I love carving the turkey because at around 9:30 at night, when my wife is still cleaning up and getting madder and madder that I watched football all day, I have a ready answer for this exchange:
Her (sarcastic): “Thanks for the help!”
Me: “Come on, I carved the turkey!”
…I’d like to thank the guy who invented turkey carving for making me feel useful on my single laziest day.
Simmons has made repeated comments like this one about Thanksgiving and marital stress over the last few weeks, culminating with a comment last week that Thanksgiving football precipitates more divorces than any other holiday or sporting event.
You see, there are now three professional football games on Thanksgiving: the Lions, the Cowboys and a Thursday evening night cap. Prior to this year, the Lions game could simply be ignored, but now even that team has improved (Strongly resisting the urge to taunt Detroit fans here. What can I say? I’m a Chicagoan.). But watching three straight football games on any holiday seems pretty risky, and Simmons comments got me thinking: Is my football-watching annoying my wife? Are other people under the impression that Thanksgiving is NOT about football?! So I took a drastic step. I actually asked my wife how she felt about Thanksgiving football.
For some men, this might seem like opening up Pandora’s Box. But here’s the thing: I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that I am pretty insulated from holiday-related criticism. I mean, I regularly bake desserts. I have been known to hand wash dishes after large family meals. I even voluntarily sleep on the floor when visiting my in-laws. How could a nice guy like me possibly offend anyone by watching football? Right? (Many male readers are currently nodding their heads, I assure you.)
So I asked Amber a simple question: “What is Thanksgiving all about?” This question is akin to asking someone, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” Thankfully, she did not imitate Linus by dragging a blanket onstage and offering a heartfelt speech about pilgrims, first winters and our proud American heritage. She responded with, “There are four things that should happen on Thanksgiving: eating, spending time with family, watching the parade and watching football.”
I was obviously incredulous. There’s a parade on Thanksgiving? And someone wants to watch it? Very strange stuff, indeed. Also, football was number four on her list? I mean, my Thanksgiving list would have been food and football. Period. You might think I felt guilty when she mentioned that Thanksgiving should be about spending time with family. You would be wrong. It’s presumed that family are sitting near me during the whole “food and football” thing, but they’re obviously not the focal point. Let’s not get carried away.
At any rate, I risked a second question also: “At what point would you say too much football has been watched on Thanksgiving?” Then I took a deep breath. My wife’s answer to this question could significantly affect all future holidays, obviously. I would watch no less football on TV, but I could very well find myself feeling guilty for doing so. Yikes. Amber’s response? “Towards the end of the second game, I would probably start getting restless. I’m fine with football being part of the day, but I hate the way it follows familiar gender roles: women in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up while men sit around watching football. Plus, 6 hours of football is a lot.” Now, I would never deny that 6 hours of football is a lot. I would, however, argue that 6 hours of football is not enough. And you know how I solve restlessness? I stand up, I take a food break and then I sit down again.
Again, I avoided feeling too guilty about my wife’s comments. Remember: I do some cooking, and I do some cleaning. I also play with my kids during football games. So those pesky gender roles that bother Amber are not being completely followed in our household. But that did not change the fundamental tension here. Thanksgiving football may not exactly be pushing our marriage to the brink, but it was capable of causing some tension at least. My perfect Thanksgiving is filled with football. My wife’s perfect Thanksgiving involves decidedly less football. So I might not feel guilty about my priorities or behaviors, but my priorities and behaviors clearly affect my wife’s holiday experience, nonetheless. That’s marriage for you: your actions simply cannot exist in a vacuum any more.
With my wife’s perspectives in mind, I made some pretty deliberate efforts today. I ate our Thanksgiving meal and cleaned the kitchen during the Packers-Lions game. I made my pies during the Dolphins-Cowboys game. I even watched a little of the Macy’s parade. You know what? These were pretty small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things. My Thanksgiving was still enjoyable, and my wife’s Thanksgiving was pretty okay too. Perhaps I should ask my wife for her honest opinion more often.
Perhaps I should also bring a book or magazine for use during the parade. Listening to Matt Lauer gush about floats and lip syncing pop stars is probably not quite as bad as having your fingernails slowly pulled out…but it’s way less entertaining than football for sure.
- Cliff (aka The Husband)