I dread spending the holidays with my family. What are supposed to be peaceful, fun gatherings always turn into a bunch of folks bickering and dragging up old stories and lots of drama. I never look forward to going home, and I’m thinking about skipping dinner this year. Does that make me selfish? —Anonymous
My friend (and poet) Bassey Ikpi often trots out this quote anytime she hears about someone, especially a woman, doing what’s best for her and meeting the obligations set upon her by others: “Never apologize for how you choose to take care of yourself.” I don’t know if that’s hers or someone else’s, but whoever said it? Brilliant.
Your skipping Thanksgiving may disappoint your relatives, especially your folks, but I’m more concerned about you than I am them. And no, it doesn’t make you selfish, and even if it did, sometimes it’s absolutely OK to be selfish, especially about your happiness. Or at least I hope it is. I’ve skipped a few Thanksgivings (and Christmases) since moving away from home 16 years ago, a few times for the same reasons you did. Everyone should try it once. It gives you a different perspective on what matters to you.
Call your mother and tell her you’ve had a change of heart and you’re going to spend Thanksgiving wherever you intend. Add that you want to try something different. That’s it. Don’t go into detail. You’ll only get guilt-tripped into showing up.
Tell her you’ll call/Skype/FaceTime her tomorrow to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. Yes, you will probably feel bad doing this. Now picture sitting at the Thanksgiving table with bickering relatives and the end-of-the-night drama. Which feeling seems worse? Do whatever makes you feel better in the long run.
If you have friends who are staying in town for the day, call one and ask if you can crash. There’s always a “Friendsgiving” celebration going on somewhere, where a bunch of people who don’t have the vacation days to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas stay put and throw something together. Or call a close friend who wouldn’t balk if you asked to crash his or her family’s celebration. Do be mindful that the bickering and drama you’re trying to avoid could pop up with your friend’s family—every family has a bit, even if it’s in jest—but at least you won’t have the personal attachment to the feuding.
Or you could just stay home alone. You can treat the day like any other by cooking for yourself or ordering a traditional loner-on-Thanksgiving meal of Chinese food or pizza. Or maybe you want to treat yourself. A surprising number of restaurants remain open on Thanksgiving. A quick Google search will provide you with options.
As for the rest of the day, it’s yours to do with what you will. What would make you happy? I’ve spent the day lying on the couch watching my favorite vintage musicals, such as A Chorus Line, Lady Sings the Blues and Sweet Charity. (I love Shirley MacLaine; so does Beyoncé’s choreographer.) Another time, I ran in the park instead of the gym (closed), then stayed in my pajamas and watched an entire season of my favorite show on Netflix. I ate eggs for dinner. It was awesome. It had been years since I spent a day doing “nothing.”
I’ve also just wandered around my city with my headphones and my camera and marveled at the beauty in the emptiness of some of my favorite haunts. You can also actually go to the movies and finally watch a film you’ve been too busy working to catch. (If you wonder why I keep suggesting movies, it’s because there’s not a lot open on Thanksgiving, and sending you to the local CVS doesn’t feel like entertainment.)
You can actually send individual, personalized texts to your friends and family instead of the time-efficient group text that everyone sends and also hates receiving. Depending on how many friends you have, this could take a while.
I will caution you about this: Even if you loathe your family, it gets hard to be away around dinnertime, when the flood of food pics and family photos starts up on social media. Avoid social media unless you just want to torture yourself. Oh, and the upside to capitalism: Most actual stores may be closed until around 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, but online retailers are always open, and some even offer Black Friday discounts on Thursday. You can get a jump-start on your holiday (or personal) shopping while everyone else is in the kitchen or at the table.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “Is It OK to Travel Without My Husband?”