As much as the native Americans and pilgrims came together to peacefully feast, the modern Thanksgiving table often becomes the dividing line in every family between political and generational feuds and sometimes great food wars. Sore points of who’s turkey or stuffing was too dry or who wants cranberry from a can or a stovetop, often engender bruised feelings and egos from passive-aggressive kitchen comments. And the endless debate over the superiority of pies from scratch or store bought that will never be surrendered.
But when you live more than 1,000 miles away from family, choosing holidays to spend together becomes a much less impactful Sophie’s choice decision between two holidays that are only four weeks apart. We chose Christmas to spend as a family and that leaves the question of what do you do for Thanksgiving…and Friendsgiving was born.
A few years ago, several of our Florida friends, who equally opt for Christmas gatherings elected to get together with each other. It was a happy revelation and could be a blueprint for others.
Instead of fights, criticism and debates, the holiday was refreshingly jovial and entirely pleasant. Everyone contributed a dish, which produced a wonderful smorgasbord of different Thanksgiving delicacies from traditionalists, regionalists and some who followed an eclectic path.
Of course, they was still football and wine, a lot of wine, but there were also friendly discussions and games. This year, someone recommended a dinner party game while eating. There was, of course, the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of playing “never have I ever” which almost gained traction until someone else proposed another game called “who would play me in the movie”.
You play by going around the table and everyone weighs in on what actor, living or dead, could play you in the movie of your life. Ideas are thrown out for each person and discussion ensues, based on what characteristics, personality, likeness and prior roles would garner that actor the job. Then each person gets to decide which actor they prefer, or by popular vote…majority wins.
It’s an interesting test of how different people view their counterparts and what makes a good biopic. Of course, there are cases for similarity in likenesses of the same facial structure, eyes, nose, etc. And, of course, with a group of seniors, the likeness test sometimes would degrade to… “You look like this Ryan Gosling, if he was older or you could be Drew Barrymore, but with blond hair and if you were thinner with a shorter, nose,” leaving the question of why they thought that actor resembled them in the first place.
Other people made arguments for comparable personalities or like a similar character they played in a movie, which reminds them of you. In some cases, each perception of personality had the same response as likeness. “You would be like Rodney Dangerfield, if you were funnier. Or maybe Meryl Streep, or if you were smarter or more serious. Which begs the question…if you have to change everything, why did you pick this person in the first place?
It’s a fun game, though can be an odd way to peer through the looking glass at yourself, through a friend’s eyes. What other people see sometimes is not the way you view yourself.
But I found the most fascinating proposal was one without any reason. For each person at the table, one friend said they wanted a particular actor to play them… just because. He would not defend his selections and they all seemed to have no rhyme or reason. No one looked like the other person and personalities or even age weren’t the same.
Their choices were eliminated immediately by the group. So, after the game ended with a lot of laughs and a few revelations, I asked this person…
“Why did you pick those people?”
“Because in my mind, that’s who I want them to be,” he said.
And that’s the perfect encapsulation of the entire Thanksgiving table. Who thinks they can convert their crazy uncle to embrace their lifestyle or even hairstyle over one meal? Your aunts will never ever agree on the exact temperature of turkey or moisture level of stuffing. And the homemade group will never concede that store-bought is just as good. So is the table an arena to air grievances or a place where we can hope those sitting across from us are all we want them to be?