aarp, plus-one, dating, girlfriend

Carolyn Sewell

What It’s Really Like To Do The Holidays Without A Plus-One

It's a challenge I absolutely loathe.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I want to click my heels three times and go directly from Thanksgiving to Jan. 1. Empty egg nog calories and family feuds and cold weather and colder turkey and the pressure to buy the perfect presents on a budget are stressful enough to make even Santa Claus want to knock back a stiff drink. But my version of the holidays is a smidge different. I am alone. That is, I’m a veteran single woman — and ’tis the season to navigate social landmines with my self-esteem intact.

I loathe the challenge. For 11 months of the year, I’m perfectly content with my career and well-honed social life in New York City. I also travel quite a bit, both for my journalism job and to see my niece and nephew. (I’m a sucker for adorable children who greet me with hugs and kisses every time I walk in a room). Dating? Sure. I’m always down for a drink on a sidewalk café on a Thursday night. I suppose I’m too busy overscheduling myself to dwell on my solo status. The ugly realization hits me, Mack Truck-style, as soon as I get my first holiday party invite. Ugh. Here we go.

My instinct is to stay home and hibernate. The problem is the Netflix-and-chill thing is a lazy cop-out. I have a little voice on my shoulder yelling at me that I’m not enigmatic enough to skip parties. I need to go as an excuse to mingle and network for my career, blah blah. The voice on my other shoulder — the one that sounds like my mom — reminds me that hey, you never know whom you might meet at these things. So I put on a cute outfit and go for it. I take a few sips of white wine from the open bar and clutch my phone like it’s an umbilical cord. I stay about an hour then hightail it back home. I rarely regret going; I just wish I had someone by my side … if only to crack jokes to someone under my breath.

The industry get-togethers, friendly mixers and fancy dinners are a windup to the most awful night of all: New Year’s Eve. I despised this faux-holiday even when I was a kid and kissing someone at midnight wasn’t a requirement. After my last breakup, I gave myself permission to not go crazy with plans just for the sake of having plans. I used to go out with couples, but being a third wheel (or fifth wheel) is the opposite of fun during that dreaded countdown. Now, if I’m not out with my single friends, I go to sleep before midnight and wake up early in the morning to go for a jog. Giving myself a sense of control alleviates the anxiety.

Indeed, last year I decided to throw a party in my apartment during the first weekend of January — after the madness. I invited my friends (both couples and fellow singletons, because I’m just that inclusive), and we spent all day and night gorging on junk food and bingeing on Oscarworthy movies. I didn’t have to make small talk or look at my watch or pass out my business card. I strutted around without makeup. This was my version of pure bliss.

I’m not convinced it’s a positive that I have the ho-ho-no system down to a science. Truth is, I’m so used to not having a plus-one around the holidays that the concept of having one is foreign to me. This isn’t a play-the-violins-for-me observation, it’s more of a disconcerting fact. I need to pass the acceptance phase. I think my resolution for 2019 isn’t to find someone to hold my hand physically and emotionally during this time of year. I want to be more open to the possibility of finding someone. I’ll consider it a present to myself.