The holidays are a dangerous time of year for singles.
Any other time of year singles have life on lockdown. Spring? We are traveling. Summer? That is our jam; flip flopping carefree. Fall? Wine tasting and riding boots. Cakewalk. But when that 1st frost appears you know what is coming.
Your family plans Thanksgiving Dinner and you phone in the RSVP of 1…again. You sit next to the bitter single aunt who has cohabitated with her bird the past 3 decades. You later clasp your ring-less hands together in a desperate silent prayer, “Dear lord don’t let me become Aunt Lucy.” Then the tossing and turning begins at night as your family’s burning question rolls through your mind, “Why AM I still single?”
Without giving the turkey a minute to cool off the stores turn over their décor to Santa and his helpers. You innocently stand in line at Walgreens, gum and conditioner in hand, as “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” cuts through the air. Oh God it’s here. Now don’t get me wrong; most of our kind theoretically loves the holidays but we all could do without the single awareness campaign.
December arrives. You do not boycott the holiday season and in fact you even commit to spreading the cheer. You appreciate a beautiful, freshly cut Christmas tree and set out to find one. Wandering the rows of shrubbery you notice the entire joint is filled with googley-eyed couples and families picking out their Christmas tree together. And there you are singlehandedly lugging your Frazier Fur beast into your car cursing the entire time thinking; I can’t believe I’m covered in emotional and literal sap solo again. You drag that bad boy into your home and pump up the Christmas music; you may as well lean in, right? You light the candles, put up some garland and somewhere around the stockings shit falls apart. One for you. One for the dog. The singles pet owner question appears, “Am I becoming the 38-year-old dog lady?” A slow paranoia bubbles up. In the distance the smallest violin in the world plays for you.
Then there are the cards. I am convinced that Shutterfly partners with the psychiatric ER and single-handedly brainwashes the married to buy-in to the sticky-sweet movement simultaneously driving the singles for psychological evaluations. The industry subliminally convinces otherwise cool, normal women across the country to dress their entire family in white button down shirts and jeans, capture a happily ever after pose and seal that shit up in gold lined envelopes to mail to everyone they know. BOOM. Happy Holidays. Before you know it the single’s living room is wallpapered in babies, families by the beach and newly married snapshots mocking you as you order takeout. Each glittery card stares at you like some arrested developmental milestone mirror you’d rather not look at. These damn envelopes really should come with therapy vouchers. It is a real racket.
At some point work lets out for Christmas and there is a momentary rush of excitement. You’re wrapping gifts, going to work parties, happily clinking glasses with friends. It is pretty great. You’re almost there. You let your guard down. And just as you are getting comfortable a quiet moment inevitably manages to sneak in to have a word with you.
This holiday season my moment snuck in on my Christmas Eve morning. December 24th I woke up to the company of Megan and Dave who stayed over after a night of wine, laughter and appetizers. Divorced, not in committed relationships and participants of the ridiculous dating scene we share our stories on the regular. Dave and Meg, unlike me, both have children and thanks to their exes were able to get away for Christmas Eve’s Eve sleepover. After a night that left my sides sore from laughter we headed to brunch craving coffee for our dull headaches. And there, over my Mediterranean omelet, my quiet moment tiptoed over and tapped me on my shoulder.
It whispered the line no single wants to hear: You are alone.
And just like that I was crying publicly into my almond milk coffee, sitting next to two supportive friends yet feeling completely alone. No children. No partner. Brother and family hours away. Aging parents who would not be there forever. There it was. Holidays -1. Lisa –0.
Dave, usually specializing in snarky sarcasm leaned in to touch my hand as Megan told me exactly what I needed to hear:
“There is no silver bullet, Lis. Even if you had a baby you’re still going to feel an emotional void not having a partner. And when you find that partner it may still be a bust. There is no solution to any of this.”
There it was. I had looked at those damn white shirted families with jealousy not knowing what was behind their glistening card. I had bought into the holiday hype of togetherness equating happiness. And while I pray that is in fact true for many including me one day, I recalled that I was married before and it was miserable. I do want the partner and the family but the one that is right for me. And who knows, one day I may pose my family for a holiday card…hopefully in ugly sweaters not looking at the camera. But I do not need to drink the eggnog that lacking a husband and kids means life is miserable nor do I have to believe that having these boxes checked means life is fulfilling. My friend thoughtfully added that the collective “we”: the married, the single, the parents, and the childless, may all be screwed. We all may be looking for something that does not exist; something we crafted in the delusions of our mind that we could fruitlessly chase forever.
I sat with the thought that nothing could change or everything could and I could still be unfulfilled; that my life’s happiness did not hang on one relationship. One may think this real talk of the non-existent silver bullet would only make me cling to my holiday blues longer. This was not the case. Meg and Dave had skillfully moved my body past the other kind of bullet – the one that if it hits you during the holidays infiltrates your mind with all sorts of false messages distorted as facts: “You will always be alone.” “Everyone else is happily paired off.” “A partner or baby would make everything better.” “It is sad you are not dating anyone.” These afflictions are serious and the risk is high if you are not paying attention. Luckily for me I had backup on the holidays battlefield.
Christmas Eve morning my two divorced dating veterans, pushed me into the singles ditch full of good company and whiskey. We waited out the last week of the holiday season and I heard that bullet of irrational fantasy whizzing over our heads. When the quiet settled I reemerged unscathed` to tell my story in the clearing of the New Year.