Not home for the holidays
More and more singles are sharing their holiday table with friends, rather than their family.
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Those who participate in Thanksgivings for singles often recall them with humor. Molly Theobald, a city planner in Washington, tells about the time she and her roommate cooked a turkey for 20 friends. "Your mom may have been cooking it for 25 years, but when push comes to shove, you're like 'how do I do this?' At least we remembered to take out the [giblet] bag," she laughs. "The bird was as big as they make 'em. We had to put the 'Big Kahuna' on the floor of the car."Skip to next paragraph
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After six Thanksgivings away, Ms. Theobald's parents have gotten used to her absence. But she always goes home for Christmas, except for last year. She and her sister opted to go to San Diego and Mexico. They had to promise to be home this year. "It was kind of a quid pro quo," she says.
What's most difficult for singles going home for the holidays is their singlehood. Mitchell Brant of Great Expectations dating service explains: "Because the holidays are supposed to resemble a glowing Norman Rockwell family portrait, singles are constantly reminded that they have yet to create a family of their own."
It's this dynamic that leads many singles to celebrate together, says Trish McDermott, online dating expert for Match.Com: "Many singles will tell you that traditional family gatherings can be emotionally trying, especially when most of the family is happily paired off.... Single friends help to affirm each others' life circumstances and decisions."
For some singles, the answer is to participate in both kinds of gatherings. Mary Talbot, of Barrington, R.I., and her friends join their own families for turkey during the day and then "decompress" together in the evening. "We spend time with the families that we love, but we can also look forward to spending time with people in the same stage of life."
The time with her friends is important, says Ms. Talbot, for as a "never married, but hopeful," woman, she is all too familiar with holidays spent "within the traditional family context where marriage and babies are held in such high esteem yet are goals that have been elusive to me."
Of course, the challenges single people speak of aren't limited to Thanksgiving. December is often even more laden with family rituals and expectations. And instead of just one day, it's often a marathon of events.
The key for any holiday, says family counselor Julia Boyd, "is creating your own joy." She adds: "Whatever you do, do it with abandon."
She spent a recent Christmas snorkeling by herself in Jamaica. "There were times when I thought it would be nice to do this with someone. But I didn't give up all my energy thinking about it."
HOW TO TELL MOM...
You're not going home for the holidays. How do you break the news?
* Gently. Put yourself in your parents' shoes. Such a change in tradition could be a major disappointment.
* Strike a deal. Promise to be home for the next major holiday. Or agree to travel home for your next week-long vacation.
* Solomonic solution. Spend the day with friends, and the evening with your family.
* Carry on family traditions. Make Mom's stuffing recipe for your friends.
* Explain that your decision is not personal, but is important for your journey into adulthood. You need to strike out on your own or test your ability to host.
* When the day arrives, call home. Tell your parents how much everyone loved Grandma's apple pie recipe or your family's Christmas Eve storytelling tradition.