It’s Thanksgiving again in America. For those of you from far-flung lands, Thanksgiving is a made-up holiday that we have here, when we gorge ourselves on weirdly specific foods, bicker with our families, watch football, and perpetuate inaccurate myths about our ancestors’ relationship with the Native Americans. You know, leaving out all the bits about theft, rape, disease, environmental destruction, and genocide. In reality, Thanksgiving was first proposed to President Lincoln as a religious holiday by the woman who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Just to give you an idea of where we were as a nation at the time. And, rather than making the turkey our national bird like Ben Franklin wanted, we somehow decided to just roast them by the millions while babies starve to death all over the world. It’s all very wholesome.
Negative political shit aside, Thanksgiving is still one of my two favorite holidays. I can appreciate the spirit of the thing, even if I wish we could learn to be overtly grateful and gracious every day. It’s nice to sit down with people you love and say that shit out loud once in a while, though. A necessary part of any sense of community or fellowship, the explicit airing of gratitude. Ideally, anyway.
To that end, a brief list of things I’m truly, deeply thankful for at the moment:
– Coffee and beer. Vices, perhaps, but I prefer to think of them as small luxuries that make my day a little better, and help me carve out a few minutes at a time for myself.
– My dogs. There’s a bear living in the woods right behind our house, and they’re keeping that scary fucker at bay. Also, they’re excellent cuddlers and they lick my face without even being asked.
– Long distance phone lines. Because most of my friends and family live at least two thousand miles away and I constantly need a second opinion about every little thing.
– My friends here in California who helped The Husband and I move out here, set up house, and get our shit together (more or less). We appreciate the time, space, and resources you gave up when we had nowhere else to go. Someday I’ll figure out a way to return the favor.
– You guys. You keep me writing, even when I don’t want to or feel like I can’t. Several times recently I’ve thought about giving up my little piece of internet real estate and quitting the blog. But y’all give me someone to talk at and I just can’t seem to stop. Like a junkie, you awful, enabling bastards.
In other news, today’s the day we get into full holiday ridiculousness mode. Hannukah’s early this year (happy Hannukah, friends!), so I assume all the Jewish shopping is already done. But if you do any sort of Christmas/Kwanzaa/Flying Spaghetti Monster gift giving shenanigans in these next few weeks, allow me to bestow upon you my annual rant. I’ll keep it short this time, I swear.
– Plan ahead. Don’t shop when you’re in a hurry. Order things online early. Carry cash. Don’t give visitors gifts that they can’t take home on the plane.
– Shop local. Shop indie. Buy used or vintage stuff. Buy from artists or craftspeople in your own community. Or make stuff yourself. I’d much rather get the crooked scarf and the bad music mix that were made with love. Any day. (Except for really nice wooly bootsocks. These are my only exception to this rule and I accept them gleefully year-round.)
– In this season of retail hell, above all other things, if you take only one piece of advice from this post, it is that you must obey Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick. Don’t bitch at the cashier or the stockboy or the salesperson. They’re inevitably having a harder day than you are. I guarantee it. Be patient. Be kind. Be flexible. Be thankful they’re there doing a job you don’t want to do, and maybe tell them that. Tip heavily.
– On a non-retail-related note: watch the booze. You’re bound to find yourself at at least one overheated holiday party, downing the social lubricant either out of festiveness or sheer terror. Just remember that now is probably not the best time to tell your jerk boss or your bitchy aunt what you really think of them. Wait until you’re sober and not surrounded by a crowd of people you’ll have to see again sometime.
See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?
This time of year is stressful for me. I know it’s become something of a cliché to complain about the over-commercialization of the holidays (almost as much as bitching about saying “the holidays” instead of “Christmas” – get over yourselves, ye grumblers, for you are not the only game in town). But none of these holidays should be about stuff. I’m not religious at all, and even I can see how far off-base this situation has become. Even if I never got a single gift, I like that there are days set aside to just hang out with people I love and eat and laugh and be warm while it’s cold outside. If only it were that simple. Just keep that in mind as you plow through the shopping crowds and throw away a goodly chunk of cash. Is it worth it? Could you make the day as special without all that fuckaround? Is it really the exchange of meaningless baubles and trinkets that sets this day apart from all the others? Should it be?
Don’t get me wrong. I love presents. Presents are fucking fantastic. But give me stuff on my birthday or my anniversary or randomly, for no reason at all other than you wanted to make me smile. This whole forced gift-giving thing just feels hollow and shallow and, frankly, is an imposition on my already meager profit margin (which is honestly part of the reason that I started giving only used or handmade gifts in the first place – I kept on doing it because it felt less icky and I like to keep my ick factor low).
“But it’s so nice for the children!” you say? Really? Really!?! Let’s get one thing straight: kids want shit they don’t need every fucking day. Teaching them to focus their whining and hold out for the giant instant gratification fest at the end of the year when they’ll get everything their greedy little hearts desire for no reason whatsoever? Not really doing them or our culture any favors. It’s why so many kids have grown up to be dirtbags. Happened to me. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties to get over my dirtbag nature because I thought I could get away with complaining about not getting what I wanted when I hadn’t worked for it. Not that all kids are spoiled brats, but I think the expectation of a huge haul of gifts at Christmas is one of the things that brings out the brattiness in kids who are otherwise okay. This can grow into a bigger problem.
Meanwhile, everywhere, in every corner of the known world? Naked, freezing, starving, shoeless babies dying of horrible diseases. Bitch about getting the wrong color iPhone with that image in your head, you sniveling, spineless, pampered, shallow fucker.
Ahem. Sorry. Starving babies make me agro. Understandably so.
All I’m saying is don’t take anything for granted. You never know when it, or you, will be gone. And you never know who’s watching, wishing they had what you have, what you throw away, what you waste. Be mindful. Give thanks. Cultivate gratitude, and show it every single day, even if it’s just in little ways. I hope everyone has an excellent Thanksgiving. If you’re not an American, I hope you have an above-average Thursday. I promise I won’t do this squishy sentimental stuff again for a while. I’ll probably drag it back out after Christmas, which I’m spending by myself, drinking heavily and watching Star Trek. Makes for interesting New Year’s posts. Now go eat! What are you even doing here, reading this?