Written Nov. 25, 2010
Last week a friend invited me to the small Thanksgiving dinner she was cooking and hosting for several friends. I thanked her and said I’d try to be there, but as soon as I hung up the phone, I knew I didn’t want to partake this time. I’d already decided a month or so ago that I didn’t want to visit my parents or ex-“in-laws” (the Outlaws) in my hometown for the winter holidays this year, and in fact I’d called my friend to invite her to dinner at my apartment the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving.
In my nearly 50 years, I’ve had all sorts of Thanksgivings, from wonderful to ruined by a nuclear family with stomach flu, but I think this is the first year I’ve ever deliberately opted out – chosen to spend the day at home doing whatever the hell I wanted. I’m far from a recluse, but I am a loner, meaning I recharge my batteries by spending time by myself. I like socializing, and I like cooking – thus my Saturday dinner invitation to a half-dozen friends. A number of years ago, when I lived with my then-partner and we used to drive to upstate New York to visit our families for various holidays, I realized how frantic things could get at this time of year. It took me some years to realize that plenty of the holiday-time pressure I felt was self-imposed. But this year, for the first time in my adult life, I thought that the timing of Thanksgiving was insane. People – mostly full-time workers, mostly women – are expected to produce enormous meals for extended families by a reasonable hour on a Thursday. When I’ve attempted such feats, it’s usually meant a lot of shopping, cooking after work on Wednesday until I was ready to drop, getting up early on Thursday and doing more of the same, and, if I was hosting the event, frantic housecleaning. By the time I sat down at the table to enjoy the meal, I was exhausted and barely able to contribute to intelligent conversation.
Last year, the woman I was seeing and I hosted five friends for dinner at my apartment – a typical strays and waifs party, as I call these events – and I enjoyed it enough that I planned to do it again this year, solo. But last week I thought, “Why in the world do I want to do that to myself?” The company was lovely last year, as was the food, but this year I’m single and had a messy apartment, a lingering sinus infection, and a burning desire for down time. So I skipped Thanksgiving this year, and I had a wonderful day. I did nothing special but cook a huge pot of vegetable soup, something I used to do at least weekly, but haven’t made time for in ages. I also did two loads of laundry, washed all the dishes, cleaned the stove, and did other household chores, read the newspaper and a magazine, and hung out with the cat. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my down comforter, devouring a huge bowl of organic ice cream. I’ve not been the least bit lonely – I called my mother and stepfather and a couple of friends to wish them a happy holiday. This hasn’t been my most exciting Thanksgiving, but it’s been a damn sight better than many of them, and a deeply, thoroughly satisfying day.