Thanks, No Thanks
How to Make Thanksgiving More Than a Meal
Hey Letters readers, it’s Robby from Brooklyn wishing you and yours a very healthy, happy and safe Thanksgiving. For whatever reason, Thanksgiving has never been something I was overly excited about. I promise I do love some holidays, this coming so soon after my “I hate Halloween” column.
When I was really young, we would travel a few hours to visit family members we rarely saw. I remember my sister and me hating having to go all that way for one day. Now I cherish any time I get to spend with those cousins, whether online or IRL. During my twenties, Thanksgiving to me meant an extra night of going out. The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was historically a huge party night. Is it still? That’s how out of the loop I am now.
I remember jokes about Thanksgiving with the gay friends and mentors: gays hate Thanksgiving, all those carbs! A few years, I ran a turkey trot. I went with a friend to his office which overlooked the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Def a way different parade than the Gay Pride one in June...I prefer the Pride one.)
I found myself desperately trying to create Thanksgiving traditions for myself. I thought it would give me a sense of family and of belonging, both of which I felt lucky enough to have a sense of the other 364 days of the year. With age comes wisdom, hopefully, and as I aged I somewhere found the energy to let myself off the hook and to jump off the hamster wheel every once in a while. I am not ashamed to say that some Thanksgivings I stayed home in my pajamas ordering take-out food and binging all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes. (Yes, I know the show does not age well, but I still enjoy it. Brad Pitt! Rachel’s Trifle!)
Although I have been lucky to have been blessed with a strong support system of family and friends, there are people in this world who are not as lucky. Sadly, there are people all alone in this world. Queer people kicked out of their homes, shunned for coming out and trying to live as their true selves. Older gays who have outlived everyone in their lives. Young adults who grew up in foster care, literally dumped on the street with their belongings in a bag on their 18th birthday.
“We as gay people, we get to choose our family” are words famously spoken by gay icon and legend RuPaul. Writer Armistead Maupin calls this our “logical family.” Yes, we do get to choose the people we call family; whether they are blood related or not, they are your family. Maybe this Thanksgiving, set an extra place at your table for someone you know might be alone, or might be having a rough year. We can all use a little more kindness in our lives this year.
Many have turned Thanksgiving Day into a day of service. I know many organizations have huge groups of volunteers that morning. Start a new tradition volunteering with friends sometime over the weekend. (Thanksgiving Day might be a bit overwhelming, stressful, and overly crowded, so keep your options open.)
During the 2019 holiday season, my friend Stephan joined friends for the first time to participate in their annual charitable giving event. Every year, they go to grocery stores, laundromats, dollar stores, and other businesses and surprise shoppers by paying for their purchases.
An introvert by nature, the thought of going up to total strangers and giving them money was light years outside of his comfort zone, he said, “but my discomfort disappeared with the reaction of the first person I surprised—a very stressed-out mom with three fussy kids. When she realized, she hugged me and thanked me and said she had seen things like this on TV but never thought it would happen to her. Even the kids gave us ‘high fives.’ It was awesome. The experiences I had that day reminded me that the things many of us take for granted are a struggle for others, and that giving back to our community is essential.”
So, however and wherever you celebrate Thanksgiving, be thankful for those with you and by your side, and maybe pay some of your good fortune forward. In the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “And God bless us, every one.” Wait, wrong holiday. Oh, just pass me the mashed potatoes. Hold the carbs please! ▼
Robert Dominic splits his time between Brooklyn and Rehoboth Beach. He writes for publications including Instinct Magazine and his own blog, “The Gays of Our Lives.” When he is not writing he is probably at Poodle Beach.