the boss of thanksgivingThanksgiving is supposed to be a day of thanks. It is supposed to be bountiful and generous and kind. But have you ever noticed how bossy it can be?

The Boss of Thanksgiving is the cultural script that demands that we celebrate the day in the socially sanctioned way. That means gathering with immediate family, extended family, and friends, around a table creaking under the weight of mountains of food.

Nothing wrong with that script if that’s how you really do like to spend your Thanksgiving. But what if you have a different fantasy of the perfect holiday?

My rant today was set off by, a group I typically adore. From that platform, ordinary people have time and again enlisted the help of other everyday people and created the change they envisioned.

Here’s the opening paragraph of a petition I was asked to sign a few days ago:

“In the past few weeks, over 230,000 people have signed my petition asking my employer, Target, to change its Black Friday shopping hours to let employees have Thanksgiving dinner with our families.”

I’m with the petitioner in resisting the encroachment of the shopping frenzy into the hours that rightly belong to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Do you see, though, what I don’t like about the framing of the plea?

The petitioner assumes that all employees – and by implication, all Americans – will be celebrating Thanksgiving with their families. (Later in the letter, a more expansive category – “loved ones” —  is mentioned.) But not everyone has the option of spending Thanksgiving with family or loved ones. Maybe even more importantly, not everyone wants to spend Thanksgiving that way, even if the opportunity is available to them.

Toward the end of the petition is this paragraph:

“After I was on TV, my manager offered me Thanksgiving day off. But I declined. This isn’t just about me – it’s about respecting one of the few days retail workers have a year to spend time with their families.” [emphasis was in the original]

I’m all for respect. So how about this? Let’s ask Target and all of the other stores bent on infringing on the holiday to respect every American’s wish to spend the day in whatever way they like. Those who luxuriate in the opportunity to spend the day in blissful solitude should not be expected to be called back to work prematurely any more than those who want to linger with the family over bonus rounds of pumpkin pie.

We are a diverse nation. The dreamiest way to spend a day off is not the same for everyone. No one should presume to know what a sublime Thanksgiving would look like for someone else. Target is not the boss of me. And much as I love it, neither is

Thanksgiving photo available from Shutterstock