Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Single, Not Alone for the Holidays

The holiday break is over, and Singletude is back! All of you readers, both those who visit frequently and those who stop by, er, once in a blue moon are wished the very best of everything, including heaps of peace, joy, and (not necessarily romantic) love in 2010! Before Singletude settles back into its weekly routine, I want to share some post-holiday thoughts.

The holiday season is rightly noted as a time of year when singles are particularly susceptible to loneliness. Although we don't all want to be coupled, most of us want to be included, and some of us find ourselves subtly or not so subtly butted out of family circles composed of arm-linked couples. Others are welcomed into the circle only to be shoved to the center, where we're grilled about our personal choices. Still others have no issues with family but are bombarded with depressing media images and couplecentric rituals that suggest singles are not high on Santa's list. And, of course, some single people do want to be in relationships and find the relentless focus on mistletoe and diamond rings that much harder to bear.

In short, it's easy to feel alone as a single. But being single doesn't mean you are alone. This hit home for me this New Year's Eve.

In the past, New Year's Eve for me was very much a date night, often marking the start of a relationship (no pressure there) or a romantic high note in a longstanding relationship. This was one of less than a handful of years that I spent it without a date or even the semblance of a date. My companions were a female friend, dating but single (we'll call her Gwen), and a very cool married couple (let's call them Nicole and Mike). As everyone knows, if you're not paired for the holidays, at no time is this more apparent than during the torturous tradition of ringing in the new year with a great big lip smack at the stroke of midnight. (In this era of swine flu, can't we just call an end to this unhygienic nonsense? ;)) Even though it's my choice to be single, and I don't usually feel lonely, this moment has a way of making me feel like a one-bladed scissor, a single chopstick, or a sole shoelace--conspicuous, useless, and, above all, alone.

So it was a pleasant surprise when the ball dropped and instead of feeling like an appendage, I was part of the circle as we all clinked glasses and exchanged hugs. Then we did something I've never done before. We ran up to the roof and, hearing another roof party down the block, called out our New Year's wishes to these strangers. There was a pause, and then we heard the answering cry, "Happy New Year!" We peered over the lighted rooftop railing and watched as passersby on the street below trickled out of their apartments to greet the first night of 2010 or headed back in after an evening of celebration, and every time one of them passed, we yelled out, "Hey! Girl with the dog! Guy in the hat! Look up! Happy New Year!" At first with confusion, then with dawning amusement, the pedestrians would look around, spot us, grin, and wave back.

Emboldened, we tromped down the stairs and, led by the vivacious Nicole, embarked on a mission to spread as much cheer as we could in one night. Our quota, Nicole decided, was to greet 30 strangers, but before we collapsed back at Gwen's place, I'm sure we had wished half of Soho and much of Nolita all the best in 2010. Everyone, absolutely everyone we passed, got a New Year's greeting. We gave a hearty "Happy New Year" to gangs of college kids, who whooped and high-fived us back; to glittering girls in pairs, who smiled shyly; to roving men, still dressed for work on Wall Street, who winked and raised their eyebrows; to young couples kissing on the sidewalk, who returned our good wishes so they could return to making out; to old couples, walking hand in hand, surprised and delighted that some of us "young folks" hadn't forgotten how to be neighborly; to foreigners in furs, who answered in incomprehensible accents; to hobos in doorways, whose eyes lit with pleasure to be seen and heard; to the revelers in restaurant windows, who raised their glasses; to the guy at the hotdog stand and the crew working late at Starbucks, who broke into grins on this holiday they had thought they would have to sit out; and to single people by themselves, walking their dogs in little plaid coats or rushing off to meet friends or just going home to their dark apartments after a long night, not necessarily expecting anyone to notice them, to care who they were or where they were going.

It was fascinating and heartwarming, in a way, to observe the reactions we got, especially from the other singles, some of whom would glance at us in surprise and perhaps mistrust before smiling in spite of themselves and returning the greeting. Others, sensing kindred spirits, were ready with ear-to-ear grins and boisterous good wishes of their own. That night, I realized that I wasn't alone, and neither were they. We were all in this together, hurtling toward a future none of us could foresee but were hopeful for nonetheless. This was shared human experience that transcended the temporal bonds of marriage or even blood kinship.

In 2010, I want to carry this revelation with me, that life should be about extending ourselves to others in recognition of our common human condition, not organizing our interactions around the artificial boundaries of marriage and the nuclear family. I want to remember that I am single, but I am not alone. I am in this world with millions of other people with the same desires, the same fears, the same struggles, the same satisfactions. When we can all learn that what unites us by birth is more important than manufactured titles that divide, it will indeed be a happy, new year.

As a single, do you feel alone during the holidays? If so, how do you cope with that feeling? Do you believe that single people are automatically alone? Why or why not? Can you share a holiday experience (or any experience) in which you realized that being single didn't have to mean being alone?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have an unpublished rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a "Singletude Q&A" or your rant or rave in a "Singletude Sound-off"! Singletude makes every effort to republish submissions in their original form but reserves the right to edit your submission for length and clarity.


Alan said...

I considered this a good New Years Eve for me, even though I was alone.

I'm an RN on the night shift, and I was scheduled to work New Years Eve. However, we had few patients and no admissions scheduled, so someone had to go home early. It turned out to to my turn this time.

So I worked only 4 hours and managed to get home in time to ring in the new year, just me and the cats and a cup of hot chocolate.

The Singlutionary said...

This is a really beautiful post! There is community out there for all of us. I think that traditional coupling (which is still considered the norm) seems to say: there is ONE person for you who will satisfy your every need and you won't need anyone else.

This is false, of course. Coupled people still need community. But I think, as a whole, community goes largely uncelebrated in our culture.

You had a communal celebration of the new year, spreading joy and through out your neighborhood!

I have many strong communities and many different ones. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate all together.

Simone Grant said...

I agree, it's a beautiful post. My holidays were hard this year. I'l admit that. But it wasn't the fact that I was single. Just a lot of other stress in my life.

I've had some great holidays as a single woman. And some great holidays with a partner. And some horrible holidays with a partner. I guess my point is that my dating/marital status isn't the deciding factor in my happiness and it really never has been.

Clever Elsie said...

Alan: That sounds so peaceful and cozy! There's so much cultural emphasis on being with other people on special occasions, but I think it's good to recognize that we don't necessarily have to be around other people to enjoy a holiday. Sometimes our own company (and maybe that of a furry friend or two) is just perfect! Thanks for sharing the perspective of someone who rang in the new year by himself and liked it that way!

Singlutionary: Yes! Community is definitely underrated. I think the lack of it is one of the things that makes us feel so adrift in a sea of strangers, probably more so even than lacking an intimate partner, as you said. I'm happy to hear that you also are surrounded by community and, in fact, by a variety of communities. :)

Simone: I'm sorry to hear that your holidays were stressful. :( I'll have to hop over to your blog and read all about it; I feel like such a bad blogger these days, not keeping up with everyone like I used to, mostly because of how "Singles in the News" has started to take over my life. :)

That's really awesome that your happiness during the holidays isn't tied to whether or not you have a partner! It's sad when people become too preoccupied with their relationship status to stop and enjoy all the good things that are for everyone at this time of year. I think yours is a very healthy attitude!