Because I Say So: It’s all about gluttony, whether it’s stuff or stuffing

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It was a packed day at the physical therapist’s office on Wednesday, everyone getting their treatments in before the Thanksgiving holiday. My therapist had trouble finding an empty table where she could work on my pesky tendinitis, and it was such close quarters, you couldn’t help but hear all the conversations nearby.

On the table behind me was a woman with a distinctly Russian accent, telling her therapist how excited she was to be experiencing her first Thanksgiving in the U.S. She was nearly breathless with anticipation, and I’m thinking, “Ah, how precious. She’s imagining all that turkey and stuffing, the pumpkin pie … the grotesque overconsumption of food and alcohol until everyone’s lying on the living room floor groaning like poisoned seals … Nothing says God Bless America like the collective celebration of one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony.”

Turns out, I was only half-right. As my therapist began scraping the stiff, ropy tendons in my forearm with a dull metal blade — a combination of welcome relief and ridiculous agony that makes me consider exploring sadomasochism —- I hear the woman ask if it was Thanksgiving Eve.

Do we even have that?

Well, sort of, he replied. In a Christmas Eve sense, yes, Wednesday is the night before Thanksgiving. No, she explained, she didn’t mean that Thanksgiving Eve.

“I mean the one before Black Friday! I don’t want to miss out on that!

I could not keep my mouth shut.

“Oh, yes you do!” I implored. “Trust me, you don’t want any part of that!”

The urgent discomfort in my voice was not merely because my therapist was now scraping that blade over all my screaming elbow bones, but because just the thought of going anywhere near the Black Friday insanity makes my eyebrow start twitching.

“But all the great deals! I want to experience rushing in to grab them!”

Oh dear God. This is the reverse equivalent of me telling her that when I visit Russia, the first thing I want to do is stay at a Gulag re-enactment camp. Hey, won’t that be a hootenanny!

Her therapist then gently explained that the deals weren’t really that great, that it was mostly hype and that most Black Friday prices could be found all the way up to Christmas. My therapist chimed in, too, and said Black Friday was not really a pleasant experience.

You could hear the deflation in the woman’s voice. She’d come all the way to the U.S. and heard about the Black Friday madness, and was so looking forward to experiencing it. For her, it was an American “running of the bulls” and we’d gone and pissed all over her big adventure.

“Well,” she said, “I’m going to go anyway. I want to experience it. Where would I go to get the best Black Friday experience?”

The two therapists and I intuitively realized that her definition of “best” likely was not the same as ours. My definition of the “best Black Friday experience” would be to stay as far away from any mainstream shopping mecca as possible. I detest the energy of the whole scene. I refuse to scramble and fight over purchases, and I will not wait in line in the cold, wee hours of the morning to save 50 percent off anything unless my life depends on it. My time and sanity are worth far more than anything I could possibly purchase that requires camping outside a Best Buy.

So, in answer to her question, collectively recognizing that by “best Black Friday experience” she meant where would the most outrageous thundering herd of frantic people be cramming through the doors at 4 a.m. and trampling each other to run shrieking to the electronics department to save $30 on a Play Station, we all answered in unison, “Walmart.”

Yes, Ma’am — Walmart’s the place to be Black Friday if you want to see the absolute worst of American society: People obsessed with getting, getting, getting as much as they possibly can grab and stuff into their already heaving shopping carts, whether they actually need it or not, whether or not they can actually afford it or not.

So, this is where I was half-right: It’s still gluttony, whether it’s an overstuffed shopping cart crammed full of useless, cheap crap made in China or an overstuffed stomach stretching to contain a fourth helping of pumpkin pie. It’s still gluttony, and it still makes Jesus cry.

Me, if I’m going to hell for gluttony, I’ll take the pie, thank you very much, and loaded with extra whipped cream because I think that stuff probably melts in Hades.

While the woman chatted on with her therapist, my own appointment was wrapping up. I thanked my therapist, Terry, the sweetest, cutest, perkiest little blond gal with big blue eyes and long Bambi eyelashes, and not at all what I imagined my first dominatrix would look like. Aren’t there supposed to be leather corsets and whips, and whatnot? Maybe she wears a comfy jogging suit to be ironic?

Before I left, she applied her little obedience reminder — a figure-8-shaped magnetic bandage that allegedly transfers medication through my tendon, but mostly seems to just rip off a layer of skin when removed. It’s Terry’s way of letting me know she’s watching me, and if I don’t do all the weird little exercises she assigns me before my next appointment, she’ll pull out the big blade to drag over my bones.

Yes, Ma’am. I will lie on my side and flap my arm like a wounded walrus because you commanded it. Please may I have another!

With that, I left the Russian woman behind, and pondered the sad irony of a foreigner believing that gross overconsumption of stuff — not stuffing — is what Thanksgiving’s all about. On the other hand, now that stores are starting to launch Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day, maybe she understands what Thanksgiving’s really all about more than most Americans do.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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