Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Single at Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow my American readers celebrate Thankgiving, and it won't be fun for all of them.

Thankgiving is a traditional family day when feelings of disappointment and resentment that one's own family is not perfect bubble up like boiling turkey gravy. To encourage these feelings, there is American football for the men to watch on television while the women cook and clean. And on top of that is the dreaded, "Any boyfriend yet, dear?" question aunts and grandmothers can't stop themselves from asking.

How to cope?

Back in 2006, my advice was not to go and, when your mother said "AAAAAAAUGH" at the news of your non-advent, to say that you are sick of people giving you a hard time for not being married.

I'm not sure how practical that is. However, I must say that I believe firmly in being rooted in reality, so if you have regretted every time you have gone home for Thanksgiving for the past five years, you should probably not be in an airport today. There is no law that says you have to go home for Thanksgiving. There's no law that says your mother has to cook Thanksgiving Dinner. In fact, if you are calling your mother to say you aren't coming, why not suggest she escape the whole thing herself by flying out to you? You and Mom, fugitives together, the men wandering around, reading cookbooks instead of watching football, poking at the turkey to see if it has thawed yet... I'm loving it.

But if you think you can go home for Thanksgiving without accruing an unacceptable amount of psychic damage, then there are still some things you can do. For example, assign yourself a point for every time someone mentions your Single state. The goal is to get as many points as possible without mentioning your Singleness yourself. Post results here in my commbox.

The answer to "Why is such a lovely girl (handsome boy) still Single?" is, of course, "Because I was born that way." If relations push, however, tell them it is because you have always been in love with (married) Cousin [Whomever] and have despaired of ever finding a man/woman who can compare. Do this in the most dramatic fashion possible, wiping away invisible tears with your dinner napkin. If you have no cousins, pick some other relation with a sense of humour. There's nothing like a fine incest joke to change the topic pronto. (Obviously, think of something else if there is an incest survivor at the table. Say you were holding out for Prince William/Kate Middleton and it's a very difficult time for you right now.)

In short, you have to be funny. Just because your relations are making you feel terrible doesn't mean that you need to lose your dignity by wailing, sulking, snapping back or doing anything else that will give your aunts gossip fodder for months. You can bitch about it all later with friends, but for now grace under pressure.

Incidentally, nobody's family is perfect. And almost everyone gets the gears for being unmarried some time.

Between twelve and three years ago, none of my mother's children were married, and this annoyed her very much. My father did not have cousins his age because in his father's family almost nobody got married. His grandfather had a dozen children, and something like only one of them got married, and he so late that my dad had only one brother, who died unmarried... Marrying never or late, my mother long ago decided, was something that came from her husband's side of the family.

One holiday, as she was cooking the dinner or baking the cookies, my mother stared fiercely at all her flock of children and announced, with frustration, "You're all a bunch of bachelor Cummingses!" But then her green eye fell upon me, meek, divorced and constantly dating Mr Wrong. "Well," she amended. "Except for you."


leonine said...

I consider myself blessed in this department, because I have a very wonderful aunt who never married. The past few years, I've spent Thanksgiving with her and assorted other family members, and that's been great. And her presence -- and the fact that the whole extended family recognizes her hard work and perpetual graciousness -- means that there's not really any sniping about singleness. It's good to have role models in seraphicness...

Seraphic Spouse said...

Indeed! Hooray for the seraphically single aunt!

The Sojourner said...

Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays that is VERY low-key in my family. We do not go anywhere. We do not have anyone over. We just make LOTS of food and eat it.

Last year we did drive 12 hours to my aunt's house for the Giant Thanksgiving Extravaganza that's been going on for the last 20+ years.* There was a 2-month-old baby present. I hardly talked to adults, besides my cousin-in-law (the baby's mother). Our general family reaction was, "That was fun. Let's never do that again."

*I think it took 20 years for my mother to get over being bitter about it. You see, I had the audacity to be born late, 6 days before Thanksgiving. My grandmother (Dad's mom) was supposed to come help out. She came for 3 days, when my dad was home for the weekend anyway, and then left for the Giant Thanksgiving Extravaganza. Because apparently it was more important to her than her 3-day-old granddaughter.

(We do have tons of family skeletons, oh yes. We just relentlessly refuse to talk about them and so on the surface get along swimmingly.)

That was a random comment, but I'll let it stand. I hope you have a happy non-Thanksgiving over in Scotland.

sciencegirl said...

I love Thanksgiving! For the past 10 years, I've been home for it exactly twice because I absolutely hate flying Thanksgiving weekend. Unlike Christmas vacations, which people can stagger as they please, people don't get very much time off for Thanksgiving so they almost all fly on Wednesday and Sunday. Misery. Plus the break is so short that after flying a whole day, I only get to spend a couple days with my family. So I've got in the habit of skipping Thanksgiving and going home for a longer Christmas break than I normally would.

In years past, I've celebrated Thanksgiving with families of friends who live close, and it's been great. This year, I am celebrating with a bunch of other singles stuck in our university town, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

And Mass on Thanksgiving Day, though not a Holy Day of Obligation, is generally well attended because it is So Much Fun.

Kate P said...

Trust me, there are a lot of people in the U.S. this week who didn't want to be at an airport!

We're having a small Thanksgiving this year. . . I'll let you know how it turns out, Auntie Seraphic. :)

theobromophile said...

This post sort of reminded me of that song "Christmas Wrapping", mostly for the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to spend the holidays unwinding and by oneself.

HJW said...

I think it might be worth a mention that there are some people with no "home" to go to for holidays, for whom the crushing reality of being alone for the rest of your life, means really, really alone.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who have families to take an interest in them.

Seraphic said...

Unless we are completely abandoned by God, as Christ was on the Cross, we are never completely alone. (See "The Cross that Singles Bear" in SS.)

I agree that the sense of being without any earthly family can be utterly demoralizing. I know a woman who was disowned by her stricken anti-Catholic father when she became a cloistered nun, which rather reminds me of Matthew 10:34-28. However, she has made a joyful commitment to something better and broader than family.

Family and earthly kinship ties were everything in Our Lord's earthly life. However, again and again He preached against that. The earthly family, though good, is not the only or the BEST kinship. Ironically, Our Lord was against 1st century "family values" including completely injust and idolatrous worship of the family patriarch-tyrant (who could divorce, etc).

Some with familes nevertheless feel completely alone; it is better to be solitary and happy than surrounded by abusive people who make you feel like nothing.

Meanwhile, loneliness IS a crucifixion for many Single people; there is no denying that.

Seraphic said...

I think everyone should do what they can to spend Thanksgiving in a thankful mood. Next year, you might be thankful if you don't go home!

As for me, I was thankful this Canadian Thanksgiving that nobody seriously expected me to cook a huge turkey dinner for my non-Canadian husband.

Alisha said...

The more I think about it, the more absurd it seems for anyone to question or comment any one's state in life unless that person has brought it up themselves. As far as I can recall, our Lord didn't seem particularly concerned with people's state in life, but the state of their soul. That's all that matters. That would be another answer to people with annoying comments - "Well, it's the state of my soul that really counts. God judges me on that and not my marital status." Shubam!