Solo Thanksgiving Is Not A Felony

I spent Thanksgiving away from my family this year. It’s not a crime.

Of course, some stranger in the movie theater thought it was. A woman who was in line behind me while I was waiting to see Skyfall saw me standing by myself and asked, “So why are you here alone? Did you have a bad family experience?”

A disgusted look and a turned back was the answer she got.

Folks, some people choose not to spend time with their immediate family during the holidays, and attempts to shame them, even implied, are beyond rude. Now before you get out your ra-ra American tradition pom poms and start beating me in the face with them, let me point out one thing.

The nuclear-family-model of the holidays doesn’t work for everyone.

The concept of the ideal American family unit as a mom, dad, and one or two kids who sit around the table gorging themselves during the holidays is far too restrictive and doesn’t allow for people who are not particularly close to their blood relatives to be considered “normal.”

I love my parents and my sister very much. And having a stranger assume that I feel otherwise because I’m not with them on Thanksgiving just rankles me to no end.

So why do I tend to spend holidays away from them? Mostly because traveling during the holidays is a big-ass expensive hassle. If I’m going to spend money on a plane ticket to see my mother and sister, who both live in Rochester, NY, then I’m going to buy a ticket during a time of a year when 1) the airfare is more reasonable and 2) the odds of lake-effect snow canceling my flight aren’t 50 to 1.

Another thing about my immediate family is (and they can feel free to call me up and correct this assumption) I feel that we’ve reached the collective conclusion that this idealized American concept of magical holiday togetherness just doesn’t work for us.

Whenever we get together, we always run out of things to talk about within the first hour and then proceed to spend the majority our time watching TV or playing with the cats while feeling immensely guilty about the fact that we’re not making more of an effort to do whatever traditional holiday things that “normal” families do. Whatever those things may be. If there’s an instruction manual for the Great American Family Holiday, clearly no one gave it to us.

The holidays are not some enchanted peppermint-scented balm that will suddenly make our family enjoy each other’s company. No turkey, no holiday cookies, and no amount of wine (trust me, I’ve tried) is going to change the fact that as a family, we’re not particularly close.

And you know what folks, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the way we are, and I’m cool with it even if nosy women in movie theaters aren’t.

That being said, if my mom, or my sister, or anyone else in my extended family, calls me up and says, “It’s really important and meaningful to me that you come visit this year during the holidays,” then I will whip out the American Express, reshuffle my budget and try to figure out a way to get my ass there. (Although if my dad ever says that, he better be planning to contribute a hefty chunk of the airfare because I could make a down payment on a new car for how much it costs me to fly to Singapore.)

You may think that it’s a shame that I don’t go out of my way to have family time during the holidays, and you certainly have a right to think so, but please do me — and every other person who purposefully spends a holiday by themselves — a favor.

Stop treating those of us who are less familycentric than you are like felons or deformed beings. Don’t assume that we hate our families. Don’t accuse us of despising holiday traditions. And even if you can’t manage to wrap your mind around those two things, don’t ever EVER let the word “Scrooge” tumble down through your synapses and out your mouth.

Because if anything’s a crime, it’s assuming that your personal approach to happiness is the only valid one.

One comment

  1. […] have no problem eating alone. Outside of special occasions, I eat most of my meals in the company of a good book. I have no […]

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