Opinion

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux: why are we shaming the star for spending Thanksgiving with her friends?

The actor celebrated the holidays with some of her nearest and dearest, including Courteney Cox, Jason Bateman and ex-husband Justin Theroux. But the online reaction to the pictures posted on Instagram has been deeply disappointing. 

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, so no wonder Jennifer Aniston’s celebrations looked so joyful – the actor has a lot to be thankful for.

She’s doing some of the best work – if not the best, as we argued in this essay on Stylist – of her career in AppleTV+’s The Morning Show. She’s deepening her relationship with Netflix, starring and producing original films for the streaming service. She’s basking in the ongoing anniversary celebrations for Friends, the show that transformed her career and introduced her to the people who would become some of the most important relationships in her life, from Lisa Kudrow to Courteney Cox

Cox was there at Aniston’s ‘Friendsgiving’ celebrations, of course. Where Aniston leads, Cox follows, to borrow the theme song from another beloved nostalgia television show. Also at the Friendsgiving were actors Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and Justin Theroux, Aniston’s ex-husband. 

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The group were in high spirits. Kimmel, who apparently requested Mexican food in order to ensure that he didn’t overdo it on the turkey and cranberry sauce, was served his own personal dish, dubbed by Aniston “Jimmy Kimmel’s fucking enchiladas”. Theroux filmed Cox giving a speech, telling their host “I love you so much” – “I love you,” Aniston responded – before spotting Theroux’s camera. “Justin, please stop filming me,” she sighed. “I’m supposed to be recording,” Theroux joked. “I’m so sorry, I’m going to have to cut. It will be on the DVD commentary.”

Then, Theroux posted a group selfie to his Instagram stories. “Very VERY thankful for these friends and these nights,” he captioned the picture.

It looks like a fun night, the kind of boozy, friend-filled celebrations that start popping up around now and snowball in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year. That’s what the holidays are for, aren’t they? Evenings like this one, so full of good cheer they could levitate, the kind where there’s never an awkward lull in the conversation and you leave with your cheeks aching from laughing so much.

Not if you’re Jennifer Aniston, apparently. When the images of Aniston’s celebrations with her friends hit the internet they were met with what has become a typical, though nonetheless deeply disappointing response from the internet.

First came the usual responses of ‘hope Jen and Justin get back together one day’, because a single woman in possession of a friendly relationship with her ex must be in want of a reconciliation. Then there were the snide remarks about how Aniston couldn’t possibly have done all the preparation for the party herself. (“I hope the help were able to get off early to celebrate their own Thanksgiving with their families. No one is buying she did this all herself.”)

And then, with all the certainty of a clanging bell, came the usual tirade of ‘poor, lonely Jen’ comments. “Holidays must be a sad state of affairs for liberal celebrities like her, no husband or boyfriend, no children, and obviousely [sic] not on good terms with relatives probably due to political differences,” one commenter wrote. Another added: “Can’t keep a partner for whatever reason but has good friends.” And then there was this charming comment: “childless group of self centred narcissists”. 

Friends
Friends: Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow have such a strong relationship.

As a single woman in her – Christ, I’ll just say it – late 20s, I’ve been to more holiday celebrations on my own than not. I don’t dread the festive season, though. My birthday is on Christmas Eve, so I view the entire gin-soaked month as if the whole world is celebrating me. I’ve never had a problem being single, and especially not during the holidays. I know that I am everything that I need. Even on my own I am enough – every part of me, beginning, middle and end is enough.

I also know that there is an embarassment of love in my life. That I am full to the brim, love bubbling up and spilling over the edges all around me. All that love springs from a few different sources. I get so much of it from my parents and my siblings but I get a lot of it from my friends, too. I am lucky enough to have friends who fill my life with so much love that sometimes, I don’t know what to do with it all. 

What can I do with all this love? These cups of tea and these Sunday morning cinnamon buns and these long walks through frosty parks and these afternoons spent in front of the fire, cuddling a brand new goddaughter and these nights sneaking into posh hotels to look at the Christmas tree and these rambling WhatsApp voice messages about whether or not it’s OK to have a crush on Kendall from Succession. What did I do to deserve all this love? What can I do, except hold it so close to my heart? 

Cox, Aniston, and Kudrow still meet up regularly
For Jennifer Aniston, friends are everything.

Aniston has always said it best, though. More than a decade ago – because it truly has been more than a decade that the tabloid media and the online commenters have been shaming her for being single, for calling her ’poor lonely Jen’, as well as being childfree and, on occasion, wearing a swimsuit – she reminded everyone that, for women, love and happiness are not reliant on a relationship status.

“This whole ‘Poor lonely Jen’ thing, this idea that I’m so unlucky in love? I actually feel I’ve been unbelievably lucky in love,” she said in 2008. “Just because at this stage my life doesn’t have the traditional framework to it – the husband and the two kids and the house in Connecticut – it’s mine. It’s my experience. And if you don’t like the way it looks, then stop looking at it! Because I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m supposed to be any further along or somewhere that I’m not. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Aniston is right where she’s supposed to be, unbelievably lucky in the love of the dozens of friends who celebrated Thanksgiving with her last night. It’s her life. It’s her experience. Aniston knows that being loved is not predicated upon being in a relationship. 

Why is that still so hard for people to understand? Why, in 2019, are we shaming a woman for being such a good friend that, quite literally, dozens of people flocked to her side during the Thanskgiving holiday? Why do people think that single women must spend the months of November, December and, fuck it, probably January too, depressed and lonely? Why can’t we accept that a single woman might, just might, be so breathlessly, ebulliently happy – so totally, completely content – to celebrate the holidays with her friends?

Sometimes, when I read comments like the ones I read about Aniston’s dinner, I think I’ve found the glitch in the matrix. Because when I look at those pictures what I see is a room so full of love it looks like it might burst. I see a woman who is exactly where she is supposed to be. 

Images: Getty

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