A Note for Singles This Holiday Season
I have always been a Christmas-after-Thanksgiving type of person. I believe in staunch, rigid schedules and timelines, and though there’s no real, logical basis for this point, it’s just sort of what I’ve always done. HOWEVER, an unprecedented year brings unprecedented decisions, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t been dabbling in Christmas music and movies throughout this first half of November. I shan’t feel shame. IT’S BRINGING ME COMFORT!
Amidst perusing these mediums, I came across the new Netflix movie, Holidate, starring Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, and one very promiscuous Kristin Chenoweth (which I low-key loved). I will spoil this movie for you, so if that turns you off g’head and click out of this. Though plot-twist, exactly what you think happens….happens.
The premise of the movie is essentially what the title implies: two individuals use each other as friends with benefits - but the benefit is being able to spend holidays together as each others’ plus-one. I had such high hopes that this movie would end with both of these people having a beautiful, stark realization that they didn’t need a date for the holidays at all! I imagined some super progressive underlying message that combated the stigma that surrounds chosen independence, situationally declaring how lovely and admirable and okay it is to just be alone, how your happiness and contentment doesn’t (or shouldn’t) hinge on the presence of another. Of course, that didn’t happen. Our two protagonists realized that they had actual feelings for each other, and after the cringiest of cringy grand gestures smack in the middle of a mall at Christmastime with the help of a gospel choir (yeah, you read that right, a GOSPEL CHOIR), they share a kiss in front of an audience of hundreds of shoppers who then applaud for them (ya know, just like real life)!
I don’t blame Netflix for following the formula of the perfect Christmas romantic comedy. It’s a proven recipe that guarantees views. We associate holidays with heartwarming moments and memories, usually involving loved ones - family, friends, a romantic partner - and that’s what we want to see when we engorge ourselves with holly jolly content. We want to weep when the guy shows up at the doorstep on Christmas Eve and apologies, we want to see the big chase scene at the airport right before she boards the flight to her hometown, we want to see her confess her love in the middle of a busy mall with the help of a gospel choir (or do we? Just kidding). It reminds us of the love that's ubiquitous in our lives - that love that so often falls into the background of our day-to-day. We’re reminded how grateful, how fortunate, how lucky we are.
But what about those of us who are spending this holiday season without a significant other? What about those impending feelings of loneliness and lacking that are sure to creep in in the quiet periphery of merriment? What about the underlying insecurity that arises when your family inevitably asks if you’re seeing anyone special? What about the longing and the absence and the sheer, poignant incorrectness one feels for being alone at this time of year? What do we do with all those feelings? And more importantly, why do they exist in the first place?
According to researchers, humans will have up to 400 friends in their lifetime (Daily Mail) - all ranging in level of importance, longevity, and intimacy of course, but still… FOUR HUNDRED. Compare that to the statistic of having an average of 5-6 serious romantic relationships in a person’s lifetime (Her), and you've got a HUGE disparity. You have friends throughout your entire existence - from the early days in the sandbox to college to the office to the gym to the bar buds to the neighbors and so on and so forth. Friends are ever-present, ever-accessible, ever-changing and yet we are so quick to relinquish focus on these relationships and fixate entirely on that romantic partner (or lack thereof).
Holidays sort of inspire the ever-familiar, dangerous push and pull of the comparison game, making us feel lonely and inadequate, despite more often than not having so, SO much to be grateful for. We see our married friends post a photo of their Christmas card on Instagram and feel a slight punch in the gut, we visit with family (in person or virtually) and prepare ourselves to answer the ever-intrusive “why are you still single?” question, we spend time reflecting as the year winds down, and with that comes the reconciliation of what we thought our lives would be like vs. how they actually are.
So, holidays are hard, right? And it’s far too easy in our society to fall into the trap of prioritizing forced togetherness (like our friends in Holidate) than to just embrace that stolid solitude. It’s easier to close the door on the skeletons in the closet than go inside and confront them. It’s easier to turn our focus to another - any other - than it is to deal with the brief discomfort of feeling that familiar pang of loneliness. It’s easier to feel sorry for ourselves in our singledom than it is to remember the standards we’ve upheld each time we didn’t settle for less than what we believe we deserve. I would love to see a holiday movie that encompasses THOSE values, that dictates THAT mindset.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: single friends, exercise grace with yourself this holiday season. In a year that has ravaged so much, please don’t further minimize your resilience because you don’t have a plus-one at the Thanksgiving table. There’s nothing wrong with you, your experience isn’t less-than, there’s not a glass ceiling on the joy you can experience, now or at any point in time. Embrace the quiet comfort of your own company. Revel in all that you’ve accomplished this year, even if it was just surviving (it should go without saying, but that in itself is a huge victory). Note all the little things that make you happy - the perfect slice of pumpkin pie, the twinkle of the lights on the houses in your suburban hometown, the fuzzy blanket you’ll wrap yourself in with Home Alone on the tv - it’s all yours, and it always will be.
Lean into the relationships that have withstood the turbulence of the year - the friends who send the “how’s it going” text in the middle of a Wednesday, the family members who still check in despite your political differences, the zoom calls with your book club who have become a sort of virtual family throughout the year. There are so many incredible relationships that have shaped who you’ve become this year, and to negate all of those because you’re feeling lonely without a significant other is a disservice to those people and a disservice to yourself.
Look at all you have, look at all you are, look at all that’s on your horizon.
Sure it may make time go by faster to have someone in the passenger seat, but there’s really nothing quite like a solo drive with the windows down and your favorite song blaring...am I right?