Ah, the holidays. Too much food, too much wine, too much of Mom asking when you'll find a man, get married, buy a house, have kids. You may be single for the holidays, but that doesn't mean you have to grin and bear the smug marrieds, as that fab singleton Miss Bridget Jones calls them. Here are nine ways to get through the holiday season when you're flying solo.
"I always encourage people to take care of themselves, first and foremost," says Rebecca Rosenblatt, a certified relationship and sexuality therapist, and host of Between the Sheets on the W Network. "Go and buy that perfect outfit, the one that makes you feel good about yourself, that makes you want to dance."
Don't stay holed up in your home watching the holidays pass you by. Two weeks before Christmas, Paula Krulicki, a print production and marketing associate in Toronto, headed out to get a coffee and noticed an attractive man standing outside a shop window. "Like any reserved, self-conscious, lone female, I went about passing him by," she explains. "He, however, turned to me and asked, 'Hey, do you think this perfume would make a nice Christmas gift?'" After speaking for a few minutes, they grabbed a coffee together -- and have been dating ever since.
Do what you love
If you enjoy caroling, join a local choir; you can belt out the tunes and raise holiday spirit. If you love to shop, become a personal shopper for the season. Believe it or not, there are people out there who despise shopping; you'll help them by taking over the gift list and you'll make some extra cash in the process.
More great tips on how to spend the holidays solo on the next page ...
Holiday party dos and don'ts
Holiday beauty tips
Keep some perspective
Life is not over if you don't have plans and if you don't have a partner. "I can't stand society's expectations and idealizations of being part of a couple," says Elisa Birnbaum, a freelance writer and producer in Toronto. "I choose not to give these celebrations the same weight that society places on them, thereby eliminating all the ridiculous pressures that many other singles feel. If I have great plans for New Year's Eve, that's wonderful. If I don't, however, my attitude is it's just another night of the year and it doesn't hold any major significance in my perspective or my life."
Accept as many invites as you can
If you want to meet someone, the best way is to attend get-togethers, including your parents' (hey, it worked for Miss Jones). Put on that fabulous new outfit and move with confidence. Need some icebreakers? Rosenblatt suggests bringing a camera, asking open-ended questions ("What brings you here?") helping the host by grabbing a platter and serving ("It gives you an excuse to walk up to people -- and to move on," says Rosenblatt), and requesting information ("I'm new to the area, can you tell me where the best cafés are?").
But don't accept any verbal abuse
If a conversation takes a turn into undesirable territory -- your lack of a life partner or kids, for instance -- walk away. "The sooner you can move away [from an upsetting conversation], the better for you and the party," says Rosenblatt. Crack a joke, reveal the great things going on in your life, make a toast ("Here's to awkward moments!") and then move on. If you know the abuse is inevitable (and attending the party necessary), have alternate plans so you can cut out early.
Host a party
"I threw a 'Chrismukah' party one year of all single people," says Melanie Richter, a business manager in Montreal. "We sat around, decorated my little tree/Chanukah bush, ate and drank lots and watched It's a Wonderful Life."
Take a trip
Get away from the hype of the holidays and head to the beach -- all will be envious of the tan and how well-rested you look -- or the ski hill -- you'll be the only one who sheds some pounds during the holidays. "But don't go solo if you're just going on vacation," says Rosenblatt. "At holiday time, we like to feel connected. If it's a singles cruise, then by all means."
It's a busy time of year for charitable organizations and few people are available to help. Donate your time at a soup kitchen or nursing home and spread a little holiday cheer to others. "It's amazing how much fun it can be," says Rosenblatt, who volunteered at a soup kitchen. "It gave me something meaningful to do, I felt great about myself and my mom was so proud and bragged about it to everyone."