how to have Sad Thanksgiving, the Soul of Life, and rapid tests

In high school, I gave a presentation on Nena’s 99 Luftballons—the original German version—while suffering from a full-blown kidney infection.

The assignment was to present on an anti-war protest song, and I wasn’t going to blow my A in AP US History. So I dragged myself out of bed, popped extra Motrin, smeared concealer over my wan visage, and hauled myself into class to give a short speech about the 1983 hit from German pop star Nena. I even stopped by Party City on the way to get red balloons to hand out as a visual aid.

The problem is, I kept nearly blacking out throughout my presentation. Kidney infections make you incredibly weak, so I would say a few words, then have to grab onto something to keep from collapsing. “You see, when she’s talking about the Kriegsministers,” [vision fades to black] “she’s actually subtly advocating for” [knees nearly buckle] “nuclear disarmament.” [chugs amoxicillin]

I did get an A. But it was not worth it.

My point is, sometimes you can technically accomplish your goal, but it would be better for you and everyone else if you simply didn’t try. I feel like telling my luftballon-kidney-infection story to everyone who is traveling to a big indoor family Thanksgiving this year despite the skyrocketing COVID numbers and the constant warnings from public-health officials to not do this. Yes, you will technically get your Thanksgiving. But it could take a toll on your health so immense that will make it a pyrrhic victory at best.

Instead, do what I do almost every year and have Thanksgiving by yourself! Other than a few years when friends have invited us over, my boyfriend and I have spent almost every Thanksgiving of our adult lives doing nothing much.

I’ve always lived far from home, and plane tickets are appallingly expensive around this time. It’s not really a Russian holiday, and after 15 years of trying to get my Soviet parents to prepare and eat Stove Top stuffing, I frankly lost the energy for it. And Rich’s parents, well, they’re dead.

So we don’t go anywhere, we don’t do anything. We don’t have political arguments at the dinner table because we sometimes don’t even have dinner, we just graze on cheese and cookies and other delicious garbage all day.

I call this Sad Thanksgiving, but it’s actually glorious. No work emails come through, because unlike Christmas, almost everyone celebrates Thanksgiving. The weather is often better than it is during other winter holidays. And, because the next day is usually also a holiday, you can imbibe slightly more than you would on a typical Thursday, if you’re so inclined. On Sad Thanksgiving, you can truly enjoy and be thankful for what’s greatest about America: Television and Total Wine.

So this year, stay home, stay safe, and make Nena proud.


Forgot to mention this here, but few months ago I spoke with Keith Miller, a therapist in Washington, for his podcast, the Soul of Life. Keith’s a wonderful interviewer (wouldn’t you expect a therapist to be?), and we had a great time. Keith is also my go-to source for stories about couples’ issues, and I would never, ever call him for an interview when really I just want help with my own relationship, no I would never do that.

Buy WEIRD


A few stories recently I’m proud of:

Why Don’t We Already Have At-Home COVID Tests?

Why People Are Eating Inside Restaurants, and Why Experts Say That’s a Bad Idea

I bid you Auf Wiedersehen with the GOAT: