My third year of being single at Christmas is fast approaching. Year one, I was just a few months past splitting up with my ex-husband and thoroughly depressed at the prospect of spending Christmas with my family for the first time in many years.
And yet, it was lovely.
We all revert back to our childhood family stereotypical roles to some degree at Christmas, and as the ‘baby’ of the family, nothing was really expected of me. I felt loved, secure, looked after and comforted, which was just what I needed.
Last year, I did two things I have never done before. I spent Christmas day with friends, and drank no alcohol at all. It was a lovely, warm, cosy and comforting day in a different way, and I loved every minute of it.
This year, it will just be me and my mum. Like households everywhere, we will eat too much, drink too much, and watch bad TV. In years past, this might have felt like failure and regression, but at the moment, whilst I am still feeling a bit fragile after the older man saga, some mum time is just what I need.
After 20 years of Christmas compromises whilst married, my three solo Christmases have taught me the following lessons about enjoying the season of ‘goodwill to all men’, and the joys of a single Christmas:
1. Go large and trashy on the decorations. When I was married, I used to have tasteful, minimal, colour-themed decorations, put up about a week before Christmas. Now, my preferred look is ‘explosion in a tinsel factory’ from 1st December onwards. It is surprisingly cheering to come home to a flat full of fairy lights and shiny, shiny things. As yet, I have resisted any singing or dancing santas/snowmen etc, but it is only a matter of time. I truly am turning into my mother.
2. Arrange lots of nights out with friends, with compulsory dressing up in something sequined, shiny or Christmassy. Drink large amounts of wine (mulled or normal) and cocktails. Discuss all the reasons why we should NOT have goodwill to all men. Maybe to about 50% of the decent and well-behaved ones, if they’re lucky. And take plenty of time to admire how hot the barmen always seem to be at this time of year. Basically, spend all of December drunk and/or too hungover to care about your relationship status.
3. Arrange some dates for the new year, but not before (unless it is with one of the hunky barmen). December seems to bring out the weird, the desperate and the lonely. January brings a fresh new crop of daters, yet to be jaded by the frustrating, confusing, weird and wonderful experiences they have yet to encounter. What wonderful memories they will accumulate. It is only a matter of time before “My First Ghosting”, “The Ladybird Book of Dick Pics” and “Five Go Polyamorous” appear in a bookshop near you (ideal gifts for next Christmas).
4. Play ‘Argument Bingo’. Look out for the following categories of shopping couples in December, and be glad it’s not you:
– Talking to each other with fixed grins and gritted teeth, in classic ‘we are not arguing, honestly’ style.
– Bored men (and occasionally women) hauling around lots of carrier bags, five steps behind their partner.
– One person eye rolling at other customers when they are dragged into a shop they would never normally enter.
– Not talking to (or possibly even looking at) each other in a cafe or restaurant, after hours of shopping.
– One half on the phone to the other half in a shop, loudly debating what to buy for a random relative.
– Collapsed in a corner of a pub, surrounded by bags and discussing how much shopping they still need to do.
-Not even pretending to be civil any more and shouting at each other in public.
My advice:- shop alone!
5. On Christmas Eve, you can act as childish as you like. No grumpy man in your bed complaining about his need to get enough sleep to get through a day with your/his family. Stay up until midnight. Go and check if Santa has delivered your presents, even though you officially stopped believing in Santa thirty years ago. Open them at 12:02 on 25th December and delight in guessing what each one is, even though you already know because you dropped hints or provided lists, and quite possibly wrapped them yourself.
6. On Christmas Day, release the shackles of tradition. Ditch going to someone’s house for the same old boring roast, and cook yourself a festive (or entirely non-festive) treat. Sharing with friends is entirely optional. Last year, my Christmas dinner was basically cheese. It was AWESOME. By far the best Christmas dinner I have ever had (sorry mum).
7. Appreciate what you have. ALL the mince pies and wine are yours and yours alone. You can watch as many musicals and old Christmas movies as you please, with nobody to complain about your less than tuneful voice and being made to watch The Sound of Music for the 250th time. Sing and cry along with gusto. Listen to as many songs with ‘Christmas’ in the title as you can find, then hit repeat and listen to them all again (Shaky, we salute you).
Whilst celebrating your single status at Christmas, you can also raise a glass and celebrate your friends, family, colleagues, and everyone else who helps you get through the highs and lows of the dating rollercoaster; and don’t forget to celebrate all the things that make you uniquely you (by this stage, you are 40% Quality Street, 32% roast potato, 20% mince pie and 8% stuffing).
Whether single, dating or happily coupled up, I salute your gorgeousness, courage and general awesomeness. Let us all raise a glass or two of our favourite cocktails to 2017, and whatever adventures it may bring us. Have fun everyone!