The other day, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that she thought Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving was a horrid and evil idea, and people that do so need to re-prioritize their lives. (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the idea.) I thought about it a little bit, and I decided, no, it’s not evil. What if you are unfortunate enough to be part of a family where the day is to be ENDURED, and you have to choke down your food and get the hell out, asap, before Uncle Billy starts making racist comments, Grandpa starts criticizing everyone and making sarcastic comments, Grandma starts talking about diets, the cigarette smoke is drying out your nasal passages and your contact lenses, and really, JUST LET ME GO! What if you don’t have any sane family or friends with whom to spend your day? What if you don’t want to go to a movie? There surely must be people like this out there. My grandparents’ house was just such a house, and Thanksgiving was my very least favorite holiday ever. Of course, I had my mom and my brother to go home with, and we were happy in each others’ company, but what if what we really wanted to do was to go to the mall? So I spoke up and defended such unfortunate people, suggesting perhaps that they may need our understanding more than our scorn.
After that, I started wondering what it is about stores being open on Thanksgiving that bugs people so much. I mean, there are restaurants that are open, hotels are open, hospitals are open, movie theaters are open, some grocery stores are open. So why the anger at department stores? Then I realized, after looking at Nance’s post, that it doesn’t have so much to do with the sacredness of Thanksgiving and the family unit, as much as it does the hyper-consumerist pressure that is put on us, to buy buy buy, spend spend spend. The fact that capitalism falls apart if companies don’t continue to grow, and many retail establishments make the majority of their money in December, puts an enormous amount of pressure on us. There’s no such thing (or perhaps it’s just very rare) as a company that makes $8,000,000 a year, and is happy with that. They pay their employees the same amount year after year, and the employees are happy with that. Everyone has enough to live the life they want to live, so there’s no need to go crazy and try to keep making and buying MORE product. For one thing, employees live in the real world, where their bills generally go up every year. Health care, gasoline, groceries, clothing, utilities, it all goes up. It’s seldom that you pull out an old checkbook and say, “Wow, my cable used to be expensive, and now look how much cheaper it is!” (unless you’ve changed your service, of course)
While I never did like the idea of going to the mall on Thanksgiving, I understand a little more why it’s so galling to people to know that it’s out there, that news reports are going to start yammering about consumer confidence (which, for anyone who has lived through a few recessions, can cause stress about job stability), the commercials are going to start in earnest, and the pressure to make everything absolutely perfect for everyone is going to become just too much. I can’t keep up, I don’t try, and honestly, I don’t even want to. But some of us do get sucked into that pressure, and it’s exhausting.
So to my Facebook friend, you were right. If you have a horrid family, then go home and read a good book, but leave the craziness alone, for just a few more days. You’ll likely be happier for it.