I'm Skipping Thanksgiving This Year For Self-Care And I've Never Felt Better
What holiday boundaries while Black could look like.
October 22, 2021 at 10:37 am
I’ve made the self-care decision to not attend Thanksgiving this year, and I’ve never felt better.
It’s not that I don’t love family (I do), and it’s not that I’m estranged (I see them often). But if that happens to be your situation, light and power to you. Instead, with the important and needed emphasis on Black women’s wellness as an act of resistance, there’s been a glaring dance around a taboo subject in the community: setting boundaries for the anxiety-inducing and often chaotic nature of large family gatherings.
Black women’s emergence as vanguards of social change has left a notoriously disenfranchised demographic battling an ironic de facto position as “superheroes to the masses.” And it’s no secret that Black women have long been heralded as both the pillars and foundation of the Black family unit. After all, Big Momma didn’t get to be Big Momma for no reason.
The example of a “tired Black woman” is perhaps on no better display than the expectation of miracles Black women, and girls, are expected to perform for seasonal celebrations.
Familial obligation, tribal pride and fiercely groomed gender ideals converge to create a frenzy of activity that often leave Black women too exhausted to even enjoy the meal they spent several days preparing. One Thanksgiving I counted no less than six instances when my multiple (female) cousins and I were sent on last-minute grocery store runs while our male counterparts chillaxed on the sofa, leisurely rooting for a hopeless Washington Football Team or in their cars catching a buzz. While I’m well aware this isn’t a gripe for everyone, I am saying that I’m reclaiming my personal time in rebuking that presumption of availability. Going forward, I will offer to pick up anything possibly needed in advance. Anything else? Someone will have to get off the couch.
Aside from the time-consuming recipes many cultural dishes take to prepare (aka: properly washed greens), there’s also the question of cost in relation to contribution. Though the average Thanksgiving dinner for ten costs around fifty dollars, according to CNBC, that set up includes “peas” and “pumpkin pie,” so it’s doubtful if any Black family staples were involved in that calculation.
But the annoyance of being tasked to buy endless amounts of aluminum foil while the home team loses is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the generational trauma that gets overlooked while passive-aggressively passing the yeast rolls.
It’s only recently that science has acknowledged what many already suspected, that ancestral trauma can be passed down through genes. When one contemplates this reality with a focus on how the diaspora survives in a white supremacist structure, saying there’s a lot to unpack is an understatement.
Based on work that focuses on maladaptive behaviors of Black folk by Dr. Joy DeGruy, transgenerational trauma can show up as patterns of unhealthy communication with others, inadequate financial literacy and the denial of mental illness, as Ayana Therapy previously reported.
Though the topic of mental health in the Black community remains a taboo subject, technology has made it easier and more discreet than ever to find a therapist from one's own cultural background, as Blavity previously reported. It’s cute to think that there’ll be a Soul Food moment where everyone settles their differences over a tv full of money, but, most likely, a family therapy session or an earnest suggestion of counseling may prove more productive.
There’s also the question of generational differences regarding respect and boundaries whenever the elders and young adults meet. It’s a long-held cultural rule that Black people are, under no circumstances, to do or say anything to an elder that could be considered rude despite what energy that elder is giving out. In fact, every year there is a barrage of hilarious tweets of “what if” scenarios where a witty retort is exchanged for an elder's impolite or intrusive question.
It’s all fun and games on the net but in real life? Intense. Kindly telling an elder “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t ask me that,” or “Please don’t say comments to me like that, I think it’s hurtful” doesn’t make for hilarious social media fodder, but it could maybe open a channel for conversation and mutual respect.
One consideration is that “we have to remind our previous generations that inquiry from younger generations is for understanding, but also for the progression and evolution of future generations.” Or you can simply pull a me and choose to disengage.
Ultimately, this year’s Thanksgiving absence will serve as an energetic re-up for future holidays with a few more tools in hand to navigate these tricky times of the year. But with the growing push of resources for Black women’s wellness, the courage to put boundaries in place and grace for the hardships of generations' past, I’m encouraged that a relatively stress-free bird day is well within reach. And if not, I’m more of a Christmas fan anyway.