Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Quirkyalone Thanksgiving ... at the dog park

If you are single, the Quirkyalone Web page has a few amusing tips on surviving Thanksgiving. In addition, the Web page has a link that states that single households now outnumber nuclear family households. On the Web page, you'll find plenty of single folks who love the holiday as a time to connect with family and friends.

When I was a kid, I went to my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. After eating, the men would go in the living room, light up their cigarettes and watch the Detroit/Cowboys game. Never liking either team - and being the youngest by at least 11 years, I usually was a bit bewildered. I didn't want to go into the kitchen and hear the women talk and tease me about girlfriends. But I hated smoke - so I usually wound up going outside and reading a few Bloom County books I brought along.

Fast forward about 20 years. I go to my sister's for Thanksgiving. My mom comes up from Lincoln. My brother-in-law's family comes over. They ask the same questions my extended family asked of me when I was a kid - but substitute 'work' for 'school.'
"How's school?"
"How's work?"
"Got a girlfriend yet?"

And that was about it. But to their credit, I usually stopped asking questions after "how's your job going?" Fortunately, after about 12 years of interviewing people, I've been able to squeeze just enough idle chit chat out of people so I don't seem like a sullen, bitter, single person. It's one of the skills journalists tend to pick up.

My sister has two dogs. Two magnificent dogs. One's a samoyed, one's an Australian lab/border collie mix. After the Thanksgiving feast, the women drink coffee and talk about their kids or crafts. The guys (non-smoking) are in the TV room, dozing off at the Cowboys game and making generic comments about the commercials. (e.g. "oh, he's in trouble" - as a comedic situation strips a guy of his clothes in front of a hot girl and his wife comes in). I'm full from the dinner and dessert. I'm restless because I can't really relate to anyone. I need fresh air. So I grab the leashes.

Instantly, the dogs go ape shit. I'd be lying to say I didn't feel any smug sense of validation. For the past three or so hours, I've been the odd piece of the family puzzle. I want this family to open a few bottles of wine, laugh and talk about anything not related to church groups, kids, cars or crafts. But I'm sure they want me just to find a girl, produce a few kids and get a house so I can join their conversations about lawn care and school placement. But these two dogs bark and jump happily. They lick my face and start circling me as I fill up their water bottles. I wave and take the dogs out and head to the dog park. All of a sudden, the single person becomes the center of attention on Thanksgiving for a reason other than incarceration or to be subjected to the "you'll find someone speech." The dogs pile into my Corolla and we head off.

The dog park on Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually packed. Usually with guys. There are a few younger women. I even suspect a few stray gay guys are in the mix. Everyone has this sense of escape and relief as they see their Vizslas, labs and Weimaraners wrestle, chase frisbees and run. I look at this 50ish guy whose 49ers sweatshirt is barely covering his gut, looking out at the park and the gothic chapel that protrudes the cluster of pine trees.

"Had to get out of the house for awhile" he says to no one in particular.

I'm right there with you, brother.

Happy Thanksgiving - 2005


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