There's a lot to be grateful for when you're spending Thanksgiving by yourself: while everyone's stressing over menus, head counts, and turkey-to-potato ratios, you're stocking up on all your favorite rosés and Redbox flicks; and while your coworkers might be dreading spending the weekend with their in-laws, the only thing giving you anxiety is the thought of running out of mini pecan pie tartlets before you finish Catching Fire. Let's not forget the built-in relief that comes with not having to fake-laugh at anyone's jokes at the dinner table; of not paying a second thought to pretending to be thrilled about Third-Cousin-Once-Removed Bill's boring dissertation on his life in the start-up realm, and the obvious, the fact that exactly no one expects you to politely grin-and-bare-it when your mother-in-law shares with the table you and your partner's combined income. Like I said, there are a few bonuses to spending the day by yourself.
And while the day has so many upsides (not sharing the sweet potatoes? Sign me the fudge up!), hosting Thanksgiving for just one person isn't exactly a cakewalk. How much should you cook? Do you have to prep the dishes? What do you do when everything's cooking... and what about after the meal? Do you even have to put pants on?
The short answer is no, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. The holiday is what you make of it — what you're thankful for — so celebrate how you see fit. That said, though, it doesn't hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve going into it. Even if you're not trying to impress anyone at the table, you've still more than earned a delicious meal.
So here's how to do it.
1. Skip the whole bird — just buy a breast.
Be realistic about what you're going to eat on Thanksgiving. If you and 16 of your cousins can't finish off a whole bird, what on earth makes you think you'll be able to do more damage on your own? (Hint: You won't, so quit while you're ahead.) Buy the breast a few days in advance. It'll roast in a fraction of the time — and it's harder to mess up.
2. Don't buy cranberry sauce! You hate it, remember?
Guess what you're also not responsible for this year? Buying the weird Thanksgiving sides you absolutely despise. You don't like them; so don't serve them. It's as simple as that.
3. If you screw it up, just scrap the meal and start over.
Aunt Muriel, be damned! No one can throw side-eye at you for overcooking the turkey, or burning the stuffing, if there's no one there to bother you. If things go wrong, guess what? You're off the hook — and free to make something completely different instead. After all, who's gonna tell on you?
4. Have a little fun with your impromptu menu!
Cousin Jim's gluten-free allergy doesn't matter tonight. Neither does Neighbor Claire's dairy-free diet (which totally sucks, by the way). The only mouth and belly you need to keep in mind tonight is your own. So get creative with your Thanksgiving side dishes.
5. Pamper yourself.
Guess what you don't have to do today? Stress. All over the world, tears will be shed over gravy recipes gone wrong and dry rib meat. But not you. Today is a day to take care of yourself, inside and out. Whether that means going for a long walk, a run, or spending three hours in a bubble bath with a good book and your favorite wine, all that matters is how you choose to be thankful for your own gifts.
6. Grab a few movies.
Your post-dinner coma will feel a whole lot better if you've got all three Lord of the Rings movies to wash it down with. Before the big day (and by big, we mean filling), plan out your movie marathon. Are you going to Netflix your favorites? Do you want to hit the theater for a date with yourself? Or do you want to rent the movies and cuddle up to a bowl of popcorn?
7. Keep appetizers and desserts mini.
So much of why we love Thanksgiving — aside from the whole "spending time with our loved ones" thing — is because we get to shamelessly gorge ourselves from morning to night on all our favorite dishes. Being alone doesn't mean you still don't have the chance to do that. But when it comes to meal prep, do yourself a favor and keep the pre- and post-dinner snacks mini. You'll eat way less and have cute little leftovers for the next day.
8. Call your loved ones.
Maybe you couldn't get home because of sky-high ticket costs. Maybe you didn't want to go home. Maybe you don't have a home to call your own anymore. Maybe everyone else had plans. Maybe you're overseas, traveling the world and discovering yourself. Whatever the reason, just because you're not physically in the room with your loved ones doesn't mean you're not still present in their lives. So take 10 minutes and call the people that matter most to you. Being thankful for someone doesn't mean you have to hold them in your arms while you tell them. Emotion travels over phone and Internet, too.
9. Shop when the big-timers do.
If you're smart, you'll break your Thanksgiving shopping trip into two parts: A week before and again a few days before. Shopping seven days ahead of the holiday will give you time to roam the stores free of stampedes, so you can pick up all your canned goods and other nonperishables. Hit the aisles again a few days closer for your fresh veggies and any extras you might've missed. The fact that you're throwing a feast for one doesn't mean you don't still need to shop when the rest of the population does.
10. Buy some wine — lots of wine.
Congratulations! No one's going to tell you to "tone it down" after three glasses of Godello just 20 minutes after you get to your cousin's house. So drink all the damn wine you want! Hell, maybe even cook with it too?
11. Be realistic about how many mouths you're feeding.
One. The answer is one. So take whatever number's floating around in your head and cut it in half. And no, you do not need three potatoes. You're a person, not a pack mule.
12. Remember, it's just a day!
Tomorrow we'll all go back to hating Great Uncle Herb and gagging at the sight of stuffing. So really, what are you missing?