My business picks up dramatically in January and February. I don’t do any extra marketing, but people feel this immense pressure and drive to get paired up based on New Year’s Resolutions and Valentine’s Day. I think some of it also comes from riding the Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve gauntlet that usually comes with increased family time and romantic scrutiny from relatives, plus increased parties where you’re expected/allowed to bring a +1 and kiss people when a terrifying lighted ball falls and whatnot. Winter holidays can feel bleak for some of us anyway, but if you’re upset about singlehood they can make you feel even worse. Which is such utter crap! But hard to shake! Argh!
I love the blog A Cup of Jo, where intern Caroline recently wrote up a little guide to being single over the holidays. I think she makes great points; her piece is totally worth a read! But I’d like to add a few other points so we can all hopefully have a happier December and beyond.
Talk to your family about your love life.
I think we’ve largely exited the world in which our parents sort of played matchmaker and forced us into meeting people we weren’t interested in meeting. (I mean, sometimes that happens still, but it’s no longer the primary means of finding romantic connection in our society!) While it makes sense that we feel squicky about discussing romance with our parents or even extended family, I’ve actually found it can be awesome.
I remember having a really transformative conversation with my uncle one year when I spent Christmas in England. We both lamented our recent romantic troubles—he’d gotten divorced and his first girlfriend after that had just broken up with him, and I had just cut off a friendship because I was super in love with a dude who sort of strung me a long but didn’t love me back. We actually cried about it together, which was admittedly weird, but we also both encouraged each other to find someone that appreciated our unique spark instead of taking it for granted. I never meant to talk love shop with my MOM’S BROTHER of all people, but it wound up being surprisingly healing for us both, and I think it allowed us to shed some glumness and actually enjoy the spirit of holiday gatherings without feeling so burdened by our sad stories, you know?
I’ve also found that when I get over my child-like resistance to talking about romance with my mom and even grandmother, it’s fascinating for us both. My folks seem to open up more and share details about the past—their relationship and how I fit into it, their prior marriages, their lives and hopes and dreams and how they differed over time—all this helps me see them as more complete and complex people. I think it’s part of growing up, this curiosity about your parents’ whole arc instead of just the ways they affect you more directly. I highly recommend giving this a shot if you have even a halfway comfortable relationship with your relatives. And hey, it takes the spotlight off of you, if you really do want to deflect!
I also find that being candid about what I’m after romantically helps family actually be useful if they’re stuck in Matchmaker Mode. If they understand why your relationships haven’t worked out and what it is you’re seeking, they have way better potential to actually prove themselves useful. Or at least “get” you instead of just wringing their hands about the fact that you’re still not married or whatever. Ah, family.
The more, the merrier
I’m a big fan of Friendsgiving, Friendsmas, Friendukah, Friends’ Year’s Eve, The Winter Friendstice, you name it. Fralentine’s Day. (I’ll stop!) Some of my favorite Christmas memories as a 20-something are ones I spent with a close friend’s family. And some of the happiest memories hosting holidays in my later 20s and early 30s are when we had a mix of relatives and pals. Most holiday celebrations are just as happy if you throw one or two more people into the mix. So I urge everyone coupled up and/or with a cozy hosting space to proactively check through your mental list of pals who are unattached, or who have family in really far away places, and see if anyone wants a holiday invitation.
When the entire world is pressuring you to roast chestnuts by an open fire with family and friends, it can suck when you’re solo on December 25th. Heck, even the default Chinese food alternative can feel like you’re being left out of a communal non-Christmas non-celebration of the many families and groups in attendance. It sucks to feel like a straggler. I urge everyone to be open-hearted this holiday season, but follow up that intention with actual pragmatic invitations. Don’t just assume the lonely will come to you; that’s a crappy burden to put on anyone who may already not feel so great.
Plus, when there are non-family members at your holiday gathering, I think it can sort of dampen any dysfunctional family dynamic you otherwise have going on, thereby making your own relatives less stressful. :) Not that your friends should have to absorb the tension—it’s more like they don’t even notice it because everyone is on better behavior with an “outsider” present. Of course, there are families where this isn’t the case, but if you need convincing I often find that the whole gang appreciates having some new blood in the mix.
Remember, you can RSVP “no”
The extra holiday parties really stress some of us out. For me, the pressure of spending extra money on obligatory sparkly outfits and more drinks and therefore taxis/Ubers/Lyfts than usual on top of buying gifts and turkeys and far more bourbon than usual is already a lot. Add to that the fact that I’m trying to drink less and eat better, so parties kinda suck for that. And my inner introvert/extrovert battle always rages strong and makes parties socially terrifying on some level, but I feel like I’m *supposed* to go to all of them anyway. All this can pile up and you just get a general exhaustion and stress level that gets you the flu.
Remember that you’re totally allowed to opt out of holiday parties that aren’t actually going to be fun for you. People will understand, especially if you stay home and write them a really nice note thanking them for the invitation!
Go easy on yourselves
Anyway, as we head into Christmas and New Year’s Even and eventually Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll all remember to give yourselves a bit of a break about the pressures and expectations around the holidays. I guarantee it feels better to be solo and feel slightly left out of a bunch of New Year’s Even smooches than it does to be kissing the wrong person out of rote tradition, you know? Spend time doing stuff YOU enjoy, buy presents YOU want, and give me a call if you need some pep talking along the way!