Turkey For One?!

Single and stressed about weathering the day solo? Fear not – our 8-point plan will get you through in great shape.

By Caitlin Ascolese

hanksgiving means turkey, family, togetherness. In fact, your whole family. All of them. With their plus-ones—or plus-fives if they keep adding to the brood. Yep, this big merry group is getting together, and they’re dying to know when you’ll stop slacking, get hitched and get with the procreation plan. Uck. All of them drinking, bickering, and reviving those old annoying family dynamics—oof. But fear not: Read on for our hourly guide to getting you through the big meal with your sanity intact. Chances are, you’ll wake up Thursday morning feeling lucky that you’re single and are getting off so easily on this special day. Gobble, gobble!

Surprise: You don’t have to explain or apologize for your relatives!
1:00 p.m. Time to be thankful for… low expectations
Some people were up early this morning baking pies or basting birds. But not you. So swing by the grocery store and pick up a can of cranberry sauce and, if you’re feeling generous, some Reddi-Whip too. During the rest of the year, it can be demeaning that your family doesn’t treat you like they do other members because you’re still single. But right about now, that’s the best place to be, because you don’t have to cook nuthin’. If you had a spouse and some kids, you’d be viewed as a whole family unit on your own, and you’d have to bring part of the meal, since that’s what real families do. But since folks see you as a pathetic barely-getting-by outcast, you get to leave the pumpkin pie, rack of lamb, and corn pudding to the paired-off suckers.

2:25 p.m. Time to be thankful for… never needing a baby-sitter
Regale the other grown-ups with tales of your free-spirited life as a single person: Staying out and drinking until 11 p.m. (or later!) with friends; having the time, money, and energy to go to the gym and take things like Pilates classes; having a date with someone who annoys you and then deciding to simply never see them again. However self-conscious you may feel about your solitary life, rest assured that to the relatives about your age (and to their kids who think you’re the coolest), this is the stuff of fairy tales.

3:00 p.m. Time to be thankful for… friends in awful places
Bust out your BlackBerry or cell phone and send out an update to your predesignated Turkey Buddy (TB). Calling a pal on a holiday can feel pathetic, but not if you’ve worked it out ahead of time. Whether it’s a fellow single who’s in the same boat or a married friend visiting their much-maligned in-laws, everyone has horror stories to share during a reunion. Quick exchanges sent from the cover of the bathroom will give you both something to look forward to, so trade amazed observations with your TB over the course of the day. You’ll feel less isolated, and hearing how nuttily someone else’s day is going (“14-yr-old niece protesting meat w t-shirt shwng slaughterhse”) will give you puh-lenty of perspective.

4:00 p.m. Time to be thankful for… traveling light
Grace. Remember to give thanks that you didn’t have to bring someone here today. No apologizing in advance for grandma’s offensive diatribes; no explaining to a
When the going gets rough, you don’t have to stay!
lover that yes, we all think Cousin Mike smells weird but no one knows how to tell him; no terror that every time you have to go to the bathroom, you’ll come out and find your Dad grilling your new sweetie about his or her long-term investment strategies. No, you’ve spent your entire life learning how to manage the manic group around you, and today you’re using those skills without the added baggage of helping somebody else deal with the entity known as your family.

4:01 p.m. Time to be thankful for… good grub
Sit down and shovel it in. You know your mom always makes your favorite food (while thinking the following about you: “Poor thing, living all by yourself, and it’s so hard to cook for one…”), so take advantage of that pity-slash-courtesy and chow down. Seriously; soon enough, you’re probably going to meet the love of your life, shack up, and start having to do turkey day at his or her house. And other people eat some gross stuff—ambrosia, mayonnaise-beet salad or garlic-Saltine stuffing. And you’re going to have to sit there and eat it like you’re one of them. So for now, just enjoy that the comfort food in front of you actually is comforting.

4:17 p.m. Time to be thankful for… your great manners
At some point during the meal, a relative is almost guaranteed to ask you whether or not you’ve met someone special. Do not, under any circumstances, reply with one of the following:
  • “Nah, I’d rather shoot myself than be trapped forever in a loveless marriage like you guys.”
  • “Oh, my parents didn’t tell you? The cult I’m in doesn’t allow relationships of any kind, so it’s not even an issue. Can’t believe they didn’t mention that…”
  • “I drink far too much to ever get out and meet anyone.”
  • “I recently met someone I thought was The One, but when I said, ‘Come on over to my place,’ s/he got freaked out by all my cats/Petri dishes/Petri dishes full of cloned cats.”
A non-committal “I’m still holding out for someone good enough to bring home to you all” should end the conversation pleasantly enough.

7:59 p.m. Time to be thankful for… a quick escape
Things are just getting good: Your sister-in-law is trying to corral her wildebeest offspring, who are laying on an effective dollop of “But we never get to play with our cousins” guilt. Your lush of a great aunt is alternating between sniping criticism of her ex, watery-eyed nostalgia for growing up, and refilling her wine glass. Uncle Floyd has woken up from his football-induced slumber. Now he’s in a bad mood because his team lost and is ready to rant about politics. But you don’t have to stay. You don’t have a partner who’s hankering to stay late and spar over several rounds of “red state versus blue state.” Nope, you are solo, and that means you are getting your coat, saying thanks oh-so-sweetly for the mountains of leftovers being foisted upon you, and heading for the door.

9:03 p.m. Time to be thankful for… your DVR
Forget all that imagined pressure to be in a relationship. Right now, sitting on your couch in a smug, tryptophan-induced haze, every partner in every couple in America would kill to be you. You’ve got the TV remote to yourself, no work for three more days, nobody suffering from post-traumatic family-visit disorder and revisiting whose mom said what and what she really meant, and enough leftovers that you — or your Petri dish cats, anyway — will eat well until 2011. And that’s something to be very thankful for.

Caitlin Ascolese is a New York City-based freelance writer.
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