Single? Holidays? Aargh!
want for Christmas is...solitude!
Single people, especially
those new to a community, experience a unique social challenge
as holidays approach.
Holiday conversation dies when we enter the room. Hovering in
the air is not only mistletoe but also the unspoken question,
"Must I invite this person over for holiday dinner?"
When I literally wrote the
book on moving (Making the Big Move: How to transform relocation
into a Creative Life Transition, New Harbinger 1999), I included
a chapter on special needs of the newly-moved single person.
Everyone I interviewed agreed: Skip the invitations: we'll get
our own life.
Most adults, even if they're
single, have calendars. They know a holiday is coming. Their
major issue is not, "How will I get through a holiday alone?"
It's, "What do I tell the friends and relatives who call
to see if I'm OK?"
Not everybody enjoys holidays
with family their own or anybody else's. Some have memories of
the mom who refereed the family fights, the cousin who had to
sleep it off on the sofa and the black sheep uncle who timed
his phone calls for dinner time so he wouldn't have a lot of
explaining to do.
When assured of anonymity, people told me how they really spend
a solitary holiday: "Put on an old pair of sweats and get
some writing done;" "Order Chinese food and watch a
video;" "Take the dog and head for the woods."
Visiting strangers can be
exhausting. Men get off easier. They watch football in the living
room, drinking beer, with conversation limited to cuss words,
cheers and boos.
For single women, holidays
mean always having to say, "Do you need help in the kitchen?"
Never mind that, for the rest of the year, our dinners move directly
from microwave to paper plate. Female guests also join kitchen
conversations about childbirth, menopause and/or the latest deep-rooted
I have learned -- the hard
way -- that it is considered gross to respond with a story about
your dog's irregular digestive system or the time your cat got
liver disease and had to be fed through a tube.
True, a very young person may be grateful for an invitation.
My friend Sharon still remembers her first Thanksgiving in San
Francisco, twenty years ago, when she was alone with a frozen
burrito and no credit cards.
But those who can afford
a catered meal or a plane ticket are home alone by choice. They
wince at invitations to, "Come join the other waifs and
strays," or, "We're having so many people we won't
notice an extra."
However, it is still appropriate to send a funny card, extend
holiday greetings, or even ask, "What are you doing for
I've been especially honored by people who said, "I would
enjoy having you over but I will understand if you say no,"
and they do.
We'll be truly liberated
when we can answer openly, "I am spending the day at the
dog park," or, "I'm going to disappear into my recliner
with the new Dick Francis and a bowl of organic popcorn."
These are not ways of coping with loneliness but of celebrating
solitude and honoring the way we have chosen to construct our
And the woujld-be hosts might
find themselves responding, "Gee, I wish I could join you,
if I didn't have all those darn relatives coming over."
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom*