Not so thankful for Thanksgiving: An expat's take on America's quintessentialholiday
Nov 21, 2012 | 8:00 am
The quintessential American holiday and food fest that is Thanksgiving poses a number of dilemmas for foreigners living here, especially any audacious enough to work as freelancers.
I’ve already experienced two Thanksgivings as a British expat. I’m approaching this one with a sense of foreboding (will anyone invite me to a meal?!), and I am prepared for the inevitable abandonment by America whereby I’ll be left twiddling my thumbs as the nation closes down for a cultural event that doesn’t involve me and which I can’t take advantage of — my family is more than 3,000 miles away.
Forget advantages, as a freelance journalist it’s a case of iceberg ahead, captain. I know come Wednesday offices will start to clear, leaving me with a bevy of unanswered phone calls and emails to keep me company over the holiday as I chew my nails and look forlornly at my laptop’s screen, hoping, pleading that some editor takes a peek at an inbox.
If America is happy to put its feet up for a few days, then why the hell shouldn’t I? A little reflection at this juncture of the year might not be such a bad thing.
Does America not realize we freelancers need to keep working to make some bucks to buy Christmas presents for our younger relatives with their angelic faces and pre-Raphaelite curls?
Black Friday? Great. Just let me run out and go crazy with $20 of disposal income in my wallet.
It’s not so much the logistical dilemma than the existential one that’s the rub when it comes to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving forces me to confront the fact I’m a long way from the motherland. That there will be no hugs and kisses and back slaps as seen in those amber-hued television adverts for this chump. That, as some cheery soul put it, we all die alone.
I distracted myself from such weighty pronouncements during the last two Thanksgivings when a friend and his wife invited me over. I’ll admit on both occasions I could see the attraction with this Thanksgiving malarkey. I ate like a king, like a few kings, even, losing track of how many helpings I had. There were three choices for dessert, the heat was on, there was booze. My stomach was full, I was snug, I was tipsy. It felt good to be human.
But not this Thanksgiving. They’ve moved to Washington. There’ll be no heat. (I’m cutting back on costs.) There’ll be no multitudinous food courses. I’ll probably mark the day with a defiant British stand, frugally eating baked beans on toast, followed by a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea. God Save the Queen.
I certainly won’t be pleasantly tipsy, because once the melancholy sets in Thursday evening, I’ll likely be sarcastically toasting the Pilgrims’ fine health with particularly strong margaritas until I’m a bitter, lonely drunk. I’ll rail against America’s cruelty before I pass out cursing the same Pilgrims for all the woe they’ve brought on my head.
I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way. I can always go and stand at an intersection holding a cardboard sign: “Will wash dishes for Thanksgiving meal and familial love.” Then again, maybe a simpler solution will present itself and someone will invite me to a meal like the two previous years.
And so what if I can’t go wild on Black Friday? Perhaps I’m taking it all a little too seriously. If America is happy to put its feet up for a few days, then why the hell shouldn’t I? A little reflection at this juncture of the year might not be such a bad thing.
If it hadn’t been for those intrepid pilgrims and the friendly Indians who helped them survive their first winter, I’d never have had my American adventure in the first place: never learned how to make proper margaritas; never driven a cerulean Mustang with the windows rolled down toward a vermilion sun balanced on the horizon; never had my socks blown off by those spirited beauties only fashioned in America.
Hmm, hadn’t thought of all that, or the rest. God, I do love this place. Happy Thanksgiving.