Honestly, this is an opportunity.
Alright, I did it. I canceled my Thanksgiving. Next week, instead of heading north on a train to join my beloved friend family in their cozy real house with a basement and an attic and everything, I’ll be home in my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, the same place I’ve been since fucking March. I won’t be participating in a ridiculous trip to the grocery store that will almost certainly require two carts, no popping in to see the sweet, albeit drunk proprietors of the local wine shop. No cooking together in a newly remodeled kitchen, no group walk through the woods to work up an appetite. None of it will happen, I won’t be doing anything that I want to do, nothing I’ve been looking forward to, instead I’ll just be going down a new, uncharted solo-Thanksgiving road, building the frame of the car as I drive it. And let me tell you something, I’m taking you with me.
You’re not doing Thanksgiving this year. I said no. I will present strong arguments for this firm stance and not once, not once I tell you, will a virus be used to support me. (The virus is the implied motivation for this entire work of literature and it’s also the reason I haven’t worn shoes in the house in a year some things are assumed, dammit!) What I’ll try to do, instead of yelling at you to pull your head out of the collective ass that somehow still thinks it’s cool for your family to get together, is make a case for seeing this year’s shit-turd Thanksgiving as a golden opportunity.
First, the easy one: We’re saving money! We’re not buying plane tickets and train tickets and tanks of gas and amounts of groceries so massive the receipt resembles the train of a bride’s gown. When you’re only shopping for a single-serving Thanksgiving, things are very affordable indeed. Do you have any idea what they’re charging for turkeys these days?! I’ve had electric bills in high summer that were more affordable, let’s leave it at that. However, when I added one singular pre-packaged turkey breast to my grocery delivery cart that will arrive precisely when I need to begin my dry-brine, it came in at a cool $15.
Next: Adventure! Don’t you see what a unique opportunity this barf-bag of a year has presented us with? We’re never going to get this again. You’ve wanted get-out-of-plans-free cards throughout your adulthood. Here a virus is, handing you one on a disinfecting wipe, and you’re poo-pooing it, choosing instead to focus on what you can’t do this Thanksgiving, rather than the extremely unique and rare opportunity that’s been afforded. What is a solo Thanksgiving even like? We don’t know! We’ve always been too busy standing in TSA lines and folding ourselves into airplane seats and trying to ignore the petulant child in seat 18C who is clearly not his mother’s favorite.
Take advantage of this. View this time of solo celebration as a unique opportunity to experience a once-in-a-generation Thanksgiving. Pick your own recipes. (Cut them in half of course, but pick your own recipes.) Decide the course of the day, the timing, the activities. For once, you are both in charge of the show, and the entire show it self. It would be a pity to look upon this gift with a stink eye. Make this holiday, where you’re distant from those you love, so special that it remains in your mind forever. That way, maybe when there’s another global pandemic, everyone will just stay the fuck home and wear their masks and we’ll sort this shit out by the 4th of July.
My third argument is perhaps my strongest, I’ll admit to that. You’ll agree with it too, and I’ll prove it. What happens to you when I type the word: Family. And I’m not painting that word with a Hallmark brush, dweebs. I’m talking real, honest, who-isn’t-speaking-to-whom this year fuckin’ family, y’all. It stressed you out. Or it turned your tummy. At the very least…you grimaced. It’s okay, it’s just us chickens here, they can’t see you.
Family. Is. Disaster. Why is no one else talking about this? There is no group of people more stressful to be in a room with than your own goddamned family and that takes juries in murder trials and Ivy League admissions boards into account. The dynamics, the history, the bullshit. Family is difficult at best and cripplingly impossible at worst and if you don’t agree, riddle me this: Do you still live with them? Do you even live in the same damned city? Are you an ex-pat?!?
Go do a quick spin around available holiday movie titles. The central theme, across every streaming platform worldwide, is family conflict, drama, stress, anxiety, and shenanigans! There is literally no holiday tale told where everything was just nice the whole time. And the only reason these things have happy endings where everyone’s singing and dancing and hugging each other in the end is that they had to lie to us and wrap things up quick because they were really pushing it with the total run time of the film. In real life, holiday movies would be two weeks long in order to reach resolution and by that time someone would have been written out of someone’s will.
You’re staring down the barrel of a Thanksgiving where you get to drink by choice and not by necessity and you’re telling me you’re sad about this? No fights with siblings! No judgmental glances from mother! No sitting at the table as the only unwed member of the family and feeling the hot, invasive eyes of 14 people gaze upon you when aunt Carol asks, “So, are you seeeeeeeing anybodyyyyyyy?” It won’t exist! You won’t have to swallow the shreds of your dignity, smile, shrug the question off, and fight the urge to tell ol’ Auntie Tax Evasion that you’re not, but she’s welcome to take a spin around your Tinder after lunch and see if she’s able to keep her yams down.
Think of a year that doesn’t involve any sort of family gathering stress of any kind. The freedom, the calm, the quiet. Think of it, and then make it happen, sweetheart—because that’s the move this year. That is the move.
And lastly, community. I’d like to make an argument not often made, at least not on the excrement-laden pages of Twitter. We have a chance here to come together as a community, as a country, in staying the hell apart. Maybe nothing infectious would come of your gathering. But maybe three other families who are gross as fuck will see you lead by example and cancel their gatherings, too. Maybe we owe it to each other to set examples for those around us, while at the same time helping to control contagion. People want to talk about the holiday spirit and whatnot. This year we actually have a chance to get into it. You’re telling me you’re going to squander that for pumpkin pie? That you have to share? What is the actual matter with you.
Don’t make the green bean casserole everyone but Dad hates. Don’t wait to open the Chenin Blanc until 5pm because grandmother keeps to the old ways. Don’t put on “real clothes” for dinner because your mother would like to frame the pictures. You don’t have to paint on a smile to meet your sister’s new companion this year and pretend they won’t be tossed on the scrap pile by New Years like all her others. There won’t be any fighting over who has to sleep on the pull-out in the basement with the pokey springs. You don’t have to sit across a table from your relatives this year and make nice like everyone didn’t get in a huge goddamned argument in August. None of it is going to happen this year. You are free this year. Relax, tuck into some stretchy pants and mashed potatoes. No one is going to fight over a fucking Zoom.
We have the chance to both save the human species and our stress levels this year, don’t run from it. Embrace the opportunity before you, see it for what it really is: a chance. A chance to do the right thing, the safe thing, the exemplary thing, a thing that when you break it down to its floorboards, ain’t that bad after all. I cancelled my plans, you can cancel yours. It’s scary at first, but honestly it’s a big sigh of relief after. And if you’re worried about letting your loved ones down, don’t be. They’re already mad at you for a bunch of other shit anyway. But at the end of the day, and at the end of the pandemic, they’ll still love you, and by next Thanksgiving we’ll be back to horrific normal. We can all be thankful for that. From home.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.