I am divorced. Sort of. I am in divorce limbo. Part of my new divorce limbo life is being alone on days of the year when it used to be guaranteed I would be with my spouse as well as my kids. My birthday. Easter. Thanksgiving. This year, I will be alone on Thanksgiving.
Even though this will be my first alone on Thanksgiving, I am somewhat okay with it. Last year I had dinner with my dad but he died in January. It doesn’t make sense to drive to Miramar National Cemetery and eat a turkey sandwich next to his and my mom’s grave. Older Son will be having dinner with his dad and Six will be having dinner with his dad. Two kids, two different dads and two equally failed relationships. Along with dead parents and no relationship with either of my surviving siblings, well it’s enough to make a human feel downright failed.
But. I am what is known in modern parlance as a goddamn adult. And as a goddamn adult I have spent many holidays eating many meals with many people I didn’t really give that big a shit about. I loved my husband and my parents and I love my children. The rest of my family is very nice and I see them plenty throughout the year. What is it about these isolated days on the calendar that are exponentially harder to deal with when I am on my own? I wish I knew but I don’t. There is no solution that I know of so I’ll just have to get through it.
Maybe this is your first solo holiday. My first solo holiday was my 46th birthday. It was horrible. Instead of staying in by myself, I took myself to the movies, I bought myself whatever crap I wanted to snack on while there and then after, I stopped by a bookstore and bought myself a present. Okay, three presents.
I felt very, very sad and small and not just alone but more like cut off from the rest of humanity. Alone on my birthday? It felt like I had failed some cosmic test and my punishment was this billowy grey funk that surrounded me.
And then the next day wasn’t my birthday and I was alone all that day as well and I loved it!
I like being alone. I am an introvert’s introvert. Indoorsy. Socially awkward. Regularly use complicated words when simple ones will do. All the hallmarks of an analog nerd. Six is horrified that I self-describe as a nerd. His second grade brain cannot conceive of a person willingly (nay, happily) donning that mantle.
Hell is not other people. Hell is letting other people define you. But you can’t really explain that to a kid whose greatest wish is to fit in.
Where was I? Alone on Thanksgiving.
In addition to being alone, I’ve screwed up my planning and already seen Frozen II and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood so that cancels the “spend the day at the movies” approach. It’s fall so there must be some dark, depressing movie out with Joaquin Phoenix in it but you know what, pass.
A quick look at movie listings isn’t helping matters. Queen and Slim looks good. That’s about it. So the movie thing is probably out.
That leaves books. Glorious, glorious books! I went to the library today to stock up.
Here are the books for my alone on Thanksgiving adventure. I have put them in the order I am going to read them because what I really want to do is plan.
How to Date Men When You Hate Men: From New Yorker and Onion writer and comedian Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men is a comedy philosophy book aimed at interrogating what it means to date men within the trappings of modern society. Blythe Roberson’s sharp observational humor is met by her open-hearted willingness to revel in the ugliest warts and shimmering highs of choosing to live our lives amongst other humans. She collects her crushes like ill cared-for pets, skewers her own suspect decisions, and assures readers that any date you can mess up, she can top tenfold. And really, was that date even a date in the first place?
The Bookshop on the Corner: Nina is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile — a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending
How to be Alone: A must-read for anyone whose childhood still feels unresolved, who spends more time pretending to have friends online than feeling close to anyone in real life, who tries to have genuine, deep conversations in a roomful of people who would rather you not. Above all, it’s a book for anyone who desperately wants to feel less alone and a little more connected.
There Will Come a Darkness: For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared. All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. With chaos on the horizon, five souls are set on a collision course. A prince exiled from his kingdom. A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand. A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart. A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone. And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.
Invisible Women: Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.
Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe: Issy Randall can bake. No, Issy can create stunning, mouthwateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery, Issy has undoubtedly inherited his talent. She’s much better at baking than she is at filing, so when she’s laid off from her desk job and loses her boyfriend, Issy decides to open her own little café. But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake recipe for a fresh start might be a little more complicated than throwing some sugar and butter together.
A little fun, some weightier subjects and for dessert, cupcakes! What more can I ask for? Equal pay? Well, yes. That, too.
Being alone on Thanksgiving will not easy. For me there is a tangle of feelings about broken expectations, failures great and small, grief over losing both my parents…it is a toxic stew. Holidays concentrate that stew, exacerbate that tangle and lead to all kinds of metaphors.
If you are alone on Thanksgiving this year, know that in spirit I am here for you. Stretched out on my couch, wearing a very bright green C-SPAN sweatshirt that I love beyond all reason, eating pepper Triscuits and hummus and reading from an excellent stack of library books. Will I lower my book a few times and sigh, feeling a keen sense of separation? Probably yes. But I will know that in spirit I am not alone.
You will be out there as well, getting through this as best you can and I’ll be thinking of you.