It’s the day before Thanksgiving 2020, and I’m cleaning up my place for a small dinner with my pod (the same folks I’ve been quarantining with all year), but all I can think about is isolation after reading today’s NYTimes article about Thanksgiving alone for people in New York.
I have a great big family that loves to get together to eat and drink, but over the years things have changed … my parents passed away, siblings have children and grandchildren of their own, and holiday travel is just … yuck, no, thanks.
Enter “Friendsgiving” celebrations, which I have come to cherish (not to be confused with “Shamesgiving”, a bizzaro-world holiday my friend Edmond invented to have an excuse to eat turkey in the spring and air grievances, pre-Festivus). Friendsgivings happened everywhere I lived: Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago, and a memorable one in Berlin where I learned the weltschmerz of cooking a giant meal on a tiny German stove. Each time it was a group of people, mostly queers, who were brought together by choice or circumstance to eat, drink and celebrate with a chosen family. As you might expect, tradition (gotta have my green bean casserole) was mixed with experimentation (my friend Eduardo’s Salvadoran turkey 🤤), and the result was usually magical, and always memorable.
covid & social isolation
This year, the change in celebrations reminds me of my time working at San Francisco AIDS Foundation, where one of the main enemies we were fighting was social isolation. People diagnosed with HIV/AIDS suffer from it disproportionately, as do older people, people of color and transgender folks. In a cruel twist, this same isolation can then further harm people’s health, potentially increasing risky behavior, drug and alcohol use, etc.
Covid can create lots of the same problems, and while the disease is less deadly than AIDS, it impacts the daily lives of far more people. As gay men learned with HIV, we have to manage risk for ourselves while acknowledging that other people won’t make the same choices we do. It’s frustrating and can make you feel powerless.
what to do about it
So while you’re celebrating this Thanksgiving and holiday season, I just want to leave you with a couple of thoughts:
- Please, please be safe and follow CDC recommendations about holiday gatherings. I want to see you next year after we have a vaccine.
- There are times when it’s really hard to feel good these days, and that’s ok. Everything kinda sucks. But choosing to feel and express gratitude for the good people and things in your life can be a powerful antidote to those sucky feelings.
- Reach out to people you know who live alone or may not have the same social support you do – even if you can’t spend time with them in person, I promise you it will make a difference in their lives. Maybe start with “Are you OK?”.
I hope your holiday season is safe, happy, healthy and at least a little bit queer (or a lot queer, it’s 2020, do your thing). Thank you for reading, and thanks for the folks in my life that I’ve leaned on and who have trusted me to support them this weird-ass year.