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MOOCHERS, MYTHS & MINCEMENT

The Usual Suspects

On This Day of Overindulgence and Football, a Few Thoughts About Mythology, Semantics and Pie

November 28, 1996|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA

An army of friends and loud relatives--led by your Aunt Flavia, the one who marinates marshmallows--arrives. Your sister's kids are jumping on the newly upholstered chintz sofa. Your mom starts in on why you never call. You're at your wits' end. You need an exorcist to handle this annual cast of characters. Instead, you stick with your mantra: "Let's have a good time and be thankful we can at least be together."

Then you hide the Tupperware, because somewhere in this lot there's a moocher.

Herewith a cast of characters you may have seen around your family's Thanksgiving tables over the years.

*

The Moocher: He always finagles an invite to your feast and arrives with his gurgling gastric juices in high gear. He's a tightwad, never buys groceries, whines about being broke: "So broke that I can't pay attention." And he likes to stuff his face--and his pockets with your leftovers. He intends to increase his dorm larder by a few weeks' worth. This is when you unload Flavia's yams with the marshallows. Mr. Moocher won't mind. Hey, it's free.

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The Sullen Teenager: She wears all black, a morose expression and more body piercings than the fork holes on Flavia's pie crust. This kid does not want to be anywhere at any time for any reason. "Whatever!" she'll say when given a choice of turkey or ham. "I'm only here because you made me come." What's a parent to do? A discreet smack under the table might work . . . or that stun gun you're packing in your purse.

*

The Jell-O Mold Maker: On turkey day, it's her pale green jiggly gelatin salad made with half a cup of sour cream and a can of pineapple chunks. At Christmas, it's red. Her home is filled with plastic-covered furniture and the cleaning products she sells, a few of which she'll bring ostensibly to help you out in the kitchen but really to try to peddle the stuff to your guests. (Her dachshund, which goes everywhere she goes, wears a pilgrim's hat and tiny cape.)

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The Nurturer: She started chalking up turkey points at the grocery months ago to get a free bird today. Two weeks ago she bought the canned goods, the stuffing, the baking staples and ordered cookware specials from QVC. Awake since 4 a.m., she cooks and cleans all day, looks psychotically happy. She keeps the food coming, the drinks filled, the conversation flowing, the football games blaring and in between changes diapers, wipes noses and probably gives the cars a tuneup. Everyone leaves with a holiday gift bag. Martha Stewart would be proud.

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The Single Guy: He's your hunky, self-obssessed, football-addicted cousin, who could never find Miss Right because no one measures up to Mama. He's inching toward 50, has a crew cut, perfect teeth and Jay Leno jaw. For fun, he bowls, collects train models and calendars of large-chested women holding power tools. Hey, Mr. Disco Pants: You're so vain you probably think Thanksgiving is about you.

*

The Rambunctious Rugrat: This 4-year-old arrives with an arsenal of toys, runs between the tables and shrieks throughout the meal. Everyone wants to discipline this kid but can't because his mom and dad have read too much T. Berry Brazelton. Consider the stun gun, but take down the parents first.

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The Imbiber: An overindulging oldster who swigs while chowing down, remembers "the good old days" and mourns that "things aren't what they were." Of course they're not, they're better. You sit there and smile, because after all, you're surrounded by those you love. And for that, you give thanks.

* Comic Anne McKinney contributed to this story.

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