PLEASE NOTE: I’m not bitter
My daughter and I walked arm in arm at The Grove—a popular outdoor LA mall. With her now away at college, and me mid-menopause-single-mom-psycho-meltdown, our time together was precious and, lately, almost non-existent.
We window-shopped, lunched, tried on shoes.
There it was—pruned, primped and dressed in sparkles for all the world to see: At the center of the square, standing 100 feet tall, looming green and perfect like a Godzilla-sized woodland super-model—was a Christmas tree.
Holiday music blared from every orifice of the environs. Banana Republic puked O Tannenbaum, while William-Sonoma shit Silent Night. Costumed carolers strolled like freakish clowns in a poinsettia-lined house of horrors. The smell of cinnamon and pine burned my nose. Tinsel rained down on me like blood. I was Carrie at the prom. I was Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Worse…
The holidays were upon us and I was single…
and over forty…
My stomach jumped to my heart and my day went left. My wise-beyond-her-years daughter patted me on my back, full knowing how the lubricant-deficient wheels were creaking in my head.
We limped to the car, paid too much for parking, got lost in the structure then made our way home.
I tried to remember the last time I actually “dated” someone at the holidays. It had been 26 years—my ex-husband. At the time there were already neon signs we were a mismatch but “Screw it. It’s the holidays and I have a date!”
Ten years later he was gone and I was alone with a baby girl in a Santa hat. I pulled it together for her. She was darling. It was Christmas.
The following year I’d been knocked-up by Baby-Daddy number two and was in full bloom. I didn’t date that season either. I was too busy vomiting. Twelve years after that, he was gone as well. Since then, at the most festive time of year, my va-j-j and I attempt to merely survive the festivities. As a single mom I focus on the kids. Thank god for the kids.
The holidays are different for every single mom—factoring in temperament, coping mechanisms, support, and genetic holiday outlook. There’s always the rare cheerful, gingerbread-making, candy stripe-wearing single mom who just LOVES the holidays!!!! But most of us single moms choose to walk on Scrooge’s side of the street, dreading the coupled holiday parties, sugar-fueled overwrought kids and inexplicable yet socially imposed loneliness that accompanies this Holly Jolly season.
THE TWO MOST STRESSFUL THINGS A SINGLE MOM CAN ENDURE:
1. THE HOLIDAYS
Combined, the two are a recipe for disaster.
Childhood holiday memories are complicated by the realities of being a grown-up. You battle feelings and desires that were once met by a partner or parent. But now you are the grown-up. You are the parent— and you are uncoupled.
And because this is supposed to be a time of joy, the fact that you don’t feel joy makes you feel worse. Life is not how you’d imagined as a ten-year-old, Yuletide dreamer.
But dating is not the way to feel like an adult. Parenting is. The shift of focus can take the pressure off craving the scent of Old Spice mixed with aromas of gingerbread, latkes, or a Christmas ham.
So in hopes of giving some guidance in what might be a challenging time, I have compiled the following Dating Survival Guide for this most wonderful time of the year.
DATING DON’TS FOR THE HOLIDAYS:
* Do not have your new paramour celebrate the holidays with your children. Unless you are in a committed relationship—as in, there’s a ring on it—now is not the time to bring him into the fold. (And if you are able to get a dude over forty to commit, may I please take a ride on your magic unicorn before we have tea with the mermaid living at the bottom of your pool?)
* Avoid “family” gifts and don’t even think about putting said dude on your holiday card.
* Avoid your family completely. He’s a date. Do not invite him to share the holidays with your kids and parents like the nuclear family you aren’t.
WAYS TO MEET DATES AT THE HOLIDAYS:
* Do look for flustered single dads in toy stores or children’s departments.
* Go to holiday office parties (and all of your friends’ holiday office parties).
* DO NOT ON-LINE DATE. On-line dating at the holidays is like last call at a bar.
FIGHTING THE HOLIDAY DATING BLUES:
* Don’t volunteer! Unless you love it, don’t feel you have to give more of yourself than you already do. You’re a single mom. Get a mani-pedi.
* Avoid malls and Christmas tree lots.
* Avoid New Year’s Eve (see Netflix).
* Avoid friends and relatives with jubilant nuclear families. Unless they bring you unrelenting joy, stick with your single friends. We’re more fun anyhow.
* Remember, “This too shall pass.” The holidays are a mere wink in the span of a lifetime.
* Do NOT watch Love Actually.
* Get a fancy new vibrator and a bottle of Kettle One.
* Look at the bright side.
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF NOT DATING AT THE HOLIDAYS:
* No romantic gifting stress. Your money and energy go towards your kids, yourself, and more vodka.
* No pressure to see his family.
* No pressure to have sex after consuming obscene quantities of mashed potatoes.
* Ability to flirt at holiday parties.
* Overall ease in holiday hook-ups with other single parents, bartenders and much younger men (because after all it’s the holidays!).
And most importantly,
* The complete, unencumbered, unfiltered ability to revel in the joy and magic that is your children (with some fudge, eggnog, and vodka thrown in).
Happy New Year!