I was talking with a wise CM friend, Ramona-738757, who mentioned what some of her single friends go through at holiday time. “Let’s see how many hook-ups, then break -ups, there are around the New Year,” she said. “And all because you didn’t want to go to the party alone? Hello?”
I nodded knowingly, dubbing it “The New Year Fix.”
“Sister, please,” I told her. “My whole life feels like one long didn’t-want-to-go-to-the-party alone.”
I used to do that very same thing: looking for someone to date right before Thanksgiving, then spending two months on my absolute best behavior, impeccably dressed and made up; not a thing out of order.
Right after the new year, or some time around then, I’d start letting my true self out. Cue the end of the New Year Fix, otherwise known as the post-party season breakup.
I do regret those years for many reasons, but mainly because I was swept up in conventional wisdom’s approach to relationships. And as anyone who knows me is well aware, I now take very little stock in this approach.
Of course, it wasn’t always the case, and it took years of trial and error (mostly error) to see just how wrong it was. I now think that the best way to approach the holiday season is to do whatever is necessary to avoid the New Year Fix. But that, like anything else, is much easier said than done.
Words of wisdom
I did, however, manage to come up with a few ideas.
The girl I was – following conventional wisdom – simply didn’t want to be alone and was willing to do anything necessary to prevent it. It was a dehumanizing experience, marked by a slavish attendance to a list of dating rules that make cowards out of us.
The cowardly aspect comes with the endless stream of advice these dating rule-makers dole out to us. They tell us how to look, how to behave, what to say, what to drink, when to call, and when to smile. By definition, these rules also teach us what not to say, do, drink and look like. The message, of course, is that we need to follow them in order to attract and keep a partner.
This feeds on the paranoia that singles are trained to feel: they are alone for a reason. They are completely incapable of attracting and keeping partners by being themselves. These rules provide an easy way out by giving instructions for every situation, reactions for every action.
But of course, anyone who needs instructions for living is never going to develop as a person with a discrete identity. This is someone who remains a blank canvas for whoever comes into the picture. And a blank canvas is about the least interesting thing I can think of. It is counterintuitive and dehumanizing to aspire to living like this.
So the first way around the New Year Fix is to simply be yourself: your individual, flawed, idiosyncratic and true self. If you have to constantly be on your best behavior, concealing all your flaws, two things happen: you don’t allow anyone in to see your true self, and you remain alienated from the person God wanted you to be.
How dismissive conventional wisdom is; how much disregard for God’s will these advice dispensers have!
It is inherently arrogant and egocentric to think that it is better to be someone that potential suitors would want, rather than being the person God created. As Catholics, we are called to live out His will, not the instructions of some self-help guru.
As you become more aligned with God’s will, your true self will emerge. And then, something beautiful happens: you stop caring about pleasing others. You stop sacrificing your entire being just to get a date. You start to realize that if someone doesn’t want you as you are, you don’t want them to want you. You stop listening to the endless stream of shallow, soul-less advice and start listening to your own heart. And somehow, things shift and the right people start entering your life, ones who don’t care what you look like or when you call, who value your true self.
Looking at it that way, it becomes so meaningless, this New Year Fix. Think about it. Doesn’t it seem a very small sacrifice to go to a few parties alone? Isn’t the idea of being your true self, and valued at that, worth waiting for?
The second thing I thought about is how much we actually do end up taking advice over the will of God. The problem with constant exposure to the idea that something is wrong with us if we are single is that we eventually come to believe it. Some perspective is sorely needed here. We need to separate the media hype from the truth of our hearts.
Yes, being alone is no fun. Yes, it hurts not having someone to kiss at midnight on New Years’ Eve. But does it really mean something is inherently wrong with us?
Of course not.
Dinner for one
Another wise friend of mine says, “There are worse things than having dinner alone,” and it is true. We simply aren’t dating; it isn’t a terminal illness. That’s not the message we get from all media sources, of course, but it’s the truth.
We need to all take a look at our beliefs and determine how much of them come from external messages. I am sure most of us walk around with a list of those messages that we’d internalized: we’re too fat, not rich enough, or too old; we need medication, plastic surgery, or a new car. We don’t have enough friends, clothes, or accessories. Our job isn’t paying us enough; we can’t communicate well; we are behind the times.
It’s downright exhausting!
What we really need to do is shut down the receptacle in our brain that stores all these beliefs.
None of it is true.
We were all made in the image of God and that is more than enough. So then, really, who is telling you that you have to go to holiday parties with a date? More likely than not, it’s some uncaring outside force. Why would you listen to that?
Ironically enough, this year is the first that I don’t feel the need for a New Year Fix. It’s ironic because I’m about to enter a double whammy of single-at-the-holidays doom: a wedding on New Years’ Eve. Imagine it: crowds of couples looking askance at me and my date, who happens to be one of my very dear girl friends. Add copious amounts of alcohol and the couples-only dances, the toasts, the endless love ballads…
It’s all too much.
But I’m going to be just fine. I know now that if those couples look at me pityingly because I’m at the party alone, it says a lot more about them than it does about me. They’re the ones to be pitied, really, still stuck in the vortex of conventional wisdom.
And as my trusted friend pointed out, I wonder how many of those coupled wedding guests will wake up the next day and break up with their holiday hook-ups? Or how many will be paralyzed in fear that if they let their true selves out they’ll be forever doomed to singledom?
No, thank you.
I’d much rather go to the party alone. Me and my true self are destined to have more fun anyway!
In discovering that living out God’s will as my true self is far more important than being part of a couple, I think I’ve fixed the New Year Fix. My hope is that all singles see the light and do the same. Go to your parties and go alone. Go proudly. Make conversation. Be yourself. Love who you are, just as God made you. And have a blast!
Happy New Year to all the wonderful members of CatholicMatch!
- We polled more than 3,000 members of CatholicMatch about whether they bring a date to weddings. Read the results here.
- Check out Elizabeth Moriarty’s excellent reflection titled “Define Yourself By Who You Are, Not What You Lack.”
- And while you’re at it, read Elizabeth’s year-old post “My New Year’s Eve Loneliness Is A Universal Longing.”