Sleigh Bells Mingling: 4 Steps To Navigating A Holiday Party Solo
My hopes are high that in one of these coming years, I am going to be on the receiving end of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You."
Someone has to be singing this song about me somewhere.
The odds are in my favor probability-wise, and with about one week until Christmas, it could even be this year.
This time of year is magical, but it's also inevitably emotional for many.
Before us 20-something singles even have a chance to catch our breath after an emotionally draining summer of attending weddings, the holiday season is upon us, bringing with it plenty of opportunities to remind us about the lack of love in our lives.
Mistletoe, whimsical songs, nostalgic traditions and romantic snowy nights decorating cookies are surefire reminders of how alone we really are.
If you don't confront this season head-on with a positive outlook and ironclad attack plan, you may find yourself knuckle-deep in the cheese ball bowl, totally unprepared to deal with the wide range of emotions heading your way.
Similarly, the holiday party is a December highlight for some, and a source of debilitating anxiety for others.
We all have our own way to celebrate the holidays, but it is almost guaranteed that at some point, at least one holiday gathering will make it onto your calendar.
I have been blessed with an incredible, hilarious family and network of friends I wouldn't trade for the world.
But even if you're as lucky as I am, as a 20-something single, you cannot arrive unprepared to such an event.
Whether it's a family party, work party or friend's party, I cannot stress this enough: You must have an action plan.
Three weeks ago, we were celebrating Thanksgiving and my 25th birthday at my uncle's house.
It was a day full of laughter, Christmas karaoke (which somehow turned into '90s boy band karaoke), football and lots of great memories.
Even though we were all totally stuffed and could barely look at another morsel of food, my mom brought out my birthday cake, and everyone began to sing.
As I blew out the candles, making my wish, my grandma threw her hands up in the air and exclaimed, "May the Lord send him this year!"
My future husband. May the Lord send my husband.
Thanks, Grandma, for saying it out loud.
Now, it won't come true.
Even with the most loving and well-meaning families and friends, you are bound to walk directly into reminders about your singledom.
I have therefore created a "single's holiday party guide" to help you face those moments with poise.
Without further ado, here are the four Cs of the holiday party for the 20-something single:
Keep it classy. Always.
I am not a big drinker, so my kryptonite at holiday parties is the finger food.
Utensils aren't there to slow me down with finger food, so I can reach unbelievable speeds of food consumption.
Yes, enjoy the free food, and yes, enjoy a glass or two of your favorite holiday drink.
But everything in moderation, singles.
This is not only regarding your food and drink consumption.
Keeping it classy is also necessary in conversations.
Most mornings, I forget to turn on my filter, so I tend to overshare on a regular basis.
If you are going to a holiday party single, you will need class, maturity and sophistication to respond to well-meaning friends (usually of your parents) and extended relatives who ask you about your love life (or perhaps your boyfriend two boyfriends ago).
I find it challenging to respond to questions like, "Why did you two break up?" or "What happened with you and [insert your ex's name]?" in a classy way.
I have my go-to socially acceptable answers like, "It just wasn't working," or "We weren't right for each other."
Those usually end the majority of conversations, and the subject will be changed.
But now and again, you have that person who keeps digging.
This person wants the dirt.
"You two looked so perfect together!"
"I thought you guys would be engaged by now!"
"Did you end it, or did he?"
You have a few choices at this point.
You could sit that person down at the nearest table and give him or her a 45-minute description of the downfall of your last relationship (this would probably ensure he or she will never ask you again), or you can be super classy, smile and continue on with your generic answers about how everything happens for a reason.
Remember: Both points of the "class" category go hand in hand.
By eating and drinking in moderation, you are ensuring you are in control of what you say and how you react.
(It is not just drinking that can affect your judgment. I am sometimes at my most vulnerable after extreme overeating.)
I have been labeled confident my whole life.
But, this is mostly because I am a pretty good actress and have a large reservoir of one-liners I plug in at appropriate times.
Confidence is key at a holiday gathering for a variety of reasons.
For one, you don't want your friends and family to think you are on the edge of a nervous breakdown or depressive downslide, so an air of confidence will leave everyone thinking, "Wow, single looks good on her. You go, girl!"
Hold your head high.
Clearly, a family gathering is not a place you are scoping out the prospects.
But when your second cousin sees the confidence radiating from you, he just might remember his single friend from work with whom you would be perfect.
You can never be too careful.
If you're not confident, you gotta fake it 'til you make it.
You might be alone forever, but that's okay.
Find your place card for one at the table, and have a seat.
You can cry when you get home.
Although you might feel as if you're the only single one in the world this holiday season, if you're at a friend's or work party, there is always the chance of meeting another nice, lonely single.
Throw your head back when you laugh a little. Exaggerate the amount of fun you are having.
Confidence is key.
There is a lot of love floating around the air during the holidays.
At any point, it could smack you in the face when you least expect it.
One moment, you may be wondering how many meatballs are socially acceptable to put on your plate at once.
The next, you might hear someone bring up that one time your ex flew to Florida to celebrate Christmas with you and your family.
Now, don't worry.
This doesn't actually have to be said by someone in your family.
Just being around him or her might stir memories, so even if you think about it randomly, it's just as legitimate.
Suddenly, you're 19 again.
You're young and innocent, dancing under the stars and thinking you're so in love.
You might just die because you found "the one," and you're slow-dancing in the refrigerator light.
(How many Taylor Swift lyrics can one fit into a sentence? Also, how did a refrigerator get outside under the stars?)
This is where courage comes in.
It takes courage to snap back to reality, realize you have barbecue sauce on your sweater and regain your composure.
It takes courage to dab up the spill with a napkin amongst all the romantic memories jumping out and attacking you.
It's courageous to remember and let go, and to acknowledge and move forward.
Being around my family and people I love consistently brings up memories of relationships past, both good and bad.
Don't let the flashbacks take you down. Stand courageous.
(Also, if you're single at a family party, there is no numerical limit to the amount of meatballs you can put on your plate. Everyone understands.)
I have mastered the art of small talk after many years of practice.
I love it.
I feel I am the most charming in situations with small talk.
It comes naturally to me, but I recognize small talk can be a source of discomfort for many people on this planet, specifically for singles who know the small talk will quickly shift to their dating lives.
If you haven't seen some of your family members or friends in a long time, holiday party small talk can get awkward quickly.
This is especially true if there are some real weirdos there who struggle with boundaries.
Smile a lot. Laugh when jokes aren't funny. Be gracious.
Always be ready with a few one-liners and back-up conversation topics for lulls in conversation.
Leave an impression, and walk away before the conversation hits an awkward point of no return.
When these four Cs are followed, singles everywhere will be able to enjoy themselves at holiday parties (or at least fake it like a pro).
Don't forget: You are absolutely allowed to eat enough for two people, since you saved the hosts money by not bringing someone with you.
But pace yourself to keep it socially acceptable and classy.
From the bottom of my heart to yours, enjoy the upcoming holidays amongst the jingling, mingling and forever singling.