“You can do what you want”: transplantism instead of tradition and friends instead of family.

The author of the blog Face to Face sometimes writes about the social trend he calls transplantism, which refers to people who migrate in adulthood to a different state from where they were born and grew up.  It seems to mean not just moving, but moving in order to satisfy some aspect of status-striving. He outlines three types of status-striving: career, lifestyle, and persona.

He has a number of very interesting posts on this subject, but one caught my eye on Thanksgiving evening, as I was relaxing with a cup of coffee just before we left to go out of town overnight, Transplant-ism Breaking Down Large Family Reunions on Thanksgiving.
Read the whole post (it’s brief), but I’ve picked out a quote that I found interesting:

“My memories of Thanksgiving in the ’80s still included most of the extended family, aside from an uncle and his wife who moved Out West awhile ago (my cousins through them were absent, too). For those of my mother’s siblings who stayed in the general region, it was common to see all the aunts and uncles, as well as the cousins, and of course the grandparents on that side. But those get-togethers involved one-way travel times of at most three hours by car for all involved, and usually under two hours. You could travel there and back in the same day, so nobody needed to put you up.

Contrast with today, where transplants spend seven or eight hours door-to-door, one-way, and will have to be put up for one or more nights.

There’s another way in which the lifestyle strivers seem to be making things worse. Since they’re foodies, meals are a fashion contest, and fashion corrodes tradition. So why would a foodie want to trek all the way back to family, just to have the same old things for Thanksgiving? They would rather spend Thanksgiving alone and pick up a pre-made dinner from Whole Foods, as long as they put sriracha in the stuffing. That’s something you could post to Facebook for status points — not whatever your non-foodie parents would have prepared.”

I found it interesting because this is a subject I’ve written about a bit myself*.  But I didn’t realize how bad the whole “foodie” and “friends instead of family” thing had gotten, especially among Gen Y and millennials. I even wondered if maybe he was exaggerating a little bit.

We got into the car and when we hit the highway, I settled back and decided to read the news on NPR on my phone.  This was literally the headline article:

How to Put Real Giving into the Friendsgiving Feast:

“Culturally, we’ve seen the rise of Friendsgiving, as young professionals take the opportunity to create the Thanksgiving they want with their friends,” says Clay Dunn, chief communications officer for Share Our Strength, a hunger nonprofit. “You can avoid your Aunt Ina’s terrible cranberry sauce. You can do what you want.”

And as long as you’re reinventing traditions, he says, why not put more emphasis on the “giving” in your feast? That’s the idea that Share Our Strength is pushing this year. It’s asking people to leverage their holiday goodwill by turning their friendly gatherings into fundraising opportunities to fight childhood hunger.

[…] So if the Friendsgiving fundraiser piques your interest, there are plenty of places to look for tips on planning the feast, like here and here. Share Our Strength has resources, including templates for table name cards and a Pinterest board for cooking and decorating inspiration, too.

[…] And if the do-good feeling isn’t enough to motivate you, Dunn says there are prizes. The top fundraiser will get to tour the official Food Network kitchens in New York.

I just had to laugh at how well the guy from Face to Face had described this.  Hey, don’t like the boring cranberry sauce that’s going to be served at your family’s?  Then don’t even bother with that multi-state drive home to see them.  Do what you want, but whatever you do, make sure to earn status points by creating fancy table name cards and signaling how charitable you are by making it a fundraiser for some charity no one’s ever heard.  Of course, there might be a little somethin’ in it for you, you Foodie, you!  How many of your friends have gotten to tour the Food Network kitchens, I ask you!

The sad thing is that these young people are chasing after the lie of modernity that blood is no thicker than water.  It’s not really about with whom you ate Thanksgiving dinner this year so much as it is about the whole ethos of the age, the disconnectedness, rootlessness, and emptiness of individualism (“You can do what you want!”) in place of family, faith, and tradition.

*Here are a few of my posts that are related to this subject:

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Break out the good stuff

My mother-in-law told me that she only has a stem or two of her wedding crystal left. The reason for this is because not only has she been quick to organize a social gathering for any occasion but also because she believes in “breaking out the good stuff” – using her prettiest china and nicest crystal for holiday dinners and get-togethers. Her philosophy has always been, “What are you saving it for? If it gets broken, well, that happens sometimes; you might as well enjoy it now because you can’t take it with you.”

