It’s the morning after Thanksgiving and I’m starving.
I just got some coffee, and my stomach is begging for food. I feel like I haven’t eaten in a week.
Is it because I exercised restraint yesterday and followed through with my game plan?
I’m hungry because there has been a break in the flow of gluttony. After shoveling in various food stuffs all day as if my tongue had sprouted gears and turned into a conveyor belt, the fat-manufacturing machinery my body had morphed into ground to a halt, the gears stopped, and I had to sleep because I was utterly exhausted.
It’s really hard work packing the food in, layer on top of layer on top of layer.
My stomach is apparently confused this morning. I can imagine my stomach saying to me, What the heck just happened? I’ve been churning various food stuffs (some stuffs extremely questionable as to whether or not they can be categorized as food) continually for hours and hours straight and well done I say, because I didn’t make you puke once to create room for more crap you kept shoveling into me, and now what? Now what do I do? I don’t remember how to stop churning.
I blame it on the appetizers.
It started with the appetizers, of course. The biggest problem with the appetizers is not that they look so appetizing (they do) or that I was hungry (I wasn’t), it’s because I have to find an excuse to stay out of the kitchen where the women are slaving away with Einstein hair because of the steam, and occupy myself in order to avoid watching football on the television in the den where all the men are whooping it up.
So I station myself in-between at the appetizer table. I tell the women I am starving, and this excuses me from the kitchen slave pit where the heat would not only frizz my hair but also melt my makeup and make me look hideous. And I can’t just stand there staring at hors d’oeuvres and sugary baked goods, shifting from one foot to the other awkwardly. I must play the part.
So I nibble on a tiny toast with a tiny slice of cheese. This doesn’t take very long. I scan the table for my next snack, trying to look busy. There are Ritz crackers topped with unidentifiable layers of sugary substances. Dips and chips galore in festive holiday bowls. Pumpkin, banana, and cranberry breads sliced and collated. Cookies of every imaginable configuration arranged on trays the size of table tops.
I toggle between sweet and salty. After something sweet, I always crave salty. After a cookie, I go for some chips with dip. After a few chips I grab a slice of pumpkin bread. I successfully occupy myself in this manner avoiding eye contact with the women, who are pumping out dishes with a mastery born of millennia of cell memory, when they fed whole tribes.
When I come to—I have already almost put myself into a food coma—I realize my clothes feel tight at the waist. At this point I am filled with regret about my choice of outfits. I simply couldn’t sacrifice fashion for comfort, and now here I am, wishing I’d worn a loose dress (if I had one) instead of the adorable Guess jeans, pink sweater, and Italian boots I got at Ross for a quarter of their original price. Not to mention I’m HOT. The cooking in the kitchen has ramped up for its finale and the steam clouds are now rolling out into the rest of the house.
I’m already stuffed, overheated, and uncomfortable. Why didn’t I bring a cute little t-shirt to change into?
And dinner hasn’t even been served yet. I anticipate a very, very long day. I tell myself, Self, you can do this. Just embrace the horror.
The announcement to sit down for dinner is made by one of the neighbor women sporting an apron with a large cornucopia printed on the front, as she brushes back her Einstein hair. I hear the TV room go silent and the whooping cease. The men are now rising up and emerging from the den in a clump, heading toward the feasting prepared by their women as is their due.
My Uncle Todd is wearing a Viking helmet and carrying a battle axe—oh no, he’s not, that’s just the delirium from my massive intake of sugar talking.
The table is groaning with pounds of food. The sideboard, the countertops, and all horizontal surfaces are overflowing with Thanksgiving faire—much of which is only seen at Thanksgiving. Take the cranberry sauce for instance. The manufacturers of canned cranberry sauce must make all their profits in two weeks of the year. Never mind that no one likes it particularly. It’s a tradition and one must partake.
The men all spoon heaps of everything onto their plates, with no mind to pacing themselves. They start stacking food on top of food when the plate runs out of room. Dinner rolls are balanced precariously on the top of the heap.
They don’t seem to care at all that it’s hot, that their waists are expanding, or how many calories they are consuming. My father is already asking about the pies.
Well of course, mens’ pants fit below the belly, allowing for indeterminate expansion and comfort no matter how much is stuffed into their gullets. I read somewhere that a male’s metabolism is 17.5% higher than a female’s. It’s so unfair. That’s why they can chow down on deviled eggs, bowls of Chex mix and bottles of beer, and then pile their plates like Vikings just home from months at sea.
As is right and proper, grace is said before the eating begins. It’s always a little off kilter however, as some of the quests have already tasted their mashed potatoes or Aunt Wanda’s green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and French-fried onions. That’s aside from the fact that everyone has already been jamming food in since they arrived.
Invariably a child is asked to say grace. All the young people at the table(s) under the age of sixteen are trying to blend into their chairs when the matriarch—my grandmother—scans the table for a likely candidate. The really little ones are already having fun at the tiny Barbie table, excused from the ordeal of having to construct a suitable prayer to the Almighty, in front of all the family and friends.
I see sweat bead up on a few young foreheads. Stage fright can be so debilitating. Gramma selects Brandon, a pimply fourteen-year-old budding violinist sitting at the card table attached to the expanded dining table, whose face has turned red making his pimples turn purple. It’s even worse because the card table is slightly lower than the dining table, and the extra chairs relegated to it are from his little sister’s play table, so Brandon’s head is a foot below the adult’s all staring at him.
He clears his throat with an expression halfway between desperation and terror. His voice squeaks a little from a overly excited, underdeveloped Adam’s apple. One can’t say no to Gramma on this, her day of undeniable queen-hood over the family. His prayer is barely above a whisper—something about God being great and God being good—and finally the clanking of forks, knives and spoons fills the air. Brandon does not look as though he is recovered even after everyone stops staring at him.
I am coveting the warm, buttery, soft, siren-like dinner rolls. They are beckoning with persistence and promises they can’t keep. Go ahead, they say, take me. It’s just one day, and I am just a very small hunk of delicious white bread. Just one can’t hurt. Go ahead.
So I give in. I butter the dinner roll and a part of me dies. The part with any vestige of willpower left. There is a larger part of me thriving at the moment—the part that manufactures fat cells.
Can it get worse?
I actually, beyond imagining, go back for seconds of mashed potatoes and stuffing, smothered in gravy. I have lost my mind. But my brain is still alert enough to hide the carrot salad I didn’t eat with a bit of gravy. I smile at Gramma. She smiles back but her eyes look like a hawk’s.
My clothes feel like a body corset, the straps pulled so tight I can’t breathe. Standing up is even a challenge. I must lift my butt first and lean back so I don’t fold at the waist too much—if I do the food, already packed in halfway up my esophagus, will simply be squeezed out of my mouth like toothpaste from a new tube given the least amount of pressure.
The women all start the changing of the plates (from dinnerware to dessert-ware) and covering dishes for snacking on leftovers later. The pies are revealed. Tubs of whipped cream are unearthed. The question, Who has room for pie?, is not even asked. No one has room for pie. But that does not seem to be an issue.
I ask for a very small piece of pie. This is taken to mean a 3-inch slice which is significantly smaller than the “man” portion. At this point I wish I could burp. I ask for any carbonated beverage available thinking it will allow some air to escape and relieve some of the pressure. Ginger ale does make me belch, but with it comes undigested food and I get to taste Aunt Wanda’s green bean casserole again.
Ick and more ick. My one consolation is that most every other adult is in the same condition I am. When I use the restroom, I experience a moment of bliss when I unzip my Guess jeans. Having to squeeze back into them however, negates any benefit from the bliss. I avoid looking at my midsection as I wash my hands. I know it’s not pretty. And a side view would just about do my ego in.
I decide to help the women do some clean up. The football games have resumed in the den but the whooping is less enthusiastic. The kitchen is jammed. The dishwasher is vibrating like a 1950’s washing machine and the sink is piled high with soaking pots. It’s like a Dr. Seuss story about the Chubs from Chubsville.
Then comes the afternoon lull. Everyone is dazed and half asleep. Some of the men are emitting loud snores. The kids have scattered. And the women are shuffling about bagging leftovers for guests and next-day soups. With this much food complexity, organization is key.
Then the most unbelievable part of Thanksgiving happens.
The picking at leftovers begins. Whole plates of food are microwaved. As soon as stomachs have passed enough contents off to the small intestines, there are spaces that can be refilled.
And of course, after one eats another plate of food, one must balance that with a visit to the dessert trays and pies which are not really pies without whipped cream. And so it goes, until one rolls one’s self out of the house, down the sidewalk, and into one’s car, where one can unzip one’s pants in hopes one isn’t stopped for speeding, which would create a situation whereby one would have to surreptitiously zip back up before the police person got to one’s car window.
I got home after Thanksgiving dinner (if an eating marathon of that magnitude can be called such) without incident. It was absolute heaven to take off my clothes and snuggle into loose pajamas. I crawled into bed and watched Netflix, while munching on leftover pie and cookies now that my stomach wasn’t corseted anymore.
I still may have time today, the day after Thanksgiving, to cash in on some of the Black Friday sales. I’m going to need some slightly larger jeans with stretch denim to get me through the rest of the holidays.