Going home for Thanksgiving means many things: too much family time, awkwardly sleeping in your childhood bedroom and outgrowing your pants by the end of the weekend. What you don’t often think of is the obligatory high school reunion that one of your friends will drag you to. That’s me. I’m that friend that’ll drag you to the family restaurant in a strip mall in the middle of suburbia because most of our graduating class is drinking there.
Why? Because there is no better way to exercise the not-so-humble brag than catching up with the redhead who was your first kiss right after you got your braces off. Do you have a bruised ego from a handful of bad Bumble dates? This will do the trick. Trust me. While some call the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving "Thanksgiving Eve”, I call it showtime.
On this hallowed night in the Connecticut commuter town where I grew up, high school alumni congregate at one of two family Mexican places, both of which turn into playgrounds for divorcees on Saturday nights when the clock strikes 9. Last year, we mobbed an over-priced taco establishment designed to look like Nantucket with its blue and white striped cushions, white wooden tables and waiters dressed in gingham button downs. But it’s located right off of route 33 and they serve a cold Pacifico and that’s really all that matters.
To my delight, one of my four close friends from high school agreed to partake in the night’s festivities with me. I pulled the “it’ll be nice to see everyone and we only need to go for a half-hour” bit, but on the inside, I was hype. She came over and we downed a glass of my mom’s house Sauvignon Blanc before calling an Uber. Yes, my town has Uber. It’s trendy like that. The Uber had a 13-minute wait time.
When we arrived, the lights were dim and the crowd scarce. It was still early. We found a handful of guys from our under-aged basement days sitting in pulled-over chairs at the corner of a long table full of acquaintances one year our senior. We greeted the familiar faces with a smile-wave, an awkward arm grab or, if you were in the same fourth period AP government class, an across-the-table standing hug. My friend and I pulled over chairs of our own, and there was some uncomfortable scooting done to make room for us.
This was my moment.
“What are you doing?” “Where are you living?”
“Well, if you must know, I have my dream first job working at Food & Wine magazine.” “Yes, I eat all the time and write about it.” “Yes, there is free food.” “Yes, I go to a lot of restaurants.” “No, it’s not like The Devil Wears Prada.”
That, my friends, is the not-so-humble brag. It’s the little show I put on to let everyone know, tastefully, that I’M DOING GREAT. Which is true, but it’s especially important that these people, on this night, know it.
We make our rounds to different groups standing around the bar and keep that same conversation on loop. Everyone pretends like we’re old friends, whether or not we would’ve once said “hi” in the hallway. While few of us look any older than we did at 17, the playing field is entirely different now. We’re adults (or at least most of us aren’t living with our parents anymore) and our accomplishments are no longer measured in letter grades or varsity sports membership.
You realize that the social hierarchy of high school has dissolved and it really doesn’t matter what pre-prom group you were in. And isn’t that kind of great? To have one night to show your former classmates how far you’ve come from dressing as Kim Possible for spirit day? On this night before Thanksgiving, you have the rare opportunity to rewrite history just a little.
Thanksgiving Eve is just the confidence boost I need to eat that extra slice of pumpkin pie the following evening.