It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
"River," Joni Mitchell
Too bad they don't have a song like this for Thanksgiving or the entire holiday season.
Thanksgiving. The beginning of the Woman Olympics.
Don't act like you don't know. In the run-up to Thanksgiving and through New Year's Day, women all across America will be going into hyperdrive to put perfect meals on perfectly set tables for their imperfect, dysfunctional families, as if they will have a place on an Olympic medal stand somewhere if they succeed, whatever success means.
Somehow, somewhere, the ability to put six or more dishes and a perfectly browned turkey (and, in some places, a ham, too) on the table at the same time and temperature on Thanksgiving became a measure of one's womanliness. All hail the holiday cooks, for they shall inherit . . . a bunch of critics. Because you know and I know that no matter how well a woman cooks something, she will be criticized by others, usually other women, who think they can do a better job and who measure their own womanliness by their cooking and other indicia of domesticity. Like your aunt never criticized your mom's sweet potato pie, or your mom never criticized your grandmother's Sock-It-To-Me cake. And, to make it worse, we women do it to ourselves: My gravy isn't as good as so-and-so's; my pie crust isn't as flaky as my mom's; my dinner rolls aren't as light as Aunt Suzie's.
Here's my response, so pay attention:
Yeah, I said it.
Considering how tight budgets are (and how many of us are on the verge of not even having a home in which to eat Thanksgiving dinner), anyone who gets an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner needs to be extremely grateful, no matter the ability of the cook. Considering that it can costs hundreds of dollars to buy the ingredients for a large (12+) family Thanksgiving (especially if you include liquor), if all someone has to do is bring a bottle of wine in exchange for what is essentially a multi-course free meal, they need to shut up. No criticisms, no suggestions on how the cook, who, more likely than not is a woman, could have "made it better." They need to sit there, eat that dry turkey, and wash it down with that cheap bottle of wine they brought that could never pay for their share of the meal. But, above all, they need to just shut up.
If you're the cook, you should brook no criticism. If someone makes a snarky comment about your dinner, fire up your computer, go to Google maps, and print out a map to the nearest homeless shelter and give it to your ungrateful guest.
And, for you women who, by virtue of hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year, are effectively competing in this year's Woman Olympics, here's food for thought:
Next year, opt out.
Yeah, I said it.
I'd be willing to bet that, if you're this year's cook, you were probably last year's cook and the year-before-last's cook. Somehow, the person who is willing and able to put on a Thanksgiving dinner will more than likely be expected to put on the next Thanksgiving dinner. And so it goes, and you get stuck, year in, year out.
Opt out. Yes, I know you have children. Yes, I know your parents expect you to do it because your sisters can't cook worth a damn (and more power to them, since they don't define themselves by their cooking) and your brothers would probably never even envision cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Opt out. Give notice a year in advance. Make alternative plans to take your kids to someone else's house next year and YOU bring the bottle of wine instead. Let your siblings host the dinner for your parents, or take your parents out for dinner. Or, if your kids are grown, let THEM host Thanksgiving Dinner. If they can read, they can cook. Let them have a chance to see how hard it is to do Thanksgiving. They'll be a whole lot more thankful in the future.
Above all, we women need to stop defining ourselves by how well we do Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and all the attendant domestic fanfare, especially when men are measuring their masculinity by how well they belch and fart during bowl games.