Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

November 29, 2013

Musing on Thanksgiving as a Single Retiree

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, this time with the stores deciding their employees had so little pull that they could force them to have no holiday and come to work for the mad acquisition fanatics to indulge their whims on a national holiday.  I'm one who gets irritated at the onslaught of the Christmas buying spree starting before Halloween. I like the Fall.  The right wing likes to claim there's some sort of war on Christmas because many people like to be pleasantly inclusive to others who happen to not be Christian (it's why we say happy holidays - so everyone will be included in a banal but friendly greeting.) But there is zero evidence that Christmas in is any sort of decline. Just look around you. You can't escape it. It is yet another aggressive attempt to force a particular segment of Christianity onto people who don't care for it while sending the clear message that we don't want your kind around here if you don't subscribe to it.  We used to say that kind of meanness was unchristian, but now it defines christian. But then that was when being christian was also defined as kind and charitable.

Funny thing is that the heavy Christmas traditions only date back to the 19th century when newspapers could shape a particularly monetary feeling about the holiday and set up a mythology that never existed before.  The whole holiday was originated as a reworking of ancient pagan winter solstice celebrations to relieve the tedium of long, cold winter nights and the beginning of longer days again. Because of the lag of solar heating of the earth, the hardest winter is ahead but the sun gradually lasts longer and longer. The Roman Saturnalia and other pagan celebrations were impossible to squash so the early Catholic church got the brilliant idea to take it over and layer the celebrations with the Christian myths.

Enough griping about the coming holiday. Being a happily single middle aged woman puts me in a little quandary about holidays. People often think I'm lonely and in need of being taken care of at these times. So frequently, being a fairly pleasant person despite being a strong introvert, I am often asked to join a friend's family. Don't get me wrong, they mean to be really nice to me and that is their only motivation, so I do appreciate the sentiment.

But when you spend a distinctly family oriented holiday at someone else's family, no matter how nice and welcoming they are, I am a third wheel and don't really belong. I have always enjoyed the holiday dinners with my own family which is quite extensive but who all live far far away, but I am and always have been a part of it. I belong and always will whether I like it or not. Fortunately, I mostly like it. But I really hate traveling during the holidays. Especially by air. The unpleasant air travel is made much worse by the huge crowds so I try to avoid it.

In addition, during my work life, the demands of the job mostly made it impossible to go to a relative's house for holidays.  I got used to not celebrating when in my early career I had to work 24/7/365 shifts.  I would volunteer to work the holidays (more pay!) so that the people with families could have them with their families.  At first, being at work helped distract from the all alone feeling but then it just didn't really matter any more the older I got.  I find that the holiday traditions really matter a lot more when you have children. My dogs and cats just don't care. And I haven't really felt lonely since I got rid of my sociopath ex-husband years ago.

This year, my neighbor, who I see frequently (our dogs are best buds and she has chickens!), invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her husband's family about 2 hours driving time away.  I find it difficult to refuse such invitations because it is meant to be so nice. Then she started warning me about his various brothers and their less than ok behavior. I was raised with the "be pleasant and civil and no politics or religion topics at dinner" etiquette rules. So I started to have some trepidation about the event - with no possible escape hatch. I would be on their time table because of the distance.

The day came and went.  They were very nice to me and mostly pleasant enough.  I just said nothing about the politics discussion.  It is not the time to try to counter the Fox "news" people with actual facts (studies keep showing that those who watch Fox are less informed of reality than those who get no news at all).  But, really, it was a long day that got pretty boring when the inevitable football on TV started (which I find deadly dull - same thing over and over. Essentially playing dog-pile interspersed with endless committee meetings).  They were very nice to me and very welcoming but they are not very educated so I really didn't have much in common with anyone (since I am and always have been an intellectual).  I get along with my neighbor and enjoy her company despite the lack of comparable education because she is practical smart, logical, and thinks for herself, plus we have some common interests.  I have always found hours and hours of banal small talk with (even nice) strangers exhausting. 