I like this philosophy but haven’t really used it. When my husband and I got married, the shop attendant at Hudson’s tried to talk us into registering for Waterford crystal, which truly is gorgeous stuff but at that time cost around $60 per stem. We declined and instead registered for Mikasa crystal, which is also beautiful lead crystal though not quite up to Waterford standards, but it only cost $30 per stem at that time. Because we went with the less expensive crystal, we ended up getting the full set from our generous guests – including the champagne flutes, water goblets, and wine glasses. Of the set, I still have 5 champagne flutes, 5 water goblets, and 8 wine glasses all these years later; when I broke one of the champagne flutes while cleaning up after Thanksgiving, I just smiled and cleaned up the broken glass and blood. I will always have the memory of my sister-in-law pouring champagne which she’d stored out on our deck to keep chilled into that glass. The glass itself means nothing, but the memory of our Thanksgiving together will be with me always.

Throw a party, invite your family, and break out the good stuff. Don’t get upset if something breaks or spills – things are meaningless but people and memories are priceless. Don’t cling to what is worthless and miss what is truly valuable.

The Blessing of Extended Family

Thanksgiving was delightful; we had my husband’s mother, his aunt, one of his brothers and sister-in-law, and my father over.

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The family gathers (that’s me in the grey dress with one of our daughters laying against me).

We just sat by the fire chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Oh, and we ate a massive feast, too, which I didn’t get any pictures of, but Philip took a few pictures of the pretty table my mother-in-law and I set:

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I had a surprisingly stress-free holiday despite all the cooking and cleaning I did, probably because my mother-in-law came over and spent the night on Wednesday and we stayed up late drinking wine and preparing food, but also because I remember reading some commentary from Vox Day last year that really put holiday preparations into perspective. Vox reposted it this year, so I’m quoting it here:

If you are a man:

  • Remember that the women are putting in a lot of work and are feeling a lot of stress. This is not the time to remember things at the last minute or lament how things were done differently when you were a child. Avoid throwing curve balls.
  •  Don’t tell her to relax. She’s not going to do so anymore than you are during a hard-fought basketball game. Holiday-hosting can perhaps be best understood as a competitive sport for women, even if the only competitors are in her mind.
  •  Ask her if there is anything you can do twice per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Simply having someone willing to run out to the store once or twice, if necessary, can save her considerable time and reduce tensions.
  •  Pour yourself a glass of wine as soon as it gets dark. Offer her one. She’ll probably need it.
  •  Don’t let her get away with snapping at you or anyone else. The objective is to be helpful and considerate, not a doormat.

If you are a woman:

  • Try to remember that it’s a celebration, not a competition, and the world will not end if a particular dish is not served or something doesn’t go exactly the way you planned it.
  • The only person who can ruin the holiday for yourself is you. In fact, the only person who is likely to ruin the holiday for everyone else is you. Don’t be that woman.
  • If someone is taking pictures or video, just smile. Drawing additional attention to yourself by complaining and protesting looks far more ridiculous than any bedhead or lack of makeup does.

My father called me today to tell me what a nice time he’d had, and it made me start thinking about how much better I feel when our extended family is all together. Sure, we don’t see eye to eye on some things and sometimes we irk or annoy each other, but one of the great lies of modernistic liberalism is that blood is no thicker than water. The truth is that no one has your back like your family does; friends come and go, but the people you share kinship with are (or should be) your foundation and fortress. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let the petty crap go and focus on how grateful I am for family, both nuclear and extended, especially extended.

On yesterday’s post, Mrs. Minter remarked:

You know, I got a little bit of confusion from co-workers this week when I declined to celebrate Thanksgiving with them in the form of a pot luck. I like my co-workers, but I simply am tired of celebrating holidays with people other than my own family on days other than the actual holiday. Was I being a grump? I guess. But, I am now having a fantastic vacation at home with the people I am meant to spend it with- with the extra energy I didn’t spend elsewhere. I know my family appreciates it.

I completely get where she’s coming from.

If you didn’t get to see your family this Thanksgiving, make sure to see them at Christmas. And if you can move closer to be with them, do it.