It is good to be here today, far from the dry roast turkeys and the crowded houses and the dodgy in-laws and the children who lose their interesting little selves for the day in riptides of egocentric neediness.

If anyone but a fellow New Yorker overhears you muttering that you “hate family,” you are immediately marked down as a cold misanthrope, a nasty ungrateful cur. No one stops to think that you might not be talking about individual people, but that what you probably have in mind is your family en masse. It’s the group that’s deadly, the gathering together of people whom nothing more inspired than DNA and youthful folly have thrown together.

Americans are criticized by advocates of other cultures as being “individualistic,” and I do believe that we are no longer any good at the old collective rituals – if we ever were. From the very beginning, this country has been all about leaving families behind. Where are the rituals that honor and acknowledge that? Are we ashamed of something?

This is just an unscientific hunch, but I suspect that while, in most cultures, your family really does know you best (whether it understands you or not), in this country it knows you least. I suspect further that ruthless examination would show that “family” is an illusion that we struggle to pull off at our holiday tables, an illusion that consoles us, during the brief moments when it’s convincing, for the anxiety of having effectively abandoned an institution of aboriginal human importance.

It’s good to be far from the pretense of “family,” if only for today.


One Response to “Thanksgiving”

  1. Nom de plume says:

    Your comments could be extended to the stupor-inducing bliss of motherhood in that the other view is rarely expressed, and were it to be, one could be tar-and-feathered for it. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is a myth. Plenty of women experience all of motherhood as their life’s central pleasure, and many families do have unity and identity and laugh more with one another than with non-relatives. Still, your point is rather that it shouldn’t be assumed to the point that it subsumes its counterpoint. Many women are miserable as mothers, and many families are misanthropic disasters, and the holidays exacerbate them all.