This Christmas season, as I continue to be assaulted by all that is commercial and hokey, and feel grateful that I no longer feel lonely, I remember clearly how lonely I felt several years ago, when I wrote this in my main character Anna's voice...
On any given day from Thanksgiving to Christmas on television sets in every living room in America, proposals are made on snowy streets with sparkling diamonds, high end cars are bedecked with enormous bows and the keys handed over from one adoring spouse to another, couples cuddle in matching fleece leisurewear, and handsome men twirl gorgeous women wearing little black dresses while champagne is being served from silver platters around them. Any single person who claims to be unaffected by such advertisements I say is lying.
When do you ever see a single woman in flannel pants hanging out by herself wrapping gifts with a half-empty bottle of two buck chuck by her side? Exactly. They don’t ever show you that unless it’s a scene from a romantic comedy, and even then Hugh Grant is probably on his way over. Those of us relegated to spending some nights in the holiday season watching reality TV by ourselves while we wrap don’t quite know how to do it. Or don’t want to be doing it at all.
We look for clues from media on how to dress, which mascara will lengthen or thicken or curl, which detergent works best on darks and which works best on whites, and which credit cards to carry. There are no hints on how to get through the holiday season without a boyfriend, husband, or lover. It’s not there. Ergo it’s not normal. It’s not okay. It’s errant. Aberrant. And that makes the season grueling and lonely.
Shutting off the TV and avoiding ads might take away a seven o’clock sting, but it doesn’t eliminate family get-togethers and parties at which people invariably introduce new boyfriends or girlfriends, announce engagements and pregnancies, show pictures of their honeymoons or bring blueprints of their new houses. It’s maddening. You muster up the energy to get out of your own misery and into a velvet top and put on a happy face and go out to a party only to be assaulted by the sight of a woman wearing a Christmas tree sweater with pompons affixed, who is standing with a man who is clearly her boyfriend. And you look on, trying not to be jealous, and are eventually relieved he’s not your boyfriend because you realize he’s probably wearing snowman socks, and well, they’re made for each other. Every pot has its lid, right?
Then on the drive home you wish you had stayed home. Because as awful as all those love-is-in-the-air ads are, at least you wouldn't have had to talk to the woman in her thirties who looks like she’d been pelted with giant spitballs while keeping a straight face and trying to act interested in anything she had to say.
So you move on to the next event and with any luck hope it will be a family gathering where everyone knows and loves you, where you won’t feel so much like a Have Not. As much as they represent the married masses, they are your family. Then the camera comes out. Someone orchestrates: Okay, first one without spouses. Now with. Okay, couples no kids. Now with kids. You do the math quickly and figure out your presence was required in only a quarter of the shots taken, and feel humiliated that you actually stood there waiting in vain to maybe be called back into the field of view of the lens. And so it goes. Try as you might to banish the thought, you wonder why you haven’t found your lid, what it is that might be wrong with you. When the real despair sets in, you can’t help but wonder if your line of cookware has been discontinued.