love, sex and other comestibles

He sat down at his favorite Italian place and ordered his favorite pasta and a beer. College basketball played silently from a discreet TV in the corner. A couple nearby were in a huddle over a plate of bruschetta. His buddy Sean, whom he’d known since high school, was behind the bar.

Just a nice, quiet Friday night.

When she came in, it was close to midnight and the place was empty but for a birthday group on its third bottle of wine. She sat down with a stool between them and Sean poured her a glass of white.

Small talk developed. Relaxed, he let slip a controversial opinion. He felt like Seattle was becoming a cultural dictatorship, so occasionally he liked to test someone. See how easy it would be to offend their PC sensibilities.

To his surprise she was not only not offended, she agreed, rejoined in fact. They took it further. Next thing he knew she had scooted over to the stool next to his, and he had ordered her another glass, and then…

He remembered to mention his fiancee. She remembered she had a ferry to catch. And as quickly as their connection had been made, it was over. She was gone. He paid Sean for his meal. Friday night ended with him walking home to walk his dog, and with her vowing to herself to time her evenings better so that she wasn’t stuck killing time with interesting strangers.

Strangers who had other commitments.

Currygiving, or, fixing Thanksgiving

Last night I enjoyed a tasty slice (or three) of pizza at a local spot known for its arty, gourmet pizza combinations. I realized I was tense… but why?

Oh, right. Thanksgiving is two days away. I’m not even doing the whole Thanksgiving shebang this year, but just the angst of year after year of gunky food and bizarre family interaction has left me with a sort of mild turkey-induced PTSD.

If someone invented a holiday involving gorging oneself on sushi, I’d be an early adopter. I’d love to A/B test a holiday involving endless amounts of curry. Enchilada Day? I’m there, heap on that guac and let’s party!

As it stands, it’s a foodie’s nightmare. Turkey is the meat most well-known for its chemical propensity to put you to sleep. Stuffing is made of stale bread crumbs. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce? Bland, smooth, gelatinous. This is food for people who have lost their teeth and have to gum their way to nourishment.

As for the day itself? Let’s play this out, pretending you’re a single thirty-something like myself or half my friends.

It hasn’t even started yet and you’re already stressing.

You stare at the closet, wondering what to wear. It has to be ironed so you don’t scare Grandma (Oh dear, look at that crease, she must be unemployed again). That’s the older generation covered, but what about the younger? There will be forty-two small children running around, the offspring of various spouses and cousins you can no longer track without some kind of GPS-enabled app. This means your ensemble has to allow for the “magical” moment when you kneel to “bond” with the seven year old who has pumpkin goo in her hair and wants you to experience the awesomeness of her latest iPad game.

The fashion criteria so far is smooth yet kneel-able (it’s a word now). Just when you think you’ve nailed it, grabbing that pink blouse you hate and the skirt with the elastic waistband, you remember this a holiday about eating. You may hate all the food, but admit it, gorging will ensue. You’d better reach further back into the closet for the skirt that not only has the elastic waistband but is also very stretchy… everywhere.

Okay, good start. But you slump as you don this outfit. You are single on Thanksgiving. You’re wearing the Mom Outfit, with the safe earrings, and the we-might-play-touch-football loafers…

God, is there anyone you don’t have to please on this holiday? This is what made Hillary Clinton such a train wreck.

– too soon?

…and the super-stretchy formless skirt. You’re dressed like a mom. But you won’t have the joyous, warm, rewarding experience of driving home afterward with your children and your exhausted but sympathetic husband, all of you bitching the entire way about how crazy everyone was and all the shockingly horrid things Uncle Fred said.

At least that might offer catharsis.

What you’ll have is coming home to the cats. Let’s be honest. You’ll start peeling your Church Lady outfit as you walk through the door. You’ll beeline it past your furry roommates for whatever cupboard you stash the liquor in. You’ll start to look for a highball, and then give up and pour the cocktail in a nearby juice glass. Downing it, you’ll glare at the birthday card on the fridge. The birthday card from one of these relatives. The card is covered in flowers, false sentiment, and now, the memory of that relative stuffing turkey in her face while espousing the need to kill everyone who ever lived in, visited or even bought online from a Middle Eastern country.

Your cats watch you drink long and alone. Carrying the second round and continuing your de-clothing, you walk to the bathroom and wipe off the eight pounds of makeup you put on to compete with the anorexic cousin who always makes you feel like you’re still an overweight, pimply fourteen year old.

Exhale. It is over.

Finally, free of the Mom Outfit, you carry your cocktail into the bedroom. The cats are waiting for you, stretched comfortably at their appointed corners of the bed. You climb in to join them, lift the remote, and turn on some old sitcom. Because, at the end of a day like this, that’s all you’ve got left. Just: where do I drop my earrings… move your furry paw out of my face… remember to buy more orange bitters… zzzz.

In my mind’s eye, I can see indigenous people introducing us to a new land. In my mind’s eye, we take the cornucopia from these people, and then… we hand it back.

Here. It worked for you. Thank you so much, but keep this. Keep this for you. We’re going to invent something that works for us. A holiday that doesn’t involve stealing your bounty, land, and life.

A holiday that with all due respect doesn’t involve THE MOST BORING FOOD ON THE PLANET.

We may, as family, be stuck with each other. That fact may even be worth celebrating. But does it have to be doused in yams?

We’re going to invent a holiday that includes being honest with each other without judgment or anger. A day without Mom Outfits, even – especially – for moms. A day when nieces and nephews wipe the pumpkin goo from their hair, just for the bitchy aunt who lives alone with her cats.

And goddammit, a holiday based, even if I die fighting for it, on curry.