I understand that for a lot of people Thanksgiving opens up a quagmire of dysfunction. Since this is my first "adult" holiday season, this is my first time hearing coworkers bemoan having to go the "in-laws" or arguing with their own parents about why they would rather not drive three and a half hours just to be home and listen to why they have disgraced the family. I, annoyingly, love going home. I do not worry about having to lie about going to church regularly, or pretend that I don't frequent gay-clubs called the "The Eager Beaver" under the the pseudonym, "Bertha" (that's not a real thing I do, but if I did, I wouldn't have to lie about it, which is really all that matters). The cool thing about my family is that they are very accepting. We all curse and during a particularly rambunctious game of "Catchphrase," I might have ordered, "Get your shit together!" to my mom and sister. My sister talked about some of her past brushes with illegal drugs. We talked politics AND religion. And to cap off the family togetherness, I consumed roughly an entire bottle of wine over the course of the Thanksgiving meal.
So Thanksgiving for me is an overwhelmingly pleasant experience because I get to be exactly myself. There are, however, reasons why I find it to be overwhelmingly unpleasant. Thanksgiving is the gateway to the "holiday season" which for me is about as much fun as lent (my Protestant boyfriend told me Protestants would not understand this reference in the way Catholics do--basically, in the strictest sense, lent is a time to feel guilty and bad about yourself because you are the reason Jesus had to die, you filthy sinner!)
I made the tragic mistake of visiting a shopping mall the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I am American, and thus an excellent consumer, and also slightly shallow--which translated into me buying something from Banana Republic within 2 minutes of me walking into the store (It was on sale!) As I was checking out, the bespectacled store clerk looked at me with such a look of sadness (and it's hard to be sad when you're wearing such a fabulous Banana Republic cashmere sweater!) I asked if he had to work Black Friday. He sighed and said, "Yes, I'm supposed to work 8am to 5pm, but I'm sure I won't get home until well after seven." And I said, "Oh wow, that sounds rough," because I am spoiled enough to have an office job where I don't have to do jack shit until Monday at around 9:30am. And then he told me that he'd already been in the store for twelve hours that day and his knees were starting to buckle. I looked around at the soccer moms in the store, arms piled with shopping bags, and I realized how this man had suffered. Isn't Black Friday the worst?
Leaving the mall, I was assaulted with Christmas carols, and twinkling Christmas lights, and horrifyingly, Mall Santa (in today's times do we really want to hire an old man who volunteered to bobble children on his lap?). I was struck with a level of rage and disgust I can only equate to times when I think I have ice cream in my freezer but I open the carton and it's only enough for like, half a spoonful. That intense kind of rage. The next day, as I was eating my Thanksgiving dinner I thought of this poor man, leaving his family meal, preparing for a day of implacable customers, re-folding piles of mock turtleneck mohair Henley sweaters (that he had just folded ten minutes ago) and fetching size 2's for size 8 women, just to appease their egos. At that moment, I was so thankful I don't work retail. Isn't that the true meaning of this holiday? Being thankful, even when your life is shitty, because there is some poor bastard out there with a shittier life than you? I think I saw that on a Hallmark card somewhere.
So, as we get ready to slide into the Christmas abyss of human misery, I just want to remind you, that no matter how much your life sucks, there is always someone out there who had to work Black Friday. Or if you had to work Black Friday, there is always someone who had to work Black Friday at Walmart. Or if you work Black Friday at Walmart, some people are homeless.