Hope You Have a Happy Thanksgiving Even Though You'll Be Eating That Whole Turkey By Yourself
November 20, 2010 8:27 PM   Subscribe

How can we cheer up someone who will be alone for the holidays, without actually inviting them to a party or something?

I have a professor who mentioned to my class that he will be spending Thanksgiving alone. He didn't say it in a pity-me kind of way, but I still felt bad that he wouldn't be going to see his family or hanging out with friends. (He's not married, as far as I know.) After class I asked him if he really wasn't going to see his sister and he said no. Then he said "I'll be fine, I spent Xmas last year alone, too"

He's kind of a stuffy professor -- for instance he can be totally anal about paper formatting and stuff but he still has an insane sense of humor. We have a 3 hour class with him and even though it's so long and the material is really boring, my classmates have a good time and laugh a lot. Even so, he's not someone I can see surrounded by friends, because he's so stuffy and by the book (and sometimes a little awkward, lol). We still like him though!

My friends and I were talking about how it's sad that Prof. A doesn't have anything to do during the holidays and we wanted to cheer him up. We're all going places, etc, so it's not like we can invite him to a random holiday party with a bunch of college students (tbh, he probably wouldn't fit it either). But there's still email! We want to send him an email wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving. But just, "Hey Prof A, hope you have a great Thanksgiving" doesn't seem like a very cheering thing.

What else can we put in the email to bring a smile to his face? Links to songs/playlists or videos or whatever? Suggestions please! We're totally stumped! We were thinking that hand drawn cards would be funny and stuff, but we can't mail them since we don't have his address.

Thank you!
posted by joyeuxamelie to Human Relations (21 answers total)
He might not actually consider spending the holiday alone to be a sad thing. For all you know, he cracks open a bottle of champagne and watches porn. Or goes to church.

Send him an email wishing him holiday greetings, but do entertain the idea that people have varying emotions and thoughts about holidays or what constitutes an enjoyable day.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:34 PM on November 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

It is entirely possible that he really doesn't mind the way he spends his holidays. Maybe he even thinks being alone is better than seeing whoever is in his family. You don't know his history, right? Keep in mind that if it comes across that his students feel bad for him, he might find that annoying, especially if he finds the holiday season kind of annoying as it is. You just don't know, but it sounds like he's used to the way he does things.

I think sending him the simple "Happy Thanksgiving!" email you mentioned would be enough, and he'd probably think that's cute.
posted by wondermouse at 8:36 PM on November 20, 2010

Don't give up on the card. Your professor should have an address through the school. Even if you have no classes next week, since he's local he may well come spend time in his office.

In a situation like that, I'd be inclined to take someone a pie. Food isn't always the answer, though, just a very handy one sometimes.
posted by galadriel at 8:37 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, if you want to send scars card, sure! But I'm spending thanksgiving "alone" (just with my fiancé and our two dogs), and it's refreshing to not have to worry about travel or seeing family. I'm happy about it. It's annoying when someone assumes it means that I have no one to love me in my life and that I need "cheering up"! Blech!

Also, maybe the very idea of Thanksgiving is kind of BS to your professor. I mean, aren't we celebrating the fact that we stole a huge continent from a native people and have almost eliminated them in the meantime? Pshh... We're such assholes.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:40 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Er, that should be "if you want to send a card"! Stupid iPhone.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:42 PM on November 20, 2010

nthing the chorus of "don't assume cheering up is required or will be appreciated but don't let that deter from sending him a card."
posted by bardophile at 8:50 PM on November 20, 2010

This is really nice of you. I think a hand drawn card would really nice and I bet you the admin folks in his department would pass it along if you just told them it was a card from the class for the holiday and you'd appreciate it if they could get it to him before then. Be ready with a stamp and an envelope in case they have to mail it or ask them to put it in his inbox if he's still on campus.
posted by fshgrl at 8:51 PM on November 20, 2010

If he's the stuffy academic type, he's probably also of the stripe that finds something handwritten more meaningful than e-mail. I know you said you don't have his address, but is there any chance you can still get it to him on campus? Lots of academics, particularly those with fewer family obligations, come to their offices during the holidays because it's easy to crank through work and get things done without distractions, so he may be there even if students no longer are.

Whether it's handwritten or e-mailed, words will be more meaningful than videos and playlists. Your relationship with him is student to teacher, not buddy to buddy - and he'll appreciate you knowing that you think highly of him as a teacher. Even if there are things that annoy you (like the over-attention to formatting issues), a note saying that you appreciate his teaching, his great sense of humor, and the way he makes sometimes dense (don't say boring) material come alive. "It being Thanksgiving and all, we were reflecting on some aspects of our [University] experience that we're thankful for - and your teaching is one of them. We wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that."

Don't mention that he said he'd be alone on Thanksgiving - it'll be too easy for your words to come off as pity, or worse as judgment that you think his life out of school is sad. You really probably don't know much about his life outside of school, so steer clear of that.
posted by Chanther at 9:03 PM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I spent Thanksgiving entirely alone once, mostly doing silent meditation, and it was Awesome. But getting a nice card and well wishes is also always great. So wish him a Happy Thanksgiving - a day off is always worth celebrating!

You could do "hand drawn" images in paint - pretend to do a hand turkey, maybe. If you send video links, track down some links that have to do with your class, even if it's only tangential. Or that jive with his sense of humor from class. Maybe search on metafilter, as it's been known to have some funny links and tends to include folks who are total sticklers for grammar and formatting.
posted by ldthomps at 9:10 PM on November 20, 2010

"I am never bored in my own company."
(my good friend James who likes nothing better than those few moments in his life when everybody earnestly goes somewhere without him and leaves him to his precious solitude)
posted by philip-random at 9:21 PM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

I am a professor who will not be alone on Thanksgiving, but when I was a younger single professor I might have been alone for the holidays sometime. An e-mail saying little more than "Hey Prof A, hope you have a great Thanksgiving" would actually be very nice -- e-mail like that makes you feel your students recognize that you are more than a lecture-delivering and grade-giving machine. On the other hand, a more elaborate e-mail which was explicitly aimed at "cheering me up" would make me feel like my students thought I was pathetic and lonely, and I would probably find it hard to face them after the break. Stick with short and chipper.
posted by escabeche at 10:23 PM on November 20, 2010 [7 favorites]

Maybe I'm a jerk academic, but holidays mean little to me except some stores are closed. WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK!!!!
posted by k8t at 10:26 PM on November 20, 2010

posted by elsietheeel at 10:54 PM on November 20, 2010

You are being very kind to think of your professor. I don't want to discourage you from sending a card, but be aware that some people like spending holidays alone.

I get a lot of flack from my coworkers because I don't spend Thanksgiving with my family, and it's awkward. I don't feel comfortable explaining the reasons why it's much better for me emotionally not to celebrate holidays with my parents, so I have to either lie to them and say I am going home, or be very vague about the reasons I don't want to go home.

I say this not to discourage you from giving the card, but just to present the side for people who don't think it's sad to spend holidays alone. Whatever you write in the card, try not to make it too sympathetic to their plight- they might be much happier alone.
posted by winna at 11:57 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please consider that he may be spending this time alone because that's the way he likes it. Some of us are like that. I've spent Christmases and other holidays alone and found it to be a blessed relief. On the other hand, it wouldn't hurt to say "Hey, if you want to come over for a drink and a bite, please do." Then he has the option.
posted by Decani at 1:10 AM on November 21, 2010

One of my favourite Christmas's (Christmases?) was the one a few years ago when all my family - including my kids - were interstate and I got to sit in front of the computer in a sarong, and surf and shop online all day. And I mean ALL DAY. I think I cracked open the champagne about 5pm and was in bed by 9pm. It was a great day that still makes me smile when I think of it.

That said, I think an email with links (youtube, comedy, ridiculousness that is tailored to his sense of humour) would be a nice gesture. Perhaps send it a day or two before and put Don't Open Til Thanksgiving as the subject title, just in case he doesn't turn on the computer on the day, or whatever. Of course he might open it early, but so what?

And then in the body of the email, just write "Enjoy! Cheers, from your students at whatever-class."
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:30 AM on November 21, 2010

Your intentions are well meaning, but generally, I find it irksome that people assume everybody in the US celebrates certain holidays. Sometimes people are baffled that I don't celebrate Christmas (I grew up Muslim, though a lot of Muslim Americans celebrate Christmas in the secular sense). I'm not a grinch and appreciate a lot of the festivity around the holidays, but happily usually spend Christmas Eve and Day alone, sometimes taking a walk and enjoying the crazy quietness of outside, watching movies, sometimes taking the opportunity to play music really loudly if I know my neighbors are all out of town. Not everyone celebrates certain "holidays," and if they do, they certainly don't celebrate it in the same way. I appreciate the chorus of "zomg don't spend Christmas alone!!!" because I know people mean well, but then kindly remind them not to spend Eid or Diwali or Rosh Hashanah alone, and maybe tone down the presumptions of what and how people celebrate. Send him a hand-written "Happy Holidays" (not Merry X-Mas) card in December though - pretty much everyone appreciates the thought, no matter what they do or do not celebrate. That sounds like a sweetly thoughtful idea!
posted by raztaj at 4:53 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok. I don't feel like sending anything anymore.
Thank you for all of the answers, everyone.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2010

Best answer: Consider putting a link or an image in an email that plainly references an inside joke that your class and he have in common. Keep it simple and light. It's very cool that you are doing this. I want to chime in to mention that I've spent a couple of holidays alone and it was all good - I dare say, quite a relief!
posted by marimeko at 6:32 AM on November 21, 2010

If I were to write the letter, I'd follow Chanther's model: Keep it short and sweet, wish him a happy Thanksgiving, don't mention the fact that he's spending it alone, do say some positive things about his teaching. I imagine that such a letter would be appreciated by most anyone, and would not seem awkward or pitying.
posted by Scientist at 6:36 PM on November 21, 2010

I think that if you originally felt the urge, that's a meaningful indication of something. A simple card that says "We're thankful for *you* [&/or the brilliantly funny way you convey this boring subject] this Thanksgiving" would be a nice gesture, regardless of how busy or social his holiday was going to be. Appreciation is always a good thing.
posted by MeiraV at 8:09 AM on November 22, 2010

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