How to Be Single for the Holidays
The Holiday 2020 season is upon us. We’ve made it through Thanksgiving, and, having given adequate thanks for the families that we alternately want to hug and garrotte, we now await the horrors of Hanukwanzmas. Yes, the agony of coerced celebration is well upon us. Perhaps for those who have great jobs, loving partners, beautiful children, and supportive parents, the holidays are wonderful times of joyful celebration. For the rest of us, I offer this account of the internal life of a holiday celebrant. It documents Thanksgiving, but the principles can be applied to any upcoming holiday.
07:05am Wake up to the ice-cold blast of your alarm. For whatever reason, the last software upgrade on your iPhone has made all its sound effects emulate the volume and tonal quality of Kimberly Guilfoyle at the RNC. Bask for a moment in the snug of your bed before you remember that it’s so cold in there because you woke up alone, again, because you are single. Still. Always. Plunge into existential despair that you are a worthless waste of cytoplasm who can’t even perform the most basic of human functions: to relate to another person.
08:00am After feeding the dog (your most successful personal relationship) and staring at the wall for longer than you can justify, put your shoes on and go for a 5K run. You tell yourself that it’s keeping you in great, sexy shape so that all the people you meet over the holidays will find you great and sexy. Then remember that it’s 2020 and you’re not meeting anybody and that if it were any other year, nobody you meet over the holidays is NOT a second-order blood relative. Also remember that running 5K is equivalent to eating ⅓ of a piece of pie and therefore it’s functionally worthless against the onslaught of food that awaits you at the hands of your mother.
10:30am Bake [something] from the NYT Cooking section for Friendsgiving. Feel awesome that you’re a hip, cool, with-it single who has so many great friends to gather with for the festivities. The primacy of traditional marriage and family are social constructs. You can have a full and fulfilling life as a totally single, childless, absolutely alone, never-going-to-pair-off person. Really. You can do that. It’s not a myth like American Exceptionalism or Santa Claus.
12:01pm Open a box of wine.
1:30pm Go to Friendsgiving. Don’t bother with makeup because you’re wearing a mask, a parka, and a stocking cap. Friendsgiving in 2020 means six people in snowsuits eating deli sandwiches with gloves on while sitting six feet apart on the teeter-totters in the municipal park. Some of the sandwiches might be turkey. Set separately-packed portions of the [something] that you baked on the swing set, for contact-less pickup. You are the only person at Friendsgiving who does not have a partner. Go home, alone, when it gets too cold, physically or emotionally.
3:30pm Write a letter to your Great Lost Love. Be open and vulnerable and honest about how much you still love and miss them. Admit to yourself how pathetic this is, since your Great Lost Love left you sobbing in a puddle of snot and despair two years ago. Text your best friend that you’re writing this letter. She texts back that, ok, go ahead and write it, but maybe wait two days before sending it? Pour another glass of wine from the box.
4:00pm Feel good about yourself; you’ve finally, after years of slow, painful, exhausting internal work and external effort and risk-taking, pieced your psyche back together after the wounds and traumas of your adolescence and twenties. You’ve become the awesome, strong, resilient person you’ve always wanted to be.
4:06pm Feel nihilistic despair because, having taken the necessary time to become an awesome person, it’s now functionally too late for you to find a partner with whom to build a life and family.
4:07pm Check your text messages to find that your college roommate sent you an ultrasound pic announcing her third pregnancy with her handsome and devoted husband.
4:30pm Call your parents. Futilely attempt to resist the vortex that sucks you back into adolescence upon interacting with them. Interrupt your dad multiple times to ask him to take his phone away from his ear, because you’re doing a video call and you’re staring into the whorls of his ear canal. You hear your voice take on a pre-teen whine as you ask him to move the phone again “so your face is in the little box in the corner” because now you’re staring at a taxidermied deer head that he shot in 1977 and has been hanging on the wall in your parents’ den ever since. It gives you the eerie feeling that you’re talking to a dead deer. Your dad talks at length about getting the snowblower tuned up. Talking to the dead deer might be the more interesting conversation.
4:38pm You mom takes over the call. Feign interest in your mom’s new sweater that has bird appliques on it. *ALL* of your mom’s sweaters have bird appliques on them. Your mom has a weird thing for birds AND for appliqued sweaters and you’ve resigned yourself to this fact. This part of the conversation will take at least 20 minutes. Make a mental note to not ever devolve in this fetish as you grow older and inevitably turn into your mother.
5:00pm Open the care package/household-item-purge that your mom sent you for the holiday. It contains random, broken toys from your childhood bedroom and a Christmas ornament that says “Baby’s First Christmas 1980”. You were born in 1982.
5:35pm Contemplate the slab of your mother’s famous, family-tradition holiday baked treat that was also included in the care package. This treat is something that everybody hates and that is eaten as a form of penance for whatever sins you have committed throughout the year. “Two Hail Marys and a slice of fruitcake.” You have never told your mother how awful this thing is because you love your mother, at least some of the time. Whatever your family’s version of this baked good is, it will inevitably contain some kind of dried fruit that pulls the fillings out of your teeth, an odd combination of leavening agents that makes it taste like sucking on a Lincoln penny and some fossilized nuts. It will have the mass-to-volume ratio of an anvil and will definitely set up camp in your lower guts and stay there for 3-4 days. This is the penance part.
6:00pm Make homemade turkey egg rolls because you’re a badass in the kitchen and someone would be totally lucky to have you as a partner. Clamber back into your holiday-party-dress-cum-snowsuit and bring the egg rolls to your cousin’s masked, socially-distant, small, outdoor gathering. Literally every other person who is either there or on the Zoom screen has a partner and at least one child. Deflect well-meaning questions about why you’re not seeing anyone. Bask in the glory that your cousin’s 14-year-old daughter idolizes you and thinks you have the most glamorous, enviable life because you don’t change anyone’s diapers and she once saw you on social media wearing stiletto heels and a corset. That was back when, you know, socializing was a thing.
7:30pm Go home alone. Text your on again/off again f—buddy to see if they want to meet up tonight because, dammit, it’s the holiday. They do not respond.
8:3pm Drink another glass of box wine. Sit and feel the weight of your isolation and failure sit in your gut like an anvil’s-weight of your mother’s holiday baking.
9:00pm Crawl into bed with your dog and watch Netflix on your phone. Your dog is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. Say what you will about the owner-dog bond, that it’s not the most complex relationship in the world…but it’s damn gratifying. And nobody can say that snuggling with the cutest thing in the world, warm in bed, watching Air Bud on a six-inch screen, isn’t the best way to spend the holiday anyway.
9:05 Determine that next year, you’re celebrating Festivus.