Right around this time every year I start to sulk, wondering why I’m still single and asking myself if it’s really necessary for the folks over at Kay Jewelers to inundate us with sappy commercials every two and a half minutes. I usually cope by drowning my dark thoughts in turkey and extra large glasses of cabernet … but not this year.
This year, as Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve decided to stop dwelling on my singledom, and instead, come up with a little wish list for the man who (I hope) will one day pull up a seat beside me at my family’s Thanksgiving feast. That man, whoever he may be, is gonna have a lot of tests to pass. I hope he’s up for the challenge:
1. The Church Test: Every Thanksgiving, we venture out to church as a family. As someone who was raised Catholic, I don’t exactly agree with many traditional aspects of the religion, but I know that going to mass means a lot to my mom, so I suck it up, put on my panty hose and head off to God’s house. Usually about 10 minutes in, after singing out-of-tune hymns, I break the ice by making sacrilegious jokes to my siblings, creating a domino effect of snickering down the pew. We typically end up being reprimanded by my mother who tries her best to hold back her own laughter and glares at us as if to say, “Who raised you?” The man I end up with can’t be offended by my church behavior. He’ll need to show his approval by egging the younger siblings on and joining in on the annual “who farted?” game. Bonus points if he doesn’t know (or pretends not to know) the words to the Apostles’ Creed in order to make me feel like less of a sinner.
2. The Meal: Being part of my family means having the ability to hold your own at the Thanksgiving table — both in consumption and communication. Since my parents are divorced, I split time between two large families, drinking wine and stuffing my face for double the amount of time. My dream man will need a strong stomach for this. Belly up to the trough, my dear. Hope you wore your stretchy pants.
But how much he needs to be able to digest is nothing compared to the conversation he’ll have to endure. Last year at Thanksgiving, just before the main course was served, my mom began talking about my cousin’s secret blog, in which he details his sexual encounters and fetishes. Once we were done with that uncomfortable topic, we created an ordered list for post-meal bathroom use: a ranking system determined by which family member makes it smell the worst. And last but not least, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my nagging aunt bringing up the “dead pool,” a sick and twisted game where she predicts which famous people will die in the upcoming year, and bets actual money on these deaths with her friends. My future guy will gladly throw in his two cents about who he thinks will croak, and then happily volunteer to be last in line for the toilet.
3. The Off-Limit Topics Test: Like most families, there are certain topics you do NOT bring up in front of certain people. Acceptable discussion points include: jobs, shopping, parade floats, football, people we mutually dislike and how fat we feel from the meal. Unacceptable discussion points are far more extensive, with no margin for error. You can’t bring up anything military related or I will start crying into my stuffing (the residual side effect of being screwed over by Patrick Bateman). You can’t say anything about engagements because my older sister has been engaged three times and married zero. Other off-limit topics include: country music star Alan Jackson or the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. Don’t ask. Oh, and using the worst “moist,” even when referring to the turkey, will cause everyone at the table to gag. Finally, one must NEVER offer to switch seats with another family member, potentially fucking up the feng shui of the seating arrangements. My Thanksgiving partner-in-crime will understand the rules and be eager to learn various, body language signals. An ear tug means Shut Up This Instant If You Want To Live and a sniff indicates You May Proceed With Caution. If he is able to successfully make it through dinner without accidentally touching on a taboo topic, he wins.
4. The Post-Meal Test: Something happens in my household when the meal is over: people get irritable and tired, increasing the probability of arguments between typically civil relatives. Even the smallest things, like putting the Land O’Lakes butter in the wrong refrigerator compartment can start a major brawl. My future man must know how to properly maneuver these situations and make his way through the T-Day war zone without taking sides or opening his mouth when my stepbrother insists it was my father who left the oven on, even though it was very obviously wasn’t. Then, along with the rest of us, he should feel comfortable unbuttoning his pants and passing gas to prove that he belongs.
Once we’ve all rested for about an hour, it’s time for games and dessert (simultaneously). Now serving: apple pie with a side Scattergories and a sprinkle of Wii beat-downs. This is when my family’s true colors come out. It’s my future man’s time to shine, showing my loved ones his determination, competitive nature, smarts and scrappy side. Last year, I threw my shoulder out playing Wii boxing, earning the nickname “Knockout.” The year before, we determined that my stepbrother, for most of his life, had mistakenly thought that the word “acorn” was written and pronounced “eggcorn,” thanks to his Scattergories answer for “things found in nature starting with the letter E.”
5. The Love Test: Despite the fact that my family acts like the Griswalds, we’re a tight-knit bunch who love each other very much, and I need someone who loves me—and my family— unconditionally, despite our idiosyncrasies. My sisters may look like they’re bickering over the Giants game, my mom may seem to be scooping leftovers into Tupperware and my brother-in-law may appear to be sipping champagne by the fire, but they’re always watching. They’ll be looking for stolen kisses, lingering glances, kind gestures and sneaky butt grabs. They’ll look to see if he offers to help my mother clean up, if he fetches me a drink so I won’t lose my spot on the couch and if he’s willing to give up his last piece of white meat turkey because the dark meat grosses me out. It’s these little things that will prove his worth and earn him a seat next to mine for many Thanksgivings to come.
But I know in my heart that all of these “tests” won’t be tests at all when I find him. Instead, it will be just another holiday with the woman he loves and the people who love her back.
[Photo from Shutterstock]