Dear Single Women: This Holiday Season We Fight Back

A new series that explores what it's really like to be single in your 30s and NGAF.

Squiggly Line
“Strength in numbers we can get it right.”
-Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation, 1989
The biggest difference between single women and partnered humans can be boiled down to a simple syrup: “Life is nothing without someone to share it with.” This lie means that joyous, exciting moments in life feel exactly the opposite for single women, because we’ve been groomed to believe that even when something awesome happens, it would be more awesome if we weren’t alone. So we’re never really enjoying things the way partnered people do. I’m talking of course about the holidays.
You’ve read them, I’ve written them, the “single woman’s guide to surviving the holidays.” Surviving. That’s rich. Partnered people and families get matching pajamas and piles of presents and single women get a briefing as if we’re going in for a colonoscopy.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters 
The holidays inspect and cautiously sniff at us as if we’re old Tupperware contents from the back of the fridge. We get attention we don’t want because the thinking around single women is still askew. That’s why the holidays are a punch bowl of painful delights for us to try not to drown in from November-January. We all know the recipe:
1 gallon of every relative individually asking you how dating is going
2 cups of schlepping and trimming your Christmas tree, Christmas lights, and menorah alone
6 ounces of watching other people exchange gifts
⅓ cup of being asked to move so a couple can sit together on a flight
1 shot of disbelief that you’re “still” single
⅛ teaspoon of someone telling you marriage isn’t that great either
A dash of someone asking what Tinder is
Sprinkle with no fewer than 11 Instagram engagements near an ice skating rink
Mix well and serve
No one but us knows what it’s like to sip on that tea. And while I want nothing more than for single women to make it from here to January 2 with their self esteem and liquor cabinets still intact, I’m finished with the notion that the holidays are something single women have to “survive.” So this year, we fix it.
Single women, I’m sorry, all women, take it upon themselves to diffuse a situation that needs mellowing. As a gender we’re the emotional impact absorbers, the ones who want everyone around us to be happy and comfortable at all times, regardless of how uncomfortable a situation makes us. As it pertains to being single at the holidays, I’m over it. I want those uncomfortable situations to stop happening, period, so we’re going to train bad behaviors out of people. It’ll be tough, just be patient and keep some treats in your pocket.
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A common misconception among well-meaning family and friends is to assume that because their single loved one hasn’t “found someone,” it means that she can’t. In their minds, the solution for this is to suggest places their single loved one might locate a partner. They love her, and they want her to be happy, so it’s just logical. It’s sweet in a disastrous holiday movie sort of way. It sounds like this:
“Have you tried volunteering?”
“Maybe take a cooking class!”
“What about the online dating? Have you tried that?”
“Join a gym!”
“What about standing on a street corner dressed in neon lighting while holding a giant net?”
Here’s the thing: Everyone loves to assume that the way they met their partner was special. They love to tell the story, over and over again literally for the rest of their lives, that’s how special the story is. So if their story is special, why do they think that you should utilize whatever mundane solution that’s just popped into their head?
Also, is your family psychic? (If so, mazels.) They can’t predict what will “work” any better than we can. So what they’re really doing when they go hard on the advice that you don’t need or want is making themselves feel better because they didn’t do nothing to help someone they love. But they kind of did do nothing, because you’ve already done everything, and that shit didn’t work.
Here’s our plan: Guilt. Oh yes, ladies. Please feel free to feed your family with its own ingredients. If our loved ones are so concerned with our single status such that they ask about it over turkey and yams, we’re going to call out the fact that they have done nothing to actually help us change it. If they want to walk onto this dance floor, let’s tango goddamnit.
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“Mom, Aunt Paula, while I recognize the brilliant tag-teaming effort you’re putting in here, your off-the-cuff suggestions of places to “find a man” really aren’t helpful. What actually would be helpful is if you’d go through your mental rolodex and think about who you could connect me with that could widen my social circle. Unless you don’t want to help. Do you not want to help me, Mom?”
“You know Uncle Greg, when you refer to my eggs as a product with an expiration date, that’s an incredibly offensive way of letting me, and all the women seated at this table, know that you think women have nothing more to offer the world than childbearing. By the way I’ll be making breakfast for the family tomorrow morning. I do hope nothing is wrong with your eggs.”
“Thanks Sis, for asking how dating is going. In the last 60 days I’ve been ghosted by two men — sorry LOL, you’ve been married since ‘08, you don’t know what ghosted means. Ghosting is where you go on anywhere from one to 50 dates with a man who disappears into thin air as if you’d conjured him, until you realize he works in your building and he’s just been ignoring you because he doesn’t respect you or your feelings. I’ve also Tinder matched with and messaged 42 men who never responded to me. I did meet an awesome guy at a bar a couple weeks ago, and we went out a few times and slept together few times before he let me know he’s in an open relationship and that I’ll never matter to him as much as his actual girlfriend. But I’m so glad you asked about this publicly because another blow to my self esteem was just what the doctor ordered. Did I answer your question?”
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“Dad, I know you want me to be happy. I want to be happy, too. But bringing up the fact that I’m single at the holidays makes me very unhappy, because believe me Dad, I’m aware of the situation. So unless you’re hiding my husband in your back pocket, it’s really not your place to talk to me about a very personal area of my life that is actually none of your business. Also, if my husband is in your back pocket, take him out for fucks sake, I’m exhausted.”
This is how we do it. We tell the truth. We don’t swallow second helpings of bad feelings served by loved ones who either don’t know any better, or think they’re doing us a favor. We stop nodding and smiling through the quagmire until either it’s over or we’re drunk. We fight back a little, and while it might hurt the first time, think of it this way: If we all do it, we’re all taking steps to help each other. We can change the way people think and speak about single women, one awkward gathering at a time. If it gets tough, tweet #EverySingleSupport and we’ll bitch about it on the bird.
From the first cup of cocoa to the last bottle — I mean glass — of champagne I want you to enjoy every second. We’re not going to survive the holidays, we’re going to live them up. It is no longer our job to make other people feel better about our single status at this time of year. It is our job instead to change the way single women are discussed, and to enjoy this time of year as much as anybody else.
Happy holidays. Love, Shani.
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