Solo On Thanksgiving?

If you’re used to celebrating this holiday with a spouse, here are 10 reasons to revel in your now single status and really savor the day.

By Nina Malkin

t may seem as though everybody’s part of a couple when the holidays come around. And it can hit you especially hard if you used to have a partner to share the season, but are unattached this year. Don’t let that “I’m all alone” sensation get you down. According to the recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey of more than 3,000 Americans, the majority of singles (55%) are not in a steady relationship or looking for a partner. Singlehood has its perks, especially this time of year. Less stress, more freedom and fewer wacky relatives to endure, to name a few. Read on to remind yourself why not having a date for Thanksgiving dinner and beyond can be a blessing in disguise.

1) You can celebrate your independence. It may not be the Fourth of July, but when you’re solo at holiday time, you have more freedom to do your own thing. “Facing the ‘shoulds’ of life is a constant challenge, and around the holidays the ‘shoulds’ can
You no longer have to keep up the “I’m a wizard in the kitchen” charade.
become even more oppressive,” says Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. “But if you can summon the self-confidence to not be buffeted about by the winds of peer pressure and cultural pressure, you are likely to be deeply satisfied with your life.” Right now, that may mean heading off to an exotic port of call or dining on pepperoni pizza instead of roast turkey.

2) You only have to endure one annoying set of relatives. You love your family, but they sure can pile on the pressure at holiday time. And remember how that stress was multiplied by a partner’s collection of kinfolk? “Stress is cumulative, so only having to deal with one set of relatives is easier,” says Karen Sherman, Ph.D., author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, Make It Last. “Plus, stress is lessened when a situation is predictable — dealing with your family is far more predictable than with the family of a partner.” In other words, there’s less drama contending with the devil you know. Not that your Uncle Morty is the devil or anything…

3) You can indulge in “bad” holiday behavior. If you feel like unbuttoning your pants at the dinner table or gluing yourself to the games, you basically have carte blanche. Once you are part of a couple, you’re obligated to temper your actions according to your partner’s preferences. “In a relationship, if it functions properly, you should be accountable to the other person,” says Sherman. “Therefore, if your mate doesn’t like football, spending all your time watching it would be considered selfish.” No date, no worries.

4) You don’t have to engage in family tug-of-war. Arguing about whom to spend the holidays with (or splitting the holiday in half) is a fact of life for joined-at-the-hip couples. “One thing I never realized was how hard it would be to share the holidays,” says Louise Thach, 29, of Hoboken, NJ. “Spending them away from your family, even if it’s every other year, is really difficult. Single people should enjoy their celebrations — the family, food and traditions you love — while they have them!”

5) You needn’t make excuses for your scant culinary/carving skills. Traditional gender roles that seem obsolete come roaring back around the holidays. Suddenly, women are expected to know what to do with chestnuts, and men are supposed to expertly apply a miniature chainsaw to a turkey breast. Think about your prior married holidays, and you know what we mean. Since you’re not coupled up at the moment, there’s less impetus to participate in this charade. As humorist Diana Estill, author of Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road, puts it: “Women who aren’t attached during the holiday season seldom have to demonstrate their ability at roasting a bird that — through some freak of processing — has had its neck stuck up its butt.”

On the flip side, singles are often erroneously considered to be among the culinary clueless. “The assumption that singles — especially single men — are hopeless in the kitchen is just another stereotype,” says Dr. DePaulo. “Single people who take
Play the single card, and just say “No thanks.”
themselves and their lives seriously will prepare fabulous meals if they have the time and the inclination, whether it is a holiday or not, and whether they are entertaining one other person, a whole group, or dining solo.” So, whip out your five-star recipes if you wish — and impress the stuffing out of them!

6) You get to put yourself first for a change. Want to opt out of any holiday festivities? When you’re solo, you can do so knowing you won’t be mangling your partner’s experience. Play the single card, and just say “No thanks.” Of course, this can be hard when you care for the person or family members you’re turning down. “In that case you can say that this particular occasion is not going to work for you, but you would love to see them some other time — then really do try to set something up,” says Dr. DePaulo. “That way you get to see the people you like, without getting guilted into something you don’t like.” Be honest — but nice: “I’ve been looking forward to spending this holiday on my own, getting away from all the hectic activities, and just relaxing. But I really would love to see you — how about dinner next week?”

7) You can flirt with other singles. Few holiday get-togethers are the exclusive domain of couples. Maybe your brother/sister will have some cute platonic guy/girlfriend in tow. “You can always ask who’s going to attend and if there’s a possible interest, go!” urges Sherman. Or instead of committing to just one event that day, drop in at several — your family’s, a close friend’s, the “orphans-only” potluck in your apartment complex. Travelers will be coming in from out of town, so you’ll meet a variety of interesting types, not just the usual suspects. And let’s be real: Since no one’s immune to society’s edict to get hooked up by the holidays, people may be more approachable and receptive. You never know what can happen — stimulating conversations, a brief encounter, or the start of a promising romance.

8) You can take time to reflect. “Do yoga, meditate, or spend an hour or two volunteering in a soup kitchen,” suggests April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League. “It will give you a sense of perspective.” Adds Dr. DePaulo: “Solo holidays can also be great times for taking stock. Use the time to take a step back and really think about your life, in that big-picture way that is so important.” Go ahead: Reconnect with what an awesome and desirable person you are and shake off any negative, post-divorce baggage. Accept your role in that situation, learn from it, and, most importantly, move ahead. Review the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Remember all the important people you know and love — the close friendships that have outlasted many marriages. As you count your blessings, you may discover that you truly are content with your life as it is now or come to understand the ways you would like it to change. If one of the things you decide you want is a relationship, you can use this time to muse on what you want in a partner.

9) You can study all those couples. Some of them are of the happy, loving variety, and others aren’t, right? Look at the thinly disguised miserable couples gathered at the table and be thankful you’re not them. Perhaps it will dredge up your own memories of when you were part of a not so happy couple. Be thankful you are no longer in that place. Also observe the truly well-suited twosomes and aspire to what they’ve got. “There is probably someone among the couples — maybe even a number of someones — who are coupled mostly because they cannot bear the idea of appearing at a social event on their own,” points out Dr. DePaulo. “Every time you go to a couples-intensive event on your own, I think you make it easier for people to be single if that’s what they want. The best gift you can give yourself, and everyone else, at events dominated by couples, is your own poise and self-assurance.”

10) You can skip the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness. There are a lot of things to do the day after Thanksgiving other than fight crowds at the local mall. And because your gift list is minus a mate and his/her family at this moment in your life, you can do those other things. “Don’t get me wrong, being in a relationship is wonderful, but one of the greatest benefits to being single come the holidays is not having to buy your significant other a gift,” says Joseph Moscone, 29, from New York City. “You can go nuts trying to think of the right thing — play-off tickets, spa treatments, bacon-of-the-month club, whatever.” Not to mention the expense… which this year, at least, you can invest in buying yourself a gift. Enjoy it!

Nina Malkin is the author of An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle.
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