being regal and real this Thanksgiving
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.
This line, from “Born this Way,” is one of my most favorite lyrics. And I would like to suggest it as a mantra for this fraught Thanksgiving holiday.
Now: I really don’t know much about Lady Gaga. I only know her most famous work. I know she calls her followers Little Monsters. I know when I put her in my Body Positive playlists, most of my superstar students shamelessly lip sync along.
And I know that Chelsea Manning was lip syncing, too, as she copied all that classified content onto discs bearing LG’s name.
All this context makes me love the line even more. All of it says: may we be who we are, no matter what. May we stand up for our whole selves, political and personal.
Here are some ways I think we can all Just Be a Queen this Thanksgiving.
Only give the pleasure of your company to those deserving of it.
Darlings: if you’re dreading the dinner party because of its guests, don’t go.
(This is admittedly controversial. So many of us grow up thinking that make-believing Everything’s Okay is virtuous, not poisonous. I know I did.)
Hey, I know this is complicated. Maybe there’s only a guest or two you want to avoid. Maybe the pies and casseroles will make the pretending worthwhile.
In that case, feel empowered to practice some queenly coolness with anyone disagreeable. If you’re approached by a handsy uncle, spin on your heel and walk away. If your rude-as-hell sister-in-law begins to assault you with all her unsolicited opinions about your choices, blink disapprovingly and gaze about the room, as if you’re not sure who granted her access to your presence. Then remember it was you, and head off to do something more pleasant, like clean the turkey pan in the kitchen.
Maybe most importantly, and especially this year:
Don’t let political differences slide.
Oh, I am in the minority on this one. Here’s a guy from the Post telling you to let go of some relative's racist commentary about Syrian refugees, and just “chill out and have some pie.”
And here’re some ladies from ABC News advising you to keep things “light and positive.”
I’m not advocating that you start a big fight – I mean, unless that’s what you need to do. I am saying that right now, in this moment both nationally and globally, keeping things Light and Positive is a privilege we are obligated to reject.
Xenophobia and racism and police brutality and misogyny and support of Trump/Carson/Fiorina/Cruz aren’t just causing a little discomfort at your dinner table. They are all causing real pain for real people in the world. And you know what causes even more pain? Trying to sweep it all under the rug. Just ask Chicago.
You can be skillful as you reject this sort of bullshit. Adopt the measured tone of a guest journalist on Diane Rehm’s Friday News Roundup, and pretend your job is to present your ill-informed interlocutor with better information and more context in a kind and dignified way.
Channel Oprah and Rachel Maddow and Ellen Degeneres and Michelle Obama. Intend to have a real conversation. It might just happen. And if it doesn't, what's worse: an argument out loud, or an argument stuffed down into your guts?
Be generous in your great fortune, even with yourself.
It's with disbelief that I think back to the Thanksgivings of my childhood, when I ate gleefully: free from my food issues, from worry about genetically modified ingredients and vegetables shipped from California, from the nagging knowledge that many of my kids’ schoolmates will be lucky to have any dinner at all today.
I think back to when I made construction-paper placecards of Pilgrim hats and American Indian headdresses, blithely ignorant of the romanticized images that erased the history of genocide.
Reality can be such a drag. And yet, we have the power to shift it.
Thanksgiving is what we make it. I intend to make it about expressing gratitude.
About the joy of cooking and eating seasonal foods in excellent combinations.
About donating many times the cost of my family's meal to Manna.
About watching my kids make construction-paper placecards that aren't romantically racist.
About connecting with the people I love, and sharing food and real conversation.
(Happily, I’m celebrating with my functional family this holiday. If I weren’t, I’d probably play some of Martha Beck’s Dysfunctional Family Bingo).
Most most most most of all: I intend to be generous, even and especially with myself. Because I believe that we must honor, accept, and embody our whole selves - our angry, sad, scared, guilt-ridden, generous, courageous, evolving, irrepressible selves - in order to be forces for good in this world that is so hungry for good.
Signing off with another line of Gaga advice:
Rejoice and love yourself today / ‘cause baby, you were born this way.