Thanksgiving is a competition and every year I lose
The thing about Thanksgiving is that there aren’t really any traditions for it other than eating a ton. Like, yes, maybe your family throws the pigskin around, and there’s certainly the whole colonialism thing, which I don’t mean to downplay, it’s just not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m not sure when I decided that the meal was a sport in itself. The goal is to eat so much until the overwhelming weight of your indulgence causes you to fall asleep. The syndicated comic strip “Foxtrot” used to make this an annual gag, with teen jock Peter often devising absurd ways to fit more food into his stomach. This included, at one point, pre-stretching his clothing. (Come to think of it, my other comic love, “Garfield,” was also unapologetic when it came to food.)
So: eating. That’s the point of Thanksgiving and one could make a very strong argument that it’s the point of America. Just gorging and feast until we pop a belt buckle. If you don’t eat yourself into a coma, you’re downright unpatriotic.
But the thing is: I’m a one-plater. Maybe two as I aged into my teenage years but I cannot recall ever reaching plate three or four. The cultural myth of Thanksgiving is that it’s a marathon, you eat for hours, and when your plate is empty, you get more. Mix it up: maybe some turkey now, maybe some sweet potatoes later, whatever you’re sick of can be replaced. That’s not really how I operate. I get one plate with a little bit of everything and that’s pretty much it? I’m not even saving room for dessert!
It’s not even peer pressure. Nobody really gives me shit for not eating a lot, I just feel obligated to do it. I think “this year’s the year that I fulfill my social obligations and eat way too much food,” but it never happens. Nobody is keeping track, and yet I know. And I’m always a little bit disappointed in myself.
Holidays are competitions. Who can get the most presents on Christmas? Who can set off the most fireworks on Independence Day? Who can be the most apologetic at Yom Kippur? Who can plant the most trees on Earth Day? There are metrics. What am I supposed to do on Thanksgiving? Watch the parade really hard?! (For the record, I am great at this also.) On Thanksgiving, the primary metric is “food consumed.” And I’ve never met my quota.
This has been happening for years. I try my best, I really try to hunker down and commit, and then I just get full and tired really quickly. I used to think it was the tryptophan, but apparently that’s a myth? So it’s all mental. It’s all my idiot brain and skinny frame preventing me from achieving my full potential.
On the plus side, I get more leftovers.
Holiday Dread is The Awl’s series dedicated to the season of joy and other emotions. Previously: