As most students spent Thanksgiving carving into a festive meal, others were cutting ties with their high school flames. That’s right, for many undergrads, and especially first-years, the holiday season is “Turkey Drop” time; a trend in which students return home from their first few months at college and decide it’s time to leave their high school boyfriend or girlfriend behind.
Although being miles away is a strain to these long-distance relationships, Leslie Haxby McNeill, assistant director of health education in Miami University’s Office of Student Wellness, said the Turkey Drop phenomenon happens for a variety of reasons.
“Meeting someone else, adjusting to a new environment, the disconnect for the person who is at home not understanding how different your world has become, getting involved with activities, and just being busy,” McNeill said, noting a handful of causes for the late-November split up.
Because they have recently moved away from home, Dr. Natalie Winters, a therapist at University of Cincinnati’s Counseling Center, said first-years are most likely to be in this position.
“The relationship can provide a sense of security and comfort knowing that [they have] someone to lean on when feeling anxious about entering college,” she said.
How common is this Thanksgiving-spoiling pattern though? Common enough to have its own website. Turkeydump.com offers a place for “dumpers” and “dumpees” to seek support and share their break-up stories. And for one Miami student, the Thanksgiving heartbreak is personal.
Junior Caitlin McCoy said she relates to the one-two punch of nursing a full stomach and a broken heart-all while giving thanks. During her first semester at Miami, she broke things off with her boyfriend, then a senior in high school.
The summer before McCoy left for college was filled with starry-eyed promises that soon turned to “I think we need a break.”
“I thought that through routine communication and visiting each other, that it would work,” McCoy said.
However, as months of new experiences passed, McCoy’s long-distance relationship grew more and more vulnerable to a turkey drop, with a side of dumping.
“I was creating a new friend group and he was doing his own thing at home and I told myself that we could make it through, but it was really hard,” she said.
As students adapt and feel comfortable to the college lifestyle, Winters said she agrees they are less inclined to stay connected.
“After a few months go by and the student is feeling adjusted to college life the need to lean on people from his or her past is not as strong,” she said.
Because of this, McNeill said the timing of Thanksgiving break seems to fit for a break-up.
As Thanksgiving occurs conveniently after a few months of college-exploration and before the stress of finals and Christmas, where breaking up may be just too cruel, many couples tend to do the deed then.
“There’s enough time to have face to face conversations with the partner, but there’s also a lot of other distractions with the holiday and family obligations for both,” she said.
It may be especially convenient because the couple can avoid running into each other post-breakup, which is often all too awkward.
“[Because] then it’s time to go back to school,” McNeill said.
It was challenging, however, McCoy said her first holiday home was a good opportunity to call things off.
“That’s when I started to realize that I was changing into a different person being in college and doing my own thing,” she said.
These transitions didn’t bode well for her soon-to-be crushed high school sweetheart, but it made the most sense for the situation, McCoy said.
“Especially freshman year when you’re meeting a lot of new people, you don’t want to feel pulled back into the old high school life by dating someone,” she said.
So what are McCoy’s comforting words for any first-years with Turkey Drop trauma? It’s probably for the best.
“This way, you’re more able to live in the moment and enjoy everything that college has to offer without constantly thinking about this person at home,” she said.
In one way or another, last week’s break was the end of an era for many. From pumpkin pie season to a young romance, it is, perhaps tearfully, time to move on. But hey, at least it’s acceptable to cry with Christmas music on in the background now.