All I 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
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
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 lives.
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. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.