.

To be clear, I had dinner with two friends who hadn't met before, and a friend of a friend I hadn't met. We ate at the recently relocated Palm in Beverly Hills, which none of us had visited since it left its longtime, beloved location in West Hollywood. That's a lot of new variables for a "traditional" meal, and the unknown is the enemy of comfort level.

I'm known for the diversity of my friends. A few are compatible but most would never have anything to do with each other if they didn't have me in common. Some would actively avoid each other. And it turns out that two of those in that last category were thrown together at my Thanksgiving table.

It started with bickering, moved on to one-upping and climaxed with insults. The friend-of-a-friend stranger and I bonded in the way that siblings bond when their parents fight. We tried to stay out of the way, tried to change the subject, tried to find points of agreement between the two...nothing worked. A Venn diagram of our table would be four separate circles.

Add to this the fact that the new Palm looks like a small-town Hyatt restaurant and the turkey dinner was mediocre and you can see why I left there feeling angry, betrayed and broke. We kept ordering wine but it was never enough to stanch the flow of vitriol between those two. 

And note to the Palm: One big-ass ugly mural is not a viable replacement for a lifetime of customer caricatures. 

Next year I go to a friend's house and join her family again. This is what I've done for the past few years but two of my friends suggested a special dinner out. I'd never taken that route before. Now I know why.

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