In the spirit of the season, I will personally forgive anyone who looks pityingly upon the singles fitting themselves awkwardly into family-related conversations at the office or relatives' festive gatherings.
'Tis the season, after all, in which to harp upon the plight of the one-wo/man celebrants. We the uncoupled get to hear so much about our friends' and colleagues' Pinterest-worthy Christmas cookies baked with the enthusiastic help of partners and/or children. We endure our older relations none-too-subtly asking us if we're dating anyone, and if so, would we like to bring our future interrogation suspect -- er, special friend to the upcoming gathering?
Even the crass consumerism around Christmas is aimed almost entirely at couples. Car commercials feature a beaming spouse gesturing coyly at a red-ribbon-wrapped new vehicle to be beheld by a joyously squealing recipient, whose happiness can ensure you lots of good lovin' for a modest payment of only $379 a month!
Or take the jewelry commercials. A radio station based near my hometown has spent the weeks since Thanksgiving slipping in brief ads between songs to encourage its (presumably male) listeners to go ahead and ask her to marry them in front of the whole family! Being the cynic I am, I perpetually mutter under my breath, "And what if she rejects you in front of the whole family?"
Grinch that I am, it's perhaps not surprising that I find myself single for a third set of December holidays in a row. Yet in spite of my seeming bitterness, there is nothing that swells my heart three sizes in one day than the joy of being single over the holidays.
No, I don't have anyone to kiss under the mistletoe. That's okay, though, since I find kissing as well as most other physical displays of affection quite loathsome. I also don't have any human companions to snuggle with before a roaring fire, but I won't need a fireplace once I move to Southern California in January anyway, and my cat is much cuter cuddling company regardless of the circumstances.
The biggest and most obvious benefit to having a feline as my most significant other is that his parents, if they're still alive, aren't going to be hosting any Christmas get-togethers. Many couples tussle over whose family they will grace their presence with for the best-known work holiday of the year if both parties are at least nominally Christian. If only one member of the couple celebrates, the choice is clear -- if not always pleasant for the outsider.
I was raised by Jewish atheists. We marked December 25th as National Jewish Ski Day and ate our feast out of Chinese take-out boxes. When I dated a Gentile, I got to experience how the rest of the world lived, and due in no small part to simple personality clashes between myself and my ex's parents, all I wanted for Christmas was for the holiday to go away.
With no boyfriend in the picture anymore, however, the day's events are mine for the choosing. I can go skiing once again. I can wheedle my way into a friend's party. I can set up my own tree, decorate some cookies, and set out presents for my cat. With no in-laws to wrap me into their traditions as tightly as they tape their gifts, my options are limitless and my guilt over them non-existent!
And what of those gifts? Sure, one of the joys I sometimes envied my Christmas-celebrating childhood friends over was the unabashed indulgence of luxury as they tore through wrapping paper to unveil shiny new toys, while all I got to unwrap was the paper bag in which our delivery food arrived. Once one reaches the age at which they are old enough to have a significant other, however, the joy of receiving must be balanced out by the migraine of giving.
I do not mean to make myself out to be a 21st century Scrooge -- I am eager to donate my money and volunteer efforts to worthy causes that truly need my time, money, and attention. The act of giving anything other than cash gifts, however, necessitates a trip to the hellscape known as retail shopping centers, where the pickings are slim but the crowds are many. I've risked my health and sanity to purchase a book that seemed to be a good fit, only to have it met with pursed lips and a grunted, "Mmmm. Thanks."
Should I choose to, I could spend the money I save on other people's gifts taking advantage of a holiday deal of my very own, or better yet, I can wait until the new year and the lowering tide of shoppers to put my dollars to more eager use. I know for certain what books have been on my must-read list, and I know I would appreciate them!
The supposed sadness of solitary living proves not to be true even without the troubles of another's family taken into consideration. No partner means no one to consult when a juicy round-trip airfare deal to the Caribbean or Canadian ski town pops up in the inbox, and purchasing a ticket for one means spending half the money, not to mention having greater flexibility when it comes time to choose seats.
The singles staying home for the holidays also have a greater opportunity to earn extra cash by petsitting for friends or picking up extra work shifts without worrying about leaving a neglected lover to sulk at home. This works for relations, as well. Family members who are throwing the parties that we wish to avoid with our newly appointed work schedules will hardly have cause to blame us for our sudden industriousness, as it will automatically deflect questions about our finances if we do manage to squeeze in a few minutes to make it to Christmas Eve dinner!
When we do celebrate with our own families, we can easily come and go during celebrations once we grow weary of the questions surrounding our status -- it's practically guaranteed that our interrogators will break off mid-flow when a cousin or sibling brings a date to redirect the deluge of questions, or that a new baby or pregnancy will show up to act as a magnet for attention while single partygoers sneak an extra cookie or two.
If all the partygoers are already old news to the family, certainly someone will drunkenly distract the gathering by popping the question in front of the whole family. Whether she accepts or rejects the offer, the excited buzzing will be enough to allow an entire tray of cookies to go missing without notice, shortly followed by the satiated single.
Of course, for the singles who are looking to mingle, this season offers plenty of opportunities to change that Facebook status. Office parties held at bars are a surefire way of propelling the unpaired into each other's arms, and the lonely and alone can always count on some well-meaning relative slipping away from the newest family member to thrust a phone number for a neighbor's unmatched child into the single's cookie- or latke-crumbed hands.
Those of us who are almost as virginal as Mother Mary herself and looking to stay that way, however, need only wave off the digits and ask for another helping of eggnog, claiming that all the future warmth we need will come from that well-earned beach vacation. In the meantime, we much prefer the luxury of rolling home and changing into our too-large sweatpants with no fear of anyone's disapproval.
Except the cat's. He thinks softer sweatpants for him to shed on are in order as soon as the after-Christmas sales roll around.