by Juliana Bledsoe

Thanksgiving inevitably brings up awkward family interactions, but nothing at home can ever really prepare you for spending holidays with the family of your significant other once you are in a serious relationship. Dodging personal questions and trying to explain your connection, while trying to impress complete strangers is daunting. Throw in a few twists of sexual preference and cultural identity, and you are sure to have an evening worthy of a primetime sitcom.

This was the wonderfully bizarre situation I found myself in as I spent my first Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family this weekend. I started dating a woman last year, and all personal trials aside, bringing up this delicate subject with your families can prove to have its challenges. Furthermore, my girlfriend is biracial and adopted, and we spent the holiday with her African American side of the family. I had no idea what kind of culture shock I had signed myself up for.

The food was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible spreads I have ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot since my mom is a chef. As the group email began to circulate for the potluck style event, I was looking forward to collard greens, black-eyed peas, crab legs, southern-style ham and prime rib, alongside the staples. I worried about what to bring (how do you compete with that?), let alone what I should wear, what I should say, or what the hell I was going to do with my hair.

I was sure I was going to end up being some kind of awkward, bisexual white-girl centerpiece to an otherwise undisturbed, traditional family function. I had barely met any of my girlfriend’s family, and I dreaded that the night might be dripping with awkwardness.

Nonetheless, I prepped my favorite cheese-stuffed roasted pumpkin dish and curled my hair. I love this girl, and surely I would love her family too. I could only hope that they loved me back. I wore a new dress with my favorite boots and vowed to just try to be myself.

As it turns out, I was not necessarily the most scrutinized person at her aunt’s house that night. Every family has its own inner dramas, and her family was going through one or two of its own. My dish was a total hit, even when forced into the mouths of unsuspecting kids, and in the end, I ended up being a welcome distraction, as well as a welcome addition, to the dinner. It was nowhere near as uncomfortable as the many possible outcomes that I had envisioned beforehand, and we all had a beautiful evening full of great food and laughter and the happy squeals of a gaggle of smiling kids.

Her family welcomed me with open arms, and not once did I feel excluded for the color of my skin, my sexual preference or anything else for that matter. Thanksgiving, no matter what your roots, is about family and gratitude, and regardless of how anybody might feel about our relationship, I felt like a part of the family just for the love I have for my girlfriend.

We all held hands and said grace before we ate, and her aunt suggested that we all go around and say what we were thankful for. My girlfriend’s dad gave me a nod of approval with his contribution.

“I’m thankful for my family and for my extended family and for Juliana,” he said with his eyes lowered.

My heart was racing as the rotation made it to me, but I said what felt truest in my heart. I think it so beautifully summed up my first holiday with my girlfriend’s family.

“I’m thankful for acceptance,” I said, grinning through my nerves. “Because there is more of it in the world all the time.”

Juliana Bledsoe studies journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at jbledsoe@nevadasagebrush.com.