Dateless in December

Don’t let being single bring down your holidays, our dating expert says.

By Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW

Q. Call me Scrooge — I dread the holiday season. My married friends are occupied with their spouses and children. I can’t remember the last time I had someone to kiss at New Year’s and frankly, at my age — 41 — it just seems ridiculous. I’ve got a great job, an interesting life; I’m basically happy and yet this time of year always brings me down. Any suggestions on how to survive until January? — Katie

A. You’ve got company in feeling alone during the holidays. For 11 months of the year, Pamela Droodman considers herself a "happy human being." The 45-year-old Chicago store window designer says, "Come Thanksgiving when the Christmas blitz starts full force and everywhere I turn there’s a cozy twosome, I’m hit with a wave of longing to be part of a couple." She sighs, finishing, "By the time New Year’s is over I just want to lie under the covers for a few days."

Why do so many high-achieving, multifaceted women succumb to this temporary I don’t vant to be alone malady? And it is temporary: According to a 2006 AARP Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Circle Study of 2,500 women 45 and up, nearly half of the 57 million American women in this demo — about 25 million — are single. Half of those single women say they are happier than at any time previous. This doesn’t mean they never suffer moments of loneliness or fear of a solo future. But on the whole, life is good the way it is.

Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, author of Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart, explains, "Special days that call for togetherness bring out the loneliness in many singles. Family and friends often inquire about their love life on these occasions, making it hard to focus on other things." The media, of course, contributes to the fantasy with ads beseeching us to buy a car or a perfume or a ring for our beloved. And how many showings of It’s a Wonderful Life can even the staunchest woman take? Enter the seasonal bug.

For an antidote try a little (or a lot) of medicinal self-protection:

  • Put yourself first. Don’t accept invitations to events where you’ll be the only single person. This doesn’t mean isolate. It’s a great time to connect with friends and family whose company you truly enjoy and to make fabulous plans for the trifecta of days that can potentially cause the most pain: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and especially New Year’s Eve. A few more dos: Nurture yourself with a massage, a stylish new ‘do, a bubble bath, and/or a good book (not a romance!). Keep a journal — inside, set goals for 2009 and describe how you’ll reach them.
  • Put others first. The best way to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to help those who truly have troubles with a capital T. Man a soup kitchen. Become a Big Sister. Visit an elderly relative. Help out a frail neighbor. Research shows that performing acts of kindness has a boomerang effect, boosting both your physical and psychological well-being.
  • Lastly, make an effort to meet men. There’s nothing wrong with flying solo. You don’t need a partner, but the urge to couple is innate, an animal instinct. Rather than ignoring this desire, put energy and optimism toward finding a guy who’ll be, if not the love of your life, at least someone with whom to share a few laughs while dodging sidewalk Santas.

To accomplish this goal try the dating sites. Mary Jo Fay, RN, MSN, creator of the Signal for Singles program which involves carrying a signal (i.e., a bracelet, sticker) to cue others into your romantic availability suggests posting on craigslist ( "Just write an ad in Women Seeking Men saying something like ‘Looking for a Date for the Holidays.’ You won’t believe the number of men in the same boat dying to share the holidays with someone."

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