Single This Season? Lucky You!

One married writer reveals why you should actually savor your solo status during the holidays.

By Lisa Lombardi

ack when I was single (as in, not even dating anyone), all I wanted for Christmas — for Thanksgiving, actually — was a great guy. I imagined us canoodling through the holiday season in some kind of winter-wonderland montage: dragging home a Christmas tree together, downing bubbly in front of a blazing fire, swapping the perfect presents (mine in a small Tiffany-blue box or out in the driveway with a fat red ribbon wound trunk to hood).

But now that I’m married, I find myself pining for those
He had given me
a classic, barely-know-you gift.
Christmases I spent unattached. Don’t get me wrong, I love my man. It’s just that no December with my husband, Dan — or with any of my serious boyfriends — has proven remotely as romantic as I imagined when I was guy-less.

Truth is, our fireplace sets off the smoke alarm. And as for the tree-dragging scenario? Sure, it sounds cozy, but before you can tote a tree home, you have to negotiate the Great Tree Compromise. In fact, before you get serious with a guy, be sure to ask him what kind of tree he prefers (Douglas fir? Pine?), or else you’ll be battling it out one cold, gray December day. Dan, it turns out, likes ’em bald and shedding their last (brown) needles. With gaping holes right about where you’d want to hang most of the ornaments. I’m admittedly a pine snob, searching for that one cut tree that’s as lush and healthy as the ones still growing in the Bavarian forest. And I realize that makes me seem a bit, well, insane. But the thing is, when you’re single, nobody cares if you obsessively scour three (OK, five) nurseries to find the perfect specimen. Last year, Dan and I spent so long bickering over trees that the nice guy helping us said, “That’s all I’ve got, sorry.” Then he walked away. We looked at each other: Were we just thrown out of the elementary school’s Christmas tree sale?

Still, tree-shopping is a breeze compared with buying gifts for your guy. When I was solo, the only people I had to shop for were my family and girlfriends. Nirvana. Dad’s happy with another variation on the same striped tie you’ve been buying him since you were 10. And even if you’re pushing 30 (or 40), Mom — bless her — still
Friends can be more fun to shop for than spouses…
thinks anything you picked out all by yourself is wonderful. Girlfriends are even more fun to buy for (and get from, I should add): If you’ll like it, they will, too. And if you like it, you can borrow it anytime you want.

But once you’re hitched at the holidays, just try pleasing your man. Even with old boyfriends, I’ve struck out with thick, sweaters—hand-knit, too (not by me… puh-leeze!). Subtle, sophisticated cologne. Books (who knew one could like history books and The History Channel, but not historical novels?) Last year, on a tip from one of Dan’s friends, I bought him a satellite radio. What guy wouldn’t love that? Uh, mine. That radio sat unopened through Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, and Fourth of July—I only recently got him to start listening to those jillion channels. How? By opening and installing the stupid thing myself.

And need I mention, when you’re attached, your list rapidly expands, even if he has a small family. (Last year I spent almost $900 on his family—single gals, you can treat yourself to a weekend getaway at an ultra-luxe spa for that!) But it’s not the money, really; it’s the fear of committing the ultimate present faux-pas. And somehow that always does manage to happen. My Hall of Shame moment occurred during my first Christmas Eve with Dan’s extended family. We showed up with nice presents for the key people: His dad, mom, brother, sister-in-law, and favorite uncle. Only to be blindsided by gifts from like twenty of his cousins. Oops, he forgot to tell me about the other gifts we had to buy. His reaction? Oh, that’s cool if we don’t have anything for them. Right, who expects something in return? Talk about mortifying!

Also, when you’re single, you’re spared the ultimate December disappointment: when that perfect guy gives you the perfectly awful present. I’ll never forget the time an old boyfriend I’ll call Ted showed me the last-minute quickie gifts he picked out for his mom and sister: the exact-same basket of bath soaps and lotions, pre-wrapped by some department store. You know, those ones that are always on the first gift table as you walk through the front door (for the men who are too lazy to even walk the thirty feet to a beauty counter)? I felt bad for poor, neglected mom and sis, until Ted handed me my Christmas present and I recognized the cellophane paper. It couldn’t be… Oh, no! He got me the same barely-know-you basket.

So if you’re solo this season, yes, I admit it can be lonely. But enjoy the perks while you can: Stay at the mall until it closes. Meet your girlfriends for cocktails and tapas. And breeze right through the men’s department at Banana Republic, mentally adding up the benjamins you just saved. Then take that found money, and buy yourself something expensive. Something special. Something indulgent. Just make sure it isn’t the already-boxed Jean Naté gift set—with any luck, you’ll be getting that next year from your sweetie.

Want to read the other side of the story? Read I Hate The Holidays.

Lisa Lombardi is a New York-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in Marie Claire, Redbook and Cosmopolitan.
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