In reality, I would have had a better day with no feast and by myself with my pets.  I guess because I'm not a needy social person and really like my own company.  It is amazing how few people can comprehend a single middle aged woman who is happy with her own life under her own control and needs no taking under a wing.  That is when I feel like I have to start making up prior engagements because I really don't want to be taken under someone's wing and incorporated into their family.  I like to choose individual people for friends and company who I like for themselves without being incorporated into their whole lives.  But I am really loathe to hurt their feelings with outright rejection of what is intended to be very, very nice to me.

It is a quandary.


  1. hah... y'ol grump bucket... HAHaaaaaa ... I know exactly what you mean though but I'm surprised by knowing you the little time that I've known you ... that you couldn't say.... I have plans.... but your invitation warms m'cockles... lie like a rug...

    You've just shown me another part of your personality... it's sweet! hahaaaa.... there I go again ... hahahaaing too much but I don't know how else to show you that this was informative and I enjoyed it.

    I'm an extrovert. BUT. I dislike social events with people I'm uncomfortable with. When I was younger? I drank a lot and well... I could get along with just about anyone. I just mingled and went on my way.

    As I've gotten older? I don't make good first impressions any longer... well, assuming I ever did really... AND I enjoy small talk.

    That means... I really like your shoes... where'd you get 'em? introverts could care less about my knowing where they got their shoes and don't really want to engage in the few words of exchange that would let me know ...

    I find it all so interesting... the differences in all of us .. I have always preferred my own company over being around a bunch of dullness.

    Back in 'the day' girls would accept dates and social invitations because they didn't want to go anywhere by themselves. They would suffer a boring boring boring guy to go out on a Saturday night or to a party. OR go out in a pack of girls... which was fun a lot of the time... and I loved it but I didn't NEED to. There were women and still are women who will not go out to eat by themselves or to a movie or even shopping! .... what?

    drove me insane.... I have never .... ever ... done that. I took myself wherever I wanted ... lots of stares and omg's back in those days ... I figured that was their problem... not mine.

    Nowadays? bah humbug on the holidays. As you said... most holidays were Pagan in the beginning ... I was up on all that at one time... I don't believe that Christmas was the birthday of Jesus.

    It's a celebration of his birth for Christians. I am not a Christian. I just like the spirit of Christmas .. which is fun and joy and love... seriously.

    hate buying obligatory gifts ... hate and don't do it... and haven't in eons. I buy such all year long. I do love the carols and the jingly bells and red and green and pretty lights ... and Santa... and Rudolph .... and Frosty ... hoppity hop hop

    This year, I plan on have a tree for the first time in eons. I got two little g'babies that I want to see giggle and stare ... I don't give expensive gifts because they get too many as is.... I don't like 'buying' love. and that's what a lot of people seem to do.

    They also want people to believe they've have a good financial year. oh I could go on and I have written about this .. and I'll write about it again... I'm sure ;)

    I'm glad you went and semi-enjoyed yourself. I am all for aloneness and am looking forward to next week.. .I'll miss my boys ... but man? I gotta have some alone time!

    I tend to isolate myself sometimes ... and I don't like that. I fight it because... well? I don't know. sometimes I think I could live in a luxury cave... with a Whole Foods within walking distance... and be perfectly happy....

    BTW do I know what your job was? you worked ALL the time? wth?

  2. Hi Carolyn. I think it is funny how an extrovert like yourself likes your own solitude as much as an introvert like me. Yes, people and our motivations are interesting. My problem is that I am a really lousy liar and rarely ever do on the spur of the moment. I think of excuses after the fact and my main motivation is not to go out of my way to be nasty to someone who's only motivation is to be nice to me. But once I've accepted, however reluctantly, I feel obligated to go. I was a meteorologist/computer systems analyst/systems designer/computer systems testing. I didn't start out in computers but I had a knack for making them work so most of my career was in the care and feeding of them. It was the constant downsizing which didn't make the work any less. We just had to do more and more work so it was really hard to get time off until I reached the use it or lose it leave situation.


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