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Spend This Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Finest Threads

Gravy stains be damned, getting dressed up is easily the best way to ensure Thanksgiving isn’t just another day in quarantine

Our Thanksgiving op-eds have been coated in butter and dunked in a barrel of boiling oil. Now our house is on fire. But nothing, nothing will convince us otherwise. So pass the alcoholic gravy — here are our deep-fried holiday takes.

I’m not too proud to admit that in the early days of quarantine, I refused to take advantage of the opportunity to dress down. In fact, for one important(ish) meeting that was supposed to be in-person but had now been moved to Zoom — on Day Three of California’s stay-at-home order if memory serves — I even put on a sport jacket, of which only the upper portion of the lapel was visible (moronically, I didn’t realize this until I saw myself on screen), and a pair of dress socks, which were entirely for my benefit (same for the cologne I sprayed myself with). I’m also not too proud to admit that I kinda bought into the idea that regular routines (and wardrobes) would help achieve balance and normalcy amidst a plague that would bring only chaos. 

I have, of course, been completely disabused of this notion over the last eight months. And while I haven’t fallen completely into perpetual Sunday hangover-wear, I have supplanted hair product with an L.A. Kings hat and not worn a button-down shirt more than once or twice in the last six months — and only because as it became clear that Zoom backgrounds were much more crucial than attire in terms of personal presentation, I hoped that a collar would cover for the fact that my bedroom-cum-office was badly in need of the paint job I’d been putting off for years. (Thank god for the Google Hangout blur-your-background setting.)

The same can be said for the rest of my family, probably best represented by my six-year-old son, for whom no task cannot be completed in pajamas. Who am I to blame him? They do look amazingly comfortable. He puts on a clean pair every morning after a shower, picking them out with the same care as Don Draper besuited himself. And most importantly, it makes him happy (god willing, he will forever remember quarantine as the year he got to wear PJs everyday, which sure as hell beats the alternative).

This all changes on Thanksgiving, though. We will not take to the dinner table in anything less than our finest threads. Since we’re not from around here — here being L.A. — and traveling back to our families in Chicago is treacherous, it will just be the four of us (me, my wife, my eight-year-old daughter and the aforementioned boy in pajamas). Which is exactly why the typical quarantine dress will not be allowed. We see each other every minute of every day in the same clothes, in the same situations, and in this context at least, eating from the same table. Something must give, and a televised parade and giant spread of protein and carbs ain’t gonna cut it. The same goes for cooking together. That was the go-to timewaster of the spring and early summer. We have long moved beyond finding consistent joy in breaking Instagram-worthy bread in such a manner. 

And so, it falls to the clothes. I’m not a monster. I’m not suggesting formalwear — a vest and cummerbund for the boy and I and evening gowns for the ladies of the house (after all, food stains are both highly likely and encouraged on such a gluttonous day). But I am requiring something that clears the very low bar of business casual, which pretty much just means nice jeans and a sweater, or an ensemble that wouldn’t get you turned away at a strip-mall chain steakhouse. To that end, I was once not provided a table at a Southern California Ruth’s Chris outpost because I was wearing a hoodie. That’s exactly what I’m talking about here. No pajamas, no Kings hats, and like the kindly yet firm maitre d’ at Ruth’s Chris informed me, no hoodies. 

I’m also a realist. I know this will last all of 45 minutes, or however long it takes to beckon Thanksgiving bloat. I realize, too, we will hastily get ready just minutes before dinner is served and then quickly retreat to comfortable clothing once it’s finished — perhaps the exact moment we part from the table. But goddamn it, if we’re not as fancy as a family of Midwestern basics can be for those 45 minutes. 

Only then can everything go back to normal.