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ENCORE: Friendsgiving is more than hashtags

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Photo credit: Chad Baker/Thinkstock
TRYPTOPHANICS: Friendsgiving has value surpassing Instagram cred.

Thanksgiving champions a lot of great ideas, namely stretchy pants and testing said stretchy pants' stretching abilities. (Let's focus less on the holiday's troubling origin.) It's a whole lot of nutmeg, socially acceptable day-drinking with family members, going to bed at 8 p.m., etc. I don't even hate the influx of decorative gourds. It's a secular holiday so wonderful it might as well be holy. And as a secular holiday favoring food above all else, Thanksgiving proves one of the easiest to inspire an off-shoot, related celebration.

Enter Friendsgiving. For the uninitiated, Friendsgiving is a friends-only, potluck-style treatment of the original holiday. Typically, it's celebrated just before or just after actual Thanksgiving. In the flurry of social media-spurred pseudo-holidays like friendaversaries and International Mens Day, it seems easy to scoff something as ridiculous-sounding as Friendsgiving right out of its very real existence; a desperate hunt for elusive, validating "likes." But there may be some meat at Friendsgiving's root.

Chris Brotzman mused in the McSweeney's essay "The First Friendsgiving" that Friendsgiving first became A Thing in 2008, born out of necessity from underpaid L.A. transplants unable to afford traveling home for normal Thanksgiving. That theory likely isn't far from the truth. Many large cities attracting non-locals have a rich history of celebrating traditionally family-centered holidays with just friends and other folks stranded thanks to the wrath of surge-priced airfare. That's one practical theory, but I'd argue its application to Atlanta.

Part of the popularity of Friendsgivings in Atlanta stems from our city's adoration of community. Atlanta is a place filled with many semi-locals (and some faraway transplants) who seem to love nothing more than to gather and eat food in each other's presence. A weekend sans festival beer-, zine-, cycling-, tattoo-, lit-, golden retriever owner-based are among a few that have happened in real life, at least once is a laughable idea. The strong sense of community and frequent impulse to gather lay at the city's very core, so it's no surprise such a number of Friendsgiving event pages surface each November.

In another, more grim vein, Friendsgiving presents the only realistic alternative to the original for some. Thanksgiving falls with a heavy family-centric focus that equates to that of Mother's and Father's Day combined, but on steroids. A quick Instagram scroll reveals scores of selfies with grandparents. Twitter gets stuffed harder than the turkey with authentic dad joke retweets. It's enough to make someone with a remotely shaky family life feel dizzy. Friendsgiving may offer a tryptophan I.V. drip without the painful family element.

However, Friendsgiving reigns most popular among the mid-20s to early-30s crowd. It's the cusp of when many people embark on creating their own nuclear family traditions (perhaps polishing a menagerie of their own dad jokes); a last gasp of extended adolescence in which it's common to favor friendships over family. More than anything, though, it feels like a dress rehearsal for this adulthood thing we're taught to fear early on. Despite the fact by this age many of us grasp 401Ks, "cohabitate" with a romantic partner, and have been doing a lot of responsible heavy lifting for a while, we forget to turn if a stranger addresses us by "ma'am" or "sir." That's our parents not us. Not yet.

So we practice. We gather in hoards along a Pinterest-perfect table, carefully but casually placing a glass dish on an unsuspecting corner of woodgrain real estate. All food items contain more than three ingredients even the cranberry sauce (somehow, presumably). The cocktail cart carries nary a bottle of Three Buck Chuck or tallboys. The host may or may not be ladling out a special, complex cocktail brewed up specifically for the occasion. Conversation balances a careful line between cultured and earnest. No one breaks out a bong or invites contestants to a bonus round of keg stands. Usually. You know, we do as adults do civilized and shit.

The parameters alone for adult consideration keep pushing up as we, ourselves, age. At 11, 30 sounded like a faraway concept synonymous with adulthood a starched figure with perfect posture, an understanding of foreign affairs, and a pristine pecan pie prowess. At 27, 30 sounds a lot more realistic: hard to define in blanket terms, ranging wildly from slouching, blas̀© bartender subsisting on oatmeal to the CEO with high blood pressure and Julia Child memorized. The real "adult" definition is more likely a muddled mixture of the two with one unifying quality: the hunch that we're all pretending that 30 or any other age doesn't grant us sagacious clarity or precision.

Because more often than not, the cranberry sauce originated in cylindrical form. Sometimes, that sauce is owning itself in presentation; sliced in thick, rounded hunks, crimped ridges glinting in IKEA candles' glow.

At 58, at least when I asked my dad, 30 is nothing. Adulthood, too, is a nebulous, unspoken guise we all slip into. "When do you finally feel adult?" I asked my grandmother last Thanksgiving. "When do you get it?" She laughed, scooping a forkful of buttery mashed potatoes. "When you figure that out," she said, "you let me know."

Maybe we'll all have to keep practicing.



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