We’re all familiar with wedding season. That glorious, champagne-pouring, formal-wearing, always a bridesmaid – oh, wait, “look at the sky, it’s the color of love” time of year. But for the single among us, there’s a tougher season, a roughly three-month period beginning in October the millisecond that autumn hits: engagement season. Its presence is especially felt during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, which happen to coincide with my annual trip home. Inevitably, somewhere in between taking pictures and my second – okay, third – helping of some delectable pie, I’m bombarded with unwelcome reminders of my single status and treated as if I’m a dying species.
The commercials start it off. They star sappy couples wearing matching, itchy-looking sweaters. Usually, there’s a hearth or lit fireplace behind them. Maybe a cup of cocoa, heat still rising from its rim. Then, bam – the woman gets the surprise of her life. She’s either gasping or on the verge of tears as the man pops out sizeable bling, and so on and so forth. There are variations of this theme, of course, but the point is that these commercials repeat ad nauseam. This is followed up by numerous Facebook posts of the “She/I said yes!” kind. Before long, it seems as if everyone and their mom is getting engaged. As adult women, we’re still made to believe that being in a relationship somehow escalates or completes our existence. And even if you’re comfortable and very content being single, this constant bombardment can tap into that antiquated belief and do something to your psyche.
Then come the questions from well-meaning family and friends. The look they give or the silence they emit when I say that I’m single for yet another year is priceless. You would think they personally witnessed me turn down a smorgasbord of Boris Kodjoes and Morris Chesnuts, ready and eager to marry me and only me. For those in the know about my previous relationships, this is usually followed up with, “Whatever happened to…” fill in the blank of a man I stopped seeing eons ago. Excuse me, I did not order a therapy session with my chocolate pecan pie. There’s nothing like being reminded about an ex or a guy you dated for a few seconds, during the holidays, a time when we’re in celebration with loved ones. A time when we’re geared to want to be booed up. The reminder gets your brain thinking, usually along the lines of something like Hmm, yeah, I wonder how what’s his face is doing…and who he’s with. Which turns into replaying where things went wrong in your relationship, potential Facebook stalking and wondering whether or not you should text him “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas.” (No. The answer is no.)
The holidays are often a strenuous time of year, what with the shopping and long lines, cooking, face-stuffing, inclement weather, family drama, last minute this and that, etc. It’s also a time when couples tend to meet each other’s family for the first time. Which makes sense, considering that a large chunk of the family gather together expressly then, and you want your guy or gal to meet ‘em all. And chances are you’re not gonna introduce any ol’ body to your family, so I get all the commercials and all the attention that’s paid to non-single people during this time of year. But if there’s one thing that rings true around the holidays, it’s that people are already slightly on edge, myself included. So though no one hassles me about tying the knot or having children as soon as possible before it’s too late, the combination of aforementioned factors can be a bit overwhelming. Being put on the spot about my dating/relationship status, especially when I didn’t initiate talking about it, makes me feel like a singleton of the Bridget Jones variety. No one is advocating that I get in a relationship if I’m not ready or to be with a man who isn’t right for me. Instead, the issue is more about how I’m made to feel because of my status. Like damaged goods with an expiration date that has long passed. Like a sad, lonely specimen. Like a woman incapable of living a full, rich life without a man. And that’s as ridiculous as it is untrue. So when I venture home for the holidays and the questions (and commercials) start pouring in, I’ll do my best to keep calm and remember that my relationship status does not define me. But if that doesn’t work, there’s always pie.