Most people have heard of or have been to a Friendsgiving. It involves a group of friends, traditional Thanksgiving food, more alcohol than you’re comfortable drinking around your relatives and sometimes a freezing cold game of touch football that no one dressed appropriately for. It’s typically a collection of people who know each other well and perhaps a few new people to town.
These are fun Thanksgiving traditions! You know what isn’t fun? Being the orphan at your co-workers FAMILY Thanksgiving that you’ve been dragged to. I should know, I’ve done it more times than I can count. I wound up being the stranger sitting at the kids table or next to the weird uncle who trapped me into conversations about Desert Storm or worse yet, next to your coworkers single cousin when I had no idea this was a set up. I loathed these events but after moving every few years for radio jobs, I accepted my fate. I slapped on a smile, pretended that canned cranberry sauce is okay (it’s NOT okay) and I went to join the strange family. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, it was truly kind of these people to invite me into their homes since they assumed it would be depressing being alone for what is considered to be a family holiday. It seemed to make people feel good that they were taking me in, they felt they were doing a good deed for the season, and it WAS nice of them to include me! Who was I to take that from them?
If only they had known what my heart wanted, they would have known that leaving me alone would have been the good deed. So a few years into this horrid tradition which was ruining my favorite holiday I decided: no more.
That is when Selfsgiving was born. When the invitations started rolling in, I said “no thank you, I have plans” and I did! I shopped the week before for only the dishes I liked. Turkey was replaced by little Cornish game hens, cranberry sauce was homemade and I didn’t need a pie server, because I knew I’d be eating my pie with a spoon, straight out of the tin. I bought bottles of wine, despite often times not having wine glasses and skipped the candied yams since I never liked them anyway. When I lived in Hawaii, there wasn’t enough room in my 450 square foot apartment for a table, so I ate on a moving box and added touches of island flare to each recipe. I splurged one year and bought the Godfather box set so that I could watch it from start to finish as I cooked dinner. After all, it’s a story about family! I would call and Facetime family, of course, and tell them I missed them, which wasn’t a lie. But I valued these Selfsgiving holidays because I knew they were temporary. Someday I would live closer to family and would be thrown back into the holiday chaos or would have a family of my own to plan for. My mother would claim the Godfather was “too violent” to watch on Thanksgiving, and we’d spend much of the day pulling fragile things out of reach from babies. So for the time being, I took a deep breath, a long swig of wine straight from the bottle, watched Fredo bumble around the mafia world and savored every moment of Selfsgiving. The truth is, I was very clearly alone but I don’t remember actually feeling lonely. I’m lucky to have a husband who is sensitive to my loss of Selfsgiving tradition, he asks me each year if I would like a day alone and weirdly I don’t need it. We leave our families a day early so we can share a day alone together with our favorite foods, each other, and a young Diane Keaton. And so was born the new tradition together: Sharedsgiving